Bread (L-R Royer, Griffin, Gates)
Listen/Download – Bread – It Don’t Matter To Me (LP Version)
Listen/Download – Bread – It Don’t Matter To Me (45 Version)
Listen/Download – Josie and the Pussycats – It Don’t Matter To Me
Listen/Download – Petula Clark – It Don’t Matter To Me
Whether or not those of you that fall by Iron Leg on the reg ever expected to see the music of Bread here (if you were paying attention I suspect that you did, but whatevs…) I think you will dig the tracks I bring you today.
I have certainly made reference to Bread as a group (via covers of their songs) and component parts (by posting the early sounds made by members David Gates, Robb Royer and James Griffin), and have mentioned before that ‘It Don’t Matter To Me’, a significant hit for the band in 1970 (their second big single after ‘Make It With You’) is one of my favorite songs.
I have long since passed the point where I give a shit whether someone thinks me an apostate for professing my admiration for a band like Bread.
This is for two basic reasons, the main one being that despite their lingering (and sometimes deserved) rep for cranking out maudlin mush, they made some great music (the other being that having turned 50 I am now officially too old to give a shit).
As a youngster with my ear attached securely to the AM radio, Bread were a frequent fixture on the airwaves for just about all of the 1970s.
They formed in 1968 after Gates, who had worked as a producer, composer, arranger and performer for everyone from Pat Boone to Captain Beefheart decided to form a group with James Griffin and Robb Royer, both of whom he had produced in previous groups (the Pleasure Fair and the Morning Glories).
The group was initially drummerless, with the drums on their debut album provided by Ron Edgar of the Music Machine and Jim Gordon (of everything else).
It’s important to note what a departure Bread was for Elektra records.
From the label’s earliest days when it concentrated on folk and world music, through the mid 60s when they were signing and recording some of the most progressive pop and rock bands in the world, Elektra had a reputation for treading the margins. The late 60s saw Jac Holzman working that angle even moreso, adding bands like the Stooges and the MC5 to the line-up.
Bread were not only light years more ‘conventional’ than most of their labelmates, but also more successful.
The were all over the Hot 100 between 1970 and 1973, when they broke up for the first time (the friction between Gates and Griffin – over who’s songs got to be singles – getting to be too much).
Though I cannot say for sure, my suspicion is that what made the group interesting was that very friction.
Gates was a consummate craftsman, but also seemed to lean in a “softer” direction.
The tracks I bring you today explore the various interpretations – inside and outside of Bread – of one of their best (and my favorite songs), ‘It Don’t Matter To Me’.
Released in mid-1969, ‘Bread’ is – like many 1960s anchored debuts by bands that went on to success in the 1970s – still marked by the sounds of the earlier decade. That first album displays the influence of groups like the Beatles, but also most of the musical strains floating in the southern California zeitgeist.
‘It Don’t Matter To Me’ (written by Gates) has an interesting history.
The weak spot for me – as far as Bread are concerned – were their lyrics, which like many of the artists of the day seemed to emit the patchouli-soaked aroma of the softer, self-actualization end of the hippie experience.
It’s not that they didn’t make sense when Gates wrote ‘It Don’t Matter To Me’, but that they contain an odd, time-specific philosophy/sentimentality that did not age well.
The very idea of a character that is so deeply enamored of a woman that he will fight a lengthy war of romantic attrition until, after long last she realizes the error of her ways and finds her way back to him, might have had much to offer for the ladies in the audience, yet I’m still left wondering who – outside of someone afflicted by the deepest unrequited love – on the male side of the equation this was supposed to appeal to (maybe no one??).
All of which I can (and will) overlook, if there are melodies to be had, and when you’re talking about Bread, they are many and of an exceptional quality.
Though it is one of the group’s best known songs, it wasn’t issued as a single when their debut LP was released (‘Dismal Day’ and the excellent Griffin/Royer composition ‘Could I’ being the A-sides from ‘Bread’).
This could have a lot to do with the fact that the version of ‘It Don’t Matter To Me’ is markedly different than the one that made it into the Top 20 almost a full year later.
The version that appears on the first album is a more rustic, folk-rock effort. The vocals, guitars and tempo are all different, the pace a touch faster.
The song, which Gates wrote prior to the formation of Bread was rerecorded/rearranged for the single release (a full year after its appearance on ‘Bread’) with a slower tempo, string section, more complex guitar and brighter, fuller harmonies. The beauty of the song’s chord changes and melody seem much better framed by the later arrangement.
The Bread catalog has never wanted for outside interpretation, even on the soulful side of things.
The Friends of Distinction covered ‘It Don’t Matter To Me’, and there are excellent versions of ‘Make It With You’ by Ralfi Pagan (epic) and Ronnie Dyson, as well as a very nice take on ‘Everything I Own’ by Oscar Toney Jr.
Though Josie and the Pussycats are best known as an animated (cartoon) commodity, there was an album (and several single-only tracks) recorded to accompany their Saturday morning show in 1970.
The vocalists included Cheryl Ladd (later of Charlie’s Angels), Patrice Holloway (sister of Motown legend Brenda) and Cathy Douglas.
The album included a number of original songs (many written by Danny Janssen and Bobby Hart) as well as a number of contemporary covers, including ‘It Don’t Matter To Me’.
The Josie and the Pussycats version of the song features a fairly faithful arrangement (featuring a band of familiar West coast session musicians) and aside from some awkward harmonizing in the first verse, nice vocals.
Later the same year, Petula Clark ( a few years past her last big hit) traveled to Memphis (a la Dusty Springfield) to record an album with the American Studios crew.
I had this album for years before I realized that the track listed as ‘It Doesn’t Matter To Me’ on the label was in fact ‘It Don’t Matter To Me’.
Clark’s version is really well done. Though she was known for a brassier, showbizzy style, she was also capable of subtlety, which she displays here.
The arrangement is laid back and the production – by no less a light than Chips Moman – is spot on.
More recently, there were covers of the song by Matthew Sweet (on the soundtrack to the film ‘Ash Wednesday’) and Josh Rouse.
I hope you dig the tracks, and if you shied away from Bread before, maybe take a minute to dig into their early stuff.
See you next week.
PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some soul.