How to Do a Cover Version

On Wednesday, I got a call from my mate Ian.

“Alright fella. You busy tomorrow night?”

Every ounce of my being wanted to scream: “Thursday night is The Apprentice night. Of course I’m busy!” but I bit my tongue.

“No, why?”

“Fancy coming to see the Hackney Colliery Band with me?”

I do love it when an unexpected offer like this comes out of the blue, and it turns out that love outweighs my love of watching wannabe business folk trying to sell snorkel gear, jet-skis and bijoux boats, and all of the smutty water-sports gags that involves.

And so off I traipsed to Village Underground in Shoreditch, a venue which looks amazing but where seats, a well staffed bar and personal space seemed to be alien concepts. Hipster beards though? Got ’em in abundance, thanks very much.

We stood and watched the support act, whose name I seem to have deliberately obliterated from my mind or I’d warn you to avoid them, unless you like the sort of bland coffee-table acid jazz that went out of fashion with Morcheeba and the Brand New Heavies.

Hackney Colliery Band were a class act though. Promoting their “Sharpener” album, they treated us to a load of songs that I didn’t know but which sounded great, and, as with the The Williams Fairey Brass Band who featured in The Chain recently, a fair amount of unusual cover versions.

These were pretty diverse; there was Kwab’s “Wrong or Right” (no, me neither), Bowie’s “Heroes”, a Prodigy medley (a staple of their live shows, I believe), and then this, an absolute highlight for me:

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Hackney Colliery Band – Heart-Shaped Box (Live Version)

I’ve mentioned to a couple of people that I went to see Hackney Colliery Band, and almost without fail their response has been “There isn’t/never has been a colliery in Hackney”. Search them on YouTube and you will inevitably find the same comment posted by some smart arse.

Well, no there isn’t. But then again, there aren’t really any monkeys in the artic, roses aren’t actually made of stone, The Soup Dragons weren’t comprised of Oliver Postgate models, and there is nobody with the surname Smith in The Smiths; if you can get over all of those intellectual hurdles then you can get your head round the idea that they’re not actually a colliery band.

Anyway, I would thoroughly recommend going to see Hackney Colliery Band if you fancy seeing something a bit different, but be warned: as brass bands go, they are very different beast to this lot:

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Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band – The Floral Dance

Since it’s Children in Need night here in the UK, it seems only right and proper that I give you the cover of that done by the much missed host of the aforementioned charity-a-thon, Sir Terry Wogan, yet another sad casualty of 2016, who this week was rightly commemorated by the renaming of the BBC Radio 2 building as “Wogan House”:

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Terry Wogan – The Floral Dance

Oh. I almost forgot. Should you wish to “compare and contrast”, here’s the original “Heart Shaped Box”. I expect a 2000 word dissertation on my desk by Monday morning.

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Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box

More soon.

PS -I am reliably informed the support act were called “Retrospective For Love”, which I think tells you everything you need to know. Avoid at all costs.

PPS – you can buy the Hackney Colliery Band’s latest album, “Sharpener” here.

Which Reminds Me…

…is the new name for the “Apropos of Nothing” thread, which I’ve felt slightly disingenuous about using for a while now, since pretty much every time I’ve posted something in there, it’s because I’ve been reminded of whatever I’m posting, usually by something else I’ve posted recently.

Such is the case today.

Dutch band (seriously, I seem to have gone all EU over the past few posts; that’s Dutch, Austrian and Slovenian acts I’ve featured recently. Still, I suppose it is Eurovision next weekend, so perhaps I should make the effort…) Shocking Blue are perhaps best known for this song from 1970, which sounds like a cross between ? & the Mysterons’ “96 Tears” and The Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar”:

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Shocking Blue – Venus

The song became a hit again in 1986 when Banarama, assisted by the seemingly unstoppable PWL production label, released this cover of it:

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Bananarama – Venus

Every teenage lad growing up in the UK in the 1980s fancied one of Bananarama, and my teenage crush (one of many, obviously) was on Keren (the one in the middle). She, however, only had eyes for talented guys like her long term partner, Andrew Ridgeley. Otherwise, I’d have stood a chance, obviously. Ridgeley, in case you’re wondering, is, of course, better known for being the half of Wham! that wasn’t George Michael. Shuttlecocks ahoy!

