“Here’s a song that a girl stole from me, and now I’m stealing it back” is not a thing that Otis Redding ever probably said before performing “Respect” in front of a live audience, but his performance of the song on Live in Europe was ferocious enough to just about do that.
Or at least that’s what mid-1980s Jim, whose exposure to either Aretha Franklin or Otis Redding was still limited to their biggest singles or soundtrack appearances (including Aretha’s performance of “Shake” in The Blues Brothers), so when I first heard Otis locomotivate “Respect” on Live in Europe — the first song on the first Otis Redding album I ever bought — I was blown away by the sheer unbridled energy of it all.
And while I didn’t really fully explore Otis Redding’s music until the early 1990s, my reaction to the Live in Europe version of “Respect” was visceral that it was only ever a matter of time. Even now, 50 years after it was recorded, it still fucking rules.
Yes, there is that cheesy introduction where the emcee makes the French crowd spell out “O-T-I-S-R-E-D-D-I-N-G” while Booker T & The MGs vamp in the background, and yes, the posthumous recordings of both the Whisky and Monterey Pop shows are clearer, but Live in Europe might be the greatest of the 1960s live albums (that actually came out in the 1960s) as — outside of that intro — there ain’t an ounce of fat on it.
After that intro, Booker T & The MGs simply explode — bassist Duck Dunn, guitarist Steve Cropper & organist Booker T Jones leading the way as drummer Al Jackson punctuates with spine-shattering snare rolls that almost always land in the horn sections — while Otis reminds everybody that “Respect” wasn’t only about you know, respect.
Do me wrong, honey, if you wanna
You can do me wrong, honey, while I’m gone
But all I’m askin’ is for
A little respect when I come home
Ooh yeah now
Hey hey hey!!
On Otis Blue, “Respect” was just the tiniest bit stilted: even though this rolls are cool, the beat lumbers just the tiniest bit like it wants to go faster, but nobody has given it permission to do so. This isn’t a problem on Live in Europe — where the adrenaline of a live performance is all the permission they need, and I’m also guessing that they had some time to fully figure out the arrangement, as every piece is in place, especially Duck Dunn’s bass, which is providing a dozen hooks on each and every verse, and then at the end leads the whole song into an absolute frenzy.
Said frenzy matches Otis Redding’s vocals, which start out feverish and end up breaking the thermometer: every single time he screams “HEY HEY HEY!” the world turns just a little bit faster. And then at the end — just in case that you’re still confused what the nature of the respect he’s craving is — he chants “got to got to have it” and “give it up” like a man possessed. It’s a brilliant brilliant performance, probably my favorite of his vocals and one of my favorite vocals by anybody.
“Respect (Live in Europe)”
“Respect (Live in Monterey)”
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