How (Not?) To Do A Cover Version

I’m a little torn about whether this is a good or a bad cover version.

The problem is that both versions are by the same person.

In 1986, Billy Bragg released this as the second single from his “difficult” (but brilliant) third album, Talking with the Taxman about Poetry:

Billy Bragg – Greetings to the New Brunette

But then later – and I must confess, I’ve been trying to establish where this version first appeared, with no success (it probably tells me on the album on which it appears that I own a copy of, but as all my CDs are currently boxed away I can’t be arsed with digging it out) – he re-recorded it with a full band, and whilst he was at it, he re-titled it too:

Billy Bragg – Shirley

See, it’s not a terrible version, and in many ways I think it benefits from the full band treatment.

But here’s two reasons why the original is better:

  1. It has Johnny Marr playing guitar on it, and
  2. It has Kirsty MacColl doing backing vocals on it.

I rest my case.

More soon.

How Not To Do a Cover Version

Some songs, of course, just simply should not be messed with.

Anyone who was unfortunate enough to hear Ed Sheeran and Anne-Marie, or even worse Ronan Keating and Moira Brennan’s versions of “Fairytale of New York” will know what I mean.

Here’s another song to add to that list. Many have tried. All have failed. I mean, why try and improve on perfection?

Take professional kookie indie girl Zooey Deschanel¬†and M Ward’s stab at this, which they play with a straight bat, omitting the words “The”, “Chipmunk”, and “Song” from the title and steadfastly refusing to perform any of the lyrics in triple time:

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She & Him – Christmas Don’t Be Late

And then there’s¬†Tegan and Sara, who at least have the decency not to castrate the title, and have some chipmunk-y vocals:

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Tegan and Sara –¬† The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)

I mean, they’re both perfectly acceptable, but¬†they’re not this, ¬†the closing track on that “Looney Tunes” compilation album I featured quite a lot a while ago,¬†are they?:

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David Seville and The Chipmunks – The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)

It amuses me greatly to think that somebody searching for Christmas songs by rapper Chipmunk may have just have stumbled across this and will either be very happy or very, very disappointed right now.

I suspect the latter.

More soon.

How Not To Do a Cover Version

There was much love for the Muppets after they featured briefly at the end of a post I did earlier in the week, so I thought I’d feature dig some more out.

Back in 2011, one of those tribute albums was released, where various bands record covers of one particular artiste’s songs. The subject here was The Muppets.

As with many of these kind of albums, it’s a pretty mixed bag: twelve songs in total, and I’d say there’s only two or three worth listening to.

One of those that isn’t, is by OK Go. Or OK, Go Away Now Please, as they’re hilariously known round my way.

You know OK Go. They’re that band who make whacky videos (with the band performing a choreographed dance routine on four exercise treadmills for example) but utterly forgettable records. Disagree? Go on then, name one of their songs (that isn’t called “The one¬†where they perform a choreographed dance routine on four exercise treadmills in the video”). See?

Some songs really should not be covered, and this is one of them:

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OK Go – The Muppet Show Theme

It’s not that it’s a particularly bad version, and at least they try to do something a bit different with it, but¬†it’s impossible to hear it without thinking of the glorious original, and all of the nostalgia and child-like excitement that inevitably invokes.

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The Muppets – The Muppet Show Theme

As The Robster said by way of the Comments section: “Nothing¬†beats The Muppets. Nothing.”

OK. Go on then:

More soon.

How To (and How Not To) Do A Cover Version (That Summer Feeling #28)

Pretty straight-forward, today’s lesson:

  1. Dispense with the whole “boy-part/girl-part” structure of the original vocal;
  2. Make it sound like a trippy, nice’n’sleazy Stranglers cover

Lifted from the 1990 Anti-Poll Tax compilation album “Alvin Lives (in Leeds)”, here’s 14 Iced Bears:

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14 Iced Bears – Summer Nights

Of course, the original, lifted from the smash hit movie “Grease”, was a huge beast back in 1978, when it spent 7 weeks at Number 1 in the UK.

