This may come as a shock to some of you out there but I must admit that I heard this cover by The Soup Dragons well before I heard the original. In fact, I’m not certain that I’ve even heard The Rolling Stones’ version to this day. I briefly thought about logging on to Spotify this week to confirm but decided it wasn’t really necessary. Listening to The Soup Dragons’ version is enough to discern that this is a song that well matches the Jagger swagger and embodies the Stones’ sound. I can well imagine that the original didn’t include the sampling effects nor the vocal flourishes of reggae singer, Junior Reid, and I could go either way as to whether a gospel choir graced the Stones’ version, though given it was a B-side (to “Get off my cloud”), I’d wager no.
This cover of “I’m free” was one of biggest hits for the Scottish alternative rock band (the other being “Divine thing”) and the song for which they are best known. It is definitely the first track by them that I ever heard. It fit in quite nicely with a lot of the other music that I was listening to at the time so I took note of their name. Of course, I didn’t know then that The Soup Dragons were Scottish and that they came out of the same scene as another of my favourite bands of the era, Teenage Fanclub. I just assumed that they were from Manchester like all the other bands that were considered “baggy”, espousing that magical blend of soul, psychedelia, and acid house beats.
In fact, the sound of this track and the rest of “Lovegod” was the result of experiments with sampling and drum machine beats, due to the lack of a physical drummer when they were bound for the studio. A happy accident, I’d say. They would go on to release two more albums, further evolving this sound, including the aforementioned, popular single “Divine thing”, before splitting in 1995.
This version of “I’m free” is the perfect tune to kickstart August and set it off on the right track. Upbeat and uplifting and with an irrepressible groove, it is almost guaranteed to bring the sunshine. Cheers!
For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.