They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with covers of his or her songs. Let someone else do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
A happy birthday to Howard Jones, who turns 66 today, 59 years after he learned how to play the piano. He got his start on radio in college, taking care of the night shift on Piccadilly Radio. According to his website, “Every 20 minutes between Midnight and 6am he would play a selection of his own music, on a synthesizer. The sessions were supposed to be purely instrumental, but on occasions Howard could not resist singing, and as a result had several phone calls… to complain!!!”
Those complaints weren’t the last Jones would hear about his music, but it doesn’t seem to have affected him. In a 2006 interview he said, “I wasn’t fashionable. I never got good reviews. But I’m proud of the fact that I wasn’t liked by the media… Pop music is so reactionary and bigoted. And I found that what’s ‘cool’ is often very shallow and transient.”
“Uncool” Jones had hits worldwide, and they get attention from cover artists to this day. Let’s take a listen to some great covers from one of the key figures of ’80s synth-pop.
Love Canon – Things Can Only Get Better (Howard Jones cover)
Love Canon have made a career out of bluegrass covers of ’80s songs. Thankfully, they do it with far more sincerity than snark. They’re more about how to show that a song can look great in a whole different set of clothes. Their cover of “Things Can Only Get Better” won’t stop and falter for anybody.
Duncan Shiek – What Is Love (Howard Jones cover)
Duncan Sheik has worked hard to make sure “Barely Breathing” isn’t his own private albatross, releasing eight other albums and composing for movies and Broadway. With results as sterling as his Covers 80’s album, that work has clearly been worth it. Collecting songs from ’80s British artists, Sheik strips down the instruments and brings forth the heart. Songs like Jones’ “What Is Love” benefit from this treatment.
Danny McEvoy – Life In One Day (Howard Jones cover)
If an artist recorded a hit song in the ’60s or ’70s, chance are good that Danny McEvoy has recorded it too. The YouTube artist has more than five thousand songs posted, including covers of everything the Beatles wrote. Here he gives “Life In One Day” some nice busker energy.
Jamie Winchester – Hide and Seek (Howard Jones cover)
Born in Ireland, Jamie Winchester moved to Budapest in his teens and stayed there 25 years. It looks like he’s back in the Emerald Isle now, looking forward to touring again. If and when he does, maybe he’ll play his cover of “Hide and Seek,” which makes the transition from keyboard to acoustic guitar very nicely.
Neilson Hubbard – No One Is To Blame (Howard Jones cover)
Neilson Hubbard’s cover of “No One Is To Blame” is a hard song to find. It was only released on a label sampler for Parasol Records, and this YouTube video is unlisted. We’re very glad to give it a wider audience here, as he makes an already contemplative song quieter and more beautiful for it.
How could you leave out the best HoJo cover; “No One Is To Blame” by Mindy Smith?
Nice as that is, it’s been viewed ten times more often than Hubbard’s, which has been a favorite of mine for years. We don’t as a rule feature two covers of the same song in these birthday posts, so I opted to go with the one I preferred.