Thursday, 11 October 2007

you can't touch this

i've been reading about cover versions a lot lately especially at junkfood philosophy and pretending life is like a song and it all reminded me of a thing on elms a while back (sorry people that's robert elms who does the lunchtime show on bbc london and is often infuriating and often suprisingly good). it was about songs that should never be allowed to be covered, that should be listed and kept safe from the evil clutches of the terrible horrors who would do unspeakable things to them. i can't for the life of me remember what got picked in the end but i think it's a fine plan. 'a million things' by lowell george was there, and 'northern sky' i think.

anyway i thought maybe we could all have a go at choosing some.

it's way trickier than it should be.
i was going to say golden lady by stevie wonder but then i rembered how much i like the jose feliciano version. or all of what's going on but then there's that ace sarah vaughan inner city blues.
bugger.
i wish i'd not started this now.

and just in case you'd forgotten just how immense stevie could be this is the greatest sesame street appearance you'll ever ever ever see ever



25 comments:

Planet Mondo said...

Those are truly genius clips, I'm sure there were few 'heads' working on the show do you remember the Jazz Spies? Look 'em up on youtube - modal notes a go go.

Shouldn't Annie Lennox be banned from covering anything? She sucks the life out of every song until it's see through

Davy H said...

Ah now, this is hard because a truly great artist can always help you hear a familiar song anew, don't you think?

Therefore I would like to associate myself with the remarks of the previous speaker - rather than ringfence certain songs from being covered, let's prevent certain artists from recording cover versions....James Blunt, David Gray, Paul Young, Mick Hucknall, Phil Collins, Bryan Adams, Robbie Williams....Oh, I must stop now, this is too, too awful even to be thinking about.

ally. said...

i'm still convinced there are songs so perfect that they shouldn't be fiddled with.
would you really like to hear 'white man in hammersmith palais' by anyone else?
i know it's going to take a bit of hard thinking (not one of my strong points obviously) but i reckon we could find an lps worth of stuff we'd protect with stern looks and bits of wood with nails in.

Kippers said...

Never mind Lennox, Blunt, Gray, Williams etc being banned from covering anything; for my money they should be banned from recording anything. Could someone fix it? Please?

I dread to nominate any classic songs that shouldn't be covered, anyway, as I fear someone will pop up and tell me that Westlife or someone have already murdered said song(s)!

Planet Mondo said...

John Martyn May You Never should have a protection order put on it. No one should be allowed to cover that gem.

Clapton tried (hmmm), but had to change the key for easier playing, and turned into pub rock.

ally. said...

may you never was one of the elms ones now you mention it and still makes me cry.

i don't think it matters if anyones murdered your suggestion in the past - lets just make sure they can never ever do it again
x

Davy H said...

OK. I nominate 'Wichita Lineman' which even Jimmy Webb can't sing better than Glen Campbell, and certainly no-one else should be permitted to attempt; 'Love Will Tear Us Apart',obviously - though we would have to slip through a gap in the space-time continuum to erase the unspeakable Paul Young version on car boot favourite 'No Parlez'; 'Cricketer' by His Harperness; 'Surf's Up' by the Beach Boys/Brian Wilson; 'The Heart Of Saturday Night' by Tom Waits; 'Heaven Or Las Vegas' by The Cocteaus; all Bacharach & David songs recorded by Dionne Warwick with the exception of 'This Guy's In Love' which shall remain the exclusive property of Herb Alpert; and everything ever by Marvin Gaye (but especially all the songs on 'Let's Get It On' 'What's Goin' On' and 'I Want You', Sarah Vaughan notwithstanding) x

Planet Mondo said...

Ooh that Herb Version definite stress down Friday tune.Have you seen the vid on youtube?

Bacharach & David's Close To You
The Carpenters take is untouchable too.

Speaking of Joy Division I've uploaded a rare remix on Planet Mondo today.

ally. said...

i would've always said witchita lineman. in fact let's definately have witchita lineman cos no ones going to cover it like sergio mendes can now are they...
and that's a bloody ace list mr h
x

Rob said...

Maceo Parker's Soul Of A Blackman, innit
x

Davy H said...

I've got Mrs H involved in this too now and she says hands off The Stranglers' 'Golden Brown', Sex Pistols''Pretty Vacant' and The Jam's 'Town Called Malice'. Which is fair enough.

Planet Mondo said...

And Neil Young 'Cinnamon Girl' - with that great Johnny One Note solo

Crash Calloway said...

I'm not sure there's anything which isn't up for grabs - it all depends on who's playing and what they do with it. There are terrible covers of brilliant songs by otherwise nice people (if you look up 'dead from the waist down' in my dictionary it says "FYC 'Ever Fallen In Love'")and very nice covers of terrible songs by people you've never heard of before (there definitely are but I can't think of any at the moment and ofsted are coming today so I have to go and write some lesson plans).

FireEscape said...

There are some songs that stand tall not just for their outstanding artistic merit, but for their cultural importance. For that reason, don't touch Move On Up or anything off What's Goin' On; while I'm there, leave I Hate Hate by Razzy and the Neighbourhood Kids well alone. It's a shame that there are so few Motown songs from that label's imperial period (62-66) that weren't covered, often well, by stablemates. Heaven Must Have Sent You by The Elgins, though, stands alone as the one HDH classic for which no other version can ever be, nor must be, considered.

It's a sign of the bad advice that girl groups were given that following The Angels' My Boyfriend's Back other bands were told to try it. It only devalues the band. The song remains a 10/10 by The Angels.

