Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Between the covers

For a recent birthday party I thought about making a playlist featuring one song for each year of my life but that clearly involves way too much effort, and disproportionately represents songs that may not be very good or don't mean a lot personally while excluding favourites that happened to come out at the same time. Instead, I decided to put together a load of cover versions of songs I like by bands I like.

The virtues of a good cover version are well rehearsed: it should bring the song up to date, add something new to the mix, and spark interest in both in cover artist and originator. I was pleased to have a few Abba songs (by Blancmange, Erasure and Ash - all excellent), plenty of Pet Shop Boys (doing Village People and U2, of course, and done by the redoubtable West End Girls), as well as some other cover merchants (Laibach, Nouvelle Vague, Señor Coconut), though I kept these to a minimum (sorry Mark Ronson).

Some of the oddities included Yann Tiersen and Neil Hannon (of the Divine Comedy) together for David Bowie's wondrous Life on Mars?, the Divine Comedy playing Michael Nyman's Chasing Sheep is Best Left to Shepherds (from Peter Greenaway film The Draughtsman's Contract), St Etienne's version of I'm Too Sexy (from the Fred EP) and Dave Stewart and Terry Hall's high-energy take on Charles Aznavour's She, as Vegas. It does mean rap and hip hop is ignored - Tricky's version of Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos by Public Enemy notwithstanding - unless you count PM Dawn's Set Adrift on Memory Bliss as a cover of Spandau Ballet, which I didn't.

I'm thinking of making a second mix of those tunes I had to leave out as they were too weird and didn't work: St Etienne's Stormtrooper in Drag (it's difficult to find good covers of Gary Numan), Fortran 5's bonkers Bike, featuring a cut-up Sid James (though I did have their cover of Layla with Derek Nimmo), Pet Shop Boys and Sam Taylor Wood for Je t'aime… moi non plus and Laibach's The Final Countdown; those that were too, erm, camp or melodramatic, like Cheb Mami's Non, rien de rien and Nina Simone singing Ne me quitte pas (though I did have Gipsy Kings' version of My Way, ha!); a bit shit (Robbie Williams' Antmusic); or plain scary: Laibach, again, plastering their Wagnerian shtick all over Get Back (which would have been the only Beatles).

I would have loved to have had some more French stuff, notably Etienne Daho and Jacques Dutronc singing Tous les goûts sont dans ma nature, or Vincent Delerm and Neil Hannon (again) singing Favourite Song. The high point, still, I'm afraid to say, must be Gary Glitter performing Suspicious Minds (from the British Electric Foundation's Music of Quality and Distinction Vol 1). What was anyone thinking?

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