Q: I have a couple of questions about Brad Paisley’s version of “You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive.” I’ve noticed that Paisley departs from the original lyrics in a few places and adds references to Katahrins Mountain, a woman named Tillie Helton and to the Richland River. Why did Paisley make these specific changes? I cannot find some of these places on a map. Also, is Tillie Helton one of his ancestors?
A: “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” was written by Darrell Scott, a singer-songwriter who was born in 1959 in London, Kentucky, a town less than 100 miles northwest of Harlan, Kentucky. The names you cited in your question are all original to Scott’s lyrics, so they are not ones that Paisley changed or added. We learned that Katahrins Mountain, located in Harlan County, is also known as Black Mountain, and is the highest mountain peak in the commonwealth of Kentucky. To get a definitive answer about the other names, we contacted Stephanie Hudacek, Mr. Scott’s manager and tour assistant, and asked her what she could tell us about Tillie Helton and Richland River. She responded by telling us, “The name (Tillie Helton) was made up for the song as was the name of the river. However, MUCH of the song is (auto)biographical. Just not those two items!” Scott included the song on his 1997 debut record, “Aloha from Nasville.” Paisley recorded it for his 2001 sophomore album, “Part II.”
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Q: Can you help me find a song? It starts out “The changing of sunlight to moonlight.” I think it’s from the early ’70s.
A: The song is “Reflections of my Life” by Marmalade. The band formed in Scotland in the early ’60s and performed for many years as Dean Ford & the Gaylords. In 1964, they moved to London, hired a new manager, changed their name to Marmalade, and signed a recording contract with CBS Records. They adopted a more commercial sound and scored their first UK Top Ten hit with “Lovin’ Things” in May 1968. They followed that with a version of the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” which reached No. 1 in December 1968, becoming one of only a few Beatles songs to be released by another artist prior to being released by the Beatles. In 1970, they had their first American hit with “Reflections of my Life” which peaked at No. 10. Marmalade had more UK hits throughout the early ’70s, but never reached the American Top 40 again.
Q: I have heard that the original recording of the Guns N’ Roses song, “November Rain,” was over 25 minutes but was cut to nine minutes for the radio version. Was the longer version ever released?
A: “November Rain,” Guns N’ Roses’ second biggest hit behind “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” was one of Axl Rose’s earliest songs. Started in the early-’80s, it was eventually recorded during the “Use Your Illusion” sessions. The song was originally over 20 minutes long, but was shortened to just under nine minutes. After reaching No. 3 in 1992, “November Rain” became one the longest Top Ten hits ever and contains the longest guitar solo ever on a Top Ten hit. Despite all the interest in the song, the longer version has never been commercially released.
What’s the name of that song? Where are they now? What does that lyric mean? Send your questions about songs, albums, and the musicians who make them to MusicOnTheRecord@gmail.com. Bradford Brady and John Maron are freelance music writers based in Raleigh, N.C.