Cover Versions, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find

I’m Shakin’ Triple Whammy

t and j

Y’know the maid from the old Tom & Jerry cartoons? The one with the broom and the wrinkled up stockings and the shrill, accusing “Thomas!” voice and the face you never saw? I think she’d have loved swinging that big ol’ Mammy ass around to Little Willie John‘s I’m Shakin’.

William Edward John, as he was known to his own Mammy, is an important figure in the development of R&B in the 50s and 60s. Like many of his ilk, his muse came from gospel music, alcohol abuse and the concurrent loving arms of many women. He did the original Fever (selling over 1 million copies in the process),  later covered ‘n claimed as signature tune by Peggy Lee. Little Willie John was also the originator of Need Your Love So Bad, a track so beloved of Peter Green’s blues-obsessed Fleetwood Mac. Even The Beatles were touched by John’s tunes. In the early days in Hamburg, they regularly included Leave My Kitten Alone as part of those backbreaking put-Springsteen-to shame length sets.


Little Willie John didn’t write I’m Shakin‘, that would be Rudy Toombs (who’s version seems to be forever out of the reach of these typing fingers) but it was Little Willie John’s version that pounded out of the juke joints and jive houses on the other side of the tracks, the same juke joints and jive houses that Keith Richards writes so fondly of in his autobiography. I’m Shakin’ is big, bold, bluesy and brassy and swings sweeter than Sinatra at The Sands.  If you’ve never heard it, rectify that now!

….although you may well have heard at least one version of it by now. It’s that traditional time of year when all and sundry chip their tuppence worth in to give you a rundown on the year’s most essential movers and shakers. Lists are drawn up all the way from Lerwick to Land’s End and dismantled and debated for all their worth by every 2-bit self-appointed music expert with an opinion and the ability to voice it. Folk like me love ripping those lists apart. Wilfully pretentious or missing the glaringly obvious, its easy to do.

jack white portrait with guitar

Mojo’s Album of the Year went to Jack White‘s Blunderbuss, which was kinda a return to White Stripes territory. Riff-based, part guitar, part keyboard and featuring a whole lotta whoopin’ and a hollerin’, God-fearin’ Jack, it featured a version of I’m Shakin’ that turned Little Willie John’s Memphis Horns riff into a Led Zeppelin funk of a record, squealy guitar solo ‘n all. The genius part of it all is when Jack takes the original ‘I’m jittery‘ lyric and replaces it with ‘I’m Bo Diddley‘, replete with a perfectly-timed Jerome Green-inspired maraca rattle. For a rhythmically-challenged Ayrshireman like me, Jack’s I’m Shakin’ is manna from heaven.


Best known for their raucous mix of R&B, country and blues, The Blasters version from 1981 is actually pretty tame in comparison. Maybe it’s the 80s production or the fact that The Blasters sound anything like their name would have you believe, but to these ears it’s more of an I’m Shruggin’ than I’m Shakin’. Is that the best you can do? Really? Perhaps you had to be there. In 1981 I was doing the dandy highwayman dance to Stand & Deliver, so I’m probably not the most qualified to comment.


Cover Versions

Our Friends Eclectic

Forever just that one crucial half-step behind the hip and happening, tonight finds Plain Or Pan puffing, panting, gasping and wheezing in order to bring you the most exciting thing I’ve just heard since, oooh, well, the last exciting thing I’ve just heard (that’td be the Danger Mouse album, scroll down a wee bit). Aye. Most of you will no doubt at least have heard of these tracks by now and will possibly have them already. Some of the more astute amongst you may even have actual physical shiny black vinyl copies of a couple of the tracks. If so, bear with me. And do tip me off about such things in future. For the rest of you who pop over here from time to time, I bring you The Dead Weather.


Aye. the Dead Weather. An electro-blues based guitar supergroup of sorts. Featuring a Queen of the Stone Age on guitar, a Raconteur/Greenhorne on bass, a Kill on sulky vocals and the multi-talented Jack White on yer drums. A line-up like that could be a catastrophe in the making but no, everything I’ve heard so far sounds just as you’d expect. Distorted vocals. Crunching riffs. Stops. Starts. Squealy bits. To compare The Dead Weather to that drummer’s other 2 bands would be folly. The White Stripes? Bluesy, loud, fantastic, but the drummer cannae  play for toffee. The Raconteurs? They’ve taken their history classes in classic guitar rock, filtered out the worst excesses and passed the test with flying colours. And a decent drummer. Kick out the jams and all that. The Dead Weather? Aye. All of the above and more. They sound NOW!, not retro. These tracks have all been floating around cyberspace for a wee while now, but the versions below are the best quality mp3s around.

Hang You From The Heavens (First singe. Track 1 on Horehound)

Are Friends Electric? (b-side to single. Gary Numan/Tubeway Army cover)

Treat Me Like Your Mother (track 2 on Horehound, out July 14th)

They’re all fantastic, but on first listens alone, Treat Me Like Your Mother makes it straight into my Best of The Year compilation that I pass out to friends every Christmas. A duet of sorts ‘tween singer n’ drummer, it sounds like Led Zeppelin battling it out with PJ Harvey. It’s that good. “M.A.N.I.P. Yooolate!” If I had it on vinyl, it’d be worn down to the thickness of a flexi-disc by now. As I don’t, the only only other thing that’s puffing, panting, gasping and wheezing round here is Windows Media Player. Even it’s not fed up of The Dead Weather yet. Unlike that Danger Mouse album, if truth be told (!)