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.

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Friday Night Music Club

Welcome back. Time for Part Two of our questions/answers/lost/directions/yes-it-is-quite-a-broad-theme-this-isn’t-it? theme. And to get us going, there’s just one question that needs answering:

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218. Tindersticks – Can We Start Again?

Yet another band I’m surprised I haven’t mentioned already on these pages. This is from their fourth album “Simple Pleasures”, which saw a change in direction from those that preceded it. Almost entirely gone were the earlier albums’ string laden lounge jazzy feel (I really haven’t done them justice there), replaced by a more snappy, soulful sound. “Simple Pleasures” may not be the Nottingham band’s best work, wonderful as it is,¬†but it’s certainly their most accessible, a good stepping on point for the uninitiated. Plus it has an artfully shot¬†nude woman on the cover. So y’know…something for everyone.

And if anyone is going to give us permission to start again, then who better than:

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219. Teenage Fanclub – Start Again

On the bus on my way to work on Tuesday, as there were no discarded copies of the Metro for me to flick through, I had a quick browse of Twitter, where I spied this tweet:

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Serendipity. Tickets purchased, I’ll be off to see The Fannies in Islington come September. I am already very excited. But not enough to start doing that annoying “149 sleeps” countdown thing people do when trying to appear cute.

Moving swiftly on, to this week’s entry into the “Bloody hell I’d forgotten all about them” hall of fame, this from 1992:

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220. Mega City Four – Stop

Named after an area in cult¬†comic “2000AD“‘s iconic “Judge Dredd” strip, and led by a chap called Wiz, who sadly passed away in 2006, my path crossed with theirs in 1989/1990.

My mate Ian was a huge fan, and he was delighted when we managed to book them¬†to play the Student Union venue “Shafts” on his birthday. However, the night didn’t pass without incident.

In the weeks beforehand, we’d had a lot of problems with student-hating Paul Calf types coming onto the campus, and into the Union building and causing trouble: picking fights, smashing the place up, smearing shit all over the gents’ toilet walls. Lovely stuff. Something had to give, and at a meeting of the Student Union Executive, it was decided that anyone trying to gain access to the Student Union building without a Union Card would have to pay a ¬£10.00 entrance fee. I argued against this, because that meant that any locals wanting to come to the gigs we were putting on would have to pay twice: once to get into the building and then again to get into the venue. I was out-voted though¬†and wouldn’t you just know it, the first night these draconian measures were implemented was the night of the Mega City Four gig.

The band were, understandably, not happy, but kind of got round the problem, with my knowledge (I can’t call it with my permission, but I certainly didn’t do anything to prevent their plan being out into action¬†after they suggested it to me),¬†by¬†adding¬†anyone who had to pay¬†to get into the building on to the guest list for the gig. I think they would have refunded the difference to them too, if they could have done.

After the gig, as the roadies and sound crew were disassembling¬†all the gear, I wandered over to have a¬†chat with Wiz, to thank him for coming and putting on a¬†great gig, and apologised for the problem with the door. His response was: “Don’t worry about it mate. It’s not your fault. It’s those faceless bastards that make the decisions, it’s theirs”. I decided against telling him I’d been in the room when the decision was taken and had been powerless to stop it.

There’s a line in “Stop” which always reminds me of that moment:

“They say actions speak louder than words
Whoever they may be
Probably the one’s who’ll break your back
To bolster up their insecurity”

Now, I’m not saying that conversation inspired Wiz to write “Stop” but I’m also not saying that it didn’t…

I fear we are about to get trapped in some sort of stop/start vortex:

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221. The Jam – Start!

I’m not going to dwell on this tune, as JC has recently finished discussing all of The Jam’s singles over at The (new) Vinyl Villain, so I’d suggest you pop over there is you want to learn more (like you don’t already read his blog anyway).

Instead, we’ll swirl around in the stop/start vortex a little more, with some outright, shameless pop:

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222. Erasure – Stop!

¬†They don’t get the credit they deserve, Erasure. Lead warbler Andy Bell is from my home town of Peterborough, so from their first UK hit in 1986 (which coincided with me starting 6th Form), I’ve found it quite hard to ignore them, and there are very few people of my age from who find it hard not to feel a little proud of him. Let’s face it, Peterborough is not exactly a town blessed with famous pop stars; the only other one I’m aware of is Aston Merrygold of JLS, whoever they are.

And someone else…it’ll come to me…no, no, don’t tell me….

That can’t be it, can it? I decided to do some research, and found this: Famous People from Peterborough You can imagine my surprise when I found there were 226 names on the list. You can imagine my additional surprise when I read that number one on the list: “David Michael Krueger, best known by his birth name, Peter Woodcock, was a Canadian serial killer and child rapist“. Turns out, whoever compiled this list hadn’t realised that as well as a Peterborough in the UK, there’s also one in Ontario, Canada, and New Hampshire, USA.

Which makes 226 look like quite a low number, now I think of it.

Maxim from The¬†Prodigy!! That’s who the other one was!! Which gives me an excuse to play this:

But I digress. Erasure were (and apparently still are – who knew?) a fabulous pop band, and “Stop!” is one of my favourites by them, containing as it does, about half way through,¬†that cheeky little keyboard motif lifted from Donna Summer’s “Love’s Unkind”. You know the bit I mean:

And think yourselves lucky I didn’t post a link to former EastEnder Sophie Lawrence’s version.

