Top Cat’s Top 10: Live Versions of Songs

The concert going experience has and always will be amazing; but sometimes concertgoers get to experience something truly special. Whether its a band’s most popular song or just a special night; sometimes the live performance of a song surpass the album’s released version. Thankfully in our modern day and age, the unlucky ones that were not there to experience them live are sometimes blessed to have the performance recorded. I have put together a list of what I think are the top 10 live versions of songs that surpass their original version in all ways. I hope that this list can be a way to cause your uncompromising opinion on these songs to be altered. Please take the time to listen to both versions of the song (hint hint I suggest looking them up on YouTube); and then you be the judge. With that being said here are Top Cat’s Top 10: Live Versions of Songs.

Honorable Mentions: Nine Inch Nail’s “Terrible Lie” from Live: And All That Could Have Been and Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” Live in Moscow, 1989


10. Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” from 1976’s Wings Over America.

The Wings Over America triple album was released in December of 1976 and it hit number 1 on the US Billboard chart and number 8 on the UK chart. McCartney’s sound engineer listed to 800 hours of tape and selected the five best performances of each song from the 30-song set list. McCartney then chose and mixed the final set of recordings (most of them were from the infamous June 23rd, 1976 concert at The Forum in Los Angeles.

9. Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s “Turn the Page” from 1976’s ‘Live’ Bullet album.

The ‘Live’ Bullet album is credited as one of the motivating forces behind Seger’s mainstream popularity and since this album was recorded as the arena that in its heyday was the most important rock concert venue just pushed Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band to the top. When you hear “Turn the Page” on rock and classic rock radio, 9 times out of 10, it will be this perennial version.

8. Nirvana’s “All Apologies” from MTV Unplugged in New York album.

You will see a few selections on this list from MTV’s Unplugged series; but Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged album is definitely the most famous of the series. I remember watching the MTV Unplugged performance in December of 1993. I was at the zenith of my Nirvana love and I just remember sitting in front of the TV on my parent’s couch in awe. Fans had heard rumors that Cobain had just gotten out of rehab and he was suffering from drug withdrawal during the performance. The stage looked like a funeral as it was decorated with stargazer lilies, black candles and an overall dark stage. The album debuted number one on the Billboard 200 chart but was released after Kurt’s ‘suicide’. The 5x platinum certified album is by far one of the most beautiful live performances of all time and their live performance of “All Apologies” is better than the In Utero version.


7. Johnny Cash, “Folsom Prison Blues,” from 1968’s At Folsom Prison album.

Johnny Cash. Those words ring immortal in the realms of music and pop culture history but it was his infamous At Folsom Prison album that pushed Cash back into the national spotlight. He had recently gotten his drug abuse problems and personal issues under control, and was trying to turn his career around after having limited commercial successful fora number of years. Despite not receiving much support from Columbia records, his version of “Folsom Prison Blues” went on to become a top 40 hit and was his first number one since 1964’s “Understand Your Man”. Luckily the album revitalized Cash’s career; but we the fans are truly the lucky ones because we were left with a truly amazing track that surpasses the original version tenfold.

6. Alice in Chain’s “Nutshell” from Unplugged.

The other MTV Unplugged song that graces our list is from another infamous Seattle band: Alice in Chains. The certified platinum album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200. The all-acoustic set on April 10, 1996 concert was Alice in Chains first concert in over two and a half years. If you were not one of the lucky concert-goers at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Majestic Theatre that day; you pay close attention to the accompanied DVD of the concert that was certified gold by the RIAA and find a Sharpie inscribed phrase on Mike Inez’s bass. Inscribed was the phrase ‘Friends don’t let friends get Friends haircuts…” and was meant to be a jab at the members of Metallica (who had just controversially cut their hair before the release of their Load album) who were in the audience. The jab was laughed off and Inez and drummer Sean Kinney paid tribute to Metallica by playing the intro to “Enter Sandman” before Jerry Cantrell played the intro to “Battery” later in the set.

