Cover Versions, Gone but not forgotten, Sampled

It’s Funk, Jah, But Not As We Know It

This record will be 50 years old this year…half a century young and still sounding like nothing that’s been before or since. Well, to a point…

Lee Perry‘s Jungle Lion is vintage Perry, from the stoned, lion roaring madman-isms at the beginning to the sun-baked skank as the record’s groove kicks in, to the echoing brass refrain that lifts the recording up and out to the moon and back, the hook that keeps the whole acid-fried masterpiece from falling apart.

Lee PerryJungle Lion (7″ mix)

The production on Jungle Lion is insane. The band is locked in and tight, bass and drums laying the groundwork, that wet slap of chicka-chicka guitar adding the scratchy colour like a toddler with a crayon dragged across a piece of paper; messy, unique and creative. Perry toasts over the top in his own freeform fashion, the needles of the mixing desk accelerating far to the right and stuck in the red as he ‘Ughs’ and ‘Aows’ and ‘ch-ch-chs’ his way across the top. ‘Dan-dee-layon! Jung-gal layon! Fay-ah!‘ It’s funk, Jah, but not as we know it.

That brass refrain. The hook. You’ll definitely have heard that elsewhere. The keener scholars around these parts will point to Al Green‘s Love And Happiness and take the bonus round for 15 points, please, Jeremy.

Al GreenLove And Happiness

Now, I don’t know quite what wizardry The Upsetter was capable of manifesting inside Black Ark, but it seems to me – and I may be well off the mark here – that Perry sampled, yet didn’t sample, the horn refrain from Al Green. What I mean is, the refrain on Perry’s track is the same music, not merely a version played by Perry’s horn section, but sampling wasn’t a thing in 1973…or was it? Exactly what technology was available to maverick studio heads with no boundaries and serious creativity overload?

My thinking is that Perry simply played Al Green’s track and, using a studio microphone set up next to the speaker where Love And Happiness blasted forth, recorded what came out. Remember how, back in the days before ghetto blasters with in-built radios, you used to tape the charts? Yeah, exactly like that.

So Perry takes Green’s track – the delicious guitar riff in the intro as well as the horn refrain – and builds his own warped and inventive take on a soul classic. Nothing new in this of course – most reggae tracks began life as sun-baked covers of the soul music that crackled and crept across the US services airwaves and onto the Caribbean – but Lee Perry’s masterstroke is in the direct lifting rather than the direct copying that his peers would do.

Al Green’s original is such a great track. Stately yet understated, quietly assured and coasting on a slow fever bed of warm hammond and honeyed brass, the perfect foil for the Reverend’s measured, restrained vocal.

He always surrounded himself with great musicians, did Al, from the Rhodes sisters on backing vocals, to the slow ‘n steady Al Jackson Jnr on drums and Leroy Hodges on bass, to his guitar player and sometime-co-writer (and brother of Leroy) Teenie Hodges. I’ve written about Teenie before, a relative unknown in the guitar world but, for me, a guitarist whio appeals to me far more than some of the usual names who appear on those ‘Best Guitarists Ever’ lists. He’s such a fluid player, Hodges, clean and clear, with the most delicate of touches. Those fingers can hover an inch above the frets and his guitar will sing, clean and chiming, bluesy and soulful. No wonder Lee Perry was keen to employ him in whichever manner he could get away with.

One great horn refrain, two outstanding records.

 

Cover Versions, Hard-to-find, Sampled

Cavernous

Housed in a sleeve that suggests free movement, fluidity and motion; the gentle, undulating swirls, the band name written on two contrasting axes, Liquid Liquid‘s Optimo EP is a product of New York’s imperial post-punk phase, a fertile, ‘anything goes’ period that encouraged – demanded, even – individualism and originality. For extra homework, you might want to check out ESG, The Contortions or Bush Tetras. For now though, find your feet with Liquid Liquid.

With its pots ‘n pans poly tempo, the lead track Optimo borrows the feel of its window-rattling rhythm from Booker T’s Soul Limbo, before firing off in brave new directions; jittery, staccato lead vocals, bass-as-lead-instument, the piston pattern of steaming hi-hats, the sum of its mish-mash of musical styles old and yet to come making something that’s altogether inherently brand new. It’s no coincidence that the multi-genre embracing ’90s club night at Glasgow’s Sub Club was named after the track.

