Sometimes, when you hear a cover version of an iconic song, you have to shout, What on Earth were they thinking? It’s all a matter of taste of course, but few covers improve on the original. Probably the best approach is to do a very different version and wow people with a leftfield sound. The following is a mix of the quirky, the charming, the funny, the outrageous, and the plain insane. After you read this, you may want to lie down in a darkened room. You have been warned.
Paul Anka – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Grunge meets Lounge Lizard. In 2005, Anka released Rock Swings, an album of swing jazz covers of pop and rock songs that includes The Cure, REM, and Soundgarden. In finger snapping, cabaret style, the aging and balding veteran turns Kurt Cobain’s beautiful piece of angst into kitsch. What has he got to be angsty about? Still in his suit, he is perfectly groomed and doesn’t go as far as roughing up his hair, (what’s left of it), or sporting a cardigan. Who knew there was a disaffected teenager trying to get out? He looks tremendously self-conscious, as he should be.
Sid Vicious – My Way
Original: Frank Sinatra (English Language Version)
Originally a French song, Paul Anka wrote English lyrics and presented it to Frank Sinatra. It became Sinatra’s signature song and a staple at funerals. It has been covered numerous times and you either love or hate the punk version by the Sex Pistols’ bassist. The lyrics have a kind of screw you, I’ll do what I want, British Punk sensibility. Worthwhile just to watch Sinatra fans squirm.
Rolf Harris – Stairway to Heaven
Original: Led Zeppelin
Known for his quick fire drawing and recordings of Waltzing Matilda and Two Little Boys, the Australian performer embraced a new audience with his surprise inclusion at the Glastonbury Festival. His tongue in cheek rendition of the rock classic has a certain charm and his didgeridoo solo and wobble board accompaniment take Stairway to Heaven to places that Led Zep never dreamed of.
Pat Boone – Enter Sandman
Rock ‘n’ Roll blew Boone and others like him out of the charts in the ‘60s but the clean cut singer and actor has maintained a career over the decades. Known for his Christian activism and right wing politics, nothing could prepare the world for his album of heavy metal covers. Pat Boone goes over to the dark side. Be afraid, be very afraid. The album cover shows the crooner with an earring in his ear, displaying a bare chest, and looking like he’s just got off his Harley. The song’s arrangement has some nice jazzy instrumentation. If only he’d shut up. There’s a speaking part that is just plain creepy. Sleep with one eye open, indeed. This song could actually give you nightmares. His album of Marilyn Manson songs is scheduled for release in 2010. Sorry, I made that bit up.
Scissor Sisters – Comfortably Numb
Original: Pink Floyd
There is no sense of the alienation present in Pink Floyd’s masterpiece from The Wall. The falsetto vocal and disco backing render it harmless. It’s all rather dreamy and pleasant and is almost unrecognizable, but for the lyrics. Inexplicably, the song’s video shows a lot of cavorting in the water with jellyfish and a shark.
Peter Sellers – A Hard Day’s Night
Original: The Beatles
Peter Sellers became an international star as a comic actor and he also released several comedy records. The Beatles were fans of Sellers and their record producer, George Martin had worked with him in the 1950s. Martin produced him again on the Beatles’ covers, closing a neat circle in his career. Sellers performed versions of She Loves You, Can’t Buy Me Love, and Help! but A Hard Day’s Night was the most popular release, the lyrics spoken in the style of Lawrence Olivier’s portrayal of Shakespeare’s Richard III.
Children of Bodom Oops!… – I Did It Again
Original: Britney Spears
Britney and a Finnish heavy metal band. What a combination. Lead singer, Alexi Laiho, turns in a fine vocal or he sounds like he’s trying to cough up phlegm, depending on your point of view. The song goes into a conventional pop chorus for a while, which is quite jarring. Startling but entertaining.
Max Raabe & Palast Orchestra – Kiss
Bandleader Max Raabe hails from Berlin and performs his own brand of 1920s and 1930s style, German dance music. The orchestra’s most well known recordings are their covers of famous pop songs. They also do a version of Oops!…I Did It Again and they cover the Tom Jones song, Sex Bomb. Raabe has a cult following and performed at the Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese wedding. This version of Kiss is sophisticated but strangely sinister.
Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain – Anarchy in the UK
Original: The Sex Pistols
The UK orchestra has toured the world and appeared at Glastonbury Festival, charming audiences with their ukulele versions of pop classics, such as Bowie’s Life on Mars and The Who’s Pinball Wizard. You can’t help smiling at their gentle version of the Sex Pistols’ punk anthem with its sing along chorus. I guess anything sounds harmless on a ukulele.
William Shatner – Mr. Tambourine Man
Original: Bob Dylan
Is he an icon? Yes. Is he a fine Captain of the Enterprise? Certainly. Is he a singer? No. The Shat recorded an entire album of eccentric interpretations that include Dylan’s dreamy classic and the Beatles’ Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
He’s obviously ingested too much space dust, causing him to stress all the wrong words and perform like a lunatic. Why is he shouting at the end? The poor Tambourine Man is trying to get away. He’s running for the hills! Run, Tambourine Man, run!
Written by Anne Iredale – Copyrighted © www.weirdworm.com