With little fanfare, Robyn Hitchcock released a set of unheard covers to stream on his website yesterday. The former Soft Boy sticks with obvious influences like George Harrison and Bob Dylan on the untitled set, but the song selections themselves often surprise. For Harrison, he chose “Be Here Now” from Living in the Material World. For Dylan, “Copper Kettle,” off Self Portrait, the album that garnered perhaps the most famous record review in rock history (Greil Marcus: “What is this shit?”).
The first post of the month always features a look at songs covering every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Like many Beatles fans with a Y chromosome, I always thought of Paul as a bit of the wimpy Beatle. His songs were slow and sappy, and how could someone so cute be taken seriously? His continual nostalgia tours did nothing to enforce an impression of Relevant Artist. Until I saw him live a few weeks ago. He did all the old Beatles songs, sure, but he dipped into his catalogue from the Wings days through his albums of the last few years. All the solo material held its own. Best of all though were, of course, the Band on the Run songs. Each tune is a classic and I only wish he’d done more. I’ll satiate myself with this comp.
We All Together – Band on the Run
Loads of covers of this exist, most of them carbon copies of the original. This could be accused of the same, but I like the tint of the psychedelic that tries to fight its way through. The tune came out in 1974, only one year after the original. Nice turn around! [Buy]
Laurence Juber – Jet
The downside of this cover: you just want to scream “Jet!” at the top of your lungs each time the chorus comes around. On an acoustic instrumental though, that’s awkward. If you can exercise the appropriate restraint though, the funky fingerpicking keeps the energy of the original, staying far away from elevator music. [Buy]
Denny Laine – Bluebird
Paul’s other [color]bird song is significantly less metaphorically significant than its companion. The beautiful falsetto melody of the original matches the simple lyrics perfectly though. You may know Denny Laine as the original Wings guitarist, so he knows his way around a McCartney tune. [Buy]
Brevis – Mrs. Vandebilt
Ok, first to acknowledge the obvious: No, I have no idea why Brevis pronounces “vandebilt” so strangely. I guess when you’re going for techno dance you want to sound as much like a Scandinavian as possible. [Buy]
Robyn Hitchcock – Let Me Roll It
Definitely no drug references here. Get your mind out of the gutter. [Buy]
Mark Hoffmeister – Mamunia
The title of this song always reminds me of the imprisoned Mumia Abu-Jamal. The lyrics about how rain is really good thing make for a mixed-message protest song though, so the tune’s probably not about the probably-innocent criminal. Oh, and it was written ten years earlier. That too. [Buy]
The Couper Brothers – No Words
Fun fact: the Couper Bros. are currently the backing band for the aforementioned Laine. This solo-heavy jam comes from before those days though, ironically on the one tune Denny co-wrote. [Buy]
The Shazam – Helen Wheels
I’ve listened to the original many times and I never got the pun of the title until hearing this cover. For anyone else similarly dense, take a listen. [Buy]
Brian Burns – Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me)
Picasso is an interesting choice for Paul to commemorate. Paul always seemed the least abstract Beatle, and this solo album is far more grounded in traditional pop than psychedelia or any other Picasso-esq genres. Clearly Picasso’s parting words from earlier in ‘73 just struck a chord. [Buy]
The Golden Dogs – Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five
It starts out sounding like “In the Year 2525”-style fearmongering, but don’t worry; it’s just another tune about a girl. [Buy]