How To Do A Cover Version

First things first: sorry it’s been a bit quiet round these parts this week. I had some broadband issues last week (by which I mean, I had no broadband last weekend) which meant I wasn’t able to write the usual splurge of posts to last a week that I normally do on a Friday night.

It also meant that, as I’m working from home at the moment, I wasn’t able to do that either. And rather than take the time I was off-grid as unpaid or annual leave, it was agreed I could just make up the time, which is what I’ve been doing for the rest of the week.

Anyway, normality restored (I haven’t made up all the time yet, but there are fewer hours for me to claw back), I wanted to start off with a specific apology to my old mate, Martin.

Regular readers may recall that, having left Wales over ten years ago now, I reconnected with Martin at Llŷr’s memorial service (Note: NOT a wake) last year, and I’ve mentioned before how happy I was that that had happened.

It’s a funny thing, as without really thinking about it, I think he and I viewed each other in much the same way: as Llŷr’s mate. But we’ve both come to realise since Llŷr passed that we have an awful lot in common, to the point where I regret that we didn’t spend more time in each others’ company before geography became an issue.

See, I think Martin and I are cut from the same cloth (and thinking about it, that’s probably why Llŷr was friends with both of us): we share a sense of humour; we both support (different) football teams who are constant only in their delivery of disappointment; we like (mostly) the same records and now happily swap recommendations; we both like a drink (generally my Friday night writing is…interrupted isn’t the right word…enhanced by a message from Martin in the wee small hours, as under the influence as me, leading to a text conversation about the merits of anything from Withnail & I to the use of the slide guitar in country records).

So while my broadband was playing funny buggers last weekend, I got a message from Martin, with a link to a song which he described as “a guilty pleasure”. This one:

Gordon Lightfoot – If You Could Read My Mind

Now. Regular readers will know just how much the phrase “guilty pleasure” grinds my gears, and so my response was, on reflection, a tad on the brusque, dismissive side:

“Nowt wrong with that. Johnny Cash covered it!”

(Over at Charity Chic’s place he used to do a series which discussed the various Cash covers. I imagine this one came up, but I’ll leave you to go and investigate.)

Here’s The Man in Black’s version, from (of course) the American Recordings series, specifically Volume 5 A Hundred Highways:

Johnny Cash – If You Could Read My Mind

If I were to be really pushed, I’d probably plump for Cash’s version, but that is probably down to the context of the recording, the scratchy vocal, like he felt compelled to get the songs featured in the American Recordings series out while he still had time, the breath and the capability to do so.

But it’s a really close call.

Anyway, Martin: sorry if my response seemed a little curt. It certainly wasn’t meant to be.

As an aside, there’s something about If I Could Read Your Mind which always reminds me of this next song. I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on it, but I think that somewhere there must be a snatchette of melody which corresponds between the two:

Whitney Houston – Greatest Love Of All

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down (Be Llŷrious edition)

A few posts ago, I mentioned that at some point during the early days of his illness, Llŷr bought me a Johnny Cash box-set called Unearthed – a collection of highlights and out-takes from his massively popular (and rightly so) American Recordings series.

Llŷr bought this for me as a thank-you for, as he put it, “making sure I’m still around.” As I mentioned when I last posted something from this box-set, I initially told him not to be so silly, that I couldn’t accept it, that all I had done was call an ambulance a couple of times.

But he insisted, and I’m not an absolute monster, so I accepted.

It’s probably one of my most prized possessions these days. Pretty much everyone that knew him will have a mix-tape or a mix-CD he lovingly, thoughtfully prepared for them; I have loads of those, but I also have this, and I shall never be parted from it.

I mention this now because on Sunday 27th January 2019, I got a phone call. I should, therefore, be posting this on Monday 27th January 2020 to mark the true anniversary, but here, on a Sunday morning, where it happened, seems more appropriate, especially given the choice of song.

