What is there to say at this point about the Buzzcocks’ anxious, evergreen anthem of unrequited love, heartbreak and jagged guitars? Composed by the legendary Pete Shelley, the edgy, beautiful, sad and pragmatic (and ever so slightly petulant) “Ever Fallen In Love” is just a perfect pop song. It’s no surprise then that the song’s infectious tune and painfully universal sentiment have turned it into cover catnip. There have been dozens upon dozens of covers of “Ever Fallen…” over the years, the most successful of which was the slick-as-ice 1987 version by Fine Young Cannibals which landed in UK pop top 10, several spots higher than the original managed back in 1978 (sad but true).
Off the Beaten Path looks at covers of songs from a less popular era in an artist’s career.
When you hear that an artist has done a James Taylor-penned cover, you can pretty safely assume that it is one of the following songs: “Fire And Rain,”, “Sweet Baby James,” or “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight.” Those that choose to venture deeper tend to favor a little “Shower The People” or “Carolina In My Mind.” Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with those choices: I mean, they are all undeniable evergreen classics. And there have been some ridiculously good takes on a few of these songs, especially “Fire…” of which several are themselves total fire (check some of them out here).
But, if I can offer a little get-off-my-lawn style observation, this rigid devotion to a specific handful of songs can get a little repetitive. It also does something of a disservice to the Taylor catalog, which is hundreds of crazy wonderful songs deep. All of which is to say that it’s especially nice to hear an artist take a swing at a JT deep cut. An album track. A B-side. A non-single (or non-performing one). Thankfully, there are a few artists who’ve eagerly taken the plunge, proving there is a wealth of goodness to be had beyond the hits.
It’s time to open the JT deep-cut cover floodgates. Let’s let this crew of artists provide some glorious inspiration.
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
In 1974, after kicking out two albums worth of infectious, absurdist and wonderfully weird pop music, Graham Gouldman, Eric Stewart, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley, a.k.a. 10cc, sat down and decided they’d try something new. As Gouldman later described it, “we’d been discussing writing a love song.” And so began the saga of the most heavenly and eccentric ballad to ever grace the AM radio airwaves and sneakily embed itself into innocent Valentine’s Day playlists, “I’m Not In Love.”
The song was famously inspired by a complaint issued to Stewart by his wife Gloria after they’d been married for a few years, specifically “you don’t say ‘I love you’ much any more.” His defense was that if he said it too often the words would lose their impact and sound both cavalier and insincere. As Stewart explained to The Guardian in 2018:
I started wondering how I could say it without using those actual words. So “I’m not in love” became a rhetorical conversation with myself – and then a song. I wrote the lyrics in a couple of days.
The song’s famously incongruous lyrical line, “I keep your picture upon the wall, it hides a nasty stain that’s lying there” was not in fact a joke, but an actual real life remembrance. Stewart did indeed utilize a photograph of Gloria to cover a crack in his bedroom wall at his parents house in Manchester.
Still, it took some time for the song to morph into the evergreen behemoth we know and love today. Stewart felt the tune needed some refining and engaged Gouldman to assist him. They both loved “The Girl From Ipanema” and so decided to set “I’m Not In Love” to a bossa nova beat. They recorded it with bandmates Godley and Creme the old-fashioned way with guitar, bass and drums… but Godley in particular was unimpressed with the result, cuttingly declaring the song to be “crap.” And with that, the band decided to abandon the song and began working on other tracks.
Yet “I’m Not In Love” refused to go away quietly. Seems its insidious melodic charm had infected the studio staff, resulting in their regularly humming it around the office. This was duly noted by Stewart and led to his convincing the band to give “I’m Not In Love” another chance. Begrudging brainstorming sessions ensued and ironically it was Godley who came up with the most ingenious idea to better the song, suggesting that it be constructed using only voices; “the biggest choir you can imagine.” Lol Creme took the baton from there, mentioning that the grand choral sound could be created most efficiently by using tape loops. For 3 weeks the band sang and recorded vocal parts, adding layer upon layer with the cumulative total landing at somewhere around 624 voices. Combine that with fleshed out instrumentation, some Fender Rhodes, guitar, bass and Moog synthesizer, a toy music box, and an unspeakably gorgeous lead vocal from Stewart and “I’m Not In Love”…was still not finished. The famous (and sometimes polarizing) final touch involved persuading studio receptionist Kathy Redfern to fill in the bridge by whispering the words “big boys don’t cry.”
