366 Songs 220: Sugar Man

The first time I heard “Sugar Man” was on David Holmes’ Come Get It I Got It mix, and I was convinced that he was doing some weirdness to the song after the 2:00 mark; all those random noises and string saws and the like couldn’t have come from the same original mostly-acoustic song from before, right? And yet, there they are in the full version. I wonder, considering the lyrical content, if they’re meant to imply a trip in some weird, quasi-soundscape way, like a really bad radio play that’s trying to scare the kids off’ve the road to crack.

Considering the precision of the arrangement earlier – Listen to those wonderful horns and that buoyant bassline, this is a song that just sounds amazing – that interlude feels particularly out of place and clumsy; everything else in the song has a clarity – even the extended fake out, with two different performances in either speaker, one echoed and fading faster but lasting longer – that is something to marvel at. I’ve never heard another of Sixto Rodriguez’ songs (It took me long enough to find a full version of “Sugarman” after the David Holmes mix; this was a decade ago, way before Rodriguez’ recent critical revival and movie), but based on this one alone, I can believe that he’s one of those forgotten geniuses that slipped through the cracks of pop culture.

Not content with putting the song on a mix, David Holmes’ then-band project, the Free Association, did a cover of “Sugar Man” that’s… good enough, I guess? But not a patch on the original:

Too much Portishead-lite, not enough of the bounce and lightness of the original, right? The Free Association was a weird thing; I should do something about them sometime.