I mentioned last Saturday how the b-side of the single by Zones reminded me so much of the late 70s era three-bar blues style of Status Quo who remained one of the most popular and biggest selling bands in the UK even as punk, new wave and electronica gained footings in the music world. I was of an age that only knew that particular version of the Quo and wasn’t aware till many years later, when I saw footage from a 1968 Top of the Pops show that was part of a music series the BBC were broadcasting that I learned the band had started out making what is has been described as psychedelic pop.

Pictures of Matchstick Men was their first Top 10 hit single and was a song heavily influenced by the popular sounds of its time such as later-era Beatles and Beach Boys and contemporary bands such as Pink Floyd. I’m not a huge lover of the psychedelic pop genre – this might come down to a lack of exposure to it from my mum and dad (see last Monday’s posting!!) although there one or two songs I can listen to now and again such as Itchykoo Park by Small Faces and Happy Together by The Turtles.

The Quo 45 was the subject of a cover version in 1989 by Camper Van Beethoven who, just four years earlier, had been responsible for one of the finest, most enduring and most fun singles of the mid 80s:-

mp3 : Camper Van Beethoven – Take The Skinheads Bowling

I’d never heard the cover version before I picked up a second-hand copy the other week and I was hoping for a quirky take on it given that this was the period when the band had a violinist in their line-up.

mp3 : Camper Van Beethoven – Pictures of Matchstick Men

I think it’s fair to say it was a major disappointment. This bore no resemblance to the sorts of music the band had been making just four years previously. It is depressingly bland and lacking any sort of rhythm or soul but when I looked up details on wiki I learned that it was their biggest selling single which I found rather depressing reading.

The b-side isn’t any better as they put to music the tale of the man who shot the man who assassinated the President:-

mp3 : Camper Van Beethoven – Jack Ruby

It’s always disappointing when a band, in an effort to record and release music with a broader appeal than their earlier material, lose the very bit of magic that made them stand out in the first place.

File under…played once and put away in the back of the cupboard.

One thought on “QUID PRO QUO

  1. I take your point regarding Matchstick Men, especially if you got interested in popular music between the two recordings. Camper recorded the song 22 years after Status Quo’s original (which got airplay in 1967 and quickly disappeared – at least in the States). So the song had the attraction of being a relic and Camper’s version was a nod to the psychedelic vibe that still hung around the university town of Santa Cruz where the band was based. As a bonus, the band had a talented violinist who could parody the phased and fuzzed guitar riff that runs through the original recording. I thought it was cool at the time, and still do.

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