Liquid LiquidOptimo

The EP is most interesting and celebrated, perhaps, for the track Cavern. It’s the bass line, obviously, that pricks the ears. It leaps, flying off the record to skelp you round the chops with a ‘wherehaveyouheardmebefore,eh?‘ smack of familiarity. A chrome-covered aerodynamic pulse, its cave-like sound, moving-ever forward and flowing was, for all I know, an influence on both the band’s name and their best-known track. It was certainly an influence on hip-hop, that bassline, although more of that later.

Liquid LiquidCavern *

The drums, shuffling, sparse and fat-free, showed that the most powerful music doesn’t always need an earthquake of percussion to propel it forwards. There’s some lovely shaker action all the way through, keeping it less rock and just on the right side of funky. I’d imagine Reni of the Stone Roses would enjoy playing along to this. The vocals, sparse and infrequent, almost an afterthought to the groove, throw up little melodic phrases and half-lines that, funny this!, were also an influence on the hip-hop community. Indeed, if you can’t hear the recognisable melodies and key words (and musical interludes and tempo and general vibe) that form the vocal for Grandmaster Flash‘s White Lines, where have you been all this time?

Yes, not content with copying – not sampling – the bassline, Flash took a liberal dose of the vocal’s style and phrasing and – ooh-whu-ite – created a version of Crystal that was far more reaching than anyone could ever have anticipated.

Initially, Liquid Liquid were flattered. Hearing White Lines adopt their bassline (and vocal inflections…and melodic interludes…) and have it boom from the subway-shocking soundsytems in Manhattan’s clubs – higher baby! – hearing their vocals aped and added to – higher baby!! – hearing their track get an epoch-defining makeover, replete with a boxfresh rap and more hooks than an Ali 15-rounder – higher baby!!! – was quite the thrill, until – don’t ever come down! – the thorny issue of copyright and plagiarism reared its dollar-happy head. Slip in and out of phenomena, indeed.

Grandmaster FlashWhite Lines

There’s only ever one winner in this type of fight, and it tends not to be the creators who benefit, Both Liquid Liquid and Sugarhill Records, the label who’d issued White Lines, were ordered to pay legal costs that ultimately led to both parties winding down, citing lack of funds as the reason.

Full Time from the City of New York:

Finance 2 – 0 Culture

 

* there are two versions of Cavern on this one sound file. I’ve no idea how I did this or how to fix it. So enjoy Cavern Cavern by Liquid Liquid Liquid Liquid.

Cover Versions, demo

Flow Motion

What’s not to like about this! It’s A Certain Ratio, covering Talking Heads, on a track intended for Grace Jones, that features a guide vocal from the band’s Jez Kerr that ended up being on the released version. Mined from the band’s archives a couple of years ago and represented in new light on their all-encompassing 40-year anniversary box set, Houses In Motion bears all the hallmarks of classic ACR.

A Certain RatioHouses In Motion

(Mute Records/Kevin Cummins)

It’s the bassline that hits you first. A fluid and chrome monster, it falls halfway between the mercurial slink of the O’Jays’ For The Love Of Money and an on-the-one makeover of the theme to Cheggers Plays Pop. The vocal, deadpan and spoken, apes David Byrne’s original, a hollowed-out shell of existential pondering and angst. Caught in the eye of his own storm, Kerr seems nonplussed as his band knock several shades of post-punk funk from the track.

(Mute Records/Kevin Cummins)

Rattling, metronomic, beatbox percussion keeps the beat slow and steady before the guitars, scratchy and metallic, creep their way into the mix, dropping out and in again at the end of the lines, filling in the vocal-free sections. Echoing trumpets, heavily filtered through the mixing desk help to date the track – think Pigbag and Teardrop Explodes, even the Jam… any band from the era that saw out the ’70s and saw in the ’80s with an ‘anything goes’ approach to instrumentation. Off it flies, the brass section heralding the intent to take the track upwards and skywards. I’m glad ACR discovered they had it during that archival archaeological dig of theirs.

Talking Heads‘ original is, of course, also a beauty.

Talking HeadsHouses In Motion

It’s total claustrophobic funk that, with its bubbling bass and car horn keyboards, brings to mind Prince’s ridiculously pervy Lady Cab Driver. It’s more out there in places than ACR’s cover – those scatter-gunning, free-flowing trumpets, for example – and Byrne’s call-and-response vocals that almost fall into Slippery People‘s ‘Whats a-matter witchu?‘ hook; no bad thing, clearly…like the rest of Remain In Light, the track’s parent album. But you knew that already.

