Single cover for Kon Kan's 'I Beg Your Pardon', released in 1989.
Detail from Kon Kan's single release for “I Beg Your Pardon.”

Kon Kan: I beg your pardon

WWhen I think about music, I think about it in two periods. There’s before Kon Kan, and then there’s after Kon Kan.

I know it doesn’t seem like the history of music turns on this song, but my history with music does. So let me back up.

Before Kon Kan, I listened to a lot of pop country, pop fifties and sixties, and a lot of Peter, Paul, & Mary / Kingston Trio stuff. My dad’s music. But one day in 1989, when I was fourteen, I caught a ride home with some older kids and this song came on the radio. I liked the beat, I liked the fake brass, I was … ambivalent about the male vocals. But what really turned my head around was the Lynn Anderson sample in the chorus.

I knew that song. Every word, backward and forwards. Here’s Lynn singing — possibly lip-syncing — the song on the UK’s Top of the Pops, big country hair and all.

In 1989, eighteen years separated Lynn Anderson’s original and Kon Kan’s teen-male re-contextualization. And we nearly three decades removed from Kon Kan’s version. So it shouldn’t be too surprising if I say even the idea of a sample was new to me. It’s quite possibly the first one I ever heard because back then I was most decidedly not listening to rap and hip-hop.

But I was obsessed with this song. I went into every record store in town asking them if they had this song. They didn’t. They didn’t even know who I was talking about. Eventually, the song made it up the charts, I found a 45 in-store, and as far as music was concerned I was off to the races.

While writing this up I discovered Barry Harris of Kon Kan re-released the song in a more modern clubby format in 2014 for its twenty-fifth anniversary:

I have to admit It improves on the original in a number of ways, but honestly, it’s hard to compete with that Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment in my early teens. It can only be just another club song.