How To Do a Cover Version

Tuesday’s Short Song post featuring The Box Top’s The Letter prompted a comment from long-time reader and Chain Gang contributor George who said:

“Have you heard Al Green’s version? I think it’s tremendous. Some might disagree (they are of course wrong).”

I hadn’t, but this seemed a most serendipitous suggestion, given the Rev. Green also featured here on Saturday night, and so I decided to investigate.

He’s not wrong you know:

I’ll be honest, before The Box Top’s version ended up in the Short Song series, I had been flirting with the idea of including it in this series anyway, but not with The Rev. Green’s version as the alternative. There are so many versions to choose from, but one that I really love is by Ellie Greenwich.

You know Ellie Greenwich. No you do, I promise you. She either wrote or co-wrote such indisputable classics as The Ronettes’ Be My Baby, The Crystals’ Da Doo Ron Ron, The Shangri-La’s’ Leader of the Pack, Manfred Mann’s Do Wah Diddy Diddy (itself a cover version, but we’ll save that for another time, I think), and Ike & Tina Turner’s River Deep, Mountain High…I could go on.

But in 1968 she released an album entitled, Ellie Greenwich Composes, Produces and Sings; a slightly disingenuous title given that she didn’t do any of these things on the original version. I’m probably doing her a dis-service there, for the style is very different to The Box Tops’ version, even more so than Al Green’s version, and so she may have either recomposed and/or produced this version, which she definitely sings on.

It couldn’t sound any more like it was auditioning for an Austin Powers movie if it tried, could it?

(Disclaimer: I have never seen any of the Austin Powers movies.)

More soon.