5. Metallica’s “Bleeding Me” from S&M.

Since we’re mentioning Metallica, now would be a good time to list a song from one of my favorite albums of all time. Metallica recorded a live album with The San Francisco Symphony (conducted by Michael Kamen) and it is just about as amazing as you can imagine. The idea had been floating around since (the time of Metallica’s second bass guitarist Cliff Burton) the early 1980s; due to Cliff Burton’s love of classical music (specifically Johann Sebastian Bach) and by influence of Deep Purple’s 1969 Concerto for Group and Orchestra album. The classical styling of Bach influenced the instrumental parts and melodic characteristics of some of Metallica’s greatest songs. The concert itself is amazing but when they performed the already emotional “Bleeding Me” from Metallica’s 1996 Load album…I literally cried the first time that I heard it.

4. Janes Addiction’s “Jane Says” from Kettle Whistle live/out-take compilation album.

Janes Addiction was one of the first alternative rock bands to gain both mainstream media attention and commercial success in the United States in the early 1990s. But in the late 1980s, Janes Addition was on tour and opening for Iggy Pop and The Ramones before headlining clubs and theaters themselves near the end of the 90s. They were riddled with break-ups, cursed by lead-singer Perry Farrell’s drug addition and the band’s members not being able to stand each other (mostly because Farrell’s admittance to being an “intolerable narcissist who can’t get along with anyone”); the band’s ‘initial’ farewell tour in 1991 launched the first Lollapalooza tour, which has since become a perennial alternative rock festival. Despite splitting and going their separate ways for a short while, they briefly reunited in 1997, with Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (who replaced Eric Avery on bass) to tour and record their new/live/out-take compilation album Kettle Whistle. It is on this album that, in my opinion (and many others) is not only the bands best song but the best version of their song (being featured on both their debut self titled album in 1987 and a similar version on their follow-up album, Nothing’s Shocking): “Jane Says”. The Kettle Whistle version was beautifully redone and features steel drums and vocal arrangements that were not present on the cut from the self-titled album.


3. Bob Marley and the Wailers’s “No Woman, No Cry” from 1975’s Live! album.

The now infamous Bob Marley song was originally released on their 1974 studio album Natty Dread; but it was the live version from the 1975 album Live! almost which is definitely the most well known. The concert’s recording took place at the Lyceum Theatre in London on July 19th, 1975 as part of their Natty Dread Tour. The popular song was even ranked 37th on the Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. The performance remains as Marley’s most famous performance and is not just one of my favorite live songs but definitely one of my favorite songs of all time.

2. Fleetwood Mac, “Landslide,” from 1997’s The Dance.

I remember the night very well. Fleetwood Mac’s The Dance Concert was airing on MTV. The group had not released an album together in a decade but we were still fans. Upon the album’s release, it debuted at No 1 on the Billboard 200 and stayed in the top 40 for more than seven months. It sold a million copies within the first eight weeks, and became the fifth best-selling live album of all time in the United States. The show was a profusion of their greatest hits and included a stripped down yet vehement version of “Landslide” which vastly flies above the already amazing original version.


1. Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” from the Pulse DVD.

