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I probably don’t need to say it again but I will anyways.
Back when I was in high school, right up to my first couple of years of university, I was a veritable Wonder Stuff nut. I loved everything they released and got super excited any time I ever heard them on alternative radio or when one of their videos popped up on MuchMusic’s “CityLimits” or “The Wedge” alternative video shows.
So when I read one day at some point in 1992 or 1993 that they were going to be featured on that same channel’s “Spotlight” show, I made sure to be ready and waiting with a blank videocassette tape and my VCR. The idea of a whole half hour of my favourite band’s music videos had me salivating in anticipation.
It was here that I got music video copies of pretty much all of The Wonder Stuff’s singles but the real treat for me was the final video. It was a cover of Tommy Roe’s “Dizzy”, a song I knew well from various road trips in my parents’ car. Of course, being from a small town in Canada, I had never heard tell of British comedian, Vic Reeves, nor his frequent collaborator, Bob Mortimer, so I did wonder at the jaunty gentleman taking on the lion’s share of the vocal duties in place of my erstwhile hero, Miles Hunt. The video had the band performing in front of stacks of washing machines while Hunt and Reeves played a little Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner antics while vying for turns at the microphone. Needless to say, this was the portion of the cassette tape that I rewound and replayed the most. I would later procure another way to play and replay this song and give this videocassette a rest when I went and bought a CD copy of “If the Beatles had read Hunter”, the singles collection released a few months after the group had called it quits.
Roe’s 1969 original was a huge hit in both Europe and North America and has been covered a number of times over the years. As I mentioned above, I was already quite familiar with it because my father always had the radio tuned to the ‘oldies’ station in the car and I’m reasonably sure the song was on one of the TimeLife compilations my mother had on cassette. What I didn’t know when I was younger was that Roe had enlisted the help of the infamous session group, The Wrecking Crew, to provide the backing orchestration and Jimmie Haskell to do the string arrangements that the Stuffies’ fiddler Martin Bell would later kick up a notch and make his own. Indeed, I was surprised when after years of listening to the Vic Reeves and The Wonder Stuff cover, at how laid back and mellow the original was. In my mind, it was more upbeat, much like this punchy cover.
It may not surprise you at which version I’m going to go with here. The original to me just seems too crisp and clinical to these ears now. The cover is messier and dirtier, Gilks’s drumming is just that much funkier, and Reeves’ growl matches Hunt’s typical snarl, and it all just spells a heck of a lot of fun.
For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.