Occasionally, a songwriter writes a tune that’s essentially a letter to a musical peer or fellow composer. Sometimes that message is delivered in the form of a tribute and sometimes it’s delivered as an angry diatribe. Our playlist today features both but, like our opening track JAZZ THING from Gang Starr, most of our songs are marks of respect.
I like to include a little country music every now and again, especially if its by the great Johnny Cash. As a contribution to this week’s playlist, he sings about his country music idol on THE NIGHT HANK WILLIAMS CAME TO TOWN. Punk rockers The Ramones praise the rock artists who preceded them on DO YOU REMEMBER ROCK N ROLL RADIO. And then it was UK group Television Personalities, who are obviously Pink Floyd fans with I KNOW WHERE SYD BARRETT LIVES.
The most familiar soul hit on the airwaves during 1967 was Arthur Conley’s SWEET SOUL MUSIC on which he paid tribute to other great soulmen like Otis Redding and James Brown:
When it comes to soul, Stevie Wonder knows how much is owed to our jazz legends. SIR DUKE is his tribute to Duke Ellington, the influential jazz legend who died in 1974. He also acknowledges Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.
In 1980 Dexy’s Midnight Runners appeared out of nowhere, with a sound all their own. Nobody else at the time would have dreamt of producing an impassioned, brass-powered tribute to neglected 1960s soul singer Geno Washington, but they did and they took GENO to #1 in the UK.
Dexy’s Midnight Runners also recorded a version of JACKIE WILSON SAID, but I’m faithful to the original by Van Morrison which had to be part of the list too.
A little more country music was up next with the gorgeous Gillian Welch singing the ELVIS PRESLEY BLUES. This was followed closely by the one and only Ian Dury with his incredible piece of hero worship, SWEET GENE VINCENT. On this video Mick Jones of the Clash joins the band, The Blockheads. And as Dury quips to Jones: “Listen, we’ve got four chords on this one Michael!” Great band, great song. How does Mick Jones get through this number without once dropping the ciggie from his mouth? Hilarious.
Ian Hunter and Mott the Hoople’s reluctant youth anthem, ALL THE YOUNG DUDES was written by David Bowie. It namechecks T-Rex and references The Beatles and The Stones. Here they are, (with Bowie on back up!), performing at the Freddie Mercury tribute at Wembley Stadium:
The wonderful Jonathan Richman never disappoints me and he delivers again for this week’s playlist. On his song VELVET UNDERGROUND he even performs a few bars of the Velvet Underground’s Sister Ray in between dispensing eloquent insights into his heroes’ dark magic. How good is that!
Bono says that U2’s song STUCK IN A MOMENT YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF is a tribute to INXS singer Michael Hutchence. According to Bono it’s the conversation he wishes had actually taken place.
John Martyn, who died at a relatively early age himself, extends a concerned hand to a fading Nick Drake on the devastatingly tender SOLID AIR.
Canadian group Barenaked Ladies recorded a hit song about mental illness that references Beach Boy BRIAN WILSON. And just in case you’re wondering, Brian Wilson does do a version during his own live shows. And why wouldn’t he? It’s a great song. Fellow Canadian Allanah Myles also had a huge hit with my favourite of all the Elvis tribute songs: BLACK VELVET.
Paul Jones and Dave Kelly honour Blues legend SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON and Neil Young references Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols on HEY, HEY, MY MY (Into the Black). The line ‘It’s better to burn out than to fade away’ also became infamous in modern rock after being quoted in Kurt Cobain’s suicide note.
On a cheerier note, The Saw Doctors sing I’D LOVE TO BANG THE BANGLES, which pretty much speaks for itself. If you thought that was a wild proposition, you should take a listen to Bongwater’s NICK CAVE DOLLS. But hang in for the punchline on that one. A perfect follow up to that tune is Adam Ant’s GOODIE TWO SHOES, supposedly a critique of Cliff Richards virtuous and conservative image. “Don’t drink, don’t smoke… what do you do?”
