Aww, Shucks, You Guys…

So, I just wanted to say thank you for the incredible messages you left for me in the last week, not just about my post on Monday, but also the ongoing attention you give to my weekly post called The Chain.

I’ve said it many times, but I’ll say it again: I don’t write The Chain post, I just host it. You guys and girls write it, all I do is find the songs (if I can – bloody hell this week’s lot look tricky), piece it all together/copy and past what you’ve written, and stick a couple of lame jokes in there.

A phrase which has been mentioned in a couple of the comments is “labour of love”, a phrase which makes me think of two things: firstly UB40, a thought which I of course ignore, and secondly one of the greatest singles from the 1980s, which I have written about before, and which I love as much today as when I first heard it, sitting outside a trendy bar (the name of which escapes me) in the centre of Peterborough (The Blue Nile and Robbie Robertson were also on the tape they played on repeat), swigging on bottles of Perronni and feeling ever so sophisticated for doing so.

Looking back, this song was the mark of a political awakening for me, landing as it did just as I was discovering The Smiths and Billy Bragg. It’s a record which to this day still fires up folks of roughly the same age as me, give or take the odd fifteen years or so: at a very good friend of mine’s 40th birthday a few years ago (they will remain nameless for they would bloody murder me were I to broadcast their age on these pages), this record got played and the place went appropriately nuts:

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Hue and Cry – Labour of Love

Stone cold classic.

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 – Wuthering 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.

The Election Section #2

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Don’t get used to the idea of me posting every day. It won’t last.

Today’s tune would have featured soon enough anyway. It’s a song that reminds me of my political awakening. It also reminds me that political songs don’t have to sound like political songs at all, if they’re done cleverly enough.

Let’s be straight about this: Hue and Cry are not an act that I have much fondness for. Putting aside their political leanings for a moment, lead singer Pat Kane is one of those singers who has a habit of over singing. Sometimes it’s like he thinks he’s Cleo Laine (actually, that starts off bloody brilliantly…but get to 1:05 and you’ll see what I mean. Tedious.)

I mean things like this. (See also Annie Lennox. God I hate that record more than almost anything else on Earth.) Frankly, there’s some songs which you really shouldn’t touch and that, Mr and Mr Kane, is one of them.

Maybe it’s a Scottish thing. Or maybe not. (There’s a beardy bloke in the front row there who really doesn’t look very happy about the besmirching of William Wallace. Mostly)

Ah, Scotland. Apparently you hold the keys to power. And you are also responsible for one of the greatest records ever made by brothers with equally bad teeth and glasses: A Letter From America.

Anyway, I digress. It is 1987. A general election was looming but I was just a couple of months under the age when one becomes eligible to vote. And in any event, I lived in John Major’s constituency, so I may as well have voted for Lord Bucket Head, who stood against him in 1992.

Frustrated, this song, more than any other, gave me a form of release.

Labour of Love is one of those records that ticks all of the boxes. Firstly, despite what you might think from it’s title, it’s not by UB40. Always a bonus in my book, that. Secondly, much like yesterday’s post, it’s a political record masquerading as a pop song. Thirdly, it’s catchy as hell. Like a proper pop song should be. I defy anyone to listen to it once and not be singing it for the rest of the day.

This, I think, is one of the greatest singles ever made. You’re welcome to argue. But you’d be wrong. It’s a work of genius. Ask me to name my Top 10 favourite singles, and this is right in there, no question. So there.

Enjoy!