Who would have ever thought that British pubrock punkers THE STRANGLERS would cover this Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition, first made a hit by DIONNE WARWICK, with such glorious results? And then… Who would’ve expected the two versions to share opposing sides of the same 7″ vinyl?
“Walk On By” was a huge hit for Warwick in 1964, her second single to make the US Top Ten, and a breezy, wispy little tune about lost love that floats along beautifully thanks to her soft, expressive voice. Fast forward to 1978 >> The Stranglers, pub rockers turned punk, take a stab at the song, a quite sinister sounding cover carried by Hugh Cornwell’s deep voice, JJ Burnel’s fuzzed-out bass and an organ part that is equal parts Warwick arrangement’s horns and strings. Cornwell sounds like, once he’s done crying over losing his love and “seem[ing] broken in two,” he’s gonna grab her, drag her into a dark alley and let his foolish pride finish things up. And this version reached the UK’s #21 slot.
What’s great about Rhino’s Side By Side series of 7″ single pairings is that it can juxtapose two clearly different versions of a song, giving you two ways of looking at the same situation. It’s like having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other and you’ve got to pick which one to go with—except you can choose both. It doesn’t always work: another SBS 7″ from Record Store Day 2015, “Dark Globe” featuring Syd Barrett’s original as well as R.E.M.’s cover, doesn’t achieve the greatness Dionne Warwick and The Stranglers’ versions do because they’re too much alike. Hats off to the intrepid Rhino who first uttered this idea at a record company meeting expecting to have it shot down like a sitting duck on a pond. Now wouldn’t it be cool to have Dionne actually front The Stranglers and do a live mashup?!
4/5 (Rhino, 2015)