A couple of years later, in 1990, the song was a hit again, this time a practically instrumental version, released by dance producers The BHF (which I thought was a Roald Dahl story, but which apparently stands for Bisiach Hornbostel Ferrucci) under the slightly catchier – but only slightly, mind – moniker of Don Pablo’s Animals:

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Don Pablo’s Animals – Venus (The Piano Mix)

Rumours that they decided not to release the single under the name The BHF because it was a little too similar to BHS and they were worried in case “Sir” Philip Green bought them, asset stripped them and then sold them for £1, leaving the British taxpayer to pick up the bill for the £400 million shortfall on the pension fund, are completely unfounded.

However, it wasn’t just cheesy pop acts and dance remixers who fell under the spell of Shocking Blue. Here, from their 1969 “At Home” album is a song which will be familiar to many plaid-shirted grungesters:

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 Shocking Blue – Love Buzz

..and here is a version by a slightly more famous band, but who at the time were yet to turn into the genre-defining behemoth they soon became:

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Nirvana – Love Buzz

But all of this is just the amuse bouche for the main reason I’m writing this post. From 1968, and sounding like Grace Slick’s slightly deranged sister, the truly magnificent:

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Shocking Blue – Send Me A Postcard

If you don’t like that, then I’m afraid we cannot be friends. Well, we can, but I will always be slightly suspicious of you.

Just sayin’.

More soon.

Friday Night Music Club

Evening all. Welcome back to this week’s selections.

For once, I’ve got a fairly busy social life this weekend, starting with a night out with some old friends on Friday Night, so this week’s choices feel a little strange to me, since I’m actually writing this in the middle of the week, and not on Friday as I normally do. This shouldn’t have much of an impact, or so you’d think, but I wonder…

For a start, I don’t have that Friday night, no work for a couple of days, vibe. More importantly, I have a strict “no drinking on a school night” rule, so this is being written stone cold sober. Let’s see how it pans out shall we?

So, much the same as when we went loud at the start of the year to shake off those post-Christmas, I thought I’d do much the same after last week’s Country choices, if for no other reason than to prove I haven’t forgotten that this thread is supposed to be, well, fun.

So where better place to start than with this:

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105. Beastie Boys – Make Some Noise

The lead single from what sadly turned out to be their last album, 2011’s “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two”, I was surprised when writing this to find out that this didn’t even chart in the UK. In fact, none of the singles from the album did. I was of the opinion that the Beasties were a little more popular on this side of the pond, but I guess I was wrong about that.

Released in April 2011, it was soon over-shadowed by the death of Adam “MCA” Yauch in May 2012. The world is a poorer place with no new records by the Beastie Boys, in my book.

Anyway, this is supposed to be cheering us up and straight away I seem to be back talking about dead musicians. That’s the last one for this week, I promise.

*Scans the rest of the week’s selections*

Okay, maybe not quite the last one.

This lot, for example, may only have made one decent record (that I know of anyway) but they’re thankfully all still on this mortal coil. I think.

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106. The Mooney Suzuki – Alive And Amplified

This record has a special memory for me. Before I moved to London eight or so years ago, I came up for New Year’s Eve one year, a night which started out with a few drinks, then moved to The Garage, an indie club and venue in Highbury where two of our friends, Spencer and Ruth, had managed to bag themselves a DJ slot (if my memory serves, the  prestigious “over midnight” one, although I’m open to correction on that).

This was the first record they played, and the two of them bounced all over the stage like two excited Tiggers throughout.

After their set, they came and joined us on the dancefloor, and I interrupted Ruth to give her a big hug, planted a kiss on her cheek and told her how ace I thought they’d been, how much fun I’d had and how proud I was of them. Ruth gave me what I can only describe as a look of happiness, a little embarrassment, more than a little confusion, and no small amount of terror.

It was only afterwards that I realised that when I referred to them earlier as being “our friends”, that wasn’t entirely accurate; they were friends of my friends, and I’d never actually met either of them before. I had managed to forget this teensy bit of information. Yes, I was that battered.

Anyway, I managed to explain, and eventually she told security that they didn’t need to pin me to the floor and sit in my head anymore, and we all saw the funny side.

