Ok, for the return of the Tuesday Ten for 2010, this week is the first of a pair of posts that are companions of sorts. Both of them will be looking at cover versions, but in specific ways. This week, I’m looking at covers where the originals weren’t necessarily bad, but the cover versions are definitely worse. And next week, I’ll be looking at covers that are better than the originals. Obviously, this is a highly subjective area, so feel free to argue the case if you think I’ve dissed your favourite song. Better still, I’d love to know about any glaring omissions from the list.
There is a Spotify playlist to go with this, which can be found linked in the box. I have opened it up to be a shared playlist, so if you have anything to add to the list, please do so – please follow the format I have done so far, in adding the cover and then the original also if possible. A couple of my choices for the final list are not on Spotify, so I have included all those that didn’t make the final list also. Anyone who can make it through all the bad covers perhaps deserves a medal.
A final note before I start – perhaps unsurprisingly, the shortlist for this week was much longer than the one for next week…
Daisy really, really doesn’t like this – and that might just have something to do with her love of the Dolly Parton version. I can’t stand it either, though. Whitney Houston is one of those soul singers who was blessed with an unbelievable voice, but never really had the songs to do her voice justice, and the seemingly endless warbling on this track – and the god-knows-how-many-weeks this track spent at the top of the charts, not to mention it’s position of karaoke and wedding song (do people ever listen to the lyrics of songs?) of choice for evermore – to me is like running nails down a blackboard. At least Dolly did it with feeling, rather than just to promote a film, and, for that matter, she cleaned up in royalty payments for allowing the cover, too.
Of various recent abominable cover-versions I’ve sat through, I think this one pissed me off more than any. The original was one of the (many) highlights on Massive Attack’s brooding Mezzanine, and Faulkner’s weedy vocals arenot an equal on any level with Elizabeth Fraser’s otherworldly singing. What’s even more irritating is that he attempts to imitate every bit of Fraser’s vocals, and then there is the percussion and acoustic backing, and that choir-effect. Eugh. The original was fantastic for it’s china-doll fragility and (like the rest of the album) oppressive darkness, this take is just insipid, vacuous and fucking awful.
It’s quite striking just how dated this now sounds. Only twelve years old, it attempts to mesh together near-gabba paced beats, cheesy synths and vocals and odds and sods of effects to make it sound like the original at least in part. The thing is, it just sounds like a fucking mess. Unfortunately, for me, it’s much like most later-period UVR was – half-arsed in a “will this do” kind of way. Needless to say, I’ll stick with the original if you don’t mind.
It really helps to know what the song you are covering is about, as I recall that members of the group confessed at the time that they had no idea that it was about heroin use – the fact that whoever was behind the group covering it, also removed the final verse (you know, the one with the most explicit drug reference) helps to confirm just how much they attempted to sanitise it. That and the identikit girl-group “R&B” approach to the music. The original was brilliant because of the feeling behind it – like many songs Anthony Keidis penned, his lyrics always gave the impression that he had lived it, good or bad.
There’s not exactly a shortage of bad covers of Depeche Mode songs, but this one in particular confused me. As a comeback after five years silence, it got them noticed, but it was a little listless, really. Some of the rest of the album that it came from was actually pretty good, but most only got as far as this cover and turned away, sadly. And anyway, if you really want to know how great GK could be, head back to their storming early singles Guilty and Enough.
Another that had me asking, well, why? Scooter Ward’s voice, yes, is deep, wracked with emotion and adds a certain, uh, gravitas to his songs, but here, it just sounds a little flat. I think more than anything, this is one of thosesongs that is very much of it’s time. When Space Oddity was first released, just over forty years ago, the worldwas watching mankind take their first steps on the moon, and as such is something of a monument to a time when humans were both in awe and scared of what was in store in the future. So, perhaps, this song should just be leftalone, yes?
The cover album has been a reliable contract filler for aeons, but the covers album that this came from was certainly different. Yes, it completed a record contract, but it took twelve songs written from a male viewpoint and switched to a female viewpoint, and the results were striking to say the least. Some of them worked (the cover of Eminem’s ’97 Bonnie and Clyde is absolutely extraordinary), but some of them really didn’t. Turning one of Slayer’s signature tracks into a tense and drawn-out piano ballad for me just rips the original point of the song away. After all, you don’t listen to a Slayer song for the lyrics, you’re there for the riffs and stampeding thrash metal. Taking those away leaves…well, not a lot.
Now onto a covers album that was absolutely panned upon release, and too fucking right, too. Apparently a set of songs they loved, they would have been better showing their love of the source material by leaving it well fucking alone. I’ve mentioned their horrendously inappropriate take on Public Enemy’s 911 Is A Joke in passing in a previous Tuesday Ten, so I’ll instead turn the barrels on this. Well, I guess at least they probably had an idea of the sentiment behind this song, at least, and I’ve no doubt that they were probably well acquainted with the, er, white lines in question at one point or another. But – and it’s a big but – they prove here why exactly new wave bands other than Blondie stayed well away from rap, and even roping Grandmaster Flash himself in to provide some cred can’t save this version from being utterly, utterly shit. Most of the rest of this album could have been included in this list too, by the way.
Remember this band? I was astounded to find that they still existed, and are still going. Most people reading this, I’d suspect, will remember them for this, from the album that Marilyn Manson put out on his short-lived label. Why this was a single, I will never fucking know. A tuneless industrial-nu-metal savaging of a Beatles classic (bad covers of Beatles tracks could well provide a Tuesday Ten of their own, too), this should have sunk quicker than it did, but for some reason it kept getting airplay. Even more astonishing when the other single from this album, The Reckoning was one of the best songs of it’s time but was seemingly ignored instead of this dreadful cover.
Daisy disagrees, as she loves cheesy dance like this to go running to, but this was the first of a number of godawful dance “covers” of eighties/nineties “rock” hits that came to mind, so it makes it into the list. Don Henley’s eighties, erm, classic was bad enough – one of those MOR tracks that tackles the staple subject of getting old (and boring, it would appear), something which seemed to be a rite of passage at the time. DJ Sammy got a female vocalist to do the vocals, and put a lowest common denominator house beat below it, along with samples of the guitars. I’ve no doubt it slayed clubs in Ibiza, but on a winters night in the north of England, this appearing on MTV Dance is less than welcome.