I was floating around Spotify the other day and came across this version of Cat Steven's 'Wild World', it's the demo version. I love that about Spotify. It's like the early Napster days. You thought you knew what music you liked, but somehow you'd find yourself in a whole other place. You'd go look for an Oasis song, but then you'd find an Oasis cover by a Dutch band. And then you'd download it but it'd not really be a Dutch band but a rare Bob Dylan song. You'd find out the real name of it and listen to it, and then listen to a live version and then listen to a cover version by some kid in Texas. And you'd constantly be finding new bits of unexpected magic.
Spotify is bringing that back. It's not quite the same, everything is official; so you don't find bootlegs and obscure live tracks. But pretty much anything official, you can find.
And I came across this version of 'Wild World'.
Technically, I'm sure, the released version is much better, more complete, but this one, in it's raw form, is surprisingly powerful. You believe him even more than you do in the famous version. It's simple, it's quietly powerful - he sings "Oh baby, baby it's a wild world" and you really feel that he's singing to someone. You feel like they're in the room with you.
It's great when you find a piece of art where someone means something. Most artists don't hold on to who they are. How can you? The money is not in personal expression, it's in compromise. Used to be people would invest time and money in the Dylan's, Woody Allen's and Chaplin's, because It'd pay dividends a few years down the line when they were fully grown.
Now they just force the work out of them, take any juice they can find and then drop it. Nobody stays relevant for more than a year or two.
That's why it's so powerful when you find something that resonates. Find me a song from the last five years as honest and personal as this 'Wild World' demo, I doubt you can find it. Maybe it's hidden on YouTube or MySpace somewhere, but I doubt it's caught traction in the wider world.
There was this girl on the X Factor a couple of years back. She was all over the place but she had something unique. Was it talent? I think so. Did I like her music? No. But she had attitude and ideas. and she was only 16! I don't even need to tell you her name because, if you don't know her, it doesn't matter -- she has no relevance now. She's a footnote at best. They took her and turned her into something bland and normal. I was in a cafe with a friend earlier and they were playing her video today. I hardly recognised her. She was full of make-up and bland singing to a forgetful track. Everything unique and original they'd sucked right out of her.
You never get that back.
That's why you have to hold onto it for dear life.
The great artists in film held on to who they really were and experimented, and stuck by their instincts. Were they often wrong? Yes. Did they make bad films that flopped? Yes. But they learned from them. They kept coming back.
Artists get longevity as a reward for their persistence. That's why you have to be in it for the long run. It takes years to get great. Most of us are still mostly failing, but it's a process. You stick at it.
It's like Cat Stevens says in the song:
There's no point being scared of failure. You get stronger every time you create something. And you learn to take criticism. The more you discover yourself, the more the criticism comes. People hate Ricky Gervais, but more people love him.
I think what I like about the song is that it feels like an old friend. An old friend that you need. A wise figure that says to you "Hey, y'know what, it's a wild world."