Been listening to this song on repeat lately. One of my most favourite pensive adagios back in the day. “Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)” was first recorded by Marvin Gaye in 1962. Nearly two decades later Paul Young covered it and the tune was a UK No. 1 single for three weeks in July 1983.
The Paul Young version, from the album No Parlez, is stylistically notable for its use of fretless bass, played by Pino Palladino. Though a major UK hit that broke Young as a star, the song fared less well on the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at No. 70, but was later used in the 1986 film Ruthless People and its accompanying soundtrack album.
According to Young, when he was making the album No Parlez, the label sent him a number of songs that he thought were too complex. He said: “I just want a simple three-chord trick with a melody.” He remembered a B-side track by Marvin Gaye he heard when he was 14, found a recording, and decided to record the song. He slowed the song down, and added more melancholy to the vocal.
Palladino was then recruited from the Jools Holland’s band, Jools Holland and His Millionaires. The song was produced by Laurie Latham, who asked for an intro for the song, and Palladino quoted the bassoon melody at the opening of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring for the opening bass line. Palladino however thought that the bass line in the recording was too loud and out of tune. The keyboard player Ian Kewley added a keyboard motif to the song, and it was then decided that the song should be released as a single.
In a retrospective review, AllMusic journalist Dave Thompson wrote that Young’s version of the song “left mouths hanging open in awe” and described it as “a beautifully impassioned take on what was, in all fairness, never one of Marvin Gaye’s greatest performances.”
• Featured image by Simon Fowler.