On the American side of the pond, The Proclaimers would widely be considered to be a one-hit-wonder after their catchy tune “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” peaked at number three on the charts in 1993 after being featured in the movie Benny and Joon. But the band that mostly consists of bespectacled twins Craig and Charlie Reid have been around since 1983 and sold over five million records worldwide. One-hit wonders they are not.
Amanda Palmer – Beds Are Burning (Midnight Oil cover)
Julia Stone – Beds Are Burning (Midnight Oil cover)
Due to the wildfires devastating Australia, Midnight Oil’s ecological anthem “Beds Are Burning” has gotten covered a lot this year (Patti Smith was, as always, ahead of the curve). The sudden abundance of covers of a great song is not a silver lining – there is no silver lining – but hopefully the funds from these go some small way towards rebuilding. The two most prominent come from honorary Australian Amanda Palmer and actual Australian Missy Higgs, on a charity EP that sees the first low-key Dresden Dolls reunion in ages, and from Julia Stone, who put together a covers set that comes out next month and features The National and more covering Aussie acts.
Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.
If all you know about Craig and Charlie Reid, collectively known as the Proclaimers, is that they’re Scottish twin brothers who sang that “dada-da-da” song from Benny and Joon, you’re missing out on a substantial, fairly diverse, discography. They regularly play to large crowds in Europe, their music has been featured on at least five other movie soundtracks, and their songs have inspired a jukebox musical that was itself made into a film. While full-on commercial success has been a tad elusive here in the US, their best-known tune here, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” has garnered quite a bit of of love, manifested in over forty cover versions known to man (or at least to SecondHandSongs).
I’m all for artists taking a cover and making it their own, but in selecting covers for this article, I chose versions that were true to the energy and exuberance of the original. Versions that recast this song as a ballad or a torch song just didn’t do it for me. Of the versions I selected…
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
A few weeks ago, Cage The Elephant released a cover of Wreckless Eric‘s “Whole Wide World,” and a fine cover it is. Hearing it sparked a memory back to the late 1970s when the song was released by the fledgling Stiff Records (where Nick Lowe was the house producer) and became an unlikely “punk” classic. On the one hand, the song has given Eric Goulden a degree of lasting fame, and hopefully years of royalties, but on the other hand, it sadly has overshadowed Eric’s many other wonderful songs, written and performed as a solo artist, as a member of bands, and most recently with his wife, Amy Rigby, a great singer/songwriter in her own right.
According to Goulden, the genesis of the song was, as he wrote in the opening lines:
When I was a young boy
My mama said to me
“There’s only one girl in the world for you
And she probably lives in Tahiti…”