Monday, 20 June 2011

Ska Me, Ska Me, Ska Me!: 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' by Kid British

First things first, I urge you to scoot this clip along to about 2:15 where the song begins, and skip the irritating waffle and banter, and Mani being down with the kids. By the time you got through it, you'd be ill-disposed to what is a pretty nifty cover. The vocals on this I can take or leave, neither magnificent nor dreadful, but the music is great. It's not exactly the ska-ified version it's billed as, but it adds a sprightly funky bounce while staying fairly faithful to the original tune. That Mani, formerly of The Stone Roses, plays bass on it adds a patina of meaningfulness, as one Manchester legend helps the next generation honour the city's most legendary band. (Just thought I'd throw that cat into the pigeon loft and watch the feathers fly.)

This was all done at the corporate behest of the ghost of Jack Daniels, with Mani gathering up lots of young bands for a 'JD set' gig of Smiths covers. This next video mixes interviews with clips of the bands rehearsing, and features members of Little Barrie, The Enemy, Kid British again and others tackling This Charming Man, Shoplifters, William, There Is A Light and many, many more... (well, a few more).

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Father's Day: 'Don't Make Fun of Daddy's Voice' by Blue Velvet

It's Father's Day, so if you're looking for an uncomfortably inappropriate song to play for your dad, what better than Morrissey's tale of a father who 'when he was a teenage boy, something got stuck in his throat.' Sugar the pill by playing him this loungetastic version by San Diego outfit Blue Velvet. Groovy video accompaniment too. Anybody recognise this 50's hearththrob? Answers on a postcard. And what do you think of this version? I have a feeling it could divide along love/hate lines. Personally, I've never been too enamoured with the original, so they're not really treading on sacred ground, unlike, say, a jazz-funk version of I Know It's Over...

Bonus Father's Day Morrissey mystery. Around 1985, in an NME interview, Morrissey mentioned a Smiths song called 'Father and Son', saying 'It's about to emerge and I'm sure it will change your life.' It never did emerge, unless under a different title. Anybody have any scraps of info on this? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

"Oh, mother..." 'I Know It's Over by The Chapin Sisters

Morrissey's been playing in Perth tonight (the one in Scotland not Australia) and eye-witness tweeters say he dusted off the Smiths classic 'I Know It's Over'. So, steering clear of the Jeff Buckley version that most will have heard, I thought I'd try to find a decent cover of the song to post. I've opted for this live performance by The Chapin Sisters. When it started I was a bit ho-hum, but once those crystal clear sisterly harmonies kicked in I was sold.

The original of this song always reminds me of the end of one night in the Hacienda, when The Smiths were at the height of their powers and popularity. The DJ finished with 'I Know It's Over' and long after it faded out and the lights went up, the crowd continued to belt out the closing line 'Oh, mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head' over and over. Even by Morrissey's standards, that's a pretty depressing lyric, but it was a joyous moment.

The Chapin Sisters are the daughters of folk singer Tom Chapin, who was Harry 'Cat's In The Cradle' Chapin's brother. Tom and Harry have another singing brother, but in what I feel is a wasted opportunity, he is not called Dick. (Steve, if you must know.)

"But you owe me sixpence...": I Don't Owe You Anything (Acoustic) - Sandie Shaw

This is an acoustic version of 'I Don't Owe You Anything' recorded 'live' for a radio show in 1984, and very different from the version put out on record. It features Johnny Marr on acoustic guitar and Andy Rourke on bass, but no drums. (Does it count as a cover if half the original players are on it, philosophers, or is it a bit like the 'original' 17th century broom that's just had a few new handles and heads over the years?) It's a lovely version anyway, worthy of an official release when they get round to that rarities box set, and I hadn't heard it before. There are a couple of changes to the lyrics too - 'two freckles on your lips' - not sure if these are Sandie Shaw's own or copied from Moz.

Whether any or all participants were barefoot during this recording remains shrouded in mystery.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

"Panic on the streets of Hamburg, Lincoln, Nor-witch, Great Yar-mouth". Panic by andyoutupe

From the sublime to the ridiculous. I promise I was actually looking for a *good* cover. But then I found this. In a way it *is* good, because unlike some of the merely average, competent but dull covers that throng the net, this is so many kinds of wrong that you are compelled to watch. From the guy's wacky vibe, leaping about various locations with his explosion-in-a-mattress factory hair, to the approximate vocal melody that suggests only a brief acquaintance with the original, to the wash of horrid video effects, it shouldn't work, and it doesn't, but his enthusiasm carries him through. It's rubbish, but you don't mind, unlike, for instance, if Bono did There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, which would have right-thinking people clamouring for the return of capital punishment. Anyway, prepare yourself, and don't say I didn't warn you.

Monday, 13 June 2011

"When you lay in awe on the bedroom floor": Rubber Ring by Janice Whaley

photo by derekb via PhotoRee

Janice Whaley's Smiths Project -she spent a year covering EVERY Smiths song, a cappella, using up to 50 tracks of layered vocals on some tracks- has had a fair amount of coverage already, but I wanted to start with Rubber Ring, a song about the importance of songs, and there aren't many covers of it to choose from. While I admire the effort and dedication that went into Janice's project, some songs come off less successfully than others, but this is one that I think works wonderfully. The original is untypically funky for the Smiths, and this cover is in some ways more Smithy than The Smiths, thick with dollops of gothic atmosphere.

When Morrissey sings 'Don't forget the songs that saved your life', he's addressing both how much artists like Bowie and the New York Dolls meant to him and at the same time showing that he is aware of how important his own songs are to Smiths fans. This cover adds another layer, as someone for whom The Smiths were so important she decided to record their entire back catalogue, sings their song about the life-changing power of songs.

You can find out more about Janice's Smiths Project at where you can stream all the tracks in full, and if you're suitably impressed, buy a beautifully packaged 6 CD box set. I'll try not to draw from this particular well for posts too often, but it's nice to know that if I'm struggling to find a cover of a particular Smiths track, I always know where I can get at least one.