Is it possible to love a song too much ? Hmmm, let’s find out…
Back in 2013 a 60 track, 4 cd deluxe edition of Van Morrison’s 1970 album “Moondance” was released. It was fat with alternate mixes and multiple takes of the original LP’s 10 tracks. And in true nesting doll style, it was home to 10 separate versions of the song “Caravan”. There were takes one through 8. Re-do’s of those takes. A remix. The original LP version. Over 16% of the tracks on the deluxe were versions of freaking “Caravan”.
You want some Caravan? Oh I’ll give you some freaking Caravan….
Once the moon-sized “Moondance” was officially out I asked the biggest Van fan I knew what he thought about it. “There can never be too many versions of Caravan” he gushed. I said something like “oh yes there can” and followed it with a smug “why would you want so many versions of the same song by the same artist with what seems to be minimal variation”? Okay, I didn’t say it that eloquently, it was more like a “why the hell do you need that many versions, what’s the point”??? To be honest, my incredulity was more about Van himself whom I didn’t really like…yet for some reason, I went all in and instead attacked the premise…because I am a hypocrite.
Yup, I might as well have been looking in a mirror when I asked him “why”…because I myself, the accuser, was a total, complete and utter Version Hoarder. Long-term and hardcore, with dozens of carefully curated playlists devoted to singular songs in my music library. And those lists made the mega “Moondance” serving of “Caravan” seem downright cute.
My one-song-themed playlists were crowded places where it was hard to breathe. Beyond whatever original version of the song inspired their creation, they were crammed with demos, remasters, and staggeringly excessive amounts of live stuff. Then there was the devil YouTube with its countless bedroom renditions and isolated vocal takes. Yes, I needed those too. Somewhere along the way, I’d gone from liking a nice song to obsessively stalking it.
And here I was berating my innocent friend for my own demented and obsessive behavior.
You might be a Version Hoarder if…
Say you really love a particular song. Like really, really sloppy love it. Meaning you want to know everything about it. Where it came from and everyone it’s ever been with. You just can’t get enough. And so you set about consuming it in all its iterations, gathering outtakes, unreleased and live versions, remasters, and remixes of the song like some compulsive squirrel gathering nuts for several winters at once. All the while you never stop believing that there exists in the world some elusive, unfathomably beautiful unicorn version of the song that you have yet to find. And so you never stop looking. If this sounds like you, then you might be a Version Hoarder
Version Hoarding is kind of like the “shy” person’s version of a being Show Hoarder, you know, like those folks who collect and archive all the Grateful Dead, Dylan, Phish, or Neil Young concerts? While they are both examples of obsessive loved-up consumption, the former is a more insular ”Dear Diary” kind of collecting and not so much a sharing and communing with others type of thing. Version Hoarding has more of a sad girl/sad boy flavor. It’s a secret between you and the song. It’s personal.
The photo at the top features just a smidge of my collection of Fleetwood Mac’s “Sara” which contains versions by the band, Stevie Nicks herself, and assorted strangers. I have been obsessed with this song for roughly ten trillion years. I love Stevie’s opening “Wait a minute baby”. I love Christine McVie’s melodically perfect piano lines. I love Mick Fleetwood’s brushes. I love how epically long it is for a pop song (6 minutes and counting). I love the weird subtext that inspired it namely Stevie and Mick’s affair, he being the “great dark wing” in the song, and that she still threw in a nod to her previous entanglement with Don Henley (“If you build your house I’ll come by”) and the child they never had (the titular Sara).
The song is oh so Stevie, a little out there but crazy beautiful. Thankfully since both Mac and Stevie have maintained very active touring schedules this century I’ve been able to enjoy a fairly continuous supply of fresh “Sara”. I love the original. I love the demo. I even love the random 2013 live version from the Mac show at the Sprint Center in Kansas City that April with its big fat Fleetwood drums.
I am a Version Hoarder. Maybe you are too. But we’re okay. We’re just drowning in the sea of love. And like Stevie says in the song that’s where everyone would love to drown. Never change, never stop.