Cover Versions, Gone but not forgotten, Sampled

Knuckles Rapped

There was a terrible version of You’ve Got The Love a few years ago, a windswept and earnest cover that was drama school in delivery and hive-inducing in reception. Florence & The Machine had chosen to close their festival slots with it and there were enough enthralled and taste-free people giving thumbs up around the band that their record company rush-released a version. It was all over the radio like a rash in need of antihistamine, its Asda-priced Kate Bushisms making me almost crash the car more than once. Sting. King.

The source (aye!) of Florence’s version was the deep throb of The Source‘s track, recorded with finger clickin’ soul survivor Candi Staton on vocals.

The Source feat. Candi StatonYou’ve Got The Love

Taking her vocal line from the motivating commentary on a keep fit video – ‘sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air…sometimes it feels the going is just too rough…I know I can count on you‘ – Staton’s delivery ensured something of classic cut status for the track.

Many people wouldn’t have realised the record was essentially a cover. Indeed, for most chart music-buying folks, the record’s 5-note bassline and viralish, ear-worming keyboard motif would be their first unknown introduction to Frankie Knuckles.

Waaaay back in the years when house music was first thumping and throbbing its way from the sweaty basements of Chicago to the switched-on fringes of the mainstream, New Yorker Knuckles teamed up with Chicago soul singer Jamie Principle and hotwired his original soulful vocal to a tune that was at once progressive, deep, emotional and zeitgeist-riding.

In an era when (Stateside especially) hair metal was the mainstream’s thing, when The Smiths were putting out The Queen Is Dead and every other guitar band in the country was hanging on to their jangling coat tails, Knuckles was busy programming sequencers and drum machines – MC80s, 303s, 707s and 808s – to create a record that still resonates today. If How Soon Is Now is, as was said, the indie Stairway To Heaven, Frankie Knuckles’ Your Love is dance music’s She Loves You.

Frankie KnucklesYour Love

The record kicked doors down. It gatecrashed the notion of what ‘dance music’ was, and what it was not. It wasn’t a hundred mile an hour electro pogo. It wasn’t base and derivative. It wasn’t (always) an anonymous guy hiding behind a rack of technology while a lip-synching beauty mimed her way atop the caterwaulings of a session singer. This particular brand of dance music was forward-thinking, cerebral and deeply soulful. As it turned out, it was pretty much timeless too.

Your Love‘s rattling, reverberating snare must’ve sounded wonderful clattering off the walls of the Hacienda, even on a half-empty Wednesday night in February. Me? I wouldn’t know. I was too busy twisting my fingers into Smiths riffs and worrying about the length of the sleeves on my cardigan. I caught up in time though.

The sequenced keyboard line that formed the melodic hook of The Source’s cover is, at source (ha, again) hypnotising and trance-inducing, the Jungle Book’s Kaa and his spiralling snake eyes set to music. Its bassline is massive; instantly recognisable and capable of inducing Proustian rushes in even the most pasty-faced of guitar band-lovers when heard unexpectedly. It builds beautifully, from sparse electro through keyboard swells and man/woman gospelish harmonising to deep-breathing backing vocals, tasteful foreplay to the wham-bam of Lil’ Louis’ French Kiss, if you will.

I can’t let go’, sings Principle, as the song builds to its steamy-windowed climax, a notion that I wholeheartedly subscribe to. Your Love is a great record, propulsive and soulful house in the vein of Promised Land, both Joe Smooth’s original and the Style Council’s faithful reworking. I can’t let go indeed.

Cover Versions, Get This!

You’re Not Looking Forward And You Are Not Looking Back

Girls At Our Best!  – that exclamation mark is important – were the product of a fertile Yorkshire post-punk scene. The Leeds band bore all the hallmarks of the era; individuality, style, self-administered haircuts, socialist tendencies, scratchy guitars and articulate lyrics that when sung teetered on the edge of being in tune. In an ‘anything goes’ era, GAOB! grabbed it and ran, half a pace behind front runners Slits, but easily keeping up with the likes of Au Pairs and Delta 5.

Fiercely independent, their self-financed debut single is arguably their best known. 1980’s Getting Nowhere Fast is a riot of fizzing guitars, shouty refrains and sudden endings. 

