100 best covers: #64 The Boo Radleys “There she goes”

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While looking for something to listen to on Spotify recently, I rediscovered that Alan Cross’s amazing radio show, “The ongoing history of new music”, is available on there as a podcast. I may be one of the only people that I know that never got into the concept of podcasts, always preferring to listen to music whenever the opportunity is afforded to listen to something, whether it be in the car, at work, or just puttering around the house. However, I always loved listening to Alan Cross’s radio show back when I was younger and living in Toronto, where his show was originally broadcasted on CFNY, and I decided to give the podcast a try. I’ve now listened to and enjoyed a few episodes (of course, Cross is still as interesting and engaging as ever) and can now see myself checking it out on the regular.

I mention this because in a weird coincidence the theme on the very first podcast episode to which I listened had for its theme, one-hit wonders of the 1990s, and in the middle of the show, Cross called The La’s’ “There she goes”, ‘the perfect pop song’. I myself included this very track and ranked it number one when I did a post on my top five one-hit wonders of the 1980s* a few years ago. In that post, I also referred to it as a perfect pop song, to the ‘jangly guitars that shimmer in the sunlight’ and how ‘Lee Mavers’ vocals alternate between rough and soft’.

This balance and counterpoint and the compact song structure and length is likely why so many artists have covered it and have had success with it. Indeed, “There she goes” has been covered by The Wombats, Robbie Williams, and by an American a cappella act called The Kingsmen. Perhaps most famously, Sixpence None The Richer covered it and released it as the second single off their self-titled album in 1999, the follow up to the ubiquitous hit, “Kiss me”. Their slowed down, acoustic focused version did quite well and sure, it’s lovely enough, but in my opinion, it completely dispenses with any of the edge on the original.

The cover version that I prefer is the one by British contemporaries, The Boo Radleys, and this can be attributed to the fact that I discovered it at the same time and place as I did the original. Both versions are featured on the soundtrack for the film, “So I married an axe murderer”** and the two together are, in a sense, a de fact theme song for the film. They book-end the album, the cover opening the proceedings and the original having the final word. I used to think they were pretty much the same but on closer inspection recently, I managed to separate the intricacies.

The Boo Radleys ease off a bit on the jangle by replacing the iconic arpeggio guitar intro with horns and they unbelievably one-up the original in peppiness by increasing the tempo, adding handclaps, and vocal harmonies. In another ‘how did they do it’ facet, The Boo Radleys’ version even managed to come out thirty seconds shorter than Lee Mavers’ perfect pop song length in the original.

Is the cover better? You won’t catch me answering the affirmative here – the original is so good – but I do enjoy both.

Thoughts?

Cover:

The original:

*”There she goes” was originally released as a single in 1988 but was re-released a couple of times in the 1990s. Hence, it being attributed to both the 1980s and the 1990s.
**It’s a great soundtrack, much better than the film for which it was put together. For a bit more on both, have a peek on my post on Suede’s “My insatiable one”, another track that appeared on the soundtrack.

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

100 best covers: #66 Lenny Kravitz “American woman”

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Music quiz aficionados would do well to check out the Sunday posts on fellow blogger Geoff’s blog, “1001 albums in 10 years”. As its title suggests, the blog’s normal programming involves its intrepid author sharing thoughts on the albums in the book, “1001 albums you must hear before you die”, as he tries to listen to each one within a ten year span. Over the past few years, he has added a fun, additional component in the form a quiz with five hints and chances to guess the artist of the week. Last week, said artist of the week was iconic Canadian rockers, The Guess Who, which I thought a bit fortuitous because it gave me a chance to plug his excellent work and at the same time, provide me a  lead into my next ‘100 best covers’ post.

“American woman” is one of the few tracks by The Guess Who whose songwriting credits are attributed to all of its members rather than just its principal songwriters, Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings. This is because the song was the result of an improvised jam during a soundcheck one night in Ontario, the original lyrics ad-libbed by Cummings and later edited, which the group was really ‘feeling’. It was seen by many at the time as an anti-Vietnam war song and an outsider’s view of the American approach to it but Cummings has maintained on many occasions that it is really about his preference for Canadian woman over those from our southern neighbours, a sentiment most likely a result of touring fatigue.

American musician, Lenny Kravitz covered this tune almost 30 years later, right at the height of his popularity, originally for the soundtrack of the second installment in the Austin Powers film series. His version was softer, slower, and mostly because of who he was, innately sexier than the original. I haven’t really been a fan of much of his work but this cover is an exception for me. A faithful homage to a classic, one that doesn’t try to outdo the original and knows its own limitations in its shadow. Both versions rock, sport incredible, though very different styles of vocals, and throw hammer down with guitars.

Thoughts or preferences? Always game to hear ’em.

Cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

100 best covers: #68 Echo And The Bunnymen “People are strange”

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So this here’s another example of a cover that I heard first and with which I was quite familiar before finally hearing the original. Interestingly, though, both discoveries were the result of films from my youth and their soundtracks.

Echo & the Bunnymen’s cover of “People are strange” was featured on the soundtrack for the original “Lost boys” film, which came out in 1987. I remember watching it (against my parents’ wishes) as a teenager with my adopted older brother as soon as it was released to VHS. Was I scared? A bit. Okay, maybe a lot. A young Kiefer Sutherland was quite terrifying as a vampire. But I was a big fan of two Coreys back in the day and they were hilarious as the intrepid vampire hunters.

A few years after that, in 1991, the big film of the summer was Oliver Stone’s biopic, “The doors”, for which I was still just a tad too young to see in the theatres. I watched it on VHS, again, months later but the film had already done its work revitalizing the public’s interest in the 60s psych rock band and I fell in line, copying a friends copy of their ‘best of’ to cassette tape. It was here that I put the proverbial face and name to more than a few songs with which I was already familiar and discovered a few new favourites, including what I learned (the hard way) was the original version of “People are strange”.

I love Echo & The Bunnymen and this cover but I think I might give the edge to The Doors here. The latter’s musicianship, especially that of Ray Manzarek, often takes a back seat in the shadows of their infamous poet/frontman but it really is good stuff. The carnival/side show feel of the original “People are strange” is a lot of fun but the cover shades up on the sinister feel exponentially, which is not necessarily a bad thing (especially given the subject of the film on whose soundtrack it appears). Ian McCulloch’s vocals are more overtly darker than Morrison’s and the sound bleaker, yeah, the organs have more reverb (but really, Manzarek needed none of that).

Okay. I give up. Both versions are quite haunting… though for very different reasons. Thoughts?

Cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.