I like listening to music as I read, and there are certain songs or albums I associate to certain books/stories, but that’s a post for another day. As I’m sitting here tonight re-reading a story I originally read back in my youth (A Trace of Memory by Keith Laumer) I slipped in my CD of The Best of the Guess Who, which got me thinking about one of the songs that isn’t on the CD and some of the other changes. Back in grade school I listened to my parents music mostly. I really liked The Beach Boys, The Ventures, CCR and some others. But, by far, in the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade my favorite album of theirs to play was The Best of the Guess Who.

And it was on 8-track. You know, a plastic case about the size of a small slice of bread with four separate channels (I doubt that’s the proper term, but there were four different segments you could switch between) with the audio tracks on them. If you listened closely you could hear the songs from the other three channels playing in the back ground. My grandfather got me an album a month music subscription (not sure if it was BMG or what) with 8-tracks as the medium, as opposed to vinyl or cassettes. I had it for several years, picked up some Beach Boys, Ventures, Jan & Dean, Anne Murray, and Kenny Rogers.

Back to The Guess Who: I played that tape so much I had it memorized. I sang it to myself quietly while I studied. Since no one else in the school had an 8-track player I always had to bring our portable one (it plugged into the car cigarette lighter, wall, or ran on several D-cell batters, had a T-shaped plunger to switch between channels) for music share days at school. Eventually my family switched over to cassette tapes as well, but we were about the last hold outs. For years I sang those songs in the car when I was by myself even though I didn’t have anything to play the tapes on. I think we eventually sold all the old 8-tracks in a rummage sale when I was in high school.

There was one song on the tape that I just didn’t care for all that much; Running Down the Street. When I got to college my roommate had a CD player, so I started buying CDs*. One of the first I purchased was The Best of the Guess Who. Immediately there were two things I noticed. The order of the tracks was different – no big deal. Running Down the Street wasn’t listed – weird. I didn’t really miss it, because I just didn’t care for the song all that much. I just couldn’t identify with it. Of course, upon playing the disc there was another change: a new intro to American Woman. Personally, and this might just be my preference for things as I first discover them, I prefer the song without the long intro and just get right into the rockin’ tune. When Lenny Kravitz came out with his version of American Woman he went more 70’s psychedelic, but I always thought that song should have been remade by a heavy metal band – Anthrax probably would have done well with it.

These days when searching the internet for the album, the track list almost never comes up with Running Down the Street. In searching for the album as an 8-track, I found two different track listings.

The Guess Who - The Best Of The Guess Who 1971 RCA A18A 8-TRACK TAPE

Now, I’m not sure which one came out first, but the one on the left/top is the one we had. And the one on the right/bottom is closer to what is on my CD (slightly different track order, same songs). I’m not sure why the change happened. My Dad speculated that Burton Cummings thought it too drug oriented. I wasn’t really thinking about drugs in grade school so I never made a connection with that, but in looking closer at some of the other songs it seems they could be about drug use. One thing I am thankful for is leaving the spoken part at the end of Hang On To Your Life, where he reads a passage from the bible (Psalm 22: 13-15. When my grandfather died it was the first thing that came to me, and even though it isn’t quite appropriate as a funeral verse I did take comfort in it, not sure why. These days, like when my uncle died a few weeks ago, I played a lot of Brothers In Arms in the car during the long drives.

*Odd detail for those who care (or not); the very first cassette tape I purchased with my own money was Dire Straits Brothers In Arms when I was in junior high, summer of ’85. The very first CD I purchased, in the fall of ’90, was also Dire Straits Brothers In Arms. Other than the lengthy blank space on side two of the tape I’m not aware of anything different between the cassette and CD.

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