Wheel's on fire, rolling down the road, best notify my next of kin....
Bob Dylan-Wheel's On Fire Original version that was a flop
The Band-Wheel's On Fire Second attempt to make the song a hit. Rather honkeytonk. I could see Dolly Parton producing this version
Julie Driscoll-Wheels On Fire The Hit that defined a thought, idealogy, philosophy, decade, fashion and spirituality.
Bob Dylan/The Band-Wheel's On Fire So after the hit of the Driscoll version the boys teamed together to make some money out of the Julia Driscoll cover.
The Hollies-Wheel's On Fire This one is sooooo Austin Powers it hurts. Groovy Baby YEH!
The Bryds-Wheel's On Fire Excellent Rock-Bad Attitude version. Slightly chilling/choral.
Leslie West-Wheel's On Fire If RockCher or Meatloaf ever recorded it, it would sound like this.
Golden Earing-Wheels On Fire Includes brilliant Wizard of Oz spiralling string session at the end. Very creative version
Siouxsie Sou & The Banshies-Wheel's On Fire One of the best versions of this song. A real mish-mash of genres.
June Tabor-Wheel's On Fire If Girls Aloud recorded the song it just might sound like this. Oozes energy. Slightly irish feel to it too.
Julie Driscoll-Wheels On Fire New version Brilliant new recording by Julie especially for Jennifer Saunders and Abfab
Debbie Harry-Wheels On Fire Sadly just a snippet. Would love to hear the full version someday.
Jennifer Saunders-Holding Out Of A Hero. Not only is she rather funny but the lass can sing!
To restart this blog I'm stepping back in time. Right back to Bob Dylan. Eak! Don't worry I've not gone all NME. Wheels On Fire goes down in PopEatsPop history has the most succesful non-hit that ever was. Originally recorded the Bob in the early 1960's it only came to greater attention to pop pickers when Julie Driscoll released her version in 1968. Julie Driscoll is one of those late 60's that solidifies what present day society has come to accept as a the definitive modus operandi of that decade. Her music and her style IS the 1960's. She defines. She is iconic. When Kylie steps back in time along with Emma Bunton & Austin Powers is it is Julie Driscoll they reference. Many say it is Twiggy but Twiggy was just a cheap copy of the Driscoll. Her music codified what we now associate as the funk lovin, groovy swank and hip swinging 1960's of early psycho-delica and peace signs. If you've never heard of Madam Driscoll she's the 3rd one from the left in the image above. I strongly recommend her albums for the sheer origininality and impressive capacity to cover songs that improve on the original. Take her version of Light My Fire. It is her mix of the track that has been covered by Jose Feliciano and recently Will Young and not the Doors original. Her albums are must in any cd-rack/hard-drive.
Image-wise Julia Driscoll is the amber of fashion sense. Iconic and groundbreaking, her style has been referenced by anyone trying to seek out that colourful steam arising out that decade. She IS Carnaby Street. Want some proof?
Now, to the PopEatsPop element to Wheel's On Fire. As you might have guessed, it was originally released by Bob Dylan whose version sounds very much Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. I love his original because it drags on like a stoned nomadic siren who can't remember whether her heart was lost to a spy of the USSR or a Pucci dress she saw down Kings Road. Despite this it totally bombed. It was far too ploddy. Then came another attempt by the pop group The Band. Current acts like Mika and Scissor Sisters remind me of The Band. Anyway, it bombed too but do notice how with each version the song becomes more and more electronic and poppy. Part of the failure of the song by The Band was the fact that a little British lass had recorded a stunning spunky electro-baroque version that was getting heavy airplay from the radio. That lass was the sublime Julia Driscoll. Despite being a rather dated folk Bob Dylan pop song Driscolls version reached out to the LSD boogie bunchers and teenage groovy-fabulous crowd. It then became an anthem for the time and symbolised the spirit the late 1960's.
After this version evolved into such a hit came the cash-in re-releases by Bob Dylan and the Band. Also came some fabulous versions by the Manchester band The Hollies, The Bryds and Leslie West. All tried to interupt the success of the Julia Driscoll hit by releasing their versions of the song before the Driscoll mix was sent to radio especially in the US. This failed. The Driscoll version was just too good have its thunder stolen. It was clear the significance of the song was pretty central to the experience of the 1960's and then 1970's. Further covers would come in the form of the excellent versions by Golden Earring and most recently June Tabor. Still, all these couldnt quite shake the monolithic poptastic streams of the Julie Driscoll version and/or the rock exuberance of the Bob Dylan original. It wouldnt be until the late 1980's that the song was given a new lease of life by the punk band Siouxsie & The Banshees.
Some two years later the song that symbolised free loving suddenly became an anthem for all things fabulous & Stoli/Boli. For nowadays the song is mostly known as the theme tune to the hit show Absolutely Fabulous by Jennifer Saunders. The main frame of the show follows one of its characters, Eddie, a teenager of the world of Wheel's On Fire who lives in a perpetual paradigm between the groovy 1960s that she didnt quite get and the post-structural 1990's/00 that rejects absolutely everything. Eddie pathetically purs over fashionistas that praise stuff worn by tramps while adores artists who charge millions for a bin bag. Eddie wants the chic and glamour of Driscoll that she missed first time round and not the celebrity of Big Brother or postmodern crap of uberLondon yet in her attempt to be cool she consumes it all like the rentboys of Earls Court. In her confusion that she calls her life, she follows the zeitgiest and becomes fabulously desperate. & for this we love her too. We all know Eddie would be fabulous if she just gave up and returned to the glamour presented in the world of Driscoll but sadly shes too lost in Wallpaper to realise this. Tragically for her but hilarious for us.
As Wheel's of Fire has recieved this new burst of life some of its cameo stars have recorded the song. These include Marriane Faithful and Debbie Harry. Sadly these two legends of pop have never thought to actually release their versions. But, still I've included a snippet of Debs version. So today I've included all the key versions including a new version by Driscoll herself especially for Absolutely Fabulous. Sadly the selection does not cover all versions that are out there.....for e.g the recent cover by KT Turnstall. As you will see its called a "tribute to Bob Dylan" but why pick that song? It was a forgotten Bob Dylan track. Its only famous because of Julie Driscoll and her power to make pop eat pop. This makes Wheel's On Fire a PopEatsPop classic! The huge number of versions out there highlights the fact. Also loaded today is the star of Absolutely Fabulous Jennifer Saunders and her disco take on Holding Out for A Hero....it hints to what will follow next on PopEatsPop
For now though I'll just say the next two updates will be all power ballads, big hair and Swedish superstars.