Kevin Ayers

Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes

Composed by Kevin Ayers

Song Review by

If Chuck Berry had written "Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes", it would be one of the all time great rock'n'roll songs, no questions asked. Unfortunately, it was penned by Kevin Ayers, which leaves it open to all kind of questioning - a man who graduated to his solo career via stints with Soft Machine and Gong is not, after all, the kind of character renowned for writing straightforward motorvatin' rockers, a querulousness that is only amplified by a quick look at the song's subject matter. A man walks into a bar, eats some second-rate food, and then turns the waiter onto marijuana. Of course. The vague hint of a Velvet Underground influence only furthers the confusion.

But the riff is unstoppable all the same, a rolling, boiling, insistent beast that boogies in the studio and positively detonates in concert - the version captured on 1974's live June 1st 1974 album is dramatic enough, but 1999's Turn The Lights Down! captures an even more explosive performance, cut in 1995 with the Wizards of Twiddly, blazing through a delightfully lackadaisical Ayers vocal, snatches of maniacal horn, and an all-round sparsity that only restates the brilliant, shattering simplicity of the song's construction. Johnny can B as Goode as he likes, but he can't roll cigarettes as great as this stranger.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Whatevershebringswesing 1971 Harvest
Sweet Deceiver 1975 EMI Music Distribution 4:51
Odd Ditties 1976 Harvest
The Kevin Ayers Collection 1983 See For Miles Records 3:23
Too Old to Die Young: BBC Live 1972-1976 1998 Hux Records 4:23
Banana Productions: The Best of Kevin Ayers 2000 EMI Digital / Parlophone 3:25
Turn the Lights Down 2000 Market Square Music Ltd
Didn't Feel Lonely Till I Thought of You: The Island Albums 2004 Edsel 3:19
Alive in California 2004 Box-O-Plenty 4:10
Kevin Ayers: The BBC Sessions 1970-1976 2005 Hux Records 3:39
It Wasn't My Idea to Dance: A Harvest Sampler 2006
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:24
Head Full of Rock 2007
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:22
The Harvest Years 1969-1974 2012 EMI 3:24
Original Album Series Parlophone 3:24
blue highlight denotes editor's pick