Monday, December 01, 2008


After a long day I'm a 200 miles drive from home and I can't sleep. So I'm greedily hogging the hotel's free wifi broadband and listening to cover versions on YouTube until I'm ready to drop.

It all started with yesterday's posting about Stevie Nicks' "Dreams" and how The Corrs' version was so woeful. This led me onto her "Edge of Seventeen" which is wondrous, while Lindsay Lohan's version is predicably awful.

Although, to be fair, Stevie Nicks swiped the bass and drums from "Bring on the Night" by The Police for "Edge of Seventeen", so it's almost a cover version in itself.

Not all cover versions are a bad idea, but in most cases you do wish someone could have had a quiet word to try to talk them out of it.

For every good one (Gnarls Barkley's version of Radiohead's "The Reckoner") that add something worth hearing, there are six thousand bad ones (the Gregorian monks version of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams") that go through the motions and stamp over everything that was good about the original.

Some just puzzle me. Take Radiohead's version of The Smiths "The Headmaster's Ritual" - it's technically well done by a talented group at the height of their powers but it spectacularly falls flat. For starters, the line "Belligerent ghouls run Manchester schools" needs Morrissey's Manc twang, not Thom Yorke's public school Oxfordshire vowels. But mainly it's a case that this song has already been done Mr. Yorke - kindly please go write another one of your excellent experiments in sonic melancholy.

You do forget sometimes that some of the greatest pieces of music of all time were cover versions. "Wild is the Wind" was written for Johnny Mathis but his version was a soppy cheesy unlistenable mess while Bowie made it damn well soar.

I don't have the patience to include links but here's my incomplete list of cover versions that I didn't even know were cover versions :-
  • "I Fought the Law" - The Crickets
  • "Hazy Shade of Winter" - Simon & Garfunkel
  • "Twist & Shout" - The Isley Brothers
  • "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" - Otis Redding
  • "All Along the Watchtower" - Bob Dylan
Don't those titles look odd with the original artist?

Thankfully The Clash, The Bangles, The Beatles, Aretha Franklin and Jimi Hendrix didn't think that doing a cover version was anything to be ashamed of.

Finally some of my guilty favourite cover versions.

Johnny Cash doing U2's "One"
Travis doing Britney's "Hit me Baby One More Time"
Arctic Monkeys doing Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good"

And so to sleep, with a force of nature singing a 27 year-old song in my head

"Just like the white winged dove...
sings a song ...
Sounds like she's singing...
whoo...whoo...whoo, "


Trevor said...

Bowling for Soup also do a great cover of Hit Me baby One More Time.

And you can't mention decent cover versions without mentioning Cake's version of I will Survive...

Stan said...

Trevor : Thanks ! I knew all about the Bowling for Soup version already but Cake definitely made me smile.

Anyone else got any "cover versions that shouldn't work but just do" ?

For example, I did forget to mention Dolly Parton's take on "Stairway to Heaven". And "Teenage Kicks" by Nouvelle Vague. And "New England" by Kirsty McCall

Kenny said...

Can I put forth the Sisters of Mercy cover of Jolene?

You mentioned Kirsty so I have come over all emotional now. I didn't bat an eyelid for Cobain or Hutchings but I did genuinely cry when I heard the Kirsty news.

Stan said...

You got me started now, Kenny. Especially since it's "Fairytale of New York" time

ArcticFox said...

Stan said...

Arctic Fox : Not far from total perfection. Reminds me of Crazy Al Jankovic's "Bohemian Rhapsody" - - enjoy the video also