10 Unlikely Cover Versions
This is devoted to cover versions you never think would have happened, but did, and in a lot of cases were actually pretty good. They're not always the best ever as such to feature in a top 10 per se, but I thought I'd give them a fair and honourable mention anyway so you can make your own mind up if you can locate them. In no certain order...
1 - Panic - The Nolan Sisters (1990, original by The Smiths, 1986)
Okay, so you might have shamefully boogied on down to their hit record I'm In The Mood for Dancing once in a while at some school disco, you might have even fancied them in their tight trousers phase, but.. you wouldn't have expected them to go all indie on you, would you? Neither would I until I heard this. It was recorded live during a Jonathan Ross show in 1990 no less (my, he's been around way too long eh?) So after a bit of a vocal acapella, here comes the rock guitars and them singing remarkably together and even getting all the words right, the middle instrumental rock bit is also unexpected but works. It shouldn't work, it should be cheesy and crap, but it isn't. How did this ever happen?
2 - Back For Good - Gene (2000, original by Take That, 1994)
Gary Barlow's finest hour and the real reason why people respected Take That a bit more than just another boy band as it was his songwriting in moments like this which made it all worthwhile. Even though it's still cheesy you wouldn't expect the likes of Gene to do it, right? Well, wrong! I was tipped off about this by a friend (you know how you are so thank you) and what you don't expect is Martin Rossiter crooning in a really indie piano and mellow way and coming across in a soulful version that just has feeling and emotion. It definitely shouldn't work, you expect Robbie Williams bounding all over like a maniac, but it does work, simply because it keeps the spirit of the original intact. And there's also a good version by McAlmont and Butler out there too, if you can find it..
3 - Crazy In Love - Snow Patrol (2005, original by Beyoncé Knowles, 2002)
BBC Radio sessions are perfect for bands to let their hair down, and in Snow Patrol's case, they took inspiration from Travis' rather different version of Britney Spears' Hit Me Baby One More Time (a contender for this list actually) but turning an R&B modern day tune into a bit of a grungey rock fest? Yes, and rock on it is too. The vocals are a perfect blend of whisper and shouting, especially as the rap bit is done much like the bit in Ciccone Youth's Into The Groovy, and the guitars crunch their way through rather well. I didn't know what to expect when I heard it, but I've grown to really like it, and I shouldn't!
4 - Common People - William Shatner (2004, original by Pulp, 1995)
The indie classic that is Common People, a staple diet of most indie nights since it came out, and one where the average geek like me feels a bit less of a geek to be honest as I kind of fit in (or not as the case may be). Anyway, William Shatner doing any sort of record has to be a bit mad or genius, and after hearing him team up with Henry Rollins on the sublime track I Can't Get Behind That, the opener to Shatner's album sees him take on the Pulp classic, by doing spoken word lyrics, and occasionally the producer Ben Folds comes in and sings the bits properly himself, but the way Shatner delivers it deadpan? Bonkers, but.. it works.
5 - Smells Like Teen Spirit - Tori Amos (1992, original by Nirvana, 1991)
For some reason people always used to fight at indie nights when the original came on. You couldn't say that about this cover, hidden away on her Crucify CD single. It's grunge taken the other way to extremes, with just Tori and a piano sounding all quiet, whispery and emotional. It yet captures such a different feel, the feel of Kurt's aloneness and the raw emotion just gives it so much a different depth without realising it. You could in fact fall asleep gently to this cover because it's just so wonderfully mellow in comparison.
6 - Wrote For Luck - Manic Street Preachers (1993, original by Happy Mondays, 1988)
The Mondays' six minute long anthem represented all the things in Madchester in one drugged up crazy time, and so when someone like the Manics try to take it on, it should be a bona fide contender, right? Er, well, sort of. They turned up the guitars to maximum, and made it much less of a drug song but more of a full on rock fest. It might work for some of you out there but you really needed James Dean Bradfield to sing a couple of octaves lower, if you know what I mean... And it just seems a bit lazy as well, like their later live sets.
7 - UFO - The Wedding Present (1992, original by Barry Gray, 1970)
When an indie band releases a 7" single every month for the whole year and all of them chart, that takes some doing. However the format worked, an original track on side A and a cover of their choice on side B. By the time October 1992 came round their choice of covers was proving rather good but obscure, highlighted here by their choice of doing a one minute long indie rock cover of a long forgotten sci-fi series theme tune. And yet.. compared to the original theme it actually is a nice modern reworking of it. Especially that end bit.
8 - Like A Prayer - Bigod 20 (1993, original by Madonna, 1989)
So you've probably danced to the original Madonna tune at some point, or been one of those who wanted the slightly controversial video banned. But did you know of this rather different cover by these German Industrial techno artists? Thought not. The "singing" leaves a little to be desired, I grant you, but the actual feel and flow of the thing is like a 12" techno version of the original, with emphasis on lots of hard drums and deep electronic synths throughout. It'd probably work better if there was a female vocalist, as it stands it just sounds so.. well, German, really. Nonetheless well worth a listen to see how different it is.
9 - The Low Spark of the High-Heeled Boys - EMF (1992, original by Traffic, 1971)
You know EMF, don't you? The band who gave you Unbelievable, a big indie-esque anthem for 1990 that had everyone trying to smash keyboards in the same way that the band did. Well, their energetic style of music wasn't really one that crossed with progressive rock - or so you thought! Well, I picked up one of their CD singles and to my absolute surprise this was on it. Having heard the Traffic original (my father was a fan of anything Steve Winwood) this wasn't a bad effort, believe it or not. It actually sounded good, and while not being the full eleven minutes, was mellow and faithful to the original. Who'd have thought it? Unbelievable!
10 - Unbelievable - Tom Jones (1994 onwards, original by EMF, 1990)
And talking of EMF, this leads me nicely to this. Yes, the crooner of all things sixties, Tom Jones, the one that your mum throws your knickers at. And what now? Well, during his live shows, in order to get the younger ones more into him, he decides to have a go at more contemporary songs. And what does he go and pick? Aforementioned EMF classic. Really. If you pop over to EMF's official website, check it out in the covers section and hear for yourself. And the shocking thing of all? It's not actually half bad, even though you have to wonder who'd be doing the keyboard slamming in the tune ;)