Jun 182024

First LoveDana Gillespie… Now, where do I know that name from…

If you cast your mind back (or possibly your father’s), you’ll remember the name, possibly even the album cover, with which Gillespie is arguably best known. That 1974 album, Weren’t Born A Man, which given her Bowie association, immediately had folk wondering whether she were, despite her pneumatic sleeve appearance. Remember, this was around the same time Amanda Lear was allowing the myth around she being born male to permeate, let alone all the claims Bowie fostered around his sexuality. Well, Gillespie wasn’t born a man, and her relationship with Bowie was understandably under wraps: they were teens at its inception, and remained friends and lovers for the next decade. Bowie’s song “Andy Warhol” was written for her, she including it on that album, it produced by Bowie and Mark Ronson. She also sang backing vocals on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust. However, this was insufficient to have her then gain much personal chart traction.

In the intervening decades, blues has been Gillespie’s musical vehicle of choice. She’s recorded a huge stash of albums on a plethora of labels, with greater appeal to audiences of mainland Europe. She has also set up a still-running Blues Festival on the exclusive Caribbean island of Mustique, now nearing its 30th birthday. Her latest album First Love is, in part, a deliberate trip back in time, and reflects her own personal tastes, as well as those of her production team, two old friends, Tris Penna, the Abbey Road studios production and A&R man, and Marc Almond, of “Tainted Love” fame. All but one of the songs are covers, the artists as varied as Bob Dylan, Morrissey and Lana Del Ray.
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Jun 102024
David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

In late 1973, David Bowie released his last album with his backing band, The Spiders from Mars, the all-covers Pin-Ups. Somewhat surprisingly, it contained two covers of songs by The Who, their second single “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” and their first single, “I Can’t Explain.”

This month will see the release of Rock ‘n’ Roll Star, a Ziggy Stardust-focused box set, which includes outtakes from the Ziggy sessions. One of these outtakes is an earlier version of Bowie’s “I Can’t Explain” cover featuring an earlier version of the Spiders from Mars, with Nick Woodmansey, the original drummer, instead of Aynsley Dunbar, who only took over for Pin-Ups.

Bowie’s original cover of “I Can’t Explain” is an extremely slow version of the song featuring saxophone fills from Bowie and another horn player, and ethereal backing vocals.

This earlier version is far closer to the original Who version. Bowie obviously sounds like Bowie not Roger Daltrey, but the backing vocals evoke the original’s. Trevor Bolder’s bass is mixed higher, but he and Mick Ronson’s rhythm parts really do seem to just try to sound louder. However, Mick Ronson’s solos are entirely different from Pete Townshend’s original. No saxophones to be heard.

The cover is an interesting insight into Bowie’s process. Clearly he loved the song but was unhappy with this original approach, or decided it didn’t fit the Ziggy Stardust concept. (There is one cover on that album.) By the time he re-recorded it two years later, he had found his original take on it but in this early version it’s still very clearly a song by The Who.

Check out this nugget:

May 312024

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

Sisters of Mercy

As regular readers know, here at Cover Me we put together a Best Covers Ever list every month for a celebrated artist. We’ve recently done the Pet Shop Boys and Sheryl Crow. And before them we did the biggie – The Beatles – and before them, Bob Dylan! But every now and again, there’s a particular genre that’s crying out for the Best Covers Ever treatment – and this month it’s the Dark Genre. It’s goth!

So why now, you ask? Are goth covers really a thing? And why don’t Alien Sex Fiend or Fields of the Nephilim have their own Best Covers Ever features?

Fair questions, all. First off, goth music is everywhere right now. It may have emerged out of the UK post-punk scene and enjoyed its most innovative period from 1980 to 1982, but it’s now the reason we have Whitby Goth Weekends in April and November (well, that and Count Dracula), World Goth Day on May 22, and goth nights down the Hatchet Inn in Bristol most nights, particularly Thursday. It’s also why we have heaps of goth books on the market right now, from John Robb’s The Art of Darkness to Lol Tolhurst’s Goth: A History and Cathi Unsworth’s Season of the Witch, all trying to explain goth’s lasting influence as a musical subculture: the fixation with death, the dark theatricality, the Victorian melodrama, the leather, the thick black eyeliner, the fishnet tights, the deviance, the sex, the deviant sex, and, of course, spiders. Continue reading »

Mar 052024
pet shop boys all the young dudes

Erudite, enigmatic and quintessentially English, The Pet Shop Boys have been at the centre of Britain’s cultural life for over 40 years. Two boys from the North of England, who met in the South, they speak to the widest audience in their home country, with a worldwide appeal. With that experience and cachet, they can choose how they exercise their influence. If they wish to do a residency at the Royal Opera House, to perform to an audience less familiar with electronic music, they can. If the BBC Concert Orchestra offers a collaboration, and opportunity to plug a new album, they can take up the offer. For a recent slot in the Radio 2 Piano Room, available here, they added a cover of “All The Young Dudes” to revised versions of their songs, along with a chat to fellow Northerner Vernon Kay. Continue reading »

Feb 092024

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 Feelies

In 2023, the Feelies released Some Kinda Love: Performing the Music of the Velvet Underground, a live album recorded one night in 2018. Listeners heard a band that had clearly absorbed the VU into their DNA long ago, making their recreations sound almost effortless. They even play the brief instrumental burbling at the start of “Sweet Jane.” The audience cheers heard between songs are loud and enthusiastic, and no matter which band’s music they’re there to hear, you can tell they love the other band too.

For this night, the Feelies were more about being Velvet Underground fans than Feelies. Because because? Well, their version of “What Goes On” sounds more like the VU and less like the Feelies’ own studio-released version, from 1988’s Only Life. Now there was a band who set out to make a song their own. Not to knock the modern day Feelies, not at all, but that VU night really was designed to be more commemoration than innovation. It’s those earlier covers we’re focusing on today, the ones that saw the band out to, as Lou Reed called his own live album in 1978, take no prisoners.

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Jan 312024
best cover songs january
BABii — Lovefool (The Cardigans cover)

Brent Amaker And The Rodeo – Gut Feeling (Devo cover)

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