Go Now: Bessie Banks
The song, “Go Now,” was originally recorded by Bessie Banks in 1964. The famous Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller (“Stand By Me”, “Hound Dog”, and a million other hits of that era) produced the song, and it was written by her husband Larry Banks.
Not many people really know the song “Go Now,” let alone who sang it first. A few readers may remember the song better when it was recorded by The Moody Blues in 1965 and stole them their first U.S. hit, while dropping Bank’s version to the bottom of vinyl obscurity.
The lead singer for the Moody Blues at that time was Denny Laine (Electric String Band), who quit the Moody Blues, but eventually turned up with Paul McCartney in his band Wings. Laine continues to play the song at his shows, and his version is the best known for most listeners.
What if the Moody Blues were not your thing though? Well maybe you prefer when Ozzy Osborne recorded a version in 2005’s Under Cover. Most say it’s crap, which I agree with, but it is an interesting take on the song.
With sites like Youtube.com you can listen to each version and see which you think is better, but just listening to the song may not let you “hear” what it actually is about.
At the time “Go Now” was recorded African American artists were at a peak of popularity in culture, and music was in its depth of glory, looking for the next pool to swim in.
It was the end of happiness though when John F. Kennedy was assassinated toward the end of 63’, and looking back on music of that era, there is a feeling that the country changed at that moment.
Gone were the bubble gum soul symphonies that are still the greatest music since Beethoven, and the era of the “band” crept in.
England had been watching from across the pool, waiting for America to lower its guard. Then they could drown us in slithering blues turned electric, and long haired Dylan influenced sophistication that sat lying underneath.
When Bessie Banks sang, “Go Now,” in 1964 it was the most beautiful thing that a person or group of people could have laid down on a recorded track. The thing being done by British bands at that time was to re-record African American songs to be sold to the very people that wouldn’t buy them originally because of the “color” of the packaging… The American people at that time would rather have long-haired Brits come over and sell us our own music, and steal art.
It goes a bit deeper than this though. If you trace the roots of rock and roll and trace the roots of the civil rights movement they walk hand in hand. Where there is change in one, the other changes as well. Where “Hound Dog” crossed over, it crossed back with the adoption of “Blowin' in the Wind” as an anthem for civil rights.
Back to Bank’s version of “Go Now” though... What grabs me is that her version is perfect. The melody is smooth and she comes in singing exactly where she should. Later versions get progressively sloppier, and never truly capture the soul of the song.
The Moody Blues bang the piano in, Ozzy cornily shreds the guitar; while the piano in Bank’s version is smooth and quiet in the background. What we hear is Bank’s voice pushing, yet tearfully sticking a hand out to wave for someone to return.
For a woman who never received anything near the popularity of Ozzy or The Moody Blues it is a shame. When Banks sings over simplistic music she begs in a way that most of us only dream we could. She is one of those obscure artists that never receives the recognition that they deserve in music history. Her story reflects a larger movement in rock that swallowed most American artists of the time, but one that hit hardest in the African American sector.
Another tidbit is that Lieber and Stoller’s produced the (Ben E. King) tune “Stand By Me” that was recently upgraded to the hit single, “Beautiful Girl” by Sean Kingston. We all know how many times that song has been remade…
Now if a modern “band” would just play a cover and not think they are breaking taboos in music.