In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
The paths of songwriter Graham Gouldman and all-time greats The Yardbirds are forever linked in rock and roll history, but not inextricably. In 1965, a nineteen-year-old Gouldman had the good fortune to begin his career by penning the iconic Yardbirds hits “For Your Love,” “Heart Full of Soul,” and “Evil Hearted You.” The songs helped establish the now-legendary group as they transitioned from one eventual rock guitar god (Eric Clapton) to another (Jeff Beck), but the hits wouldn’t define Gouldman’s career.
Gouldman, a musician in his own right, neither performed with the band (that we’re aware), nor wrote any further hits for them. However, his career was just getting started. The ‘60s saw him writing additional hits for The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, and the aforementioned Jeff Beck, along with songs recorded by Cher, Wayne Fontana, and Ohio Express. The ‘70s brought hits with his own band 10cc. Additionally, Joe Cocker, Paul Carrack, Gary Wright, and Kirsty MacColl all recorded Gouldman tracks over the ensuing decades.
Today, the 71-year-old consummate troubadour is still at it; he just finished up his appropriately-named “Heart Full of Songs” tour in the UK before he rolls back out to Europe with 10cc in November. Let’s take a look at some standout covers of songs written by Gouldman from the major eras of a career that’s now spanned over fifty years…
The Rubinoos – Evil Hearted You (The Yardbirds cover)
The third and final Gouldman hit for The Yardbirds appeared in the US on the best-selling Having a Rave Up album. In the UK, it peaked at #3 during Halloween week, 1965. Jeff Beck’s brilliant licks aside, the song has been referred to as “one of the gloomiest hits” of 1960s British rock. The legendary Rubinoos strip the song of its menace but deliver a Halloween-worthy, spooky, arrangement. The California power-poppers included their version on 2002’s cover-laden Crimes Against Music. The vocals and sound effects, at times cartoonish, are redeemed by the true harmonies, and the band gets credit for an earnest attempt at Beck’s guitar riffs.
Michael Carpenter & Rob Smith – Look Through Any Window (The Hollies’ cover)
The original, from early 1966, was the first Top 40 hit for The Hollies. A perfect pop song marked by signature harmonies, handclaps, and Tony Hicks’ great jangly guitar riff. Michael Carpenter, partnered here with Rob Smith, slightly reduce the speed and deliver a superbly produced arrangement with standout harmonies of their own, on this 2012 independent release. Carpenter, a talented multi-instrumentalist/singer/writer/producer from Australia, is considered a power-pop expert, and this track backs up the claim.
MonaLisa Twins – Bus Stop (The Hollies cover)
The Hollies’ original has been played over four million times on US radio to become Gouldman’s second most popular song of all time. It personified the Hollies sound and rode the charts for over three months in 1966, peaking at #5 in both the US and UK. Here, the saccharine-sweet, Liverpool-based YouTube stars flawlessly apply their own formula in a 2014 video that has generated over 300K views. Cute theatrics aside, the arrangement is solid and emphasizes the “snake charmer” guitar breaks bolstered by the twins’ tight harmonies.
Joshua James & The Forest Rangers – No Milk Today (Herman’s Hermits cover)
The Hermits’ hit about a simple subject slipped in to the low end of the US top 40 in 1967 while breaking the top 10 in the UK. Gouldman’s father inspired Graham to write the song from the point of view of someone experiencing lost love. A pre-Led Zeppelin John Paul Jones, as producer and bassist, was credited with the original’s arrangement. Although the band experienced bigger hits, “Milk” has seen more covers released than any other Herman’s Hermits’ song to date. Folk rocker Joshua James teamed up here with The Forest Rangers on the 2012 Songs of Anarchy: Volume 2 soundtrack. This slower-than-the-original version is trippy and powerful. While the Hermits recorded a less-than-happy song, Peter Noone sounded downright chipper compared to James’ nearly whispered and depressed vocals. The mindset shift works to a tee and the result is cover gold.
Richie Havens – I’m Not in Love (10cc cover)
Any look at Gouldman’s career requires a long pause on the 10cc era, and a tribute to this 1975 “soft rock” classic is inevitable. Gouldman co-wrote the #2 US/#1 UK hit with band mate and vocalist Eric Stewart, who brought the original idea and lyrics. The groundbreaking studio production and arrangement propelled the song to worldwide fame. It’s been played on US radio over 5 million times and viewed on YouTube over 30 million times. With 80-plus verified covers released – the most for any Gouldman composition – choosing just one cover is nearly impossible and warrants a more thorough analysis at a later date.