On Saturday 26th January 2019, I met up with a few friends including Llŷr’s older sister, and my old flatmate, Hel, for a few beers. When I got there, it was obvious that something was going on, and as she paced up and down outside on the phone to her mother, Hel’s husband Neil explained to me that things were not looking good and that we should brace ourselves for the news we had been expecting for a long time.

At some point that evening, I got a text from Chad, a friend of mine and Llŷr’s, who I had met through Llŷr a couple of years earlier at Glastonbury. Chad lives way, way up North, and wanted to come down and visit – that, my friends, is an indicator of how wonderful Llŷr was and how similarly lovely people gravitated towards him.

Chad had sent a message to Llŷr’s father, Jeff, to see when would be conveniant for him to visit and was concerned that he hadn’t had a reply. This was most unlike Jeff. I filled Chad in on the situation, that the news wasn’t good, but that I would keep him updated.

This was my role, one I was proud to do; for most of the last few months of Llŷr’s life, I felt frustrated – as I think everyone who knew him did – that we couldn’t do more to help, that we were powerless to stop what was coming, or to shoulder the burden of what Llŷr’s family were going through.

And so this is how I helped, in the only way I could: by providing updates to Llŷr’s many friends so that his family didn’t have to.

******

The first time I met Jeff was a few years earlier, at their home in Brecon. Llŷr and I, along with our very good friend Colin, were driving to a friend’s wedding in Hay-on-Wye, and we called in partly to say hello, but mostly because Llŷr needed to borrow a shirt.

He introduced us on the doorstep, but his father misheard my name, and said “Hello Des, welcome, come on in.”

Llŷr found this hilarious, and would call me Des for a very long time afterwards.

Jeff and I have often laughed about this ever since, he even revealing that the first time he clapped eyes on me, a large bloke with a gruff voice and a shaved head, he worried about the type of people his son was mixing with.

And so it was that on the morning of Sunday 27th January 2019, I sent Jeff a text, telling him that he need not reply to Chad, as I had already done it.

Shortly afterwards, my phone rang.

It was Jeff.

I answered.

There was a pause.

“Jez…” he said.

“This is the phone call, isn’t it?” I said.

It was.

The rest of that conversation is too personal to share. Suffice it to say, both of us were in tears through most of it.

******

Llŷr was a life-long Liverpool fan, and, I was sad when they won the Champions League last year, not just because they beat my team in the final, but because he hadn’t been around to witness it.

Moreover, he’s not going to see his team win the Premier League this year, as they surely will, for the first time in absolute yonks.

And so, this song, from that box-set he bought me, is the only song I can post today:

Johnny Cash – You’ll Never Walk Alone

Miss you dude. Every day.

(In case you’re new round here and have no idea what I’m blethering on about, I’d invite you to read two posts from a year ago, here and then here.)

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

On February 17th, 1969, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan booked themselves into the CBS Studios in Nashville, Tennessee and recorded a session which didn’t see the light of day until many years later.

Referred to as The Nashville Sessions, the duo recorded versions of each others songs, along with a few country standards, and the occasional cover version, none of which, as far as I can ascertain, have ever got an official release.

Here’s the two of them covering some cheeky young upstart called Elvis Presley’s debut single, itself a cover version but let’s not get into that just now:

Johnny Cash & Bob Dylan – That’s Alright, Mama

And I’m posting this today because today is my Mum’s birthday.

Happy Birthday Mum: love you loads, even if it does seem like I’m still in this mode sometimes (and I definitely got caught out like this at least once back in my *ahem* wild teenage years):

And no, me writing this is not her birthday present.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Regular readers may recall that my very lovely and generous group of friends gave me a whole hunka credits at Ticketmaster for my birthday, and I’m pleased to announce I’m slowly, steadily, chipping away at that monumental total.

So far, I’ve bought tickets for two gigs, and annoyingly missed out on one: The Pretenders are supporting Suede at a one-off gig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in November, which is a dream line-up for me – but I wasn’t quick enough out of the blocks to get a ticket.

Instead, I have bought tickets for two gigs: one – and I know this will irk at least one of my blogging buddies – is for The Wonder Stuff, at the same venue, in December.

