Friday, December 12, 2008

step AWAY from the record shop

Today's Independent carries an interesting article about cover versions of famous songs - I infer from the various barbed comments about reality TV contestants that the article was inspired by Leona Lewis' blood-curdling slaughtering of Snow Patrol's Run which is currently sitting atop the UK singles chart, and looks a good bet for the Christmas number 1 spot.

As the article says, we're in the interesting position these days of the wheel having come full circle a bit regarding cover versions - the revolution in bands writing their own material inspired by The Beatles and Bob Dylan has worn off a bit, certainly in terms of the singles chart anyway. So there's a lot of cover versions out there, some disastrously ill-advised (Scissor Sisters' version of Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb springs to mind). Strange that the article fails to mention William Shatner's efforts in this area, which defy rational description.

Genuinely good, worthwhile, interesting cover versions are rare - here's a list of some assorted ones, off the top of my head and in no particular order (and without access to my iTunes library for reference):

  • Creedence Clearwater Revival's 11-minute thrash through Marvin Gaye's I Heard It Through The Grapevine
  • Cowboy Junkies' dead-slow version of The Velvet Underground's Sweet Jane
  • Cat Power's funky electric piano-led rendition of what I tend to think of as Frank Sinatra's New York, New York, although in fact that was a cover version as well (the original being by Liza Minnelli)
  • Tricky's version of Public Enemy's Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos
  • Bob Mould's balls-out assault on Richard Thompson's Turning Of The Tide from the 1994 Thompson tribute album Beat The Retreat
  • Sugababes did a surprisingly funky version of The Beatles' Come Together, which I think I got with a free CD given away with Q Magazine
  • Hindu Love Gods' thunderous rock reworking of Prince's Raspberry Beret
  • The Bangles' rockin' version of Simon & Garfunkel's Hazy Shade Of Winter. Ah, the lovely Susannah.....
  • Gary Jules' glum piano rendition of Tears For Fears' Mad World from the Donnie Darko soundtrack. To quote Jack Nicholson in The Witches Of Eastwick: "Cliché, cliché. Perhaps. But true!"
  • Jeff Buckley's version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. The Nicholson quote applies equally well here.
  • Hendrix's version of Dylan's All Along The Watchtower. And again here.
  • Santana's sinuous Latinification of Fleetwood Mac's Black Magic Woman
  • Iron & Wine's whispery folkification of The Postal Service's skittery electronica original of Such Great Heights
I may add a few more when I get back in front of the laptop that's got iTunes on it. You have been warned....


Anonymous said...

"the wheel having come full circle a bit"

...I thought I ought to bring this to your attention.

Y'know, so you you don't get too carried away as per your proclamation in a recent book review...

Carry on, Sir!

electrichalibut said...

You make a very valid point, yet in a sensitive and caring way. I'll try not to do it again.

And I used the phrase "a bit" again later in the sentence as well (though in a less nonsensical way). Not my finest moment. I think I must have been still traumatised from hearing that Leona Lewis song.