They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Bryan Ferry, it’s safe to say, loves covers. Between his solo career and his decades with Roxy Music, he’s covered everyone from The Beach Boys to Van Morrison, The Beatles to The Velvet Underground, Kris Kristofferson to Leadbelly to absurd amounts of Bob Dylan. It could even be argued that Talking Heads’ version of “Take Me To the River” is most directly a cover of Ferry’s take on the song. That’s another story for another time, though – now, it’s time to celebrate Ferry’s 66th with all the decade-spanning splendor the Internet has to offer. Whether Bill Murray’s legendary karaoke performance of Roxy Music’s “More Than This” from Lost in Translation qualifies as a cover or not, it certainly served as something of a guiding star by which this post could find its way.
Norah Jones – More Than This (Roxy Music cover)
To kick it off, we’ve got Norah Jones delivering a laid-back, tropically jazzy “More Than This.” Unlike most covers of the song, Murray’s included, it slows the song down considerably. This doesn’t stop Jones from bringing her typical contradictory, calm energy to it. All at once, it’s sultry and nostalgic and oddly innocent, in perfect keeping with the lyrics.
Carla Gugino and Oscar Isaac – Love Is The Drug (Roxy Music Cover)
Delightfully in keeping with the theme of Ferry music being featured in films, we’ve got a pleasant surprise from Carla Gugino and Oscar Isaac on the Sucker Punch soundtrack, with Roxy Music’s “Love is the Drug.” It’s one of those magnificent zeitgeist soundtracks that deserves more attention than its film could give it, much like the ’90s bomb (or bob-omb, if you will) of Super Mario Bros., which also featured a cover of the song by Divinyls. Gugino and Isaac’s version, though, isn’t just an adaptation for the times – it’s a sprawling, theatrical performance in the vein of the tunes from Moulin Rouge, simultaneously keeping faithful to the original and somehow making it simply bigger.
Róisín Murphy – Slave to Love (Bryan Ferry Cover)
Finally drawing a bit from Ferry’s solo work, we’ve got Róisín Murphy bringing an electropopped, Blondie-esque approach to “Slave to Love.” It draws nicely on the instrumentality and pacing of the original, all while bringing a simultaneously current and retro feel to it.
Morrissey – Street Life (Roxy Music Cover)
Bringing us back to the sheer British-ness and ’80s-ness and rock and roll of it all, we’ve got Morrissey making a live attack on Roxy Music’s “Street Life.” Moz replaces handclaps with a drum set; gone is the crispness of Ferry’s vocals, replaced with a growly crooning. While neither of them are the grungiest of chaps, Morrissey manages to bring a bit of verisimilitude to the street life of the song’s title.
Gilliam All1Song – Avalon (Roxy Music Cover)
Finally and poignantly, we’ve got a beautiful YouTube cover of the title track from Roxy Music’s Avalon. YouTube user All1Song, whose profile gives us little more information than the fact that his name is Gilliam and a redirect to his Bandcamp page, plays the song with serene but skillful acoustic guitar and minimalistic female backing vocals. As stripped-down as it is when compared to the layered, synthy original, it has the feel of the natural aging of the song. It’s a beautiful tribute to Ferry and a fantastic bookend for his birthday.