Saturday, 26 June 2010

Tradition | Mixtape | Mixtape V, Cover Versions

Apologies in advance, for our esteemed music editor, Sam Kinchin-Smith, was caught in a time paradox in his attempt to save James Harringman from this week’s foibles. As a result, Music As Reading, will be taking a brief sabbatical until next week with this week’s Mixtape falling under the category of ‘Music as Music’.

One of my favorite traditions amongst singers and songwriters is the idea of the ‘Cover Version’. Unlike writing, there are far more musicians who only know how to play other people’s work than there are who compose their own. It is the case for any musician, that the only way to master an instrument is to start learning other people’s songs. In many cases, the ‘Cover Version’ as a concept is an incredibly humble act, allowing the musician to give us a glimpse of the songs that helped them develop their sound.

I have always been a big fan of the transmutations that occur in a cover version when a song gets dragged from one genre to another. My favorite proponent of this is surely David Ford, whose penchant for turning everything he can touch into a piano ballad is a thing to behold – I am particularly fond of his version of The Smiths’ There is a Light. In a similar vein, Duke Special’s inspired reworking of The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Maps is also definitely worth checking out too.

It is truly alchemic the added weight taken on by the lyrics of songs when they are forced out of their natural habitat and re-assimilated to the idiosyncrasies of another musician.

What also fascinates me about cover versions is the sheer number of songs that I assumed had been ‘original’ that were actually covers of earlier, obscure tracks. I’m thinking here of Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn (originally by Ednaswap), Meat Loaf’s Martha (eff you, I was a late Tom Waits bloomer!) and José Gonzalez’s Heartbeats.

Just as writing a fixed-form poem, Cover Versions are a game – you have the rules laid out for you in the form of lyrics and chord-patterns – and it is the cover artist’s job to take these rules and bend them into the shape of something they might have written.

In all of the examples in this week’s mixtape, I have only chosen artists who have done something radically new with the original song, for I see absolutely no merit in musical mimicry – cover versions should be a creative reworking rather than the meticulous work of a mocking bird. Due to the constraints of Spotify, I have not been able to include some of my favorite covers, as these usually only appear as obscure B-Sides, so please take it as read that I really, really, really wanted to include Tegan & Sara’s cover of Dancing in the Dark.

Far better to do something new with something old than to use old tricks to create the illusion that you are doing something new.

Phil Brown
Poetry Editor

Track 1: Lover I Don’t Have to Love
Artist: Bettie Serveert
Original: Bright Eyes

Track 2: District Sleeps Alone Tonight
Artist: Frank Turner
Original: The Postal Service

Track 3: Dammit
Artist: Thin Dark Line
Original: Blink 182

Track 4: Hallelujah
Artist: Jeff Buckley
Original: Leonard Cohen

Track 5: All Along the Watchtower
Artist: Jimi Hendrix
Original: Bob Dylan

Track 6: The Boys of Summer
Artist: The Ataris
Original: Don Henley

Track 7: On the Street Where You Live
Artist: Mr. Hudson and the Library

Track 8: Sorrow
Artist: David Bowie
Original: The Merseys

Track 9: A Little Respect
Artist: Wheatus
Original: Erasure

Track 10: Video Killed the Radio Star
Artist: The Presidents of the United States
Original: Buggles

Track 11: Naive
Artist: Lily Allen
Original: Kooks

Track 12: Devil Town
Artist: Bright Eyes
Original: Daniel Johnston

Track 13: Smells Like Teen Spirit
Artist: Tori Amos
Original: Nirvana

Track 14: I Fought the Law
Artist: The Clash
Original: Sonny Curtis and The Crickets

Track 15: Losing My Religion
Artist: Eddy Cabrera
Original: R.E.M.

Track 16: Teenage Kicks
Artist: Nouvelle Vague
Original: The Undertones

Track 17: Smooth Criminal
Artist: Alien Ant Farm
Original: Michael Jackson

Track 18: Debaser
Artist: Rogue Wave
Original: Pixies

Track 19: Boys Don’t Cry
Artist: Norman Palm
Original: The Cure

Track 20: Don’t Look Back in Anger
Artist: Devendra Banhart
Original: Oasis

Track 21: She Hates Me
Artist: Richard Cheese
Original: Puddle of Mudd

Track 22: Fuck Forever
Artist: Tiger Hifi
Original: Babyshambles

Track 23: Brown Eyed Girl
Artist: Reel Big Fish
Original: Van Morrison

Track 24: Heartbeats
Artist: José Gonzalez
Original: The Knife

Track 25: Bigmouth Strikes Again
Artist: Placebo
Original: The Smiths

Track 26: Sweet Dreams (are made of this)
Artist: Marilyn Manson
Original: Eurythmics

Track 27: Bitches Ain’t Shit
Artist: Ben Folds
Original: N.W.A.

1 comment:

  1. If you are looking for a reputable contextual advertising company, I suggest you try Chitika.