Category Archives: Pluck & Cover
There's a lot that can be written about The Beat (or English Beat as they're legally known in North America due to the name 'The Beat' already being claimed by another band), from their role in the late 70s ska movement in England to their overall legacy in the world of pop music-a legacy not just focused on The Beat but the bands it helped spawn after the group broke up, including General Public and Fine Young Cannibals.
All of that is going to have to wait for another day, since today we take a look at just a microcosm of The Beat's career, the absolute gem of a song Save It for Later from their 1982 album Special Beat Service.
At the time of its original release, Save It for Later never went very far in the charts on either side of the ocean, but since then it has taken on almost mythical status amongst singer/songwriter types. Weird tuning, a great arrangement, and lyrics that may or may not make it the dirtiest non-dirty song ever written have all helped make Save It for Later an 80s classic.
The first cover I ever heard of the track was from a concert I've mentioned a lot here at MoonVsTheWorld, Pete Townshend's Deep End Live, back in the mid-80s. Townshend had stripped the tune down to just acoustic guitar, upright bass and sax, and it was an amazing version of the song (in fact, here's a great article on the Townshend cover by Pat Pemberton on spinner.ca). Since then a variety of artists have tried their hand at the song, with the best known versions by Eddie Vedder (on his own and with Pearl Jam) and Harvey Danger.
I've decided to go back to the source for today's cover of Save It for Later, with a 2006 radio appearance by Beat songwriter Dave Wakeling. I'm also including an additional clip from the same interview that features Wakeling explaining the tuning of the song and the confusion it caused Townshend and his buddy David Gilmour when he was working out his version.
Save It for Later, The Beat
Save It for Later, Dave Wakeling
Wakeling Explains the Tuning, Guitarists Rejoice
Before you run away screaming because of the mere mention of Ms. Spear's name in the title of this post…
Normally Pluck & Cover is reserved for what I consider great songs given a cool revamp by artists I respect. This week's P & C strays a bit from that formula in that I am not a fan of Britney, and her version of this Max Martin/Rami Yacoub-penned song released in 2000 is pure sugary-sweet bubblegum poop, er, I mean pop, at best. So why all the attention all of a sudden?
As much as the trend of hired gun songwriters churning out generic, formulaic material for many of today's pop stars is both annoying and frustrating (especially for the artists who actually take the time to craft their own songs), every once in a while a clever little ditty written by these cats manages to make its way to the surface. Unfortunately, in order for it to be included on an album or make an appearance on the charts it then has to be filtered, processed, sterilized, and generally stripped of any signs of life. What's left is unfortunately usually destined to be a number one hit, because that's what the kids are buying these days. Can I use the word 'poop' twice in one post?
Which brings us back to Britney, and 'her' song, Oops!…I Did it Again. As performed by Britney it's an over the top display of excess, which you'll see first hand when you watch the accompanying live performance of the song. I've followed this up with an acoustic performance of the tune by singer/songwriter/guy-you've-probably-never-heard-of-but-should-have Richard Thompson. Thompson gives a little music history lesson to start things off, and in his hands the song's theme becomes something slightly disturbing. Almost twisted, in fact.
So, compare and contrast, and let me know what you think. And here's the link to Thompson's website. Take a few minutes and check him out-his list of accomplishments and artists he's worked with is far too long to go into here.
Britney's Navel Spectacular
I Am Stretched On Your Grave is an anonymously penned 17th century poem presumably written by a very, very sad Irishman (or woman). Translated from the original Gaelic text by Frank O'Connor (no relation to Sinead) in the late Sixties, the song's melody was initially taken from a hymn 80 years ago, then tweaked into present day form by Philip King in 1979 (give or take).
I am featuring the Dead Can Dance live performance of I Am Stretched On Your Grave as the 'original' in this particular case since it seems to be a fairly close portrayal of the King version. This particular recording can be found on the 1994 DCD live album Toward the Within. The Sinead O'Connor version was originally from her 1990 I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got smash album (the same album that gave birth to Nothing Compares 2 U), and updates the tune by setting it against a drum sample from the James Brown classic Funky Drummer. This live performance by Sinead varies somewhat from the album, but it does have one of the sweetest bass lines I've heard in awhile, so bonus marks for that.
And since you're all being good sports and spending part of your Friday checking out some low key stuff, I'll toss in some slightly more upbeat Sinead to try and lift your spirits again.
Dead Can Dance
Sinead O'Connor, The Emperor's New Clothes
One thing you don't often hear around the office is, "You know, I really wish The Clash had a little more accordion in the mix." How different would the world of rock and roll have been if the album cover for London Calling had featured a black and white picture of Paul Simonon smashing a Hohner accordion instead of his Fender bass? Let me tell you-very f*%^ing different.
To call The Clash's 1979 album London Calling a masterpiece is a bit of an understatement. Rudie Can't Fail, The Clampdown, Guns of Brixton, Train in Vain…the track listing is epic. And of course, there's the tune that gave the album its name, London Calling. It's a pretty astonishing snapshot of the progression of a band not necessarily getting tired of the punk scene from which it was born but trying to push itself in a different direction.
Of course, The Clash did eventually call it a day in 1985, but not before tensions within the band led to firings, fist fights, and the unfortunate formation of the Mick Jones led Big Audio Dynamite, a dance-pop outfit that would have fit nicely on the same bill as Jesus Jones. Sigh.
Now, back to the accordion references. Today we feature London Calling performed live in 1988 by The Pogues, with The Clash's Joe Strummer handling guitar and vocal duties. Strummer's affiliation with the band continued in the early nineties when he replaced Pogues singer Shane McGowan on vocals for a short spell. So here you go-the Pogue-ified London Calling.
London Calling, The Clash
London Calling, The Pogues with Joe Strummer
Bittersweet Symphony, the lead single from The Verve’s 1997 Urban Hymns (one of my top five all-time favourite albums) has been at the centre of a legal clusterf%#k pretty much from the moment it was released and became a hit in both the UK and the States. The core of the problem is the use by The Verve of a sample from a cover originally recorded by the Andrew Oldham Orchestra of the Rolling Stones song The Last Time, written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Got that?
Oldham acted as the Stones’ manager and producer early in their career, before handing over the reins (as far as the business end of things goes) to Allen Klein, who handled the band’s affairs throughout the late sixties and very early seventies. Although he was canned by the Stones in 1970, he managed to obtain the rights to their early song catalog, including The Last Time. In the meantime, the Andrew Oldham Orchestra recorded an orchestral version of the song, the main musical theme of which became the basis for The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony. Legal representatives for both The Rolling Stones and The Verve had agreed on a compensation and credit deal when Bittersweet Symphony was still in the womb (with songwriting credits given to Jagger, Richards, and The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft), but upon the release of the track Klein, who owned the rights to The Last Time, came out swinging. He claimed The Verve had only been given permission to use a brief sample of Oldham’s version of The Last Time, and what they essentially did was copy the entire song, with the addition of singer Richard Ashcroft’s lyrics and vocals.
Klein sued the band, and won. The Verve lost all songwriting credits to the song (even though Ashcroft had written the lyrics), Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were officially listed as songwriters, and all royalties were paid out to Klein, who, remember, owned the rights to The Last Time. Oldham has yet to receive any compensation for his part in all of this. At the end of the day, the only person who has made a cent from Bittersweet Symphony is the one person who had absolutely nothing to do with the creation or performance of the song in any of its three forms. Ain’t the music business grand?
No matter what, it’s still a great song, and that’s why we’re featuring it here today. We’re treating Bittersweet Symphony as a cover since it does stick pretty close to the Oldham version, right down to the slightly odd drum pattern. See for yourself…