This next song was also in their set that night, and is a staple of the very occasional DJ’ing gigs I get these days:

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107. Andrew W.K. – Party Hard

Ever wondered what the “W.K.” stands for? Well I have it on good authority that it stands for “Wildebeest King”. Apparently, as a young man Andrew became a bit obsessed with wildebeest, after he read that they are noisy creatures; bulls have an array of loud vocalizations, from moans to explosive snorts, not unlike Andrew’s own repertoire.

So obsessed is Andrew, that every May he travels to the mineral-rich grasses of the southern Serengeti (you know, where Kilimanjaro rises up like Mount Olympus) to witness the wildebeest mating season, and to feast his eyes on their annual displays of  showmanship, cavorting, standoffs, and the odd head to head tussle. Often he will don a set of curved plastic horns, smear his face with brown mud, and roll around in wildebeest dung so that he becomes infused with their odour, their very essence. Then, from as close but as safe a distance as he dare get, he will mimic their actions, ideally from behind a bush, until he has them as accurate as possible. He then tries to incorporate these movements into his energetic stage performances.

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(above: Andrew Wildebeest King, The Serengeti, May 2012)

Okay, I made all that up. In reality, his full name is Andrew Fetterly Wilkes-Krier, but since that’s the least rock’n’roll name in the history of rock’n’roll names, you can’t really blame him for changing it. Or me for trying.

“Party Hard” has had a new lease of life recently, after it featured in the ad campaign for Google and Android. According to The Wildebeest King’s Mr W.K.’s website: “The song highlights the individuality yet collective spirit of play and fun and partying featured in the ad.” which sounds like a load of old PR-bollocks to me.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t post a link to an advert on here, but I think on this occasion I’ll make an exception. Watch this and then tell me if you think the ad demonstrates “the individuality yet collective spirit of play and fun and partying” or if it’s actually just a collection of clips of people pretending to be normal and who wouldn’t know an Andrew W.K. record if it walked up to them and introduced itself to them with the words “Hello. I am an Andrew W. K. record. Apparently you like to play and have fun with me”.

Far more entertaining, is the fact that “Party Hard” is used as the walk-on music for professional darts player Steve Hine. Not heard of him? Well, his track record of impressive appearances at the PDC World Championship speaks for itself. Look:

  • In 2006, he got knocked out in the 1st Round by Chris “Mace the Ace” Mason
  • In 2007, he didn’t qualify
  • In 2008, he got knocked out in the 1st Round by Mark “Flash” Dudbridge
  • In 2009, he didn’t qualify
  • In 2010, he got to the 2nd Round, where he got beaten 4-0 by Phil “The Power” Taylor
  • Normality was restored in 2011, though, when he got knocked out in the first round by Raymond “Barney” van Barneveld

Now. I don’t profess to be either a darts fan or expert (I do know that both Phil “The Power” Taylor and Raymond “Barney” van Barneveld are a bit good at darts – by which I mean I’ve heard of them – so maybe I shouldn’t take the piss), but I think I know what Steve’s problem is.

You’ll have noticed that all of the above have Darts Player Nicknames. Steve Hine has one too. His is Steve “The Muffin Man” Hine, and he is well known for bringing muffins and tossing them to the crowd during his walk-on.

I imagine that doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of his opponents.

Anyway, I digress. Time for some more loudness:

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108. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Whatever Happened To My Rock’n’roll (Punk Song)

It’s not a punk song, now is it, boys?

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were originally called The Elements, until they realised that a) that’s not a very good name for a band, and, more pertinently, b) there already was a band called The Elements, so they changed it, naming themselves after Marlon Brando’s motorcycle gang in the 1953 movie “The Wild One” which, needless to say, is a waaay cooler name.

Although, had they kept their original science-y nerdo name, it would have made it a lot easier for me to link it to the next record:

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109. Placebo – Nancy Boy

According to Wikipedia, Placebo are a “British alternative rock band”. I always thought they were American, but it turns our that they formed after lead singer Brian Molko met bassist/guitarist Stefan Olsdal by chance outside South Kensington tube station.

Molko, however, was born in Brussels to a Scottish Catholic mother and an American father of French-Italian descent, and lived at various points in his youth in Dundee (which, admittedly, he refers to as “where I grew up”), Liberia, Lebanon and Belgium. He attended The European School of Luxembourg and the International School of Luxembourg. You don’t get much more British than that, right?

