Welcome to my new blog.
Here I will be exploring the cover version, looking at specific ones, and talking about covers in general. I'm hoping to come to an understanding of why I have a mild obsession with covers, what makes a good one, and what makes a bad one.
I'm going to start with a song that, when I first heard it, I didn't actually realise was a cover.
In 1988 The Art of Noise recruited Tom Jones to do the vocals for their cover of Prince's Kiss. Although we didn't realise it at the time, it was the dawn of a new era for Tom and he was going to spend the next few years wearing black and being sexy to people half his age.
The song itself is odd, and I think I thought that at the time. I knew nothing of the Art of Noise then but the track is full of 80s samples, synths and sounds that typified their style. It came from the same era as Mello's Oh Yeah, and it sounds like it. There is so much going on, musically. If your ears could blink you would ask them not to, for fear of missing something.
It was Tom Jones, though, that brought Art of Noise into the charts. His voice is amazing, his expression throughout the clip (as if he's going to start pissing himself laughing at any time) and the fact that he was SO OLD and yet still singing about sex (but not in a creepy Tina Turner way - really if I paid for a private dancer and got that, I would be asking for a refund) was all combined to make a song that, in its own right, was fantastic.
I had heard of Prince, obviously, but I didn't realise that Kiss was a cover. I remember hearing Prince's version for the first time, on a crappy little tape deck in the computer room of my friend Budge's house. I laughed so hard. I couldn't believe that that pathetic and pissy little song actually came before the bombastic, and obviously superior version that Tom sang.
Everything about this song is ridiculous. The falsetto voice. The wimpy guitar. The empty arrangement. The whole disconess of it all. And the clip, with the tiny little man and his cute little high heel boots and crop top. The scrawny little body stripped to the waist. Singing about being sexy, of all things! I mean really, you could have someone's eye out with one of those elbows (if only he could reach that high).
And yet, unlike Tom, Prince seems to take this all incredibly seriously.He does have the odd grin and "wacky" expression, but you otherwise get the impression that it is very important to him that his woman act her age, not her shoe size, because if they don't do the twirl THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES.
But, if you follow the links and read the YouTube comments, there are Prince fans out there who love his version. It is, after all, the original.
And this brings me to my first observation. Not only do we like what we know, we tend to immediately kick back against anything that is different from the familiar. Not only did I hear the Tom Jones/Art of Noise version of Kiss first, I wasn't aware there even was another version. Had I heard the Prince version first I might have preferred it. I might look at the AoN version as some kind of sacrilege.
But I didn't and I don't. And while I obviously can't say that Prince's is, as it came first, I can (and will) say it's a good try, and an adequate first draft. And without it we never would have had the fantastic image of Tom Jones zipping up his fly.