How To Do A Cover Version

In the last week, I have spent a lot of time binge-watching TV shows.

A woman at work has leant me the first series (not season) of Game of Thrones, as she couldn’t believe I’d never seen it. Game of Thrones is only aired on Sky Atlantic here in the UK, and so it lands firmly in the “never knowingly give money to Murdoch” category for me.

But being loaned a free copy means I haven’t given the wrinkly Aussie a pennyny of my money, so what the hell.

But, the problem with everyone raving about something as much as they have about Game of Thrones, in my experience, is that when you’re late to the party and  finally get round to watching it you’re generally underwhelmed by what you see.

So, I’ve watched the first two episodes, and…it’s okay. I have a problem remembering all the names, and find myself identifying all the main characters as “Sean Bean”, or “That bloke from the Tesco adverts”, or “That bloke from that ITV thing Anna Friel was in” (which I watched because Anna Friel was in it).

When the box set was handed to me, knowing the reputation the show has, I commented that it was very kind of her to help me increase the amount of tits I get to see. My disciplinary hearing is on Tuesday.

The other thing I’ve been gorging on is the second series (not season) of “Narcos” on Netflix. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it tells the story of the rise and fall of Pablo Escabar, the Columbian drug baron. If you don’t like sub-titles, then steer clear, but it’s definitely worth a watch. Wagner Moura, who plays Escobar, is astonishing; he plays it brilliantly and you get the feeling that this is an utterly cold-hearted terrorist, his eyes wide but with no emotion behind them, as he orders each atrocity.

There will be no spoilers here, but there’s a quite brilliant moment when someone meets a rather sticky end – most of them do in Narcos – and as he does, someone in the room turns the radio up and it’s playing this:

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Erasure – A Little Respect

That came out in the UK in 1988, by which time (Peterborough’s finest) Andy Bell (no, not that one) and Depeche Mode/The Assembly/Yazoo stalwart Vince Clarke were well established on the singles scene. By singles, I mean records, of course.

The song got a somewhat unexpected boost in 2001 when American nerd-surf-power-pop-purveyors Wheatus, six months after beguiling us all with their tale of being a Teenage Dirtbag, and just as we thought we’d never hear from them again, released a cover of the song which was a smash, peaking at No 3 in the UK, one place higher than Erasure had managed with the original version.

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Wheatus – A Little Respect

Whenever I hear that version, I’m immediately transported to a Saturday night in Sam’s Bar in Cardiff, with me and my partner in crime Colin the only two people dancing (by which I mean staggering) round the dancefloor, singing our heads off and wondering why no women were coming anywhere near us.

The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing….

More soon.

“They Treat the Mercury Music Prize With Awe”

Every year, around about this time, the Mercury Music Prize is awarded.

As you will probably know by now, this year the prize was scooped (that’s what you do with prizes, you scoop them, apparently) by grime artist Skepta for his “Konnichiwa” album.

Almost immediately afterwards, social media was awash with people tripping over themselves to state that this is an artist and album they’ve been into for ages, how they they’ve been predicting he would win to anyone who cared to listen, the underlying, unspoken boast being how cool they are, how their finger is bang on the pulse of contemporary music. This generally happens every year (excluding the year M People won, of course) and in the past I’ve doubtless been guilty of it myself.

I think there’s a direct correlation between my waistline and my interest in appearing cool, by which I mean as the former has expanded so the latter has waned. By which I mean I’m at an age where being cool no longer interests me.  I have never knowingly heard anything by Skepta. I’ll probably check out the album to see what the fuss is about. Maybe. Sometime. When I get round to it.

But every year, around about this time, I’m reminded of a song by a band unlikely to ever get nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, not because they’re not very good (they’re actually nothing short of brilliant) but because they are viewed by many as a bit of a “joke” band.

The song I have in mind is “Paintball’s Coming Home”, specifically a version they performed on Andy Kershaw’s radio show which references both the award and the band’s slim-to-non-existent chances of winning it. (Kershaw once described them as “the most authentic English folk group since The Clash”)

The lyrics to this version are so different to the version which featured as the closing track on their 1997 “Voyage to the Bottom of the Road” album (which makes no mention of the award), that I thought I’d post both for you:

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Half Man Half Biscuit – Paintball’s Coming Home

Half Man Half Biscuit – Paintball’s Coming Home (Andy Kershaw session)

It seems every time I post a song by the mighty Half Man Half Biscuit I find myself reassessing what my favourite lyric by them, and “Paintball’s Coming Home” is no exception, containing as it does a litany of reasons lead singer and songwriter Nigel Blackwell dislikes a couple he knows, set to the tune of “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands”.

Take your pick from:

“They didn’t choose their cat, the cat chose them”

“They go to one day cricket in fancy dress”

“They made some real good friends on Henman Hill”

and, what for today, at least, is possibly my favourite lyric ever:

They buy soup in cartons, not in tins.”

Genius.

More soon.