I suspect the band were worried about losing some of their more UKIP-y fans if they announced their true roots.

In the words of Stewart Lee: “If you’ve not seen me before, I don’t think that. I think the opposite of that.” (I’m not Morrissey, for fuck’s sake) He delivers it may better than me though:

Please do not watch that if you are easily offended. Or if you’re American (although the pay-off might pleasantly surprise you). Plenty of swears, and as you will gather from the title of it, it’s not exactly Light Entertainment.

Back to the music:

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110. Pearl Jam – Do the Evolution

Sacrilege time. I don’t really like Pearl Jam much. Friends of mine border on being obsessed by them, but I’ve always found Eddie Vedder’s voice a little grating, and have always thought the band were one of many far less talented groups who hung onto the plaid shirt-tails of Nirvana. I appreciate this is not a common opinion. Each to their own, eh?

That said, “Do The Evolution” has a groove about it that I’ve never noticed in any other records by them, and is well worth a listen if you don’t know it, or even if you do.

Another band who seemed to arrive on our shores at around the same time are the next lot, although they do have a lot more tunes that I love. This is from their 1991 debut album “Gish”, and I don’t think they’ve ever bettered it:

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111. The Smashing Pumpkins – Siva

Ah well, since I mentioned Nirvana in passing, I’d be rude, bordering on ignorant, not to post something by them, right? Here then is the first record I ever heard by them. It is  1990, my buddy Keith and I are in Cardiff Student Union’s Hanging Gardens club. Fuelled by Snakebite, we had ventured on to the dancefloor as they were playing R.E.M.’s rather wonderful version of The Clique’s “Superman”, which the DJ followed up with this:

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112. Nirvana – Sliver

The place went mental, Keith and I were blown away and desperate to know what they hell had just been played, but did not want to get negative cool points equity by actually asking anyone, so we shuffled towards the DJ booth (which was in a kind of shed at the side of the dancefloor) and tried to look inconspicuously through the open window to try and catch a glimpse of the sleeve which, as you can see from the above, offered little in the way of clues.

Kurt Cobain happily (well, as happy as he ever was, anyway) conceded that the next band were a massive influence on him, and you can’t help but thinking that they must have had a similar effect on The Smashing Pumpkins’ main man Billy Corgan too, so effectively does “Siva” fit the loud-quiet-loud template that they if didn’t invent then they certainly reinvigorated.

I speak of course of Pixies. Here’s a bit of a rarity for you, their appearance on The Word to promote their 1990 “Bossanova” album:

and here is a lovely MP3 of the same thing.

113. Pixies – Cecilia Ann/Allison

“Bossanova” often gets a bad rap, but then anything they released after the holy trinity of “Come On Pilgrim”, “Surfer Rosa” and “Doolittle” was always going to struggle in comparison. Personally, I think it’s a massively under-rated album; for example neither of those tracks were released as singles, probably due to their brevity.

Next, another album track, but another belter. This band first came to my attention back in 1994 when they appeared on Episode 4, Series 3 (I had to look that up, I admit it) of “Later…with Jools Holland” performing their single “Low” which is on their 1993 album “Kerosene Hat” which I rushed out to buy. “Low” is a fine record, similar in tone and angst to Buffalo Tom’s masterpiece “Taillights Fade”, but since we’re trying to be cheery, here’s the more up-tempo second track on the album, a charming ditty about a female actor who crashes her car and gets decapitated. It’s better than I’ve just made that sound, honest:

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114. Cracker – Movie Star

Ok, let’s round things off for another week with two songs so utterly wonderful they are bound to raise a smile.

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115. Weezer – Pork and Beans

I love that tune, especially when the guitar crunches back in for the chorus, and I love the video even more. I could have sworn I had already posted it somewhere on here, but it seems not, or rather if I did it was before I embedded video clips so I probably didn’t tag it. So, here it is, gently poking fun at the cult of celebrity in general and internet sensations in particular (all of whom seem to join in a self-deprecating way):

Fucking joyous, that.

So to the final tune of the night, and this is just, well, dumb. Glorious, but dumb.

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116. Tenpole Tudor – Swords of a Thousand Men

That’ll do yer.

I’ll be back at some point over the weekend, have a good one in the meantime.

Or to put it another way: more soon.