For this article, we asked Gouldman directly if he had a personal favorite. His response: “Richie Havens,’ because it was so drastically different from our version but still retained the song’s integrity.” Havens included his superb version on 1976’s The End Of The Beginning. The arrangement is soulful, with great organ, keyboards, and acoustic guitars playing subtlety throughout and melding perfectly with Havens’ strong vocals. It’s easy to understand Gouldman’s fondness for the track.
Tina Arena – The Things We Do For Love (10cc cover)
After “I’m Not In Love,” 10cc scored their second biggest hit just over a year later with the sprightly pop tune “The Things We Do For Love” which reached #5 in the US and #6 in the UK. The tone of the band changed with the departure of members Godley and Creme but the songwriting duo of Stewart and Gouldman remained intact. A review on AllMusic called the song “unrepentantly soppy,” but it set the tone and template for a string of future successes. On her cover, popular Italian-Australian songstress Tina Arena sacks the sprite and slows things down considerably. The arrangement consists mostly of piano and her flawless voice before finishing with a touch of cello. The 2014 “Smooth Mix” single raised money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Costa de la Muerte – Dreadlock Holiday (10cc cover)
In the summer of ’78, the aforementioned Stewart and Gouldman collaborated on what would be 10cc’s last major hit, a tongue-in-check “white reggae” UK chart-topper that also fared well in the US. Not surprisingly, there are dozens of reggae covers of this reggae tune, but few versions have strayed from that style. Here we have a rare, well-executed, rock & reggae version we found from an Austrian surf metal band. Costa de la Muerte, from Linz, delivered their version on 2007’s Dawn of the Dread. You might hear The Clash and Red Hot Chili Peppers in the arrangement combined with unique, sometimes-accented, dual male/female vocals from band members “St. Ananas” and “E.C.”
Peter Wilson – Bridge To Your Heart (Wax cover)
Gouldman and the late Andrew Gold formed Wax in 1984 in between iterations of 10cc. The duo sold more than two million albums worldwide, helped by hit singles “Bridge To Your Heart” and “Right Between The Eyes.” The upbeat “Bridge,” released in 1987, garnered MTV airplay in the US and become the group’s best-selling UK single, reaching #12 there. Melbourne, Australia’s Peter Wilson sounds eerily similar to the now-departed Gold on 2013’s album Pulsation. Wilson captures the ‘80s sound with a sugary synth-pop arrangement and slick production.
- More “Evil”: Pixies, in Spanish; Lords of Altamont, psychedelic garage rock with wacky Nicole Simone on vocals.
- More “Bus”: rocking Dokken; a jazzy Chris Bennett.
- More “Window”: in French by The Hollies; and by The Chesterfield Kings, Raw Thrills (modern psychedelia), Harley String Band (folk/acoustic).
- More “Milk”: The Mr. T Experience, punking; Royal Gigolos, EDMing.
- More “Love”: Mark Kozelek’s beautiful piano version clocked in at #41 in our list of The Best Cover Songs of 2016; we heard from Twin Shadow on acoustic guitar and keyboard in 2013; Gouldman also told us he really likes The Pretenders version, which was used on the ’93 Indecent Proposal film soundtrack.
- More “Things”: Tina Arena‘s “Pop Mix”; Amy Grant; ex-The Merrymakers’ David Myhr; and Lazlo Bane.
- More “Dreadlock”: Boney M, with some 80’s excess; Jake & Flo, with an acoustic/island vibe.
Not previously mentioned:
- Herman’s Hermits’ Top 40 hit “East West” by Morrissey.
- Wayne Fontana’s hit “Pamela, Pamela” later released by Gouldman.
- Jeff Beck’s UK hit “Tallyman” by Big Jim Sullivan, instrumental with cool sitar.
- 10cc’s hit “Rubber Bullets” (Godley/Creme/Gouldman) by The Vindictives with a punk version.
- From the 1980 animated film Animalympics, “Love’s Not For Me” by Carole Ann Berry.
- Mitch Molloy & Paul Carrack’s “Ready To Go Home” (Gold/Gouldman) performed by ex-A-ha’s Morten Harket; by Asia; and by Gouldman.
Check out Gouldman’s official site to find out more about everything the man is up to.