Written by Liz Buckley


7 Wonders: Cover Versions

Liz Buckley is back in charge of the Standard Issue mixtape and this week she’s all about the influences.

Nina SimoneOne of the wonderful things about cover versions is that you’re being given an inbuilt insight into your favourite performers’ own influences and idols. Like the famous class sketch on The Frost Report performed by John Cleese and The Two Ronnies: I might look up to Elvis because he is a cut above, but Elvis looks up to Brenda Lee as she’s a complete goddess. And I look up to them both. I know my place.

Often a cover version is a window to the past, to the influences you would have had if you were a generation younger, the dimestore records you would have bought if you were buying a glass-bottled soda on the way to the laundromat. I think I’ve just made you American as well as older, if you weren’t already.

A good cover version can be another life, a parallel world and, maybe, another nationality. And you may even end up preferring the original to the version you heard first.

I Put a Spell on You
Original – Nina Simone
Cover – Nick Cave, Shane MacGowan, Chrissie Hynde, Johnny Depp, Mick Jones, Bobby Gillespie, Paloma Faith, Eliza Doolittle

The Folk Singer
Original – Johnny Cash
Cover – Nick Cave

Nick CaveAce Records have a series of albums called Heard Them Here First, each themed around an artist we feel has breadth and taste in the songs they chose to cover and introduce to their own audience. The latest volume is co-compiled by me and has Nick Cave as the central figure, the album charting his career from young punk to Hollywood soundtrack scorer via a tracklist of artists that were and are idols to Cave – in many cases going on to become his friends and associates. Imagine the thrill of Cave’s hero Johnny Cash inviting him to journey across the US to meet for what turned out to be very fruitful joint recording sessions and of Nina Simone, previously a seemingly untouchable legend to the young Cave, agreeing to play live on London’s Southbank for him at the 1999 Meltdown Festival.

I’ve Got A Spell On You was originally recorded by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, but it’s Simone’s less crazed, more haunting version Cave loved, citing it as his inspiration not once but TWICE – for a 1984 NME cassette covermount, and again, this time sung with an assorted gaggle of performers and professional drinkers for a charity single in 2010.

Despite meeting her, Cave has never lost his fannishness for Nina Simone, talking through their Meltdown meeting, again, not once but TWICE in his recent 20,000 Days On Earth film and infectiously giggling with fellow Bad Seed Warren Ellis about keeping the chewing gum she’d stuck to the piano, like young girls overexcited after Harry Styles had accidentally spat on them.

No one should ever stop feeling the excitement of being a fan. Not even Nick Cave.

The Power of My Love
Original – Elvis Presley
Cover – Jack White

Finally free of his film contracts for a while, a recording session for the 1969 Elvis In Memphis album with the mighty Memphis Boys backing band literally gave Elvis back his soul. After recording a Christmas special just a few months previously – a programme which could have been sheer Bing Crosby-wholesome had it not been for a lot of intervention from the producer – Elvis was now adamant that he wanted to be more in control of his output and have real feeling behind everything he sang.

The result is sheer filth and it’s wonderful (I know baby you can’t lick it / I’ll make you give in / Every minute, every hour you’ll be shaken / By the strength and mighty power of my love).

A huge Elvis fan, both this and last year’s Record Store Day releases have been all about The King for Jack White. Recently buying the acetate of Presley’s first ever Sun recording at auction, a reissue of those recordings will be this year’s RSD release from White’s Third Man record company, while Jack’s version of The Power Of My Love appeared as a B-side to Lazaretto for a super-rare Record Store Day 7” that broke the world record for fastest single, taking just three hours from recording to shop.

You’re very lucky it’s on Spotify, saves you having to come round mine.

I’d also personally like to thank Elvis for enabling Jack White to shout TOUCH IT, POUND IT. It’s made me very happy.

Tomorrow is a Long Time
Original – Bob Dylan
Cover – Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley covered Bob Dylan. You might not have been expecting it to be that way around. In another of Elvis’s much-treasured chances to record songs that weren’t from his booming film career, he impressively managed to cover an obscure Bob Dylan track which hadn’t even been released yet.

Elvis PresleyReleased by Dylan on Columbia in 1971, Elvis’s version predated this by some four years, having picked up on it after the song was recorded by the Canadian husband and wife folk duo Ian & Sylvia. A huge Dylan fan, Elvis also went on to record Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right AND Blowin’ In The Wind.

Adorable! Someone get Elvis an Aran sweater.

Original – Pixies
Cover – David Bowie

Recording 2002’s ‘return to form’ album Heathen and back with producer Tony Visconti, David Bowie took on such eclectic covers as Neil Young’s I’ve Been Waiting For You, I Took A Trip (On A Gemini Spaceship) by Ziggy-inspiration The Legendary Stardust Cowboy and Pixies’ Cactus all in one swoop, with equally excellent results.

As the 1988 original of Cactus featured Pixies spelling out P-I-X-I-E-S in their version of the song, Bowie (who I could never bring myself to call David under any circumstances) rather cutely does actually spell out D-A-V-I-D in his too. David Bowie is so much of a legend that even when his own son tweets about having emailed his Dad, I think, “You know David Bowie’s email address!”

[email protected]

Drive-In Saturday
Original – David Bowie
Cover – Morrissey

A classic song from Bowie’s 1973 Aladdin Sane album, we all like it so much that David (no, that still feels wrong) released it again as a single in 2013. Morrissey quite rightly thought he’d fill in some of the Drive-In Saturday fallow years, singing it live in New York City in 2000 as his encore, doing the same again during his 2007 tour, having it out as a B-side in 2008 and again on the B-sides album Swords in 2009. We all should probably release it this year just to keep up.

For anyone who’s not read Morrissey’s autobiography as yet, let me tempt you with my favourite passage from the whole book. Morrissey reports a brief interaction between Bowie and himself at a Hollywood hotel breakfast buffet, Bowie stood holding a large plate Alan Partridge-style, while vegetarian Morrissey tells him off for lingering near the cold cuts. I’m so glad they like each other’s music even if not each other’s breakfasts.

Lost in Music
Original – Sister Sledge
Cover – The Fall

Pure joy. Anyone who doesn’t know The Fall version, it’s like The Fall doing an impression of The Fall while actually having FUN. Lost In Music – ah!

Dan Maier, sleevewriter for the Before The Fall CD (a compilation of Fall-covered originals), tells us that Mark E. Smith apparently used to force the band to listen to Boney M on the tour bus, so the pure joy might be enforced. Either way, if Mark E. Smith’s somehow happy, I’m happy.

Cover of Nick Cave Heard Them Here FirstNick Cave Heard Them Here First, the album co-compiled by Liz, is available on Ace Records here: http://acerecords.co.uk/nick-cave-heard-them-here-first. With sleevenotes written by Cave’s biographer Ian Johnston and cover photograph by long-term Bad Seed associate and fellow Australian Bleddyn Butcher, this is an essential guide to Cave’s influences for anyone with an admiration or curiosity into his tastes and recordings.

Other volumes in the series for Bowie, The Ramones, Elvis, New York Dolls, The Fall and Dusty Springfield can be found here: http://acerecords.co.uk/search?query=heard+them+Here+First

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Written by Liz Buckley

Department manager at an independent record company. Liker of Frank Sinatra and Nick Cave. Very sudden laugh. Pasty but tasty. Quite tired.