Legendary rock group known as Pink Floyd is known for amazing shows but the 2006 DVD release of their concert that was performed on October 20, 1994 at the infamous Earls Court in London was and still is amazing. The 1995 album and DVD which appeared years later showcases a concert from their 1994 The Division Bell Tour. The concert showcased an overabundant arrangement of their greatest hits. One particular song from this concert was a single from their 1979 double album The Wall; and has been ranked one of the greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stones magazine and featured in many lists as having one of the greatest guitar solos of all time. The 1980/81 tour for The Wall album featured larger than life sets which included a giant wall constructed across the stage during performances to match the larger than life songs that they would perform. The 1994 tour was similar in spectacle and specifically the concert in Earl’s Court in London.  The Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre is located in Earl’s Court which is a district in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in central London. The Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre was one of the country’s largest indoor arenas and was one of the most popular concert venues in the country until it closed in 2014. The Exhibition Centre has since been demolished to make room for shopping centers and high rise, luxury apartments; concert-goers gasped again at the truly amazing spectacle on that faithful night in 1994. As David Gilmour’s beautiful guitar solo rang through the exhibition center, a massive disco ball-like orb slowly descended from the tall ceiling. Lights shown brightly on the reflective surfaces and beams of light danced around the space. As the amazingness of the guitar solo and accompanying musicians fall upon your ears that is matched by the pageantry of the show going on around you; the hair on the back of your neck stands up and tears begin to well up in your eyes. The song itself is one of my favorite songs and is always amazing live; but this specific performance could possibly be the best version that I have ever heard.


Paul and Linda McCartney 1973 image by and attributed to Wikipedia user I, Corwin, CC BY 2.5,

Folsom Prison Blues Single image by and attributed to Daniel Hartwig from New Haven, CT, USA – cash_0009Uploaded by Huggorm, CC BY 2.0,

Bob Marley live in concert in Dalymont Park on 6 July 1980 photo by and accredited to Eddie Mallin –, CC BY 2.0,

Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre photo by and attributed to Phillip Perry, CC BY-SA 2.0,



Rock – Paper – Scissors – Lizards – Spock

It was back in 2007 in season 2, episode 8 of MTV’s Rob and Big that I first heard Rock – Paper -Scissors called Rochambeau. I had enjoyed playing it many times as a child and it was so ingrained in popular culture that I had seen it everywhere from one of my favorite adolescent movies Bio Dome to aiding in a decision making process on my childhood playground. No matter how silly the game may be, it is  a nostalgic competition that has transcended time.

Kitsune-ken_(狐拳),_Japanese_rock-paper-scissors_variant,_from_the_Genyoku_sui_bento_(1774)Yes I just made Rock – Paper – Scissors sound a lot more serious than it actually is but the history is vast. Rock – Paper – Scissors arrived in the United States around the 20th century, but it is one of the oldest games in existence. The first recorded mention of the game was found in Chinese Ming-dynasty writer’s Xie Zhaozhi’s book: the Wuzazu. In his book (circa the 1600s) wrote that the game itself actually dated back all the way to China’s Han dynasty (which is from 206 -220 AD). The game, as he explains it, is called shoushiling. The game also exists in Japanese lore, and throughout history there have Mushi-ken_(虫拳),_Japanese_rock-paper-scissors_variant,_from_the_Kensarae_sumai_zue_(1809)been references to ‘fist games’. These fist games, known as sansukumi-ken (ken meaning fist). The earliest version of sansukumi-ken was known as mushi-ken. Mushi-ken (meaning frog-fist) was playing by one player showing his thumb who is displaced by a slug (represented by the user showing his pinky finger), which is then displaced by a snake (represented by the index finger), which is only displaced by the frog. So can you see the rules are similar to our modern day Rock – Paper – Scissors.

Over the years, the game spread beyond Asian borders and reached Britain in 1924 when the game was described in a letter to The Times newspaper (which has been a daily national newspaper based in London, England since 1785). The game was called ‘zhot’ and was described to be of ‘possible Mediterranean origin’. The British populous took interest and subsequent articles were written to describe the game to the readers. If it hit Britain, it was only a matter of time before it came to America. In a 1932 New York Times article describing the Tokyo rush hour, the rules of the game were laid out and the Rock_paper_scissors_author beckoned Americans to try it, so they could ‘benefit’ from its uses. In the 1933 edition of Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia, the game was called John Kem Po and was described as a ‘common method of settling disputes between Japanese children’ and the author pointed out that it was a “good way of deciding an argument that American boys and girls might like to practice too”.

