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Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen

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The first time I showed an interest in Mad Dogs and Englishmen my brother-in-law laughed at me.  I was very young and he was fairly young, though old enough to be my brother-in-law and have purchased this Joe Cocker album a couple of years before. So, knowing that I liked the Beatles, he put on “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”—and I was appalled that anyone could screw up that song so badly.  The music sounded loose and wobbly and Cocker’s voice had something terribly wrong with it, sounding scarred, drunken, confused. I rejected it after forty or so seconds, about fifteen seconds into the song when you account for the introduction.

Don’t Get Hung Up About Easter?

I couldn’t make out the introductory words to that cover back then, though now I can.  More to point, I have encountered many people since who count this version above the original—and also Cocker’s version of “With a Little Help from My Friends” above that of Ringo and the Beatles.  So I had to give Cocker another chance and, thankfully, I now hear that soul-rock authenticity that many others heard long before I managed to recognize it.

This album has had its informed detractors as well, especially those who point out that the band was put together over the course of a couple of days and that the album was in fulfillment of contractual obligations.  And it is okay to dismiss this weird double album from 1970, but never for those reasons.

Why Cover What’s Present?

Mad Dogs and Englishmen is mostly covers and the covers are contemporary for that time, a bold undertaking. You have one-year-old tunes such as Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire,” Leon Russell’s "Delta Lady," and The Rolling Stones’ classic “Honky Tonk Women.” The covers were almost all from 1969 or so.

An album of covers that is over forty years old may not sound that appealing now, and it normally wouldn’t be if it were not for what Cocker did to those tunes back then. The voice is a live expression of the era.

The full version, released in 2005, is one of those rare instances in which the follow-up is better than the original.  The order is restored. Songs like “Something” and “With a Little Help from My Friends” are added. Get the revamped version and hear an album of covers that sounds nothing like the originals, an event from 1970. You gotta love music collectives!

Check out our review of Joe Cocker's most recent live album, 2013's Fire It Up-Live


Might as well watch the movie:


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