Guest Star: John Sabal’s fresh look at a first dance

Hello to all in the Stitely blogosphere, John here. I play guitar and sing in the Stitely Orchestra. Today I am writing about two unique versions of one of my favorite songs: “By Your Side.” Originally recorded in 2000, it was written and performed by Sade Adu and her team: Andrew Hale, Stuart Matthewman, Paul Spencer Denman. It’s a very popular song at wedding receptions, as many couples choose it as their “first dance” song.

Ever since I first heard her sing “Smooth Operator” back in 1985, I have always loved the sentiment, and relaxed vibe of Sade’s music. In 2000, I enjoyed “By Your Side” but never really “got it” until I heard a fabulous cover version of it by a band from L.A., called Beachwood Sparks. They play music that could be described as “Cosmic American” (a term coined by Gram Parsons, who’s music is very similar in spirit), or “country music through a kaleidoscope.” Pedal steel guitars drenched in reverb echo the tenderness of the lyrics, “When you’re on the outside baby, and you can’t get in. I will show you, you’re so much better than you know.” I like to think of Sade’s original as the “city version” (sleek and urban), and Beachwood Sparks’ as the “country version” (laid back and rural).

A few months ago I was watching Edgar Wright’s fabulous film adaptation of the comic book “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” It’s a very creative and musical movie about a guy in a band, and it gives a good representation of what it’s like, playing in a group with your buddies. Very accurate, which is no surprise, as the film’s music advisors included Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Beck, Metric, Broken Social Scene, Cornelius, Dan the Automator, Kid Koala. Highly recommended! The romance builds between central characters Scott (Michael Cera), and Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). They dance together at a party, approaching their first kiss, as Beachwood Sparks version of “By Your Side” plays. Pure movie musical magic. I then understood the “heart” of this amazing song.

The Stitely Orchestra has played “By Your Side” many times, but it’s always been the “urban” version. Perhaps a new generation of couples, after seeing “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” will be inspired to use the “rural” version. It’s really hits me close to my heart, and I can’t wait to pour my enthusiasm into singing it for someone’s special day.


1 Response to “Guest Star: John Sabal’s fresh look at a first dance”

  1. April 1, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Great post! Love it when musicians get folks thinking beyond the “usual suspects” for wedding songs.

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Delivering a mind-blowing musical performance at an event is an art and planning it is a science. Stitely Entertainment has mastered both by planning and executing thousands of events.

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