When a musician writes a song and plays the song with one instrumental configuration and then takes the same song and completely changes the instrumentation — adding numerous instruments or changing which ones are played — it is almost as though you are listening to a different song. Today I would like to show you the very same song — Too Much Time by John Vanderslice.


On January 29th, John visited the studios at the marvelous KEXP radio station in Seattle, Washington. KEXP is a community driven public radio station that prides itself on its support for the musicians of. When a radio station can get Dick Dale to come in and play, you know they’ve got something good going on. It was just John and a drummer playing the song.

Beautiful, really. The song itself in structure is simple and the lyrics really have a weight that the music carries over well. I really love the sincerity in John’s voice as he sings.

The very next day, John played the same song — but with the backing of the Magik*Magik Orchestra at The Great American Music Hall in San Fransisco, California. If you listen to the two versions of the song, one after another, you can immediately hear the tremendous differences — yet the essence of the song is still there.

For the sake of comparison, let us look at the difference between two different bands playing the same song: Knives Out, originally by Radiohead. Here is the original version by Radiohead. Contrast it with the cover by the Flaming Lips. If I had never heard either version of the song and was not told which was which, I would have assumed that the Flaming Lips version was being played by Radiohead and vice-versa. The Radiohead original is so mellow, and the Flaming Lips version is so much more like the Radiohead to which I am accustomed.

What songs do you like that have different orchestration in different versions?

8 Comments

  1. Fascinating topic, Gordon! I love collecting the same song by different artists.
    I have all sorts of versions of “Born Under a Bad Sign” by Jimi Hendrix, Freddie King, Albert King, Cream, Clapton and several others.
    I also like “Hackensack” by Fountains of Wayne and Katy Perry.
    “Day in the Life” by the Beatles and Jeff Beck…