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Listen to Radiohead's 24-Year-Old Cover of "Rhinestone Cowboy"

The live version, likely from the day after 'Pablo Honey' came out, has resurfaced after the death of Glen Campbell.

by Alex Robert Ross
Aug 9 2017, 6:21pm

Imagen vía Wikimedia Commons

Country legend Glen Campbell died yesterday in Nashville, four years after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and two months after the release of his final album, Adiós. It's a record that Campbell's wife Kim said was recorded to preserve "what magic was left" for the 81-year-old and it's worth listening to today—there's a lot of that magic left in Campbell's delivery, particularly on his lovely collaboration with Willie Nelson on "Funny How Time Slips Away." It's a difficult record in a sense—any artist who sits down to write their farewell with the end in sight is going to relay some heartbreak and Campbell, whose last word on a record called Adiós is "Adiós," is no exception. But it's also oddly uplifting, if you give it some time. Campbell was an entertainer to the end.

"Rhinestone Cowboy" wasn't written by Cambpell—it was originally written and recorded by Larry Weiss for his 1974 record Black and Blue Suite. But it's success meant that it was undeniably Campbell's song after he released it in 1975, and it will always be the track most closely associated with his legacy.

A good way of pinning down that legacy is to see just how far it spread. There are dozens of odd covers of "Rhinestone Cowboy" kicking around the internet. Here, for example, is a sweet version that members of Belle and Sebastian performed in 1999, with a trumpet in the background and Stuart Murdoch singing into a megaphone. Here's Questlove's note on the song's part in hip-hop's history.

And at the top of the page, is Radiohead's take on the song. This live version wasn't the first time the band played it out and it probably wasn't the last. The NME says that they played it live "several times between 1991 and 1993," while Radiohead drummer Phillip Selway tweeted in June that the last time they performed it "would have been 1995 at Jericho Tavern in Oxford (possibly, give or take a couple of years...)" After sleuthing around some Radiohead forums (never do this), it seems to have come from performance for a radio station in Paris, on February 23, 1993, the day after their debut album Pablo Honey was released. Thom Yorke slurs like the verses like a snotty 2 AM drunk, which is probably just early Thom Yorke's only way of singing, but it makes for an interesting interpretation of the song—more like a twisted, spent anti-hero than a seen-it-all country boy. It retains the country quality too, mostly through Johnny Greenwood's slides and staccato flickers through verses that sound a hell of a lot like "Creep."

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