Girls At Our Best!  – Getting Nowhere Fast

Metronome tight, the guitar shoots angry sparks, the bass bounces up and down the octaves – that repeating, descending and divebombing run is a beauty – and the drums punctuate the end of every verse with a window rattling rat-a-tat military precision. I bet this sounded absolutely brilliant in a wee room with a low ceiling and a couple of pints swilling about inside the stomach. Being 10 going on 11 at the time of its release, I can only imagine.

I first discovered Getting Nowhere Fast via fellow Leeds band The Wedding Present. Their Anyone Can Mistake A Mistake single had a version on the b-side and although I’d worked out it was a cover, in a pre-internet era it would be a long time before I would track down the original. By default, The Wedding Present’s version – slightly throwaway but honest – was long-considered the definitive one, even if I’ve come to really like GAOB!’s more disciplined approach.  

The Wedding PresentGetting Nowhere Fast

Eschewing the original’s solid and steady mid-paced chug for something altogether more immediate and frantic, Wedding Present attack the track with everything they have  “Quick lads!” shouts the tape op. “We’ve got two minutes of tape left…see what you can do.” And off they fly, shaving a full 20 seconds off the original’s already brief running time.

All Wedding Present markers are in place; rattling, chattering electric guitars that by the middle eight are being played by knackered wrists and bleeding, raw knuckles, a bassline as solid and gnarly as an old tree, drums that sound like they might be falling down three flights of tenement stairs, the meat ‘n potatoes delivery…If you didn’t know it was a cover you’d swear it was one of David Gedge’s very best, although he really missed a trick by not renaming this version Getting Nowhere Faster

 

Alternative Version, Cover Versions, demo, Hard-to-find

Double Dekker

It miek‘ is Jamaican patois for ‘told you so‘ or ‘serves you right‘. You get caught doing something you’ve been told not to do? It miek, man. It miek.

Desmond Dekker took the phrase and used it as both title and hook for his summer of ’69 smash hit. A proper slice of lilting rudeboy reggae, It Miek is aural sunshine for the start of September. Summer over? Not round here, mate.

Desmond Dekker & The AcesIt Miek

I’ve always wondered about the wee vocal precursor that opens the track. Stone me if it ain’t a sweet ‘n soulful, adlibbing vocal warm-up of Ave Maria, nudged gently aside when the skanking beat comes in, driven by rootsy bass and rocksteady drums. By the time Desmond has started his vocal proper, the guitars are doing the chicken scratch on the off-beat, a clanging bar-room piano is bashing out the chords and, most thrilling of all, honeyed horns from heaven burst their way in and herald the vocal refrain.

If y’listen carefully, you might notice the bit where it’s almost impossible to tell where the trombone slide ends and the vocal slide begins. If y’listen really carefully, you might hear a young Kevin Rowland scribbling notes and plotting his future. As I type, a little bit of bare wood floor has been worn away and polished as my feet do a soft shoe shuffle in time to the infectious rhythm. If y’don’t like this, y’don’t like anything.

Desmond Dekker was a clear influence on that late ’60s mod scene. The close crop, the three button mohair suits, the attention to detail in both sound and vision, he’s an embodiment of Mod’s ‘clean living under difficult circumstances’ mantra.

Over in mid ’80s Manchester, another gang of music obsessed clothes horses with an eye for the minutiae were doing their best to steal without anyone noticing. Shaun Ryder, magpie-eyed thief-in-chief of Happy Mondays liberally went about strangulating some of the melody from The Beatles’ Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – itself a skanking reggae tune, as you know, where McCartney namechecks ‘Desmond’ – and, with the help of that clattering industrial funk that HM do so well, turned it into a new Happy Mondays’ tune called, unashamedly, Desmond.

Happy MondaysDesmond

I mean, it’s not really Ob-La-Di… is it? Maybe if Shaun had sung the first couple of lines in tune it’d have been more apparent, but that lolloping, elastic band bassline and incessant, chirping guitar steers it far from the mouth of the Mersey and deeper towards a whole new sound that was brewing at the time.

Nonetheless, Michael Jackson, who at the time owned the rights to The Beatles’ catalogue, sent his lawyers straight round and quicker than you could yelp ‘Beat It!‘ the Mondays were forced to withdraw their debut album from sale, delete the offending Desmond and replace it with another tune. It miek, Shaun. It miek.