A terrific song from Dory Previn is STONE FOR BESSIE SMITH. It isn’t just about the Blues singer Bessie Smith; it’s primarily about Janis Joplin who paid for Bessie Smith’s headstone but forgot to put anything aside for her own.
Early in his career, David Bowie often wrote about artists he admired, from Lou Reed to Andy Warhol to Iggy Pop. On SONG FOR BOB DYLAN a pre-Ziggy Bowie adopted Dylan’s nasal vocal style in order to pay tribute.
Down By Law also do an excellent tribute to the best rock band in the world: I WANNA BE IN AC/DC. Me too guys, me too.
It was hard choosing a song to go out on. Yes, of course there’s American Pie and Losing My Edge and the various spats between Paul McCartney and John Lennon, but in an effort not to be too predictable I’ve chose TUNIC (Song for Karen). Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon does a beautiful job of casting herself as the tragic Karen Carpenter reporting back from heaven.
I’ve got a marathon effort lined up for the next couple of weeks and I need your help! The playlist next week will start with a song referencing Zero or less and I’ll progressively play songs in numerical order until I run out of ideas. For example I could start with Elvis Costello’s Less Than Zero progress to Yeah yeah yeah’s Zero then Bob Marley’s One Love … you get the idea. Let’s see how far I get. If you help me we could be doing this for weeks! To make it easy to participate I’ll be posting onto the Theme Park Radio Facebook page.
But in the meantime, here’s this week’s complete playlist to peruse:
Jazz Thing – Gang Starr – Moment of Truth
The Night Hank Williams Came To Town – Johnny Cash – The Best Of Johnny Cash
Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio – The Ramones Shrek OST
I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives – Television Personalities And Don’t The Kids Just Love It
Sweet Soul Music – Arthur Conley – 60’s Soul
Sir Duke – Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key Of Life [Disc 1]
Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile) – Van Morrison
Geno – Dexys Midnight Runners – Searching For The Young Soul Rebels
Elvis Presley Blues – Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator)
Sweet Gene Vincent – Ian Dury and The Blockheads – The Very Best Of Ian Dury And The Blockheads
Blackbird, Bye Bye – Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette – Bye Bye Blackbird
All The Young Dudes – Mott The Hoople – Rock Classics 60’s & 70’s Volume 2
Velvet Underground – Jonathan Richman – I, Jonathan
Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of – U2 – The Best Of 1990-2000 & B-Sides CD1
Solid Air – John Martyn – No Little Boy
Brian Wilson – Barenaked Ladies – Barenaked Radio: Easter Special
Sonny Boy Williamson – Paul Jones & Dave Kelly – Live In London
Black Velvet – Alannah Myles – The Very Best of Alannah Myles
Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black) – Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps (Live)
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat – Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um
I’d Love To Kiss The Bangles – The Saw Doctors – Play it Again Sham
Nick Cave Dolls – Bongwater – Box of Bongwater
Goody Two Shoes – Adam Ant – Antics In The Forbidden Zone
Stone For Bessie Smith – Dory Previn – Mythical Kings And Iguanas
Song For Bob Dylan – David Bowie – Hunky Dory
(I Wanna Be In) AC/DC – Down By Law – Windwardtidesandwaywardsails
Tunic (Song For Karen) – Sonic Youth – Goo (Deluxe Edition) [Disc 1]
Next week: NOUGHT TO WHATEVER (Part 1)
A while back I did a show on ‘Covers That Are Better Than The Originals’ and I had so much fun with that. So this week it was UNLIKELY COVERS. Anything in the previous show was excluded, just to keep me on my toes. But have no fear, there were plenty more, and even quirkier versions, to choose from.
We opened the show with Peter Sellers’ hilarious version of the Beatles A HARD DAY’S NIGHT, in the style of Lawrence Olivier’s Richard 111. Thanks to Andrew for this request.