Now, I’ll be honest, under normal circumstances I would not consider going to see them, since they haven’t released anything of any worth since 1993, but they’re peforming both their debut album The Eight Legged Groove Machine (which I love and holds many happy memories for me) and the follow-up Hup (which I’m less fond of, but it’s not as bad as their next album, Never Loved Elvis, which I actively dislike and which thankfully is not getting an airing at said gig.) As long as they don’t start putting violins all over the performance of the first album, then I’m sure to have a great night.

But why am I wanging on about The Wonder Stuff here, where a Country record traditionally lives, I hear you yawn.

Well, because the other gig I’ve bought a ticket for is to go see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at the O2 next May, which I’m sure you’ll agree is much cooler.

So, to mark that, here’s one man in black – Johnny Cash – covering another – Nick Cave – on the third of his peerless American Recordings albums.

It was Llŷr who first played this to me, part of a DJ set by Erol Alkan – I think (I’m pretty sure, but I’ve never tracked a copy down, and when I asked Alkan via Twitter his response was an equally vague “I think I did….”). At the time I wasn’t familiar with the Cave version, and the lyrical content stunned and blew me away. It was my first step on the road to discovering the immense body of work that Nick Cave has created, some of which will be cropping up on these pages again pretty soon.

Johnny Cash – The Mercy Seat

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down (Be Llŷrious edition)

Of course, there was one person who I would give anything to have been celebrating my birthday with me this weekend: my recently passed best friend, Llŷr.

And today he is especially prominent in my thoughts because it was exactly one year ago today that I last saw him.

Discharged from hospital for the final time, he was back at his parents’ home, under their care, with a district nurse or two popping in to help where they could. Palliative care, they call it.

Me and three of the chaps that I spent my birthday weekend with drove down to Wales to visit him. All laddish jokes and cameraderie on the way down, I’m not sure any one of us said a single word for a good hour in the car on the way home.

As we left, I hugged him, told him I’d be back soon. I don’t think any of us thought that would be the last time we would see him, least of all me: but finding myself hospitalised a few weeks later with my own health issues, that was the end of the line for me.

A few years earlier, after he’d been discharged from hospital for the second or third time, he told me he had bought me a present, as a thank you for ensuring he’d got to hospital at all. Of course, I told him he shouldn’t have. Of course, he told me to take it. Of course, I didn’t argue.

That present was the Johnny Cash boxset Unearthed, a collection of out-takes and highlights from the recording sessions which led to his phenomenal American Recordings series.

It’s one of my most cherished possessions. More so now than when he gave it to me.

Llŷr was a massive fan of Neil Young (Llŷr was a massive fan of a lot of things), so it seems appropriate that I post this track today.

In memory.

Johnny Cash – Heart of Gold

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Last Monday would have been Johnny Cash’s birthday. Had I realised this last weekend, I’d have posted something by him to mark the event.

So, to make up for that, here, from the legendary Johnny Cash At San Quentin album, and met with rapturous and appreciative applause by the inmates of San Quentin prison is the song San Quentin, and the song he followed it with in the set, San Quentin.

Johnny_Cash_At_San_Quentin

Johnny Cash – San Quentin

Johnny Cash – San Quentin Continued

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

This morning a couple of songs from deceased iconic Country stars, both of whom appear to have a claim to making “The Classic Christmas Album”.

First up, John Denver, with a message that I hope my own parents take no notice of:

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John Denver – Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)

And then next The Man In Black, who I imagine didn’t take much persuading to have a wee tipple on the big day:

The-Classic-Christmas-Album-cover

Johnny Cash – Christmas Time’s A Comin’

More soon.

(The (Brief) Return of) Friday Night Music Club

What, I hear you ask, has caused this sudden splurge of posts on a Friday?

Well, it’s like this.

Last night I went to the British Film Institute (cool kids call it the BFI, like it’s a Roald Dahl character) to see Adam Buxton perform a tenth anniversary of his Bug shows.