That other tune though would be Twenty Four Hour Party People and would propel Happy Mondays onto the more discerning turntables around the country, with fame and infamy not much further away than the width of a Joe Bloggs hem. A lucky break.

*Bonus Track!

Here’s a fantastic light and sparkling, piano-free run through of The Beatles doing Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da from one of those Anthology albums from yesteryear. Jigsawed together from a couple of takes, this joyful and carefree outfake gives the offically released version a decent run for its money, sprightly scrubbed acoustic guitars and lightly toasted ‘la-la-la-la-la-la‘ backing vocals vying for earspace between the skronking sax and occasional ‘chick-a-boom‘ interludes. McCartney’s woody, thunking bassline is a beauty too. Get on it!

The BeatlesOb-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (Anthology version)

Cover Versions, Gone but not forgotten

Melancholic Cowboy Noir

I once blew the chance of an interview with Nancy Sinatra after she took exception to the ‘Phil Spector’ handle under which I wrote.at the time. “Why on earth would I want to be interviewed by Phil Spector?” she asked aghast, failing to realise that it wasn’t yr actual wig-headed murderer that was cold calling and asking for the chance to chat about making records with Morrissey. “He was a strange, strange, man and I want nothing to do with him.” Fair point, Nancy. Fair point. Lesson learned – never use daft pseudonyms on the internet. I should have signed up to her long-gone fan forum under my real name.

Those records Nancy Sinatra made with Lee Hazlewood defy both time and pigeonholing. Often kitsch and sometimes countryish yet nearly always lush and orchestral, their parping brass and earthquaking vocal lines may well have wafted straight offa the grooves of a Tindersticks or a Cat Power record. Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue vamping it up on ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow‘? Pure Lee ‘n Nancy, The entire whispered, gothic ouvre of Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell? Total Lee ‘n Nancy. Their influence, committed to wax over half a century ago, still resonates.

If James Bond had been a lonesome, wandering cowboy, Summer Wine may well have been his theme tune.

Summer WineNancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood

This version of Summer Wine wasn’t the first one Hazlewood had recorded with a female sparring partner – the first version features little-known actress Suzi Jane Hokom – but the better-known take, using the original backing track slowed down to treacle-wading levels of sluggishness, is the one you need.

Road-worn and roughed up, yet clean and pretty, it’s the perfect summation of all things Lee ‘n Nancy. The ping-ponging vocals – she crystal clear and high registered, he singing from the soles of his grit covered cowboy boots – sound like they’ve been recorded in separate studios and miles apart, yet they’re woven together into a time-shifting storyline of mutual seduction with a twist in its tail. Lee is the silver-spurred outlaw, a stranger in town that jingles his way into the consciousness of bored local flirt Nancy. Together, (adopts Hart To Hart voiceover) it wasn’t quite moida, but (spoiler alert!) Lee awakes after a night of metaphorical summer wine to find both Nancy and his boots have gone.

It’s a great record, from the sweeping strings that droop and divebomb in direct proportion to Hazlewood’s handlebar moustache to the honeyed brass section that vamps its way towards John Barry’s signature Bond riff hoping that no-one, least of all Barry’s lawyers, will notice. The assembled musicians, most likely members of the Wrecking Crew although information on that is scant to non-existent, strum, scrape and snap their way through it, laid back and louche, melancholic cowboy noir in a clip-clopping minor key. Stirring stuff.

Summer Wine is practically a standard these days and has been recorded by many.

Lana del Ray and her then-partner, Barrie-James O’Neill (from Scots nearly-weres Kassidy) soundtracked a terrific home video of hazy Californian beaches, Laurel Canyon porches and windswept hair with their take on the track. Adding the audio to the visuals makes the video feel like some bleached-out, drawn-out Hollister advert, but don’t let that discourage you from what is a great version. Lana’s suitably femme fatale-ish vocals; sultry, close-miked and just on the right side of huffy are a good foil for O’Neill’s tobacco-coated Scots’ croon. Extra points for the none-more-Lee moustache.

Cover Versions, Live!

Punch And Judy

D’you know those stop-frame films you see of flowers coming to bloom; papery petals uncurling delicately, jerking their way outwards and skywards, opening fully at the end to reveal their true beauty? That’s exactly like the understated elegance of a Rufus Wainwright melody.

