FAITH NO MORE | 'I'm Easy' released 25 Years ago!
On December 29th 1992 Faith No More released their cover of the 1977 Commodores song Easy.
The song is to this day their most successful selling single however amongst the fans it is possibly their most controversial.
"It feels really good to have couple of thousand people flipping you off. Just to see the number of middle fingers go up when we went into 'Easy' was amazing."
Love it or hate it the song helped them reach their highest UK chart position of number 3 and number 1 in Australia in 1992. The song reached out to a much wider audience, whether it was an audience FNM wished to reach out to is another question, but we can be sure the record company did.
So why did FNM chose to cover Easy? And why was it so successful; why did this slick and slightly tongue in check rendition sell more in the UK and Europe than their own unique brand of music?
FNM have been playing Easy in their live set since April 1990, the earliest record of it being played is at Rock City on April 25 1990. According to setlistfm.com the band have played it live 418 times and it is their third most played song after Epic and We Care A Lot. The band decided to add Easy to their set as a counter balance for their faithful version of War Pigs by Black Sabbath, which they had been playing to audiences since Chuck Mosley's days:
Bill Gould | Kerrang | 1995
"First off, we did it live. We used to do (Black Sabbath's) 'War Pigs', so the meat heads started coming just to hear us do that all the time, and Jim's chest was puffing out. He got to be Mr Black Sabbath, so we decided we wanted to do 'Easy' to fuck with people. We heard It on the radio and went, 'This is a great song, let's do it!''
It was during the recording sessions for Angel Dust that the band laid down a studio version originally to be released as a b side. However the record company decided to add it to later copies of the album and of course release it as double a side with Be Aggressive under the title I'm Easy.
Roddy Bottum | Kerrang | 1995
"Recording it was probably Billy's idea. Our fans would scream for 'War Pigs', but being the kind of band we are, never wanting to be pigeonholed, never wanting to give people what they expect, and as a way of balancing things up ... when people yelled for the cover song we gave them a different cover. The flip-side of the coin. Then because we liked how we played It and the way Mike sang it. we recorded It tor a B-side. Then the record company had a brilliant idea to put it out as an a-side: we made a really nice video."
Bill Gould | Billboard | 1993
"For our own personal satisfaction, we like to do things that are left field. Warner Bros. has been marketing us a a rock band; we like to think we're other things too. There was a little hesitancy to put the record out there, but it's just exploded. I think it might be our best hit."
Section from an interview in 1995 | Kerrang
Do you get any weird reactions from that? Have people come to the band from that single?
Roddy: 'Not really. I honestly don't think we got a lot of easy listening fans from that song! Maybe it's the video. Even though the execution of the song is pretty faithful you can see from the video that we're up to something. The tongue is definitely in the cheek'
Bill: 'I don't think we were ever gonna play it live again at that point, but we just happened to have it recorded. It wasn't a hit in the States, though. In fact, we were over there while it was a hit here, and it's only now that we've come back that it's managed to sink in: people keep saying to us, 'Well. your last big hit was 'Easy' '
Patton: 'It's a bit like stealing your own gun, then shooting yourself with it.'
Bill: 'Or stealing your gun and shooting somebody else with it!'
The coupling of these two songs is in itself a comical match due to the homoerotic sexual references of Roddy's lyrics of Be Aggressive and the story of a love sick Lionel Richie.
Was there any sense of irony in the FNM version? Were the band playing the song to provoke a reaction?
"The only ironic moment in that whole song is right before the guitar solo when Patton goes 'eww', which was a comment, not on the song, but on Jim Martin. Because there was such acrimony and tension between the band and him during the making of that record."
Bill Gould | Billboard | 1993
"It would be too obvious just to slag it. We like it in a painful kind of way. It gives the band memories of our childhood. We all grew up with it."
Mike Patton | Kerrang | 2009
'Usually we just do songs we like, so we have to do them sincerely. If we did a Commodores cover and chuckled at the end of it, it would make everyone else feel a lot more comfortable with it, but that's not the point of it at all. It's stuff we like and we deliberately put it in between two noisy songs to make people take a step back.'
Here we turn to Wikipedia for some factual stuff...
The song was released under three titles: "I'm Easy", "I'm Easy (Cooler Version)", and "Easy". The title varies depending upon the region of release. Most European releases had the title "I'm Easy", whereas the rest of the world, including Scotland, received the release as simply "Easy". There are at least two, perhaps four, different mixes in circulation, all of which originate from the same studio recording of the song. The first mix has a voice-over by Mike Patton during the first few seconds of the song: "Turn the lights out, baby. This one's for the ladies in the house." The second version, sometimes listed as the "Cooler Version", lacks this intro but features a backing string arrangement throughout the song. A supposed third version has both the string arrangement and the spoken intro, while a fourth (and rarest) mix reportedly lacks both.
The 'first version' was featured on the releases:
"I'm Easy/Be Aggressive"
"Easy" (Japanese release)
Angel Dust (Japanese, European and Brazilian releases)
And the 'second version' was featured on the following releases:
Songs to Make Love To
Angel Dust (iTunes digital and Australian releases)
Easy had two different design packages. The US version featured the photo of two rhinos 'having fun' also used for the covers of Everything's Ruined and the EP Songs to Make Love to.The rest of the world were treated to a rather disturbing image of two young boys and a pistol a photograph by William Klein.
The Video mixes live footage from the Angel Dust tour and the band hanging out in a hotel with a bunch of transvestites and flamingos! (Funnily enough the second appearance of TVs in a FNM video the other being for We Care A Lot!)
The live footage also features a snippet of Mike Patton's infamous 'drinking piss from a tennis shoe incident' at Brixton Academy.
The video is opulent and indulgent; watching Patton throw luxury chocolates from a hotel balcony, Bill Gould swigging champagne from the bottle and Roddy Bottum crooning over a grand piano is nothing but classic FNM style.
Bill Gould | Billboard | March 1993
Bill Gould | Billboard | March 1993
"Of all the videos we've done, it probably has our personality the most'" Gould says, "people can find something sympathetic through a weird medium. It's almost touching that this transvestite is sitting there drinking champagne while Mike's singing."
If we look at the array of cover versions FNM have committed to vinyl we notice that majority seem to explore genres of music far from that of their own unique brand of music; jazz, pop, punk and soul; I Started A Joke, Spanish Eyes, This Guys In Love With You, I Wanna Fuck Myself. With the exception of a few particularly fantastic songs FNM generally make aggressive up tempo music, so these cover songs sit amongst their own compositions as a complete contrast.
At the time of Easy's release FNM fans heard the song differently than the general public, it was a bit of a joke, the band poking fun at the record industry and the rock genre like they had pulled off live. But we get a song such as Evidence on the very next album and She Loves Me Not on Album Of The Year, each flirting with the soul and pop genres. Years later we hear Mike Patton experimenting with soul and easy listening music. The Mike Patton we know now is adept to creating beautiful, soulful and sensitive laments with his Mondo Cane project and recent movie soundtracks, amongst others.
Mike Bordin is reported to be a huge collector of Jazz music. And of course Roddy's other band Imperial Teen are much more pop-like.The media had always cited Jim Martin as 'the rock influence' in FNM, he was the guy with the leather, beard and attitude, but this song was recorded and played in his time with the band and his contribution is essential to the song. A note perfect solo.
All this suggests FNM wanted to play songs like this from very early on but weren't sure how to place them on their albums amongst the rock genre they had been slotted into. The song Edge Of The World was there only nod towards lounge previous to Angel Dust. So maybe this cover of Easy was a way of doing that without alienating too many fans and testing the water for further song writing on their later albums? As to why Easy was so successful in Europe and Australia, I think the UK public in particular are suckers for a revamped golden oldie and a song that translates into karaoke!
But after all this discussion who actually cares? FNM and their record company might care about the money but we as fans don't give a monkey's how successful a song was in the charts, we care about the music. And personally I love their version of the song. I loved it back in 1990 when I first heard a live recording and I still love it as I write this. Although I would've loved a version of Sweet Dreams (The Nestlé song) equally as much......
Let me leave you with Lionel Richie's opinion on Faith No More EASY.....
"I was actually quite flattered that much about the song. Yes, I loved it."