Andrew also requested the next track on our list: Hellsongs’ version of THUNDERSTRUCK. Hellsongs is an acoustic three-piece that plays what is best described as Lounge Metal. That means metal classics performed with surprisingly clear female vocals, soft guitars, an organ and two male choir-boys. They do a brilliant job of this AC/DC cover.
Stevie Wonder’s version of the Beatles classic WE CAN WORK IT OUT is a good example of what I think defines an UNLIKELEY COVER. Not only does he switch genre, he also reinterprets the emotions that underpin the track, taking it from melancholia to pure elation. So, here’s a treat: A clip from the recent 2010 Glastonbury Festival where Stevie sings both Master Blastin’ and We Can Work It Out. Enjoy.
I’LL BE MISSING YOU by P. Diddy, Faith Evans and 112, borrows the melody and arrangement of Police’s EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE to create a song that was recorded in memory of rap artist Notorious B.I.G., murdered in 1997. Thanks to Robyn for that suggestion.
Scottish alternative pop band Camera Obscura do a great version of the Abba hit SUPERTROUPER, so that had to be included. As did Nick Cave, with the very unlikely cover of Louis Armstrong’s WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD.
Algerian musician Rachid Taha does an intriguing Arabic version of the Clash standard ROCK THE CASBAH. Check it out:
As someone who loves their Bluegrass and is a hardcore Queen fan, (what’s not to love?), Hayseed Dixie appealed with their cover of Queen’s BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. Come on, you’ve got to get a chuckle out of this, surely:
We followed with a very gentle rendition of the Guns & Roses’ track SWEET CHILD OF MINE. It’s from Swedish singer Victoria Bergstrom, under her Taken By Trees moniker.
SWITCHED ON BACH is the name of an album by Walter (later to become Wendy) Carlos. Recorded in 1968, using the Moog synthesiser, it became the highest selling classical music recordings of its era. We played one of the best tracks from that album, SINFONIA 35. Carlos went on to make many more recordings, including scores for the Stanley Kubrick films A Clockwork Orange and The Shining.
Paul Kelly only needs his guitar, and his great voice, to create a knock-out acoustic version of the Amy Winehouse signature tune REHAB. I found this on one of the very excellent Triple J Like a Version albums.
One of my favourite films of all time is JUNO and one of the best songs on that soundtrack is Sonic Youth’s cover of The Carpenter’s SUPERSTAR. Karen would have been proud:
The phones ran hot when this next track was played: Legends Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings gave Procol Harum’s A WHITER SHADE OF PALE a country voice. And then the totally indiosyncratic William Shatner covered Pulp’s COMMON PEOPLE.
But if you thought that was crazy, how about Ani DiFranco and Jackie Chan (yes, that’s correct, Jackie Chan the Hong Kong actor). They contributed a bizarre duet of Nat King Cole’s UNFORGETTABLE. Ani’s voice is great, but methinks that Jacki should just stick to acting (or maybe not!).
We followed with The Clash’s version of Junior Murvin’s reggae classic POLICE & THIEVES. While a punk rock group covering reggae does seem a bit unusual, Joe Strummer makes this great track his own.
Gee, it was hard choosing one of Johnny Cash’s covers. His album American IV: The Man Comes Around is particularly good for UNLIKELY COVERS. My favourite is his version of the Nine Inch Nails song HURT but I have played that before, so I thought I’d bring you his cover of Depeche Mode’s PERSONAL JESUS instead. This album is especially moving as Cash died soon after its release.
Lesley Gore, (that’s right, she of IT’S MY PARTY AND I’LL CRY IF I WANT TO), gave us a great version of AD/DC’s DIRTY DEEDS DONE DIRT CHEAP. Just to prove that she can sing anything she wants to!
R & B great Billy Preston does an interesting cover of pop band Duran Duran’s GIRLS ON FILM. As do the Ramones when they do a punk version of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THE RAIN?