So is it ironic that a game with so much history is played by children making random choices or by adults who are more inclined to use some game to decide some minuscule decision? Absolutely not. The game is popping up all over pop culture; even finding itself in a modified version on the ever popular TV show The Big Bang Theory (who modified the game to be Rock – Paper – Scissors – Lizard – Spock) and some players have even turned it into a legitimate nostalgia-fueled competitive sport.


From China’s street corners to America’s playgrounds, Rock – Paper – Scissors will continue to flourish; and its history will not sink like a rock or rust like a pair of scissors. No no…it will cover the landscape like a piece a paper. 😉



Mushi-Ken representation by and attributed to Linhart, Sepp. “Die Repräsentation Von Tieren Im Japanischen Ken-Spiel: Versuch Einer Interpretation.” Asiatische Studien: Zeitschrift Der Schweizerischen Asiengesellschaft 65.2 (2011): 541-61.Yoshinami and Gojaku. 1809. Kensarae sumai zue (拳會角力圖會). 2 vols. Edo: Murataya, Jirobe, Osaka: Kawachiya Taisuke, Bunka 6., Public Domain,

Rock-Paper-Scissors image by and attributed to U3144362 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Men playing Rock-Paper-Scissors by Jeff Eaton –, CC BY-SA 2.0,

4th UK Rock-Paper-Scissors Championship image by and attributed to James Bamber – Own work, Public Domain,

Hotel Windows


The passenger elevator ascended to the 18th story of the Harrah’s New Orleans Casino & Hotel. The doors opened and we shuffled out of the open doors. We walked to the end of the hallway; hearing the metal doors of the elevator shut behind us. We were all exhausted from the non-stop drive from my mother-in-law’s house in South Carolina; but we were ready to explore the historic city. We were mere footsteps away from the historic French Quarter, within view of the mighty Mississippi River, and in the heart of one of the nation’s oldest cities.

When you stare out of a window onto the world that lies below, you can only speculate at the things that are to come. Over the years we have related old stories to new friends and narrated our lives like autobiographies; but every journey starts with a glance. But there is a certain level of separation that you feel when you observe the world below you through panes of glass. Despite being able to see what lies beyond the glass; those realities look very different when you’re face to face with them. Sometimes you just have to pull back that curtain and take a deep breath before venturing out into the world and  showing up as just another speck from the view of someone else’s 18th story window.



What can you see through Broken Windows?

IMG_0760The second story windows of the old Johnson Cotton Company building in Wallace, NC have become weathered. Some panes have been broken by the rock of a rebellious child or pine branch thrown by the forceful breeze of a summer storm. The lower level windows were bricked years ago, while the building’s front entrance houses a set of decorative metal framed display windows that lead you to the entrance of the long been shut down store. The recessed entrance is still inviting because it is now used as storage but the hints of its history peak through.

The now Historic Commercial District sat formidably as the nucleus of a booming railroad and agricultural town. This small Southern town is situated in the coastal plains region of North Carolina and lies in the southern edge of Duplin County. Wallace was originally incorporated in 1873 as the settlement known as Duplin Roads; but was incorporated as the town of Wallace (named after railroad official Steven Wallace) in 1899. Like many Southern railroad towns, the small town’s orthogonal grid developed along the railroad tracks. The small town grew and grew because it was an important transportation link between the large port city of Wilmington to the South and Faison to the North.

Over the years, Wallace continued to expand. Fast food restaurants were built on Highway 117 and businesses extended passed the grid pattern that once hugged the railroad. The one and two story brick buildings in this historic area now house offices or maybe even modern stores. Buildings whose foundations were laid in the late 19th and early 20th centuries found themselves booming in a post World War II period. So these historic buildings, like the Johnson Cotton Company; whose second story windows still peer down upon the renovated Train Depot; still scintillates above a town that they help inaugurate.


