I was always intending to have an in-depth look at the subject matter of today’s and the next few days worth of postings but it has been accelerated by many readers declaring their love for cover versions when S-WC asked for some help this time last week.
The NME celebrated 40 years of being at the forefront of music journalism in the UK with the release of Ruby Trax in November 1992. Subtitled “The NME’s Roaring 40” It consisted of 40 cover versions of (mostly) #1 singles with many of the contributors being among the top indie bands of the time or indeed well established bona-fide chart acts with only a handful by a singer/band who never made it.
Ruby Trax was released in three formats: vinyl (3 x albums), cassette (2 x tapes) and compact disc (3 x discs). I’ve no doubt that those responsible took great time to deliberate over the best running order but I’m going to blow all that out of the water over the next four days by taking ten tracks at a time and featuring them in alphabetical order by song title. Here’s your first ten…..
Another Brick In The Wall #1 for Pink Floyd in 1979, it was covered for Ruby Trax by Carter USM.
Carter USM were one of the biggest bands in the UK in 1992 with a #1 LP under the belts as well as six successive Top 30 singles. They turned this despairing rock classic into something which wouldn’t have been out-of-place on any of their own records…with a little bit of additional swearing to get you joining in. Unlike many of the other acts who got involved with Ruby Trax, Carter USM didn’t make the track available elsewhere on a b-side which meant their considerable fan base would have been forced to buy the album or CD, which given all the proceeds went to charity, was no bad thing.
Apache #1 for The Shadows in 1960, it was covered for Ruby Trax by Senseless Things
An instrumental number (naturally given who took it to #1 back in the days), it’s a piece of music that you’ll find if you look up the wiki page, has been given the cover treatment on numerous occasions and in ways that seem intriguing. It’s a pity that this version, by a band whose star was on the wane by the time of its release, is very much on the dull side.
Ashes to Ashes #1 for David Bowie in 1980, it was covered for Ruby Trax by Tears For Fears
It’s a bit of a pity that I’ve gone for the alphabetical approach one of the dullest versions is immediately followed by what is quite simply the most dreadful and appalling version.
Quite simply, this would fit perfectly one of those Top Of The Pops 1970s compilations that so many of us ‘fondly’ remember when, pre K-Tel Records, the only way to get affordable LPs offering the hits of the day was to buy a record in which session musicians did their best to recreate the sounds of the superstars. This particular cover version is ghastly…..a note for note (musically and vocally) awful tribute to Bowie.
Atomic #1 for Blondie in 1980, it was covered for Ruby Trax by The Mission
While this version is very much recognisable as the mighty Atomic it’s not obvious that it is being performed by The Mission. There’s nothing goth or rock about it and it almost feels a bit like the band were going through the motions for the sake of being on the charity record…but it is one of those songs that is worthy of a few listens to get a better picture. It is quite a bit slower than the original and there’s some nice fiddly-electronics added in for good effect. It’s certainly a lot better than the later version recorded by Sleeper for the Trainspotting soundtrack
Baby Come Back #1 for The Equals in 1968, it was covered for Ruby Trax by Elektric Music
This is one of the most unusual takes of any of the songs covered on Ruby Trax.
Elektric Music was a new act for 1992 but it was the work of a very experienced and highly influential musician in the shape of Karl Bartos who had left Kraftwerk just a couple of years previously. At the time it would have appeared quite a futuristic sounding number but it has rather dated over the past twenty-plus years, but if you can cast your mind back to the early 90s and listen to it in that context then you’ll probably enjoy it.
Bad Moon Rising #1 for Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969, it was covered for Ruby Trax by The Blue Aeroplanes
This is another song that has been widely covered in a variety of styles over the years but it is so famous in its original form that the new versions are usually found wanting. The Blue Aeroplanes had been around for quite some time without ever really making any great inroads and their invitation to participate in this project does seem strange. They do their own thing – i.e.. make a guitar-heavy song that could pass for a pub band doing a cover down a social club near you. They also made the track available on an EP release of their own in 1995.
Brass In Pocket #1 for The Pretenders in 1980, it was covered for Ruby Trax by Suede
One of the great highlights of Ruby Trax. That is of course if you’re a fan of Suede….if you’ve no time for that particular band you’ll probably have no time for it. This was a band on the cusp of something very special on the back of just a couple of singles but they had a lead singer who was loved and loathed in equal measure. Brett Anderson must have loved being given the chance to sing to the world that he was soooooo special.
Coz I Luv You #1 for Slade in 1971, it was covered for Ruby Trax by The Wonder Stuff
The Wonder Stuff were also one of the biggest bands in the UK in 1992 – they were certainly one of the best live acts of the era. I’m guessing they wanted to cover Slade given that both bands hailed from the same area and had neither had ever hidden their pride of being from the Black Country in the West Midlands.
Both were bands that relied on a string instrument as a key part of their sound; indeed it was the electric violin as much as the glam-rock stomp chorus and fade-out that had made Coz I Luv You so massive back in the days – it is certainly a song that lodged in my memory as an 8-year old and I can sill sing along knowing all the words decades later. As such, it made perfect sense for The Stuffies, with their use of the talents of Martin Bell on the fiddle, to go with this song.
It won’t be to everyone’s tastes but I do have a soft spot for it.
Cumberland Gap #1 for Lonnie Donegan in 1957, it was covered for Ruby Trax by The Wedding Present
In many ways, this cover is typically David Gedge as it is so unexpected.
Cumberland Gap was most likely written as a folk song in the late 19th century with its first known recording dating back as far as 1924. All sorts of American folk and bluegrass artists, including Woody Guthrie, had put it down on record, but it only came to prominence in 1957 when Lonnie Donegan did a skiffle version that spent five weeks at the top of the charts.
The Wedding Present do a Wedding Present number on it. And its all over in just 90 breathless seconds.
Don’t You Want Me #1 for The Human League in 1981, it was covered for Ruby Trax by The Farm
The Farm had spent years languishing in obscurity before hitching a ride on the baggy train from 1989-1991 and enjoying a fair degree of chart success. However, by the following year they were very much on the slide with their singles were failing to hit the Top 40, the critics rounding on them and their fans turning their attention elsewhere.
As they had a talented female co-vocalist in their line up at the time, it made sense to have a stab at what is still one of the most loved and recognisable pop hits of all time. I personally think it sounds like a drunken couple having a laugh on the karaoke machine but I’m clearly in a minority as the band released it as a single that went Top 20 in the UK….the very last time The Farm would trouble the charts until a 2004 charity release of a remix of their big hit Altogether Now.
mp3 : Carter USM – Another Brick In The Wall
mp3 : Senseless Things – Apache
mp3 : Tears For Fears – Ashes To Ashes
mp3 : The Mission – Atomic
mp3 : Elektric Music – Baby Come Back
mp3 : The Blue Aeroplanes – Bad Moon Rising
mp3 : Suede : Brass In Pocket
mp3 : The Wonder Stuff – Coz I Luv You
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Cumberland Gap
mp3 : The Farm – Don’t You Want Me
The remainder of Ruby Trax will appear over the coming three days.