“I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night…”

On an interesting episode the other day [May 28 2021] of Desert Island Discs, Alexei Sayle [another ex-Chelsea School of Art-er] chose “Joe Hill” as one of his eight discs, recalling that it was performed at his mother’s funeral. I first heard “Joe Hill” on the Woodstock soundtrack, sung by Joan Baez. Never a lover of her precise and pure voice, I nevertheless loved the song. I next heard it in the 1971 Bo Widerberg film biopic, for which guitarist Stefan Grossman did the score. When I listen to it sung, usually as a folk ballad, I always think it’s too sweet — and the version by Baez played on DID was a Nashville studio recording, with a prominent and syrupy pedal steel part. I recorded it a few years ago with the aim of making an angry industrial version, piston-driven and distorted. At one point I felt it needed a rap section and cast around for someone that may fit the bill. My friend Mark put me in touch with painter and wordsmith Nathan Detroit, who, with no real brief from me, came up with something he calls Cyborging — an abstract and impressionistic flow of words. Sounded great to me, so one afternoon we recorded it. Here it is. Play it Loud.

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