Waiting for Fermentation

I live in Rose Hill, NC; which is home to the largest winery in the South. Seriously. In my small town, we have an award winning winery that produces one of Martha Stewart’s favorite wines. I think that we as residents take for granted the scope of how big that the winery actually is. I think that we as consumers and residents as a whole don’t think about the items that we use. Let’s just take for instance, the wine that is produced around the world (sparkling wine, table wine, vermouth, white wine, red wine, whatever)…I don’t really think any of us think about the steps that it takes to get the grape hanging on the vine to the bottle that sits on the grocery store shelf.

According to the Wine Institute’s Preliminary research, United States residents alone consume an average of 949 million gallons of wine per year which equates to a total of 2.94 gallons of wine per resident; and with an average of 3.3 pounds of grapes going in to the creation of one bottle of wine, I can understand why I see so many fields of grapevines. The Duplin Winery has a tank capacity of over 1.7 million gallons of wine and sells over 450,000 cases of wine per year. The sweet cloying of wine lies thick in the air and the ambrosial aroma sticks to your skin as you walk among the towering tanks that house the wine whose creators are waiting for the cold fermentation process to produce a proper result.

The grapevines that I pass on a daily basis yield grapes that are used in the creation of a luscious liquid that is delivered to thirsty patrons around the world. The grape’s juice is squeezed from the fruit and transferred to the tanks whose behemoth bellies house the sweet muscadine juice until a time that the aluminum leviathan creatures will entrust its created bestowal upon the bottlers. The wine-makers carefully monitor the process and from the ‘terminus a quo’ of the spheroidal fruits to the transfiguration of the a delicious wine. The journey of the berry’s menial genesis into something so complex amazes me but with science a little bit of love…anything can happen.




Structures of Fengshui

Golden Dragon

Most Americans and the select inhabitants of larger cities from around the world have seen the quintessential ‘Chinese takeout/buffet’. Most of us have one or two in our towns or in our neighborhoods. If you live in a larger city, you probably can smell the soy sauce laced smoke bellowing from exhaust pipes because it is more than likely within walking distance of your apartment. We walk in and order the chicken wings or that shrimp fried rice that you’ve been craving. You grab the soy sauce packets that end up littering your counter at your house and relish at the sound of the crack as you pull your chop sticks apart. But what about the facade? What about the mass-produced mock-Asian architecture that adorns the walls of our local Chinese restaurant? Do we notice the 6 foot high foo dog statue that wards off evil spirits from the Imperial Chinese Buffet? What about the elegant golden dragon that slinks his way up the colossal columns that adorn the entrance way?

Is our stomach so harmonized to the MSG laced food that an an invisible fengshui-esque force metaphorically draws us auspiciously to the food sitting in the pans that sit just above the water boiling beneath the buffet; or is it the seasoned wok being tolled back and forth over the flowering flame that is stir frying seasoned meats and vegetables that draws us in? Are we so caught up with our lives that even the architectural structure that was meticulously nominated by many a worried owner is now inconsequential to busy bystanders? Sadly it’s not just the adorned Chinese buffets that we miss. We truly are a generation that has forgotten to stop and smell the roses; or elevate our eyes to find the most minute bit of beauty in the Asian architecture outside of the local Chinese buffet.


Sometimes the structure of a photo is naturally layered

IMG_2975Sometimes photos just come into being as if God himself shuffles things artistically into place for our enjoyment. Sometimes the different layers that compose the structure of a photo, through happenstance, we witness the perfect blend of foreground and background and use of negative space. Sometimes, its the background that God has painted. Sometimes its a freshly plowed field. Sometimes its a formation of geese flying over at the perfect time. Sometimes the cat-o-nine tails and over laying branches from a nearby tree fall perfectly in place. Sometimes its the summer’s sun setting behind low lying clouds. And sometimes, just sometimes, despite being critical of yourself for taking ‘random photos’ you just need to stop and take that picture because you know that what you are seeing is beautiful. Sometimes…