With that, voila: a classic was born. The song enjoyed massive success in the most prestigious pop charts, hitting #1 in the UK pop charts and #2 in the U.S in 1975.
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
“She’s Gone” by Daryl Hall & John Oates was born old school. Even though the sign over the door of what was primarily known as “Soul” has long been replaced with the marginally more modern and wider sonic net of “R & B,” “She’s Gone” remains proud, righteous and straight up SOUL to its core. It’s an unabashed, beauteous love letter to the glorious Motown sounds that preceded it a decade before its creation, all harmony, hook, and heartache. It is forever immune from descriptive modernization.
John Oates’s explanation of the song’s genesis in his fine, funny 2017 memoir Change of Seasons was surprisingly comic, given the song’s theme of loss. It’s based on a very brief fling he’d had with a woman he’d encountered on an arctic night in an NYC diner at 3 a.m., who was wearing a pink tutu and cowboy boots (like you do). They dated for a few weeks until she vanished as quickly as she’d appeared, exerting the ultimate romantic gesture of cruelty by standing him up on New Year’s Eve. He says when he realized “she was going to be a no-show on that night of nights,” he thought, “If she’s not coming tonight… then she’s gone.” With that, a chorus was born. John shared the story and his melodic snippet with Daryl the next day, who then sat down at his black Wurtlizer and fleshed out the legendary intro and verses… and voila, “Everybody’s high on consolation,” forever and ever amen.
John knew the song was special. After they’d recorded it, he made this unbelievably prescient observation in his journal:
3/2/73, She’s Gone–I’m putting it down in writing. This is the one. I believe in this one.
Welcome the chameleonic sonic world of Circuit Des Yeux aka Haley Fohr. Her lonesome otherwordly voice is a mix of Nico, Odetta and Bill Callahan, and her sound is impossible to stuff into a singular, definitive category. The Circuit Des Yeux sound is alternately urgent and passionate or austere and emotional. Songs can be lush and regal or awash in a transportive electronic haze. Back in 2016 Fohr released an album under the name Jackie Lynn that was ostensibly a country record but featured inflections of lo-fi, psych, new wave, Linda Perhacs and Suicide. Which is to say Circuit Des Jeux-Jackie Lynn-Haley Fohr goes everywhere and does it with extraordinary panache.
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!
Armed with a seemingly bottomless well of self-belief, in possession of both off-the-charts charisma and head-turning beauty, Marc Bolan was a pop star like no other. He was the very definition of “transcendent,” which is to say the combination of his lovably ludicrous lyrics and infectiously crunchy Chuck Berry riffs appealed not only to screaming teenage girls but to the cool outsider kids as well. By 1976 he was being openly acknowledged as an inspiration to many of the early prognosticators of punk, including The Damned and Siouxsie. He loved the association and latterly referred to himself as “the Godfather of Punk if you like.” He would no doubt have accepted his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with a humility befitting his persona (perhaps mentioning all of the above and then asking why it took them so long) and fully embraced the praise to be rightfully heaped upon him, all of which is ridiculously fun to imagine.
He is yet another artist whom despite inspiring a mountainous number of covers has been somewhat underserved. Alas, for every beauteous version of “Cosmic Dancer,” there are dozens of not-so-great takes of “Children of the Revolution.” To throw additional salt in the wound, there are loads of exquisitely fun and fine deep cuts that have yet to be tackled with the same eagerness as the hits (classic ballad “Broken-Hearted Blues” still hasn’t enjoyed a seminal reading, nor has the eternally groovy “The Wizard“). Thankfully, 2020 saw a superb effort to begin righting the ship, courtesy of the legendary Hal Willner, who organized the star studded tribute album AngelHeaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T.Rex (read our review here). It features all the hits, yes, but shines the brightest when it gets into the deep stuff (check out BØRNS’ version of 1976’s “Dawn Storm,” it’s gorgeous). Here’s hoping the album serves as a clarion call for future excavation of the solid gold deep cuts within the Bolan and T.Rex catalog (there are a ton!).
In honor of Marc’s HOF induction, we’re going to offer up a few of the straight up craziest, sexiest and coolest amongst the thousands of existing covers out there. Get it on…