We went to see him for the first time on Saturday night. We knew his music – we’ve long steeped ourselves in those early album career highs, Want 1 and Want 2 and we’d marvelled once again at the classy major 7ths and restrained dynamics of the pocket symphony that is Going To A Town many times over as we got ready to go – so we know how his melodies start simply enough before taking a life of their own to soar upwards beyond the sun and moon, but we weren’t quite prepared for just how powerful it all is in the live setting.

Man! That Rufus can sing! At Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Bandstand it’s just him, his ruby red slippers and his piano, occasionally his guitar, so there’s nothing to hide behind. It’s open aired, the cultured audience is supping on wine and gin and craft beers and the weather is dry. They want to be entertained and Rufus’s voice wafts across the venue, ear therapy for the non-moshers of the world. The voice is the one true star. That and the piano playing. He can play the fuck out of that thing. Triplets on the bass notes, rippling runs from the very top of the scales that cascade down and up and down again, thunderous chords and jarring discordant atonalities – Rufus can do it all.

That’s a bit too Tchaikovksy,” he self-deprecates as he brings one of Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk‘s final verses to a flamboyant false ending, before proceeding to play Satie-inflected freeform jazz to close it out. Genius is an oft-overused word these days. Not so much virtuoso, perhaps, but Rufus is clearly a bit of both.

He plays Vibrate, its Britney Spears-referencing lyric resonating with the capacity crowd. The voice is crystal clear, fluttering between notes, finding in the spaces new notes that don’t exist in normal singers’ registeries. He fluffs a line in the chorus, mutters ‘fuck it‘ and keeps going. He arrives at the big, showstopping ‘Viiiii….iiii…..iiii….iii….braaa…..aaaaa…..aaaaa…..te‘ line and the audience as one holds its breath for a good 30 seconds until he reaches the end. Get a stopwatch and try it. Then imagine performing it in front of a full house on a Glasgow Saturday night, while playing a grand piano and dressed from the ankles down like Judy Garland. Balls doesn’t begin to describe it. And as for ‘showstopping’…it was third or fourth song in. There was plenty way to go before Rufus would arrive at ‘showstopping’.

The beauty and power and brilliance of the voice is even more obvious whenever Rufus picks up his guitar. He’s a rudimentary player at best, open handedly strumming open chords as if he’s only just been acquanited with six strings. Greek Song‘s clip clopping rhythm, interspersed with a stomp of the red-bowed Dorothy flats at appropriate moments, is a good example. A couple of chords in the verse, the same chords in the chorus, it’s real beginner’s guitar stuff here, yet the voice transends it all. ‘You who were born with the sun above your shoulders,’ he sings to some Greek god, real or imaginary, ‘You turn me on, you turn me on, you have to know.’ The guitar playing is primary school level, but the voice is unteachable. You don’t need to be special on the guitar when the one instrument you’ve been God-given is so divine. How exactly do you squeeze such flyaway melodies from a D chord and an A chord? Exactly where that comes from is anyone’s guess. David Gedge never managed that. I doubt even McCartney could reach some of the melodic heights Rufus reaches.

Rufus WainwrightGoing To A Town

(Pinched from Twitter)

Back for an encore, he slays us with a one-two of Going To A Town and Hallelujah. Going To A Town is stripped back, angry, beautiful and resonant. ‘Do you really think you go to hell for having loved?‘ It’s missing those high female ‘tell mes’ that colour the recorded version, but you barely notice. When he gets to the ‘I may just never see you again‘ line, his voice takes off into orbit, two thousand folk hanging on to its wispy trail. Astonishing stuff.

I can’t be doing with Hallelujah, truth be told. It’s overplayed. TV reality shows have killed that for me. Even Jeff Buckley’s peerless version hasn’t been heard within these four walls for many a year. Yet Rufus nails it, the voice off and out into the West End ether as he takes a theatrical bow and leaves us with a final glimpse of his beautiful hair, backlit in orange and red and blue, the crowd on its feet and ecstatic. I might’ve liked a 14th Street or a Go Or Go Ahead to complete the night, but I ain’t complainin’. Rufus Wainwright understands the old adage of leave ’em wanting more. A proper showman, he more than delivers.

*Bonus Track

From one golden voiced vocalist to another, here’s George Michael‘s faithful reworking of Going To A Town. A master interpreter, he knew a good tune when he heard it. You knew that already though.

George MichaelGoing To A Town

Cover Versions, Football

Grim Fairytale Avoided

To enjoy the feast, you must first experience the famine.

