Hey, after over a year, I finally got around to posting a second “Cover Story”. This time, it’s “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself”, which I chose because its title perfectly describes how I feel about my life right now, although for different reasons than those detailed in the song. This oft-covered break-up song was written by prolific songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and was first recorded in 1962 by Tommy Hunt. Whom I’d never heard of until doing research on this song, but you learn something new every day.
Probably the most famous version of the song (at least for pre-millenials, but more about that later) was recorded in 1964 by Dusty Springfield. Who, if you are one of those young’n's who aren’t as oldies-literate as yours truly, was basically the Adele-meets-Florence-Welch of the 1960s. She was frickin’ awesome, mmkay? Springfield sang the hell out of this song, which peaked at #3 on the singles chart in her native UK, but never charted in the US. Two years later, Dionne Warwick released her own version of the song, which made #26 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Warwick’s version is very similar to Springfield’s in sound, if only a tiny bit slower and softer.
In 1968 yet another version of the song was released by Dionne Warwick’s aunt (and Whitney Houston’s mother) Cissy Houston. This version never did anything in the charts (I’m not sure if it was ever even released as a single), but I have to say, this version really stands out to me with its faster tempo and more upbeat sound (not that the lyrics are any less melancholy). This is probably the most unique-sounding version of the song I’ve yet encountered.
The following version of “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” I decided to put here mostly because I know my mom reads this blog and that she is a big fan of Elvis Costello (and, well, so am I) and seems to be fond of his interpretations of other artists’ works. It also just happens to be an awesome version of the song, a slinky new wave renditions with a nice creeping bassline. Elvis Costello & the Attractions released this in 1978 on their Live Stiffs Live album.
And finally we have the White Stripes’ cover of “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself”. Released on their 2003 album Elephant, this particular version is what you might call “stripped down”, using Jack’s guitar and Meg’s drums as the sole instruments and throwing out about half of the song’s original lyrics. It is probably my favorite version of the song, as it is the first version of the song that I ever remember hearing (which is actually pretty surprising, considering I’ve been raised on oldies music since before I can remember and only really started listening to The White Stripes in 2009), and there’s just something about the jangly repeated guitar riff and Jack’s over-the-top falsettos. And, well, obviously, those who have read this blog before should know by now how much I love The White Stripes. Depending on how far back you’ve been reading this blog, you might also have some idea of how much I absolutely loathe the video that was made to go along with this song. So for this song, I’m deliberately including a clip of it being performed live. But it’s not just because I think the music video is dull unimaginative poop that doesn’t deserve to ever again see the light of day. It’s also because, frankly, this song as interpreted by The White Stripes is best appreciated as it’s performed live, in all its jangly, falsetto-y, vibrato-tastic glory.
There are like a gazillion other artists who’ve covered this song as well, including (but not limited to) Isaac Hayes, Linda Ronstadt, and even Gary Puckett (whose version is surprisingly not as nauseating as I’ve come to expect from him, but that’s probably because “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” doesn’t have the words “woman”, “girl”, or “lady” anywhere in its lyrics). Those that I mentioned on this post are merely those that I found to be particularly noteworthy and/or enjoyable. If you have a favorite version of this song that wasn’t mentioned here, please feel free to comment (or even if you just feel like commenting on this song in general. And definitely leave a comment if you’ve got any suggestions for future “Cover Story” songs I might feature. But I would really appreciate some feedback. It gets lonely here sometimes).