I’ve mentioned Adam here before, referencing and linking to his excellent podcasts, and I also went to see him perform at the start of the year, a gig which was one of the funniest nights out I’ve ever been to. To quote Blackadder: “I am glad I wore my corset, for I fear my sides have split.”

The Bug shows are a slightly different beast, and those who subscribe to the Murdoch channels may have caught the Bug shows getting an airing on there.

Here’s the deal: Adam plays some ground-breaking music videos, and says some funny stuff about them, the funny stuff often being about comments that have been left under the video clip on YouTube.

There’s more to it than that, and I’m doing Dr Buckles a grave disservice by describing it thusly, but in essence what you get at a Bug show is some incredible videos, some amazing songs, and a lot of “have I actually wet myself this time?” laughs.

Last night’s show was beset by technical issues, and whilst that may have caused others to flounce off in a huff, Adam simply sat, sorted them out every time they arose, and gave us an hilarious running commentary of what had gone wrong and what he was doing about it, as it all played out on the big screen in front of us. I don’t think there was one person in the audience who was annoyed by the tech problems, in fact quite the opposite: we all felt we were seeing an utterly unique show and watching Adam nonchalantly deal with it merely added to the love in the room for him.

Anyway, watching that gave me itchy fingers, and so here we are. And I figured I’d post the videos he showed last night, along with an mp3 of the tune, but without the jokes, because frankly I would not be able to do them justice.

Even if you don’t like the tunes, each of these videos is incredible in its own sweet way, some funny, more just mind-boggling, so I would heartily recommend you give them a look.

Here we go:

Battles – Atlas

Wiley feat. Daniel Merriweaher – Cash in My Pocket

Bonobo – Cirrus

And, by the same director (Cyriak):

Adam Buxton – Counting Song

I can’t actually embed the next one, and it needs some explanation, so here’s what it said on the hand-out we were given on attending last night’s performance:

“…a groundbreaking exercise in interactive music video making from 2010, that is arguably still the best example there is: created by Chris Milk, The Johnny Cash Project allows viewers to create/illustrate over frames of a guide video, and add them to the viewer. It not only continues to change but is effectively never the same thing twice.”

So, here’s the link to the song:

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Johnny Cash – Ain’t No Grave

And here’s the link to The Johnny Cash Project. Enjoy your unique, never to be repeated viewing.

Next up:

Radiohead – Weird Fishes/Arpeggi

Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes

(NB – the mp3 there is a rip of the video, not the track)

M.I.A. – Bad Girls

Great as all the videos featured today are, I think this next one might actually deserve the term “genius” being applied to it:

Swede Mason – Masterchef Synesthesia

Roots Manuva – Witness (The Fitness)

The next one was made specifically for the Bug show, and features the host in the leading role:

Guitar Wolf – Summertime Blues

Etienne de Crecy – No Brain

Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math

Is it wrong of me to want to add an ‘s’ to that title…?

And finally:

Grimes – Oblivion

Oh, and you can visit Adam’s website here and listen to his consistently brilliant podcasts here.

That’ll do you.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Last night and this morning’s posts were written before the latest terror attacks took place.

I thought about not posting them both, but since I often have said here that we should carry on regardless, that changing our daily routine is letting “them” win, I have decided to post as usual.

My thoughts, of course, are with all of those affected by last night’s attacks; my gratitude and admiration goes to our emergency services and the work they did and continue to do.

Carrying on from last night’s Roy Orbison post, here’s Johnny Cash covering a song written by Don Gibson, covered by many, but made famous by The Big O:

Johnny Cash-American V-A Hundred Highways [Front]

Johnny Cash – A Legend in My Time

Orbison’s version was one of John Peel’s favourite songs, and somewhere I have Half Man Half Biscuit covering it, a version never commercially released (as far as I know), but included as one side of a limited edition 12″ single (The Fall were on the flipside contributing “Job Search”). Actually, as an extremely limited edition: only one copy was made and that was presented to Peel as a present on his 65th birthday. I’ll try and dig it out for y’all some time.

In other words, more soon.