That’s me misquoting Chick Young, BBC Sport Scotland’s football reporter, a man much-maligned but one who seemingly has a soft spot for the wee teams and community clubs who win little in the way of silverware and league titles, but who continually go to-to-toe with the commercial nous of the big two Glasgow clubs.

In something of a role reversal, it was my team Kilmarnock who were considered the big team, the big scalp, this season. Relegated a year ago in front of 500 socially-distanced supporters, we’ve huffed and puffed in a Championship where we were expected to take the game to our under-funded and under-supported opponents each week and sweep them aside in a display of breathless, free-flowing, attacking football. I’d say each Saturday, but, being the big team, many of our games were televised on the Friday night; games in which we regularly self-imploded by contriving to lose an early goal and then frustratingly fail to break down the opposition. Twenty minutes away to our bitter rivals Ayr aside, where we were three up before anyone’s pie had gone cold, breathless, free-flowing, attacking football was rather thin on the ground.

And yet, we found ourselves top of the league and by Friday night we would wrap up the title if we could only beat Arbroath, the tiny part-time team who had continually out-fought, out-thought, out-played and out-pointed every other team in the league.

Managed by the ‘charismatic’ and ever-quotable old-school manager Dick Campbell, Arbroath were everyone’s second-favourite team. Just as Scotland go head-to-head with Ukraine soon in a match that no-one outside of Scotland wants to see Scotland win, Killie found themselves in the position of being the panto villains, the party spoilers, the most-hated team in the country. If you weren’t wearing blue and white stripes, you were wishing and hoping that wee Arbroath could pull off the (not really a) shock required. In our three previous encounters, Kilmarnock had failed to score a single goal and had they scored one more than us on Friday night, they’d have leapfrogged us into first place with one game remaining. Everyone; the BBC commentators, Rangers fans, neutrals, all wanted an Arbroath fairytale win.

Arbroath did their bit, aided by a poor referee who saw nothing wrong in a bad tackle on the edge of the Arbroath box, and, as the Kilmarnock players remonstrated, an Arbroath player ran the length of the pitch, squared the ball sideways and a cool tap in saw the perfect conclusion to their counter-attacking breakaway. Killie 0 – 1 Arbroath.

The game was turgid, Killie dragged into playing long-ball football and frustrated by a team who slowed the game down at every opportunity, wasted time and employed every level of shithousery known in the name of anti-football football. Effective, though. Outside of East Ayrshire, the country celebrated and dreamed. By half time, the fairytale was within touching distance, but a fired-up Killie would sweep aside any notions of upset in a fly-past and one-sided second half. We left it late. Very late.

Wee Burke came off the bench. Off-form since being injured early in the season, this was rumoured to be the veteran’s last game. If so, he kept his best performance for a night when 10,000 home fans would be chanting his name in delight at the drive, determination and dribbling skills he had in his last twenty minutes locker. He sent over dangerous corner after dangerous corner and, after Shaw had seen his powerful downwards header sclaffed off the line,Taylor followed it up and slammed it into the roof of the net. The 80th minute equaliser was met with an explosion of noise heard as far away as deepest, southest Ayrshire. One goal wasn’t enough to win the league though. Continual Killie pressure prevailed. The Arbroath goalie was playing the game of his life, clearly injured yet turning shots round the post, over the bar, like Dino Zoff in his prime. Real Roy of the Rovers stuff. We battered and battered his goal. A winner would surely come.

It did. Late in the 89th minute, a beautifully-weighted long ball down the right saw Lafferty cooly control and pass it in one sweeping movement. Shaw, our number 9 controlled on the edge of the box and, as the clock turned to 90 minutes, laid it off for the on-rushing Alston, an attacking midfielder who for most of the season has come in for an unfair amount of stick. Alston shifted the ball smartly from left foot to right and, without breaking stride, stroked it home. Bottom right corner, the keeper static. Alston’s top was off and windmilling wildly above his head before the ball had even nestled properly in the net. The entire team, the subs behind the goal, even Hemming our goalie, displaying a Bolt-like sprinting ability to run the length of our hated plastic pitch, piled on Alston the hero. Watching back on the telly, I spotted a former pupil, a ball boy for the night, right in the middle of the celebrations. Scenes, as they say. A real, scripted, Hollywood ending, even if, for most of the country, the wrong team won in the end. Grim fairytale avoided.

