Album: I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
. . .
It turns out that 30 years later, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got is one of my all-time favorite albums. I mean, it wasn’t like I underrated it at the time — I’d always put it as my second-favorite album of 1990, just after the Pixies Bossanova album, but I’ve realized that I love it even more than that record.
And so, while we’ve focused on the singles that preceded it — “Jump in the River” and “Nothing Compares 2U,” it’s time to do a few songs from the album proper, like the second track, “I Am Stretched on Your Grave,” which combines two totally disparate forms of music into something totally new under the sun.
It’s a cover, of course, but it’s a complicated cover. So the first thing you need to know is that “I Am Stretched on Your Grave” dates back to the 17th century, where it began life as an Irish poem written by one of history’s most prolific authors: Anonymous. (Seriously, they’ve written so much stuff!)
It was translated into English several times, but apparently the one that took was by an Irish writer named Frank O’Connor. Later on in 1979, a musician named Phillip King put a tune to it, which was also a traditional tune, and recorded it with his band, recorded it with his band, Scullion.
But of course, King didn’t think of combining it with the “Funky Drummer” break. Though he could have, as James Brown released “Funky Drummer” in 1970. But Sinéad O’Connor did: and her combining the classic Clyde Stubblefield sample with King’s melody created a song that both signified as hip-hop — as the “Funky Drummer” was being used all over contemporary hip-hop at the time. Utterly classic songs like “Fuck Tha Police,” “Fight The Power” and “Mama Said Knock You Out” all used it. (And in fact, the website whosampled.com claims it’s been sampled 1731 times as of this writing. I wonder if the estate of Clyde Stubblefield sees any of that money.
And, so augmented by just a couple of extra percussion hits, and a bit of bass guitar, Sinéad takes her time, her languid phrasing continually slowing down time against the insistent beat.
I am stretched on your grave
And I’ll lie here forever
If your hands were in mine
I’d be sure they would not sever
My apple tree, my brightness
It’s time we were together
For I smell of the earth
And am worn by the weather
And there’s one more trick to be had: at the very end of the song, Steve Wickham — best known as a member of the Waterboys — swoops in with a really cool fiddle solo to bring the whole thing home.
“I Am Stretched on Your Grave”
“I Am Stretched on Your Grave” live acapella, 1989
“I Am Stretched on Your Grave” Live in Brussels, 1990
“I Am Stretched on Your Grave” Live at Pinkpop, 1995
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