One Great Cover looks at the greatest cover songs ever, and how they got to be that way.
You break something down to its most basic parts and people just react.–Michael Andrews, 2003
The Californian composer Michael Andrews and his childhood buddy Gary Jules scored the most unlikely UK Christmas #1 in history with their cover of “Mad World” in 2003. Listeners raised a lot more questions than glasses of eggnog. Where were the sleighbells, the snow allusions? Where was the Christian message of peace, à la Cliff Richard? The children’s choir? The cloying sentimentality? The song had none of these things. Instead, it had a stripped-back sound, a quiet mournfulness, and some distinctly unfestive lines laid bare. One was: “Went to school and I was very nervous / No one knew me, no one knew me.” Another was: “The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.”
In fact, the song was basically about a depressed kid.
It wasn’t just about a depressed kid; it was even more about a depressed kid than the original. And this was likely the key to its greatness and, amazingly, its Yuletide success.