Killie last won the league in 1965. Since then, they’ve been relegated to the lowest league, worked their way back up through the ’80s – never winning a title, always going up as runners-up – and, until last season, had spent 28 years in the top flight. It’s not often then that Killie fans see their team win a league. Any league. It’s great to be back where we belong.

Otis ClayThe Only Way Is Up

Many (most?) folk assume that The Only Way Is Up was written for Yazz. Not true. Matt Black and Jonathan More – Coldcut to you and I – had a microscopic knowledge of rare and under-appreciated soul and recognised the potential in Otis Clay’s 1980 little-known original. Adding snatches of samples and a busy, train-like rhythm to a glossy, hi-nrg house production, they sat back in their swivly producers’ chairs and watched as it rattled and thumped its way to the top of the charts.

The original bears all the hallmarks of classic soul; chicken scratch guitar, sweeping disco strings and stabbing brass. If you didn’t know better, you could be be convinced it’s a street-smart cover of a ubiquitous ’80s pop classic, when in fact Clay’s version is the original. You knew that already though.

 

Cover Versions, Get This!, Gone but not forgotten

Won’t You Tell It To Me Doctor?

I’m particularly fond of this wee Teenage Fanclub curio. One half of a 2004 split single with International Airport (the side project of long-time Pastel Tom Crossley), each act has their version of the ‘Airport’s Association! on either side of the 7″.

Teenage FanclubAssociation!

Teenage Fanclub’s version is a lovely mid-paced chugger that grooves along at exactly the same pace and rhythm as Gerry Love tapping a battered desert boot while snapping a gub full of Juicy Fruit in time to the beat. It’s head nodding sunshine pop, all fruggable bassline and lazy, hazy double harmonies where Norman’s voice and Gerard’s seemingly mesh and melt into one another. The guitars, scrapy and scratchy at the start but clean and chiming fromm thereon in, rise and fall and ring and sparkle behind the vocals, acceding on occasion to the faintest of tinkling pitched percussion and the same thrumming atmospheric organ that fades in at the beginning.

It’s just about missing a handful of swinging fringes and some John Sebastian-conducted Lovin’ Spoonful on-the-beat handclaps, but feel free to add your own where you know they should go. You’ll probably want to pick it up a bit after the band drops out before coming back in alongside those ghosting backing vocals – “Won’t you tell it to me doctor?” Lovely stuff, it must be said.

Association! wouldn’t have sounded at all out of place on the following year’s Man Made album, but as you know, all the best bands  – The Beatles, XTC, New Order, The Smiths, (add your own selection  here: ________) – leave some of their greatest material off of the albums and keep them instead as stand alone tracks. Despite being a cover, Association! endures to this day as one of TFC’s best-kept secrets.

It’s somewhat difficult to make out lyrically, and not being well-known enough to appear on any of the internet’s lyric sites means much guesswork is required to work out what’s being sung. Repeated plays – and I’ve been playing it non-stop again for the past couple of days – throw up references to Castle Bay, boats, moving water, on the wreck of the Association – it’s about a boat! – and, I’ve got myself convinced, something about a Rubik’s Cube.

I mean, I dunno. The Fanclub could sing the obituaries page in last week’s Herald and make it sound like throw-away sun-kissed perfection, but on this track their melodic mumbling prevails. Phonetically though, it sounds wonderful.

I’m part of the association, the circle of the free….

stereo music…yeah it’s a part of me.”

Or something like that.

The original throws up no further clues…

International AirportAssociation! Channel Mash

Even tinklier than TFC’s version, and that’s a melodica in there too, isn’t it? – International Airport’s take has a home-made rough around the edges feel to it that I suspect most acts would have trouble capturing in their own way. There’s a lovely cyclical bassline to it, different to Gerry’s but no less wonderful, and some off-kilter harmonies that only add to the charm. Aggi Pastel wafts in and out at the tail end of some of the lines – “now you gotta wait and see” – and the drop-out on this version has some lovely rudimentary wheezy slide guitar accompanying the overlapping vocals.

What’s clear to hear is that International Airport had grand plans for their song – it’s lo-fi but with hi-fi ambitions – and that perhaps those plans could only be realised through Teenage Fanclub’s gift for a close-knit harmony and a closely-mic’d vintage guitar. Great songs are great songs are great songs though, no matter the bells and whistles you can hang on them. But I suspect you knew that already.

Now, does anybody have a full lyric for the song?