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John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John – Summer Nights

As an indication as to just how massive “Grease”-mania was, “Summer Nights” was the second single to be released from the soundtrack, and the second to hit the top spot in the singles chart. The first single was “You’re The One That I Want”, and if you were to combine the two,¬†Travolta & Newton-John spent 16 weeks at Number One in 1978.

So, since the film essentially describes a holiday romance that continues unexpectedly, it’d be wrong of me not to include that song here too, right?

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John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John – You’re the One That I Want

Sadly, I don’t have any cover versions of that by 1970s comedy actors to play now.

Oh  wait. Sorry. What I meant to say was: Sadly, I do have a cover version of that by 1970s comedy actors to play now.

Brace yourself:

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Hylda Baker & Arthur Mullard – You’re The One That I Want

And if that wasn’t bad enough, here they are, “singing” live, on what has to be the most excruciating appearance on Top of the Pops this side of All About Eve’s backing track malfunction:

Learnt most of my best dance moves off old Arthur, as it goes.

Bet you wish I wasn’t having phone issues now, eh?

More soon.

How Not To Do a Cover Version

It is 1983. Paul Young has quit the Streetband and stopped “singing” about Toast.

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Streetband – Toast

¬†Yup, that’s him alright.

He releases “No Parlez” and scores a Number One hit with this, a cover version of a Marvin Gaye track:

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Paul Young – Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)

When I was younger, I always thought that to be a perfectly passable cover version. But then, when I was younger, I’d never actually heard the original. And once I had, I realised it really was nowhere near as good:

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Marvin Gaye – Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)

But whilst Young’s cover pales into insignificance compared to the original, that’s not why we’re here.

Oh no.

For elsewhere on “No Parlez” is this, utterly awful cover of a truly great record:

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Paul Young – Love Will Tear Us Apart

You don’t need me to tell you how superior the original was, now do you?

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Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

Thought not.

More soon.

 

How Not to Do a Cover Version

BBC4 on a Friday night is generally a wonderful channel for music fans to watch, and last night was no exception, mostly because they showed their “Kate Bush at the BBC” show, a load of clips of…erm…Kate’s¬†performances on the BBC. If you missed it, I’d heartily recommend catching it on th’iPlayer whilst you can.

As I watched it, it occurred to me that for someone so revered as she is, I could think of very few examples of people covering her songs well. I’d like to think that’s because most musicians release that you can’t improve on perfection.

Some people, however, have had a go. I’d like to say with varying degrees of success, but that would be generous, and anyone who knows me knows that’s not a quality of possess in abundance.

So let’s have a¬†round-up of the not very good ones.

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White Flag – Wuthering Heights

I own this on the above compilation album, but don’t be fooled by the “…Performed By Today’s Stars” tag-line. This was released in 1992, so no longer “Today” and I think an album containing cover versions by, amongst others, Erectus Monotone, Hypnolovewheel and Chia Pet is stretching the notion of “Stars” to its knicker elastic-twanging limit. It does however have tracks by Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Redd Kross, Superchunk and The Connells so there’s much to recommend it (and I will doubtless post much more from it in the future), just not this particular cover version.

There’s nothing to recommend this one, either, as it goes:

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China Drum – Wuthering Heights

Louder is not always better, guys. Especially not when you place it right next to the simply breath-taking original:

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 Kate Bush РWuthering Heights

I have a lot of time for certain records by Placebo. Just not this one, which arrived on a bonus disc of covers, called “Covers” (inspirational out-of-the-box thinking by whoever came up with the title, by the way), available with their 2003 album “Sleeping With Ghosts”:

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Placebo – Running Up That Hill

…which, isn’t awful, it¬†just isn’t¬†a patch on the original:

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Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)

But I’m saving the worst for last.

