Jimi Hendrix, The Fall, The Clash, British Sea Power, Manic Street Preachers - Cover Versions
Miss Fliss 28/05/2009
Cover versions! They're quite rampant at the moment. The spectrum as I see it runs from Dirty Projectors' electrifyingly brilliant and different take on Bjork's beepy Hyperballad which becomes all of an acoustic twinkle, to the wussy Jarvis Cocker trying to take on Eye of the Tiger and failing like a soggy kipper in the face of Jeff Capes. If the latter wasn't unsettling enough, Pete Doherty wailed and dribbled all over Culture Club's Karma Chameleon with the stilted weak assistance of the singer from Keane - which actually does sound as painful to kittens as you just imagined in your head.
So, how about we remind ourselves of some covers from over the years which add pizzazz or cleverly and energetically outstrip the muses' versions?
The first one that comes to mind for me is The Pet Shop Boys' version of Always on My Mind. Granted, Elvis was a rock and roll revolutionary, but his crooning is reduced to overly earnest blether in the face of the instantaneous grab of the cracking, sped-up, dance version. The effect is cataclismic; a slap in the chops, renders the Elvis version old, slow and dithering.
King of them all for me is Hendrix rocking all hell out of Bob Dylan's ear-piercing harmonica slowie, All Along the Watch Tower - he blasts Dylan to bits! And it evokes one of the best films ever into the bargain, too.
Then there's the dynamo that was The Pixies update on The Jesus and Mary Chain's Head On, which sets off the electric sparks it sings of, and makes its original seem stoned and asleep. With fire, I personally love both versions, but The Pixies really do something wildly life-affirming.
There's also the snippet of music from the film Eraserhead that The Pixies covered with interesting results.
The Fall are a million cover versions down the line, the man Mark is an old expert hack at it, but for my pop heart The Fall kick the heck out of The Kinks' Victoria to exuberant and robust degree, adding proverbial bollocks galore (I'm aware of how ridiculous that last bit is, so got to keep that in!). Plus, in the video, you get to see Mark E Smith smiling whilst dressed as a grand Nelson figure:
I once danced to the lilting relaxed reggae of Pressure Drop by Toots Hibbert in a club with The Clash's punked up spiky engergised version of it in my head, dancing with all its speed. I adore the stark differences between both, but Clash win out for the kick and liveliness supplied. Music only video version here. Clash covers ran riot, to many to name, but my other choice faves are Police and Thieves (orig. Jnr Murvin), and I Fought The Law (orig. Sonny Curtis and The Crickets).
And Joe Strummer with the Mescaleros did such a top notch version of Redemption Song that I forgot it was by Bob Marley.
Honorary mention must go to British Sea Power and The Wurzels for "twinning" themselves with each other in a bizarre cover version exercise which saw BSP's approach to every drunk farmer's favourites The Wurzels' giddy, boozy, all-smiles and ruddy faces anthem I Am a Cider Drinker become a slowed-right-down come-down of a post-rock affair. The Wurzels returned the favour by rendering the normally contemplative and serious Remember Me a ludicrous hoe-down of a raucous cider riot! Czech band Ecstasy of St. Theresa covered BSP's A Lovely Day Tomorrow in fine style too.
And who can forget the grand rock and roll transformation of that plodding old man barbershop harmony quarter theme tune, M*A*S*H, made so mighty by The Manic Street Preachers:
I can forget that Rhianna cover ever happened if you can. James Dean Bradfield's solo acoustic version of the Wham! Christmas song was always pretty lovely, too. Though Pullover outdid it with a sparkling yet ferocious guitar version. Pullover recently covered an OMD song (Souvenir) so well that it was months before I found out it was actually a cover, and it puts the original into a quiet corner to be forgotten whilst their version shimmers with beauty and sadness - go to the band's Myspace for this.
Cat Power is, of course, the queen of cover versions, and has a whole album devoted to the exercise.
More recently, there's The Indelicates performing Breaking The Law at their gigs, but with added piano operatics and humour, segueing it seamlessly into a song of their own too. Glasvegas steal the best bits of 60s soul girl groups and mix it with Jesus and Mary Chain flourishes, and have covered Be My Baby by The Ronettes acoustic style at gigs.
...And there's more:
The Wedding Present covered Orange Juice's Felicity in lovely yet ferocious fashion. They also rendered Elton John's Christmas song an indie pop hit.
Ash do a more glittering, elongated, and sad version of Weezer's Only in Dreams
New Order's Bizarre Love Triangle was put into acoustic gentle subtle sweetness by the lesser known Australian band Frente (look it up on Youtube, it's ace).
Luckily I can't get shot via the internet, so I can say that I find The Cure's version of Love Will Tear Us Apart more lovely than Joy Division's original.
Little known English dark indie band Libido did a fantastically gothic and slow balladeering of Kate Bush's Running Up that Hill.
Kenickie added some girly crooning and Elvis style to The Pixies' Letter to Memphis.
There's a shed load I have forgotten, obviously, so comment here your own favourites, do!
- Pop covers done to look kerrrazzy or 'ironic' are balderdash.
- I hated Hallelulujah in the first bloody place!
- Nobody so far in the history of pop is worthy of going near The Fall or The Cure and I wish they wouldn't try it (CF: that annoying chav rapper girl with Close to Me. I refuse to let my ears bear witness! I'm not too impressed with the rapper that nicked Straight to Hell by The Clash either).
- Jamie Cullum must be put in a sack and thrown off of Dover cliff.