Judging a Song By Its Cover Part II - Articles - Soundblab

Judging a Song By Its Cover Part II

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

A couple of years back, I knocked out an article on what I reckoned were the greatest cover versions of all time. With a zeal bordering on the Stalinist, I limited myself to six songs. Of course, that's nowhere near enough and I always meant to revisit the topic and do a sequel. But I'm very easily distracted, y'know... Anyhoo, the time's finally come to choose another six which equalled or even bettered the originals, or just took the bare bones and did something completely, thrillingly different with them.

So, without beating around the bush...

Leeds agit-prop outfit Age of Change were initially part of the C86 movement but they were also one of the first indie group to take musical inspiration from hip hop and house grooves, mixing it all together into something incendiary and revolutionary. Their version of Prince classic 'Kiss', recorded at Sheffield's FON studios, is as cheeky and perverse as it is barnstorming and brilliant. The band takes the sure-footed sexy funk of the original and replace it with spiky Northern attitude, rabble-rousing, sledge-hammer beats and Jesus & Mary Chain buzz-saw guitar.

Another incongruous choice of cover for some more chippy Northern types, Pulp's version of the trad Irish song (made famous by Thin Lizzie) is just stunningly beautiful, Jarvis Cocker's unaffected vocals and Russell Senior's violin bringing out the sadness of the lyrics.

Patti Smith's first single fearlessly laid out everything the visionary punk was about. Starting as a spoken-word piece, Smith's subject matter moves from the sexual energy of the guitar to kidnapped heiress turned gun-wielding revolutionary Patty Hearst before she launches into a remarkable reimagining of rock standard 'Hey Joe', most famously recorded by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. By the end of the song, Patti has become Hearst, rambling about barbed wire between her legs in a way which sounds both dreamily transcendent and flipping freaked-out. Over-indulged 70s rock had duly been served notice.

And now a cover that's so lovely because you just know Joey is getting to live all his 60s girl-group fantasies. It's like he's singing the words to pop itself!

The ironic cover version became something of a calling card during post-punk, and no one did it better than Devo. Their sneering, borderline hysterical rendition of The Rolling Stones' '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' is both itchy and funky, and serves the duel purpose of smashing up one of rock's golden idols while emphasising how great it is in the first place.

Finally, back to Pulp, this time having one of their own classics covered in wonderfully idiosyncratic style.

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