It’s November 1966 and the Queens of Motown, The Supremes top charts around the world
with a song written by the brothers Brian and Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier titled You
Keep Me Hangin’ On.
It’s July 2022 and Australia’s Queen of Rock, powerhouse guitarist, self-taught pianist,
singer and songwriter Sarah McLeod releases her take on the classic song. “I’m a huge fan of
Motown music,” she explains her decision to record her own version, “and love the
songwriting of Holland-Dozier-Holland. The Supremes initially recorded this song and then
later one of my favourite singers Rod Stewart recorded it. I’ve always loved it and wanted to
rework something classic for my rock duo to play festivals.”
Australia first got to know Sarah when she burst out of Adelaide back in 1994 fronting The
Superjesus. Their debut EP, Eight Step Rail, saw them pick up to two ARIAs – Best New
Talent and Breakthrough Artist – Single, for the song Shut My Eyes. Their debut album,
Sumo, released the following year, reached #2 on the chart, sold more than 70,000 copies and
was released in the US. Their second album, 2000’s Jet Age, reached #5 and similarly went
platinum, while their third, 2003’s Rock Music, reached #14.
The following year Sarah released her debut solo album, Beauty Was a Tiger, another Top 40
charter, and she hasn’t looked back, releasing Live & Acoustic in 2006, Madness in 2009 and
Rocky’s Diner in 2017, with a bit of fun in 2011 with the Screaming Bikini album. Her last
release was the poignant power-ballad Chachi’s Theme, written about her beloved dog and
released to coincide with her COVID-delayed One Electric Lady tour early in 2021.
“With the Big Red Bash coming up I thought it was the perfect time to throw something out
that would be indicative of what you will catch of my solo set at this show. I have been
working with a dual-output guitar that allows me to play bass and guitar at the same time.
Add a drummer to this and we sound like a huge three-piece but there’s only two of us. It’s
allowed me to take my solo show to the big festival stages. You Keep Me Hangin On is the
first song that I’ve recorded in the studio in this format.
Modifying her guitar herself, Sarah added adding a second outlet that picks up the two
bottom strings of her guitar, providing the bass parts, while the other outlet carries the guitar
parts from the other four strings.
While it might have been the Supremes and Rod Stewart that inspired her with their versions
of You Keen Me Hangin’ On, her take brings out an aspect of the song that classic American
proto hard rock band Vanilla Fudge brought to their version, a US hit just a few months after
the Supremes original.
Talking to the digital archive Wayback Machine back in October 2014 Vanilla Fudge
drummer Carmine Appice explained the band’s decision to cover the song: “We used to slow
songs down and listen to the lyrics and try to emulate what the lyrics were dictating. That one
was a hurtin’ song; it had a lot of emotion in it… If you listen to Hangin’ On fast… by the
Supremes, it sounds very happy, but the lyrics aren’t happy at all.”
Sarah channels some of that hurtin’, but with her own characteristic defiance. “I’m really
happy with how it came up
Sarah will be performing at the BIG RED BASH Birdsville July 5-7
and at the MUNDI MUNDI BASH August 18-20.
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