Bad Cover Versions
Conversations about cover versions. “You mean the anaemic, faithful renditions with added dance moves that perennially clog up the charts?”
But no, she didn’t mean that; had no idea what clogged the charts these days beyond the vague instruction she’d left; kick me when the charts are suddenly filled with decent fayre, or lizards.
“It’s been quite some time since I last heard a cover version that triggered intrigue or admiration”, she says. “It’s a question of quality, I suppose; a concern of creeping ubiquity amid the radio stations, music blogs, and record shelves where I loiter”.
I think she means that it isn’t the case that every single reinterpretation lingers but a solitary step above the novelty record, but it’s very rare indeed to stumble across a cover version that adds layers to the original.
“Robert Wyatt’s version of ‘Shipbuilding’” arrives a response. And yes, the old Elvis Costello song is both beautiful and haunting, but that’s entirely down to Wyatt’s sugary sad vocal inflections, not any enhancement to the song’s structure. And besides, it hardly qualifies as something she’s only recently been introduced to.
“Hurt” pipes up someone else. And yes, Johnny Cash did take a somewhat awkward Trent Reznor show-tune, all mired down in gothic sentiment, and open it out into something of far greater sincerity – but even then she wasn’t so sure just how much its iconic status was down to that tear-inducing video: the forlorn caresses from death’s unshakable hand.
And so the conversation rumbles on, veering towards the hailing of Duran Duran’s Thank You as the best collection of covers ever released. It’s a conversation that only reaches its terminus when I join in:
“I’ve just formed a band called Venue Closed For Private Party – our posters will look stunning when hung above the entrance to each gig – and we’re currently in the studio recording our Tijuana Brass interpretation of Hole’s Live Through This…”
“Bad Cover Version” by Pulp. Or perhaps either of the b-sides (Nick Cave performing “Disco 2000”, or Roisin Murphy’s stab at “Sorted?”) But no; instead this: Soft Cell as re-imagined as a day out with the ghosts of Melbourne town…
New Waver / Numbers
(And yes, I am joking about the Duran Duran album. Stay well clear.)