I have been on a huge Diana Ross kick this week. It was prompted by a friend comparing the new Daft Punk song “Get Lucky” to Chic. Chic members Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers produced Diana Ross’ 1980 album diana, which my friend said was a “flawless LP.” I knew of the album and of its most well known tracks – those being “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out” – but had never listened to the whole thing. I’ve never been a huge Diana Ross fan. I do like her singles and I have a soft spot for the 1995 Take Me Higher album, but I also don’t dislike her to any great degree either.
“Upside Down” has been one of those songs that has been in my life for just about as long as I can remember. My parents had it on a K-Tel compilation (this one) and I remember really loving it. It’s no surprise as it is really right up my alley music wise. It was on the radio constantly at the time. I remember being younger than Anna and riding over with a friend and his parents to an Iowa State football game and “Upside Down” came on the radio. I couldn’t help but sing along softly to myself. This was also the trip when, after we got home, my friends parents told my parents that “I studied the game so intently.” Probably not – I was probably thinking of pop songs – and “Upside Down” is one of the best pop songs of the last 40 years.
Not surprisingly, I can pinpoint what really appeals to me about “Upside Down.” It’s the adverbs. When I looked at the lyrics, I was surprised to find that only two are used – “instinctively” and “respectfully” – and they aren’t even used in rhymes, but I really love how they’re used in the song. I also love how it’s kind of a song in which Diana knows she’s getting played (“I know you got charm and appeal/You always play the field/I’m crazy to think you’re all mine”) but she doesn’t really care. Perhaps it’s because she’s upside down. And I don’t think it was until well into my adult life that I learned the lyrics were “Upside down/boy, you turn me” and not “Upside down/the more you turn me.” The joys of misheard lyrics.
“Upside Down” falls into the category of songs that are so perfect in their original incarnation that any attempt to remix them is probably going to fall flat. Fortunately, I know of only one official remix which was released in 1993 and predictably, it pales in comparison to the original. I’ve been listening to the diana album on Spotify this week and then eventually and inevitably ended up buying the album on eMusic with $10 of credit I got for tweeting a picture of my Record Store Day receipt to them. Reissued in 2003, it contains the original mix of the album as Rodgers and Edwards intended, as Ross had the entire album remixed without their knowledge prior to its release. To my amazement, the original mix of “Upside Down” is superior to the one we’ve known all these years. It’s subtly different, but the differences are there. I have a hard time articulating the differences, so I’ll just let you listen for yourself.
But from the “you can’t win ’em all” file, the original mix of “I’m Coming Out” eliminates the last “I’m coming …..OUT!” which in my mind, is a travesty. Although now, when I listen to “I’m Coming Out” I can’t help but hear it as “I’m eating out/I’m going to Perkins/Or maybe Village Inn” thanks to Jeff and our 3 hours of standing in the Golden Triangle waiting for Madonna to appear.
I can tell I’ll be picking diana up on vinyl someday.