In this week’s Swings Both Ways special feature we take a look at the album’s penultimate track, If I Only Had A Brain. This song gained huge popularity as part of the score from 1939’s cinematic classic, The Wizard Of Oz. Sung in the film by the Scarecrow, Robbie felt he had to include this song on Swings Both Ways because it’s a film he loves and a character he identifies strongly with.
“If I Only Had A Brain is from one of my favourite films, the Wizard of Oz. It made a lot of sense to me because I’ve always felt a bit stupid all my life. I left school without any GCSE’s, nothing higher than a ‘D’. I got called ‘stupid’ an awful lot at school. ‘If I Only Had A brain’ - the song really appeals to me. It’s how I feel at my most vulnerable”
This particular slower version of If I Only Had A Brain was first made popular by American actor and musician, Harry Connick Jnr, and it’s something which Robbie admits he heard and knew he had to adopt for this album.
“To be honest I’ve completely ripped-off a cover by Harry Connick Jnr. He does a slow version of If I Only Had A Brain, and I think there’s a lot of pathos attached to that version of the song”.
Robbie recorded his take on this classic track at the legendary Capitol Studios in Los Angeles which has played host to all of the biggest names in Swing over the years.
“Capitol Studios, the home of swing recording history – Frank Sinatra, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Dean Martin. There I was in the Mecca of the swing world playing with the greatest musicians in the world. I felt as though I’m not worthy.”
This incredibly rich history is something that has clearly inspired Robbie, and you can really hear that come through with every seductive second of his version of this classic song. The smooth, emotion-laden vocal delivery shows Robbie at his crooning best. Draped around his vocals is the most sultry, velvety tapestry of piano and strings, and you are instantly transported to another era, an era when swing was the king.
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