Of course, you can be savvy enough not to cover an idiosyncratic classic, but just appropriate it. It's no wonder that Ash's version of Freak Scene, Girl From Mars, gave them their biggest hit.

There are songs that define eras, but even so benefit from being covered. However, too many people have tried to top the simple but entirely, imperiously effective September Gurls by Big Star and have all ended up with egg on their faces.

I think it's towards the slower side of things that we have to look to doubt that the enormous emotional weight of the original can be bettered. So leave Cold Heart by the Jasmine Minks and Stop That Girl by Vic Godard & the Subway Sect as they are, thank you.

Remember, all musicians out there, to respect the dead and don't touch Cattle and Cane.

I'm certain, also, that Hip Hip by Hurrah! shouldn't be touched. It's far more than the sum of its parts.

These are bands who write for themselves, who force out the music and words from somewhere deep within, and covering them is to the parevenus like stealing someone's soul and to the listener the aural equivalent of Shane MacGowan using your toothbrush the morning after a heavy night.

brogues said...

I know this may sound a bit mean, but I don't think that Jimmy Webb should be allowed to record any of those great songs of his that Glen Campbell so perfectly interpreted. I heard him doing some of them on Later... once and had to stop up my ears with my Hubba Bubba! I've heard versions of 'Galveston' by both Ladybug Transistor and Even As We Speak and neither can hold a candle to Glen's matchless version but I'm sure that both are way better than any of Webb's own versions...

James said...

Hi Ally, thanks for the mention. Hmm, not sure if you can ever say never ever cover a song - I'm sure McFly are working on a storming rendition of White Man In the Hammersmith Palais, (or any of Mrs H's New Wave Faves) as I type.
No, but seriously, I was going to agree with the comment about not covering 70's Marvin Gaye, until I remembered Chaka Khan's storming version of What's Going On with The Funk Brothers on the Standing In The Shadows of Motown soundtrack.

I think we should have a moratorium on the ironic pop cover. Fountains of Wayne's version of "...Baby One More Time" a few years back seemed quite a witty thing to do, but I don't want to hear any other smug "proper musician" tell me that joke again for a good long while.

FireEscape said...

It was *precisely* the Standing In The Shadows soundtrack I was thinking of when I suggested that What's Going On should get grade 1 listing (although the Cyndi Lauper cover has, admittedly, given the prosecution extra ammunition)! That Chaka Khan won a Grammy for that performance is another example of why those Awards mean so very little.

Will Kane said...

I remember seeing that 'Superstitious' performance on Sesame Street as a nipper. Something about the power of the band's delivery coupled with the subject matter of the song utterly terrified me.

James said...

So... Firestation, are you seriously suggesting that Standing in the Shadows of Motown SHOULDN'T have been showered with Grammys, just for existing?? (Nevermind Alan Slutsky's heroic efforts to raise the finance, and Pistol Allen and Johnny Griffith clinging to life long enough to see it finished!!) Thems fighting words buddy.

FireEscape said...

James, slow down, read things carefully and think a little harder. Your belligerence is certainly unmerited on this occasion. Give SITSOM all the awards going to celebrate its greatness as a film, I say; do no give a washed-up funkster a prize for ruining What's Going On, though.

ally. said...

what's going on really shouldn't be messes with now should it. let em have the rest of the lp but not that bit. please.
i'm almost tempted to add magic in his eyes by chaka and rufus to the list now i think of it

James said...

Sorry if you read me as being agressive - if I was being genuinely belligerent I wouldn't have used a phrase as silly as 'thems fighting words, buddy.'
My point is that all the songs in SITSOM were done in collaboration with some singer or another. If you don't give the Grammys to the songs you kind of reduce the options for showering the project with Grammy's, and I think the Grammy's had a duty to shower SITSOM with awards. I don't think they in anyway devalue the Grammy's by doing so, quite the opposite, even if that means giving an award to "Chaka Khan and the Funk Brothers" or even "The Funk Borthers featuring Joan Osbourne." The point is the surviving Funks are all now multi-Grammy award winners, and though it'd be better if they got that recognition 40 years ago, at least they got a lap of honour. Seriously, I'd award them a Grammy for their performance on American Idol.
So, let's both just agree that I'm right and you're wrong, and I can let it drop there, although you will have to appologise to my mule.

Spud said...

Hi there. Just wandered over from I Like. This site looks anoyingly addictive.

Where do you stand on Roland Kirk's medley of What's Going On / Mercy Mercy Me from the Blacknuss LP?

Barmy and beautiful in my book. Wouldn't want to do without that.

(And I can think of at least three covers of Inner City Blues that I like...)

ally. said...

don't know the roland kirk one and i know what you mean about inner city blues. it's all a lot trickier than you'd think this song protetcting lark but there are definately a few out there that are too gorgeous to ever be mauled again.

Spud said...

Well, your White Man In The Palais was a good example. You can't imagine anyone doing an instrumental cover, but the words are so autobiographical, and so about one time and one place, that vocal covers ought to be out of the question as well.

I reckon that's a better reason for leaving a song alone than beauty per se.

The Roland Kirk cover works because it's all about raw gutsy ugly-beauty, rather than Marvin-style ethereal beauty. I thought you might have known it because you've got form with both Rip Rig and Panic and Sundays at Dingwalls (snap).

Off now to browse through your old posts....looks like an excellent blog.