Whilst we’re on perfect pop moments, let’s have a bit of this:

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223. The Supremes – Stop! In the Name of Love

Back in the days before Miss Ross had elbowed herself to the top of the bill, but also before their photographer learned to give his camera lens a bit of a wipe before commencing the shoot, judging by the quality of the picture they used for the sleeve.

And now for a quick summary:

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224. Biffy Clyro – Questions And Answers

This is one of their earlier singles, from 2003 to be precise, and before they became the unexpected subject of a cover version by 2010 X-Factor winner Matt Cardle.

Does anyone have any clue quite how that was allowed to happen, by the way?

I’m reminded of a Stewart Lee (yes, him again) routine about Jim Davison pinching Jimmy Carr’s jokes, which, in the middle of a much longer piece about Joe Pasquale, you can find here:

 You take my point, I think.

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225. Queens of The Stone Age – Go With the Flow [Radio Edit]

Several years ago, I got…erm…acquainted with a young lady (who, gentleman that I am, shall remain nameless) on a works night out. We discussed our favourite records; mine included a few she didn’t know, hers included a few which made me question her intelligence.¬†She came back to mine and…well, you know…some stuff happened. (See fellow music nerds – it can happen!!).

Before she made her way home, she asked me – yes, you read that right, she asked me – if I’d mind making her a mix CD of some of the songs I had been waxing lyrical about. Her taxi had barely pulled away when I started on it.

I mention this as a cautionary tale, for I compiled said CD, cramming it full of some of my favourites, without pausing to consider what kind of message my selections were sending out. Among them were: Kirsty MacColl’s “They Don’t Know”, The Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed”, the above Queens of the Stone Age track, and perhaps most ill-advisedly, a mash-up of Spanky Wilson’s version of “Sunshine of Your Love” and N*E*R*D’s “She¬†Wants To Move” that I was particularly fond of at the time, and which had wittily been named “She Wants a¬†Spank”.

Never heard from her again.

I was later told by a mutual friend that my selection or songs had given her the impression that I was some sort of secretive S&M gimp. I would have thought the sex-swing was a bigger clue.

(Just to be clear, that last sentence was a joke)

Ho hum. Lesson learned.

A few years ago, when I wasn’t working, as so often happens with people in the same situation, I found my sleep pattern all screwed up, sleeping all day and awake all night. Generally, my night times were filled watching the late night movies on Film 4, and it was in one such film that I first encountered our next tune. I have no idea what the film was called; it was a British film, set out in the countryside,¬†had very little dialogue, and was quite an unsettling piece. Does anyone know what it’s called? (I know it has also been used in “The Place Beyond the Pines”, but it’s not that).

The record in question was this Bacharach/Hilliard composition:

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226. The Cryin’ Shames – Please Stay

Back to something a tad poppier now, and of course when I talked about Erasure earlier, I deliberately omitted to mention the other half of the pop duo, Vince Clarke. Which is lucky, because here he is again:

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227. Yazoo – Don’t Go

Bands Vince Clarke has been in:

  • Depeche Mode
  • Yazoo
  • The Assembly
  • Erasure

That’s not a bad strike rate is it?

Depeche Mode had their first hit in 1981, as anyone watching the run of old Top of The Pops currently being shown on BBC4 will attest – so that’s 35 years of pop, right there. Impressive.

Which is more than can be said for the next lot. Regular listeners to 6Music of an afternoon will recognise this from a shout-out on Radcliffe & Maconie’s show:

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228. The Blackout Crew – Put a Donk on It

Please remember that if you must put a donk on something, you should seek the bill payer’s permission first.

Back in 1990, there was no such thing as a donk. We had to make do with donk-free records. Records like this:

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229. James – Come Home (Flood Mix)

At the time, James were quite the merchandise marketeers, releasing a stream of clothing – t-shirts, hooded tops, etc etc –¬†all bearing their insignia and the name of the current single. The one for Come Home was based on the sleeve of the single above, meaning it had the word Come on the front, and the word Home on the back. A mate of mine bought one, but rarely wore it, so sick was he of us all telling him “Oi mate, you’ve got come on your shirt”. Juvenile, but funny.

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230. The Mighty Wah! – Come Back

That, my friends, is one of the most glorious records from the early 80s, and isn’t even the best record that Pete Wylie made, either in one of his many Wah-guises (Wah!; The Mighty Wah!; Wah! Heat) or solo or even when he was knocking around with Ian McCulloch, Pete Burns and Julian Cope in the late 1970s. One day I’ll get round to playing you the greatest. You probably already know what it is.

And that’s about it for this week. Just one more to wrap things up; this seemed appropriate given the amount of songs I could have posted, the amount that I decided against posting, and the fact that every time I thought I’d exhausted the topic another one popped into my head. Needless to say, I¬†could have gone on for another week, at the very least. Maybe I’ll come back to it sometime (see what I did there?).

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231. The Animals – We Gotta Get Out of This Place

More soon.