Wednesday, 22 September 2010

A Rose By Any Other Name.....


NME have just run the "best" cover version's as voted by YOU!...as if somehow Hoxton Dave and his mates have a more well rounded opinion on the finer points of a cover version than someone who's maybe even heard the original to compare.

Cover versions tend to fall into different categories, firstly the sure fire hit ploy where if something’s been a hit once than it can be again. (This is the X-FACTOR Simon Cowell technique when introducing a new act.) This does work and newspapers and general Joe six packs use phrases like "they bettered it, or they made it their own"...when the majority of the time (like with Alexandra Burke's version of Hallelujah) "I never want to hear that song again, its now over played and officially dead to me"...

The 2nd category is "what we've been doing live before we got signed”. this isn't used very much these days as it was something people did when playing the circuit where cover versions were predominant and song writing wasn't a force within the band (see debut's by The Rolling Stones and The Kinks with 9 and 8 covers a-apiece!) Even the band that introduced the self contained song writing musicians motif The Beatles had 6 cover versions on their debut. I'm not sure how serious The Libertines or Oasis would have been taken if over half their debut albums had been cover versions.

The 3rd (probably my favourite) category is the "look how well read and cool I am I'm going to introduce a great song you haven't heard before"...basically the music snob's choice. Jeff Buckley would have been guilty of this until the aforementioned Alexandra Burke pushed it out front to a level where even its creator Leonard Cohen was switching the channel when it started. People who cover Bob Dylan sometimes fall into this category as due to his vast catalogue and minimal hits there is a deep well of album tracks and un-released songs ripe for a cover version or two.

There is 4th which tends to appear when bands get big. Bigger than Jesus. "Play our own songs? Why EVERYONE knows them, we'll play what we want"... Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, Jimi Hendrix, Oasis, to whoever they may be will always get to a stage where they are throwing a cover in their set here and there just to show musical variety and to liven things up after track 5 of their recent album has killed the crowd buzz dead.

Solo artists do this when they need a new album and are lacking inspiration and go the whole hog and make a covers album e.g. Lennon, Bowie, Dylan, Bryan Ferry, Paul McCartney bit hitters all made cover albums. Generally with pretty dismal results.

Cover version's can be a great thing although only when they bring something new to the table. "All Along The Watchtower" is a perfect example. The original is almost demo like in its bareness and stark production with Dylan accompanied with acoustic and harmonica barely gets it off the ground before it ends. The far superior Jimi Hendrix take gives it multi dimensions 3 guitar solos and an iconic intro. When cover versions are bad...they are REALLY bad...I won't even go into detail about David Bowie's version of "God Only Knows" from his early 80's TONIGHT album but lets say if anything pushed Brian Wilson over the edge it may have been this.

NME listed the best versions with Muse's version of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" although failed to list any of Nina Simone's covers that she herself done e.g. her cover of "I Put A Spell On You" or "I Loves You Porgy" see the likes of The Clash doing the pretty weak "I Fought The Law" right on its way down the road.

For the sake of wrapping this up here are my top 10 covers

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01) All Along The Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix (orig.Bob Dylan)

02) Louie, Louie - The Kingsmen (orig.Richard Berry)

03) I Heard It Through The Grapevine - Marvin Gaye (orig. Gladys Knight & The Pips)

04) How Can You Mend A Broken Heart - Al Green (orig. The Bee Gees)

05) Twist and Shout - The Beatles (orig.The Isley Brothers)

06) (They Long To Be) Close To You - Isaac Hayes (orig. Dionne Warwick)

07) I'm So Proud - Todd Rundgren (orig.The Impressions)

08) Gloria - Patti Smith (orig. Them)

09) Wonderwall - Ryan Adams (orig. Oasis)

10) Just Like Heavan - Dinosaur Jr. (orig.The Cure)

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