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
You may be surprised at the scope of this week’s topic because when it comes to Elvis Presley, well nearly everyone’s got an opinion. The iconic nature of Elvis Presley in music and popular culture, has often made him a subject of, or a benchmark, in numerous songs. We launched the show with CALLING ELVIS by Dire Straits. Written by Mark Knopler and released in 1991, the song is about an Elvis fan that can’t believe that Elvis Presley is dead. Based on some of the bizarre ‘sightings’ over the years, I fear he is not alone.
A song from one of my favourite films followed: Public Enemy’s groundbreaking FIGHT THE POWER from the soundtrack of DO THE RIGHT THING, directed by Spike Lee in 1989. Like the film, the song broke at a crucial period in America’s struggle with race. Unabashedly political, FIGHT THE POWER was confrontational in the way that great rock has always been. It attacks a whole roster of American icons including Elvis and John Wayne in what amounts to a virtual flag burning. Because who better embodies the American ideal than the King? The song goes so far as to call Elvis racist. I don’t agree with that. But what I do know from the National Archives is that in 1970 Elvis wrote a six-page letter to Richard Nixon asking him to make him a ‘Federal Agent-At-Large’ in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. And amongst the gifts that Elvis presented to the then President was a Colt-45 pistol. So what do we make of all this? Maybe only that, like a lot of his countrymen, Elvis was a misguided patriot who defended the nation’s order – an order from which blacks, in particular, had been routinely barred. The irony, of course, is that Elvis was the first artist to successfully blend black and white music: country music and the blues. And didn’t he do it well?
It was time for a change of tone: The very whimsical and wonderful Kirsty McColl with THERE’S A GUY WORKS DOWN THE CHIP SHOP SWEARS HE’S ELVIS. The song made an appearance on the FAMOUS PEOPLE show, but definitely deserved another spin. We followed with Richard Thompson’s FROM GALWAY TO GRACELAND.
Robbie Williams’ ADVERTISING SPACE is a song not only about Elvis but, also, about the price of fame. Emmylou Harris followed with BOY FROM TUPELO. In case you weren’t aware Elvis was born in Tupelo Mississipi on January 8, 1935. And then it was the great Roy Orbison with HOUND DOG MAN.
Living Colour funked it up with their critique of the tabloids. The song ELVIS IS DEAD ups the ante with an appearance by Little Richard. Check it out.
We dived into the second hour of the program with Ann Margret singing the title song of the film BYE BYE BIRDIE. Based on the stage musical of the same name, the story was inspired by Elvis Presley being drafted into the US Army in 1957. Jesse Pearson played the role of teen idol Conrad Birdie, whose character’s name is a wordplay on another singer of the era, Conway Twitty. The film is credited with making Ann-Margret a superstar during the mid-1960s, leading to her appearing with Elvis Presley in Viva Las Vegas in 1964.
A couple of great songs were suggested to me by BayFM’s very own Cowboy Sweetheart, Carrie D. First up, Bap Kennedy with GLADYS & VERNON about Elvis’s parents and the night that Elvis was born. And then it was the great Waylon Jennings with the very entertaining NOBODY KNOWS.
I absolutely adore BLACK VELVET by Allanah Myles and have played that before. But, hey, when a song’s as good as this one it deserves a replay!
U2’s song ELVIS ATE AMERICA illustrates the many personas of Elvis, both good and bad. And then it was the romantically delusional Scouting For Girls with ELVIS ISN’T DEAD: “Elvis isn’t dead ’cause I heard him on the radio….. and you’re coming back to me.” Yeah, sure guys.
Time to get serious: First up, Kate Bush with her hit song about Elvis – KING OF THE MOUNTAIN. And then, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds transported us into a disturbing world with their song about the night that Elvis was born. Elvis was a twin but his brother was still-born. The song is TUPELO from the album THE FIRSTBORN IS DEAD. Here’s the totally mesmerising clip:
John Fogarty likens Elvis to the BIG TRAIN (FROM MEMPHIS). Neil Young reminded us that it’s “better to burn out than to fade away “, with his song MY, MY, HEY HEY.
Another of my faves followed: Cowboy Junkies with BLUE MOON REVISITED, otherwise known as SONG FOR ELVIS. And then it was Paul Simon’s song about travelling to Elvis Presley’s home, GRACELAND, with the Everly Brothers helping out on vocals. Don’t have a clip with the Everlys in it, but you can’t do much better than this concert performance of the song in Zimbabwe. Enjoy.
There was time for a little more mjusic dedicated to Elvis before signing off and what better than ELVIS HAS JUST LEFT THE BUILDING by the one and only Frank Zappa. And, of course, I had to play some of the King himself so we went out with BURNIN’ LOVE. Here’s what all the fuss is about:
Next week’s show will be dedicated to the patron saint of Theme Park, Roy Orbison, who died 21 years ago this December 6. So songs by Roy Orbison, The Travelling Wilburys, duets with Roy and covers of Roy Orbison songs. Anything connected to Roy Orbison qualifies. Personally I can’t wait!
Here’s this week’s playlist: