How To Do a Cover Version

See? Already I am keeping to my New Year’s Resolution to revive and reinvigorate some old threads which I previously dropped.

So, here we go – a cover version which is better than the original.

There’s a lot to love about Johnny Cash’s American Recordings series, apart from the fact he was dying as he recorded them. (By which I don’t mean I love the fact he was dying, I mean the fact that he managed to record all of them despite his ill-health).

I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this you’re probably not an idiot who needs to have the American Recordings series explained to you. And if you do, then go Google it.

My father is a massive Johnny Cash fan, and one of the oh-so-many things I love about the American Recordings series is that I can suggest to him with a straight face that he listens to more records by Beck, Nick Lowe, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode and Nick Cave, to name but a few of the artistes Johnny covered in this final flourish. Not that he ever would, mind. And so, to save him the effort, some of the covers Johnny did, and the originals, will feature here at some point.

So here’s the first. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ The Mercy Seat finds us in typical gloomy Cave territory, telling the story of a convicted killer stepping into the chair and his thought process as he does so, his stubborn resistance and defiance, and his ultimate crumbling admission. Cheerful it is not. Visceral and harrowing it definitely is:


Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Mercy Seat

Now, Nick Cave is clearly one bad-assed mofo, but put next to Cash’s version, with his history of playing gigs in Folsom and San Quentin prisons and the rapturous applause his anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian odes received then, well…can you imagine the thunderous applause his take on this would have received, had he been able to play it to those inmates?


Johnny Cash – The Mercy Seat

No idea what I’m talking about re: Folsom Prison? Get your laughing gear round this:

Anyway, for my money, Cash’s version triumphs, as do so many of his takes in the American Recordings sessions.

No contest. 1-0 to the Cash.

More soon.







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