Day One hundred and seventy-four: "Since You've Been Gone (Karaoke Version)" from Medium Rarities
“Since You’ve Been Gone”, an album cut from Bad Hair Day, is eighty two seconds of sublimely succinct sonic silliness, a bite-sized blast of a cappella romantic misery about one of Al’s trademark toxic romantic relationships, complete with a satisfying, if not terribly surprising punchline/reversal and some Sha Na Na style vocal vamping.
Running well under a minute and a half, “Since You’ve Been Gone” is over not long after it begins. It does not have time to wear out its welcome. It’s seemingly too short a sonic snack to be conducive to the kind of vocal gymnastics a cappella acts live for but that did not keep Al from puckishly including a karaoke version of this deep album cut as one of the seven tracks on the CD Maxi-Single for “Gump.”
Do sweeter words exist in the English language than “CD Maxi-Single for “Gump?” Of course they do but from a nostalgia angle those are tough to beat. It’s hard to believe our top scientists and inventors eventually improved on the CD Maxi-Single and its even wonkier cousin, the cassingle.
An inveterate deconstructionist, Al likes to take songs apart and put them back together and really explore, in a deep, almost academic fashion, how they function and what makes them work. He does that with his own song here, removing the lead vocals but keeping the background crooning in a way that’s impressive, mildly disorienting and full of bizarre, ghoulish imagery and phrases rendered even stranger in this new context.
The track still feels unmistakably like a goof but removing the lead vocal really highlights how much craft, care and artistry went into making this silly little ditty, this genially bleak goof. But the “Since You’ve Been Gone” karaoke version also empowers fans to fill in for Al and assume his lead role as they croon along to Al’s fussily impressive backing track.
Even better, the “Since You Were Gone” karaoke version allows fans to realize, for eighty two magical if moderately confusing seconds, their biggest dream and most fervent wish—to be in an Ivy League a cappella group with “Weird Al” Yankovic called the Weirdenpoofs.
Alternately, they can pretend that they’re in one of those glamorous 1950s greaser gangs with Al, the kind that used excessive amounts of hair product, “rumbled”, unknowingly lived out the events of a Shakespeare romantic tragedy, shimmied their way through elaborate song and dance numbers and, finally, sang doo-whop songs on street corners under the moonlight using just their surprisingly powerful and versatile voices.
The karaoke version of “Since You’ve Been Gone” didn’t make a whole lot of sense as a bonus track on the “Gump” Maxi-Single. It makes even less sense and is even more wonderfully, perversely pointless here, which could very well be the point.
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