Alone Again, Naturally – Sad, Sad Song

I found this version of the old Gilbert O’Sullivan song, Alone Again, Naturally last night as I was indulging my taste for Youtube surfing, and fell in love with it.

It is by the German jazz group called Tok Tok Tok, with their amazing singer, Tokunbo Akinro, who has a simply incredible voice.   A voice which really lends itself to this song too, I feel.

Sadly Tok Tok Tok no longer exists, as they broke up in 2013, but we have no end of recordings to remember them with, including this version of that song.  So before I go any further, I shall let you enjoy their take on this classic song.    Stand by with the paper hankies though……..


See what I mean?   Isn’t that simply beautiful?  I could listen to that for hours and hours, simply letting it repeat and repeat, so calm, gentle, introverted and sad.

As not all the singers I shall be playing to you next are so clearly understandable as the girl we have just listened to, here are the lyrics of the song.  Not a bad poem actually.

In a little while from now
If I’m not feeling any less sour
I promise myself to treat myself
And visit a nearby tower
And climbing to the top
Will throw myself off
In an effort to
Make it clear to whoever
Wants to know what it’s like When you’re shattered

Left standing in the lurch at a church
Were people saying, My God, that’s tough
She stood him up
No point in us remaining
We may as well go home
As I did on my own
Alone again, naturally
To think that only yesterday

I was cheerful, bright and gay
Looking forward to who wouldn’t do
The role I was about to play
But as if to knock me down
Reality came around
And without so much as a mere touch
Cut me into little pieces
Leaving me to doubt
Talk about, God in His mercy

Oh, if he really does exist
Why did he desert me
In my hour of need
I truly am indeed
Alone again, naturally
It seems to me that
There are more hearts broken in the world
That can’t be mended

Left unattended
What do we do
What do we do
Alone again, naturally
Looking back over the years
And whatever else that appears
I remember I cried when my father died
Never wishing to hide the tears

And at sixty-five years old
My mother, God rest her soul
Couldn’t understand why the only man
She had ever loved had been taken
Leaving her to start
With a heart so badly broken
Despite encouragement from me

No words were ever
And when she passed away
I cried and cried all day
Alone again, naturally
Alone again, naturally

In order to write this post, I have now listened to several dozen versions of this song, and their version remains head and shoulders above all the others, including the original version by the guy who wrote it himself, which I will now offer to you for comparison.

A bit different to the Tok Tok Tok version isn’t it?  I know which version I prefer.

However, not all other versions of this song are as rough around the edges as O’Sullivan’s own version, here as a good example,  a version recorded by Michael Bublé & Diana Krall which has the same sort of reflective sadness as the Tok Tok Tok version, even if it is much more orchestrated (lots of singing violins and similar).

Before I go any further,I thought you might find it interesting to hear what Gilbert O’Sullivan himself had to say about this song, I found this interview with him in which he discusses both this song, and the business of lyric writing in general.     Quite interesting actually.  So here he is himself, to tell all……

By the way, at the very start of this video there is a shot of two hands madly paying a piano… but no sound happens.  Don’t worry, it is meant to be like that.

OK, so now you know all about how this song came about, and I hope you are not too disillusioned by what he had to say on that subject.  Generally it is interesting to hear a creative person discussing their creations and the creative process as well, so I found what he had to say truly interesting.

And now, from the sublime (um… er…) to the totally ridiculous, or at least unexpected.  I shall now give you a couple of versions of this song that are on the edge of what is reasonable, the first was recorded in a dive in Seattle by a somewhat odd figure in a T-Shirt and bejewelled arm covers…..  Known as Har Mar Superstar. Hold onto your seat belts and enjoy…………

Or, even weirder, here we have a ukulele group’s version.. what can I say about this?

Er…. yes….   Apart from the fact that it is all one guy, literally in his bedroom, which is clever I have to admit…  But musically?   Zero points I feel would be kind.   So many flat notes.   I do rather enjoy the deadpan faces of the guy though.   Why oh why would anyone do this though? If he could actually play any of those instruments, or had even a bit of a musical ear, well OK, but not this guy I am afraid.  Anyhow, I thought I should bung it into this post to give a bit of balance to some of the other versions..

On the other hand, here is an extraordinary version I came across.  This is Nina Simone’s version of this song, in which she gives it real meaning, by changing the words totally, so it becomes a sort of hymn of remembrance to her dead father.  This is one of the most powerful songs I have ever heard, even even though for a great part it sounds like a sort of nursery rhyme, and is a sad and regretful song about how her relationship with her father went wrong.

Listen to her words carefully, they are serious……………….

Not sure why the strange little Chinese motif….   But what a song eh?  A real window into her soul.

I am not sure what to do now….  How can one follow such a powerful song with a run of the mill version of what has become a Standard song in the repertoire of almost every serious singer?

Oh well, life is too short to dwell too much on the more miserable aspects of life on the planet, so here is a totally silly version to lighten the mood somewhat….

Needs no introduction I feel.

Nice eh?

Or this?   Believe it or not, the language here in Maltese!   Not one I am familiar with.   But it is quite good.

Or a sort of Soul version..   This I like!

I enjoy her “snippy” delivery, it lends a sort of clarity to the words, both their meaning and their rhythm.  Rather fine version all in all I feel.

As the penultimate offering, here is a hugely depressed looking individual in a hat, called Ron apparently (The guy, not the hat) who gives us his not really bad version of this song….

And to end with, here is a jazz version.. had to happen I suppose.

Bunky Green…  Hmmmm.. Can’t say I am familiar with his work, but it is not bad.

So, there you have a brief look at this superb song, which obviously appeals to a very wide audience.. probably because it is in a minor key, which goes straight to our souls…..

Having now listened to dozens of versions of this song to try and find a balanced collection of recordings to offer you, I have to admit that the Tok Tok Tok version is still far and away my favourite.

Share with us:

Which of these, or some other, version do you prefer?  Do share any thoughts you have on this with the rest of us please.

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