Jo Gillot apologised for including three cover versions in her hour long set at The Dukes on Tuesday. Ponies’ use of a censored version of ‘Saturday Night At The Bookstore’ to kickstart the Totally Wired Launch event has generated discussion in the comments of that review. Go around the pubs tonight and you will find plenty of bands playing copies of popular hits.
So far The Lunecy review has steered clear of the tribute acts, the cover bands etc in favour of those trying to be a little more original, but is this just snobbery? Is the cover version a bad thing? Can it be a good thing?
Evidence for the prosecution: X-Factor and all those wannabes being forced by Satan Cowell to do banal copies of Take That or Kylie or The Beatles, thus stifling what individuality and talent they had that might indeed have been the ‘x-factor’.
Evidence for the defence: The Beatles started off playing covers in The Cavern and The Star clubs.
Exhibit 1: Aretha’s ‘Respect’ as compared to its original version. One of the greatest records ever made, and a cover version.
So why do cover versions? Being a great singer/guitarist/etc doesn’t automatically mean being a great writer (Billie Holiday, Eric Clapton, etc). Nor does doing a cover occasionally mean a failing as a writer (Bob Dylan has done his share of covers.) A cover can be straight homage as in Joyeux’s recent romp through ‘No Fun’ which was, in fact, great fun. It can be an attempt at something new and different, stretching musical wings.
It all comes down to personality. Choose the right cover, after all, do we really need another version of ‘She Moves Through the Fair’? Give it something of your own character, Jeff Buckley’s ‘Hallelujah’ fits with his own songs musically. And don’t use it as a crutch for your own laziness musically. It’s not karaoke.
So, readers, what are your favourite covers? Here’s a top 5 from me:
‘Feel Like Going Home’ — The Walkabouts with Mark Lanegan (the song I want played at my funeral)
‘The Hazards Of Love’ — The Decemberists (from 2009’s album of the year so far)
‘Ring Of Fire’ — Swamptrash
‘Naked If I Wanted To’ — Cat Power
‘Rock El Casbah’ — Rachid Taha (the cover as statement.)
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