Regular readers will now how little I care for cover versions where a shuffly Soul II Soul-esque¬†dance beat (and yes, I realise that using the phrase “dance beat” makes me sound like a granddad) is added in the hope of making something sound contemporary (see my previous posts about¬†Tin Tin Out), but that is exactly what Inside Moves (nope, me neither) did:

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Inside Moves – The Man With The Child In His Eyes

But even that pales into insignificance when compared with the next version of the same song, which originally appeared¬†on their “Violently EP”, but which¬†I own on the group’s “Best Of” album:

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Hue and Cry – The Man With the Child in His Eyes

I honestly don’t know what riles me so much about that version; on face value it’s a fairly faithful cover. I have nothing against Hue and Cry in general; as I’ve mentioned before “Labour of Love” is one of my favourite records not just from the 80s but ever. Maybe it’s the needless change of perspective, from “I” to “You”; maybe it’s the unnecessary oversinging “na-na-na-na-na-na” bits. I dunno.

Let’s cleanse the palate.

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Kate Bush – The Man With The Child In His Eyes

Speaking of awful covers, that’s a pretty poor, far to literal sleeve, isn’t it?

More soon.

How Not To Do a Cover Version

Following on from my earlier post where I talked about how my listening habits had changed, I’ve realised that sometimes I really don’t help myself.

One of the reasons I listen to music almost entirely on shuffle these days is because that way every now and then my iPod throws up a little golden nugget, or the idea of what to write about next on here.

Recently, I have *ahem* come to own the first 75 albums in the “Now That’s What I Call Music!” series, which I’m currently in the process of uploading onto my iPod.

Masochist that I apparently am, I decided that rather than be selective about what to add, I would simply upload each and every one and see which ones were chosen for my aural delectation.

The plus side of this is that my memory has been jogged about certain records that I had forgotten all about (Kenny Thomas, anyone?), or I’m intrigued about some that I¬†knew nothing about in the first place (just who were 2wo Third3 and what made them think spelling their name like that was in any way a good idea??).

Actually, now I’ve written that, I’m not so sure either of those can be considered plus points.

On the down side (as if that wasn’t bad enough) I now own¬†far more Tina Turner songs from her late 80s/early 90s period than I ever care to hear.

In short, I have turned my iPod into a revolver in a game of musical Russian Roulette, only there are bullets in 5 of the 6 chambers, not just 1.

I’m already wondering if this was a good idea.

Yesterday, this experiment bore its first fruits, and wouldn’t you just know it, it’s getting used in this section, where I post fucking terrible cover versions of great records.

There’s been several covers over the years of today’s choice, but none so arse-clenchingly awful as this. Brace yourselves. I’m about to type three words I never thought I would.

Here’s Samantha Fox:

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Samantha Fox – I Only Wanna Be With You

And yes, that’s our old friends PWL at the helm, sucking the life out of the original, replacing it with¬†their own¬†special brand of bland.

Quick, nurse! He’s out of bed again! We need the original!

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Dusty Springfield – I Only Want To Be With You

Too late. I need to shower and wash the PWL stink off.

More, better, soon.

How Not to Do a Cover Version

1983 saw the release of this absolute classic:

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Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel & The Furious Five – White Lines (Don’t Do It)

The act name is a bit of a misnomer though: Grandmaster Flash played no part in this record having already left the Sugarhill Records label that released it.

Seriously, what a tune that is. And it’s impossible to listen to it without at the very least joining in with the “Baby” parts, as evidenced by the song’s appearance in the wonderful¬†popular culture¬† referencing¬†“Sean of the Dead” movie:

As for the godawful cover, well I suspect most of you know what’s coming. Brace yourself.

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Duran Duran – White Lines

Given their reputation in the 80s, I’ve never worked out whether or not this cover is supposed to be¬†ironic. Or just hypocritical.

Not that it matters. It’s awful, ironic or not.

More soon.

How Not to Do A Cover Version

One day, after I finally finished college, I bumped into the Entertainments Manager that I worked with when I was Social Secretary. He¬†was having a bit of a problem finding a DJ to play on one of the nights that I used to do:¬† a retro-80s night that me and my mate Darran used to do every other Thursday night, which we’d started as far back as 1990 (we knew that nostalgia was going to be a winner).

For one reason or another, one of the usual DJs wasn’t able to do the night one week, and nobody seemed willing to step up to the plate. The Ents Manager thought that bumping into me was a sign, and so he asked me if I’d be willing to step in for the night.

