Earlier this year, as part of my present to my mum to celebrate her turning 80 years of age, I took her to London to see ‘9 to 5 – The Musical’, a show based on the film of the same name and for which Dolly Parton had written a number of new songs. My mum thoroughly enjoyed the show, and it would be disingenuous if I tried to claim that I didn’t also have a good time.
It got me thinking as to when I first became aware of Dolly Parton and that would have been back in 1976 when Jolene, arguably probably her best-known song, reached the Top 10 in the UK singles charts. Quite incredibly, that’s the only time she has ever cracked the singles charts in the UK as a solo artist – her only other big hit was Islands In The Stream, a duet with Kenny Rogers (and a cover of a Bee Gees number) that reached #7.
I was sure that 9 to 5 must have been a huge hit, but it turns out that it stalled at #47 back in 1981 and hasn’t ever been given a further physical release since, albeit it has enjoyed more than 840,000 downloads since these things started being counted and has been streamed more than 8 million times, an indication of just how popular it has become over the past almost 40 years.
But today’s posting isn’t really about Ms Parton, and instead is an excuse to offer up a few cover versions of her only ever solo hit single.
Strawberry Switchblade, in 1985, released it as the follow-up to their hit single Since Yesterday:-
mp3 : Strawberry Switchblade – Jolene
Sadly, it, and the parent album released around the same time, didn’t do much in terms of sales and the duo went their separate ways shortly after.
Another very fine Scottish singer, Dot Allison, persuaded her band to have a go at it and it found its way onto the b-side of their final single before they broke up:-
mp3 : One Dove – Jolene
Is there something about this songs that it has a crazy ability to bring about the end of a band once they’ve had a stab at it?
Not quite, in that this next take on it dates from a BBC Radio 1 session in 1983 and the band kept going for almost another 20 years:-
mp3 : The Sisters of Mercy – Jolene (Kid Jensen Session)
And finally, the version which resulted in the song making an appearance in the UK charts in 2004:-
mp3 : The White Stripes – Jolene (Live Under Blackpool Lights)
The live single was issued to accompany a live DVD, recorded at the beginning of 2004, but held back and released in time for that year’s Xmas market.
The White Stripes had previously, in 2000, recorded a studio version of the song, making it available as the b-side to Hello Operator, an early single that was never given a release in the UK.
mp3 : The White Stripes – Jolene
There are numerous other cover versions out there but these are all I can offer up from my own vaults.