May 19, 2012

Ray Stevens and Arabian Gold...

Howdy Ray Stevens fans! We're coming up on the official Golden Anniversary of "Ahab the Arab" and it's debut on the pop charts. It hit during the last week of June in 1962. I started off 2012 by doing a blog about "Ahab the Arab" and it's impact on Ray's career and his business companies. For those who want to read it you can click the blog entry title here: Ray Stevens and Ahab, a Golden Anniversary. I covered a lot of ground in the blog and so that's why I provided the link...I don't want to re-hash everything but I'll say a few things about the song nonetheless. The single became a Gold record and a Top-5 pop hit in America during the summer of '62. Unlike so many other blogs, though, I do not belittle or show contempt for the recording. It's a very humorous song and a career making hit for Ray Stevens. Political correctness and other pressure groups through the decades have routinely griped and complained about this song...decades of repeated accusations that it's racist or ethnically offensive have become accepted as 100% fact in spite of the songwriter's intentions. That songwriter, of course, is Ray Stevens, who shouldn't have to explain the song's inspiration anymore...especially not to those who've done everything they can to twist the song's true origins into something other than what Ray envisioned when he wrote it. "Ahab the Arab" was covered by a couple of other artists...and Ray himself has re-recorded the song a few times. The complete version ran longer than a typical pop Mercury trimmed the song to fit a more radio friendly length. The missing verse was included in the 1995 music video that Ray filmed. I imagine that a few of the fans who weren't aware of the complete version of the song assumed that Ray added that extra verse just for the music video.

I first heard the complete version of the song in the early '90s when my grandparent's bought me a cassette of Ray's titled Funny Man that Mercury Records had released in 1989. That cassette also has "Just One of Life's Little Tragedies" and "The Deodorant Song"...a couple of songs that I refer to as two major discoveries for this Ray Stevens fan as I was just starting to build my Ray Stevens music collection. Why do I call them major discoveries? Well, it's because those two songs were brand new to me, even though they had originally been recorded in the early ' that time 30 years ago. The other songs on that 1989 collection I had already heard on Mercury's 1970 release, The Best of Ray Stevens. I first heard "Ahab the Arab" on the 1987 Greatest Hits album from MCA Records...but that, as I later found out, was the 1969 re-recording from the Gitarzan album. The liner notes made no mention of it being a re-recording so when I was really young I genuinely thought the 1969 recording was from 1962. The reason is because the author mentions 1962 as the year the song was released...but didn't mention that the recording on the collection came from 1969. A lot of liner note authors don't go into such detail so it's not like I'm singling it out on just happened that those liner notes accompanied the album that introduced me to "Ahab the Arab" (and seven other songs recorded by Ray Stevens!) for the first time. You can read more about the song in the link I provided near the top of this blog entry.

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