We’d had quite a fractious relationship when we worked together, me and this chap, (more of that another time) and so¬†I was really quite tempted to tell him to do one. But then, after consulting my “Big Book of Cliches”, I figured that a lot of water had passed under the bridge, that time was a great healer, and that I’d be the bigger man if I accepted his outstretched hand and helped him out. So I agreed.

Before we go any further, and although it’s of absolutely no relevance here, let me explain why I refer to it as “college” whereas most people would call it “going to Uni”.

It’s because I didn’t go to a University.

But the type of educational establishment that I attended to get my degree in “Bugger All Use” Studies no longer exists, so it’s easier to refer to it by a generic “college” than to explain every time I want to mention it.

See, I finished my ‘A’ Levels in 1988, when Polytechnics still existed. For the uninitiated, these were basically scummier versions of Universities; they swept up the likes of me who had kind of done okay in their A Levels, but nothing spectacular, and who weren’t ready to go and get a job yet, but who weren’t considered bright enough to be bothering Universities.

In 1992, the year I graduated, educational system¬†reforms kicked in, which led to all of the Polytechnics being permitted to attain University status, which of course they all did, changing their name and rebranding like nobody’s business. My Degree Certificate, if I had the faintest idea where it was, was issued by “The Polytechnic of Wales”, which these days is “University of Glamorgan”, which¬†seems to be¬†part of, or maybe even the¬†same thing¬†as¬†the “University of South Wales”.¬†¬†The fact I can’t¬†work that out explains why I ended up at a Polytechnic. (When writing this, I’ve just visited their website, where there’s an aerial tour of the place – fuck me, they’ve spent some cash on it since I left!!)

Anyway, this Thursday night I rocked up at the Student’s Union club (which was named “Shafts” in some sort of deference to the mining community that surrounded it) and took my place in the DJ booth, where I met my co-DJ for the night, whose name, I think, was Pete. For the purposes of narrative, that was definitely his name.

Pete was a mad Manchester United fan. I don’t mean he was clinically insane, I mean mad as in avid, keen, staunch. It transpired that he wasn’t particularly happy to be DJing that night either, as it was the anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster which had taken the lives of so many of the Busby Babes back in 1958.

Despite this, Pete was fairly buoyant. He told me that he had just got a deal to release an album of Man Utd related songs and chants which he claimed to have had a part in creating.

He was particularly proud of one of these , his chest puffing out with pride as he explained it to me. I had to disguise my horror. To my mind, he had butchered a song of which I was not overly fond, but still….

Here’s the original:

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John Denver – Take Me Home, Country Roads

And here¬†the¬†“Pete” version.¬†It is so awful, I am not prepared to post an mp3 of it (also, having trawled the internet for ages, I can find nobody who officially wants to take responsibility for either the creating or the recording of this horror):

Just like the line¬†“I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” from The Killers’ “All These Things That I Have Done” really doesn’t work (it’s spelt “soldier”, not¬†“souldier”, numb-nuts!), this just grates.

There isn’t an area called “United” to correspond with the “Country” from the original. There are no United Roads. Frankly, if you can’t be arsed¬†to think of a lyric that includes the M6 then you really shouldn’t be bothering.

Actually, since most Man Utd fans live in Surrey, they would need to include the A317, the A320, the M25 and the M1 too. And then the scanning would just be all over the shop.

And even worse, whenever I hear the original, as I did earlier today, prompting this post, what little pleasure I may gain from it is taken away from me by the memory of this aberration.

Pete, wherever and whoever you are, I hate you.

And before anyone has a pop, this has nothing to do with me not being a United fan. I’ve always found Man Utd to be a hugely entertaining football team, especially¬†over the last couple season or three, when they’ve been highly amusing.

More soon.

How Not to Do a Cover Version

Sometimes, it’s so obvious that you think “Where do I start….?”

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Timbuk 3 – The Future’s So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)

Luckily, having received one Take-Down order (hence the slightly amended name) for this band already, I can keep it brief:

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Quatus Toe – The Future’s So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)

And yes, there really is a whole album full of this shit. We may be here for some time.

More soon. Oh yes. Much, much more.