While sitting in an interminable meeting the other day, the beloved but long-winded chairman made the mistake of walking out of the room to get more materials for us to review, which gave me the opportunity to sing the words…
Set me free why don’t cha babe
Get outta my life why don’t cha babe
You don’t really love me
You just keep me hangin’ on
You don’t really need me
But you keep me hangin’ on
One young (somewhere-under-forty) meeting captive – a mere child, really, looked pleased and proud that she knew what I was singing and said in a little jokey sing-song voice…
“Marie, you’re singing that one too slow.”
To which I replied, “But I’m doing the Vanilla Fudge version”.
Immediately a glazed, distant look came in her eyes and I could tell that she didn’t know what the Fudge I was talking about. She just nodded and said….
To which I responded simply by nodding back at her like the wise old sage I pretend to be and singing the same lines one more time, very slowly; very Fudge-like.
Vanilla Fudge primarily did covers, but what amazing, powerful covers they were. In order to really understand the significance and ground-breaking nature of this song, we first need to consider the Supremes’ well-known version. “You Keep Me Hanging On” was another #1 hit for the Supremes – it was an extremely popular, upbeat, and catchy tune.
When Vanilla Fudge came out with their version, it was like reality had slipped a little bit; like we had all gone down the rabbit hole into an alternate world where everything was strange and no longer cheerful and peppy and innocent sounding. You went to bed one night with the cute Supremes singing and dancing in unison and you got up the next morning with a bunch of freaky dudes in weird clothes doing the same song in a heavy, seemingly drug-induced groove. And that was pretty much the sixties in a nutshell.
In other words, this song could be seen as a testament to the dramatic changes that were taking place during the period in which we were transitioning from the middle to the late sixties. We were moving toward a heavy, hard rock sound that was reflective of the evolving mores and culture. Thus, Vanilla Fudge was an important, pioneering band, and they are still touring today, with three of the original members: Mark Stein, Vince Martell, and Carmine Appice, with Pete Bremey standing in for Tim Bogert, who has retired from touring, on bass.
Vanilla Fudge’s version reached #6 on the Hot 100 chart. I have to say, “Vanilla Fudge” is one of my favorite band names ever. I can’t imagine another name that would be more descriptive of their music; heavy, thick, rich, and sweet, sweet, sweet…
And for an extra helping of dessert, how about this little sugar plum – Jeff Beck, Carmine Appice, and Tim Bogert doing Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. Carmine can beat the Fudge out of a drum kit, let me tell ya. He was a great influence on John Bonham, and during the mighty Zepp’s first American tour, he introduced him to Ludwig Drums, which Bonham subsequently used throughout his career. Again, oh so sweet…
As a point of reference – the adorable Supremes, doing their version of “You Keep Me Hanging On”. Also completely marvelous, of course…
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