Here’s a combination I really love: C.W. Stoneking, with another track from Triple J’s Like a Version compilation: the White Stripes SEVEN NATION ARMY. Two of my favourite artists, Stoneking and Jack White. I think what makes this so good is that Stoneking hadn’t even heard the song before it was suggested that he do a cover, so it has this incredible freshness to the interpretation. Here’s an interview and his performance live in the studio. So jealous of that presenter!
We followed that with a great pairing: Jim Morrison and The Doors with their version of Howlin Wolf’s BACK DOOR MAN and Patti Smith’s amazing cover of Prince’s WHEN DOVES CRY. Thanks again to Rob for suggesting that one.
How perfect is Sid Vicious’s punk version of MY WAY, made famous originally by Frank Sinatra? Let’s face it, he couldn’t sing, couldn’t play but gee he knew how to take the piss out of society. Miss that.
What to finish the show with? Well, a cover of Led Zeppelin’s STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN seemed an obvious choice but which version? Rolf Harris came to mind, especially after his recent appearance at Glastonbury but I’m not a big fan. Instead, the honour went to one of the best musicians in rock history, Frank Zappa.
Next week the theme is a staple of pop music: SWEETS, all those yummy sugary foods that symbolise so much about personal relationships. Let me know if you have any good suggestions. Love having your input.
For now, here’s this week’s complete playlist:
A Hard Day’s Night (Beatles cover) – Time To Remember 1965, Peter Sellers
Thunderstruck (AC/DC cover) – Hymns In The Key Of 666, Hellsongs
We Can Work It Out (Beatles) – Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, Stevie Wonder
I’ll Be Missing You (Police) – P. Diddy
Super Trouper (Abba cover) – Tears For Affairs, Camera Obscura
What a Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong cover) – B-Sides & Rarities, Nick Cave/The Bad Seeds
Rock el Casbah (Clash cover) – Arabian 2000 & 1 Nights, Rachid Taha
Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen cover) – Killer Grass, Hayseed Dixie
Sweet Child Of Mine (Guns & Roses cover) – Taken By Trees (Victoria Bergsman)
Sinfonia 35 – Switched on Bach, Walter (Wendy) Carlos
Rehab (Amy Winehouse cover) – Like A Version Four, Paul Kelly
Superstar (Carpenters Cover) – Juno Soundtrack, Sonic Youth
A Whiter Shade of Pale (Procol Harum cover) – Always On My Mind, Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings
Common People (Pulp) – Triple J Hottest 100: Volume 12 William Shatner/Joe Jackson
Unforgettable (Nat King Cole)- When Pigs Fly: Songs You Never Thought You’d Hear, Ani DiFranco & Jackie Chan
Police & Thieves (Junior Murvin) – The Clash, The Clash
Personal Jesus (Depeche Mode) – American IV: The Man Comes Around, Johnny Cash
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (AC/DC cover) – When Pigs Fly: Songs You Never Thought You’d Hear, Lesley Gore
Girls on Film (Duran Duran cover) – When Pigs Fly: Songs You Never Thought You’d Hear, Billy Preston
Have You Ever Seen the Rain (Creedence Clearwater) – The Ramones
Sinfonia 35 – Switched on Bach, Walter (Wendy) Carlos
Seven Nation Army (White Stripes cover) – Like A Version Four, C.W. Stoneking
Back Door Man (Howlin Wolf cover)- The Doors, Jim Morisson/The Doors
When Doves Cry (Prince cover) – When Doves Cry, Patti Smith
Surﬁn’ USA (Beach Boys) – The Jesus & Mary Chain
My Way (Frank Sinatra) – The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle, Sid Vicious
Stairway To Heaven (Led Zepelin Cover) – Frank Zappa
Next week: SWEETS (Yummy, yummy, yummy I’ve got love in my tummy!)
Listen to Lyn McCarthy at the Theme Park on BayFM, Tuesdays 4-6pm, Sydney time