Sly & The Family Stone

SlyStay, Sly & The Family Stone, Epic

Listen: If You Want Me To Stay / Sly & The Family Stone [audio:]

Time for some trainspotting, courtesy Duane Reade. I stopped by to pick up a prescription, and what’s playing over the sound system but ‘If You Want Me To Stay’. Used to be this one was heard everywhere, all the time. That repeated exposure eroded over the years, now it’s a big treat on the occasional occasion, like tonight. It just stood out against all the other overplayed oldies, the intentional lo-fi recording giving it alien character. It was a nice change.

As it was eventually confirmed, Sly Stone scrapped the first version of FRESH, from which this came. He decided to re-record the whole thing: sometimes the instrumental track, others the vocal takes and even others, both; making all the songs noticeably different to the astute fan, but probably not even turning a head amongst the casual listeners.

Listen: If You Want Me To Stay (Scrapped Version) / Sly & The Family Stone [audio:]

Proof of the fairly secret first recording came way back, via the album’s first single, ‘If You Want Me To Stay’, as the initial 7″ stock were pressed using that wrong master. It’s visually impossible to tell it from the much more common official version, by the label that is (read on). I didn’t even realize I had a copy of anything particularly rare for years.

At the time, I was working for a one stop record distributor, the whole front half of the warehouse dedicated to 7″ singles. Both store buyers and jukebox operators populated the place constantly, it was a most fantastic hubbub of activity, every last person focused on records. Having grabbed a copy as soon as they arrived from the plant, it was clearly in hindsight that I discovered owning a first pressing. Even at the time, I just assumed it was an intentionally different version for the single. Actually, not until a month or so after getting it did I even notice the version on Top 40 radio sounding different than mine. Then I realized everyone’s copy had a different version from mine. I was baffled for ages.

The only way to tell, as every last detail of the label copy is identical on both pressings, being created for the official version – is to scour the run off groove. Official pressings read: ZZS 158443, whereas the mistake copies read: ZZS 158431.

Happy hunting.

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