On the face of it, Robert Palmer represented everything that I detested back in 1980 when I was a mere slip of a 17 year-old.

He had been fairly successful with a number of groups and as a solo artist, mostly with stuff that was a variant on R&B, jazz-rock and cod-reggae. He was the sort of radio-friendly singer that punk and then new wave had been sent along to destroy, and quite frankly, I’d probably have been happy to see him retire to his Caribbean hideaway and not bother us anymore.

One day I heard his new single on Radio 1. I was really surprised as it sounded, at first listen, like a glorious bit of electro-pop that was completely different from anything he’d ever released before. It also stood out because in those days very few singers or bands with synthesisers got much in the way of radio attention – a situation that would of course change as the decade progressed.

Intrigued, I decided to buy the single, and after numerous plays, I stuck to my initial view that indeed it was a great bit of work. But as a record in my then collection, it really stood out like the proverbial sore thumb.

Not that I gave a toss, cos I loved it, and looking back now I realise that it was an important record in that it gave me an early appreciation of synth-driven pop music that I would buy so much of in the years ahead.

Oh, and being a really sort of sensitive soul, I also found the lyrics – looking at a marriage or relationship that was on its last legs – very moving. Still do.

As it turns out, I didn’t care all that much for much more of Robert Palmer’s output in the years after this up to his death from a heart attack in 2003, at the age of 54, so this single, which was a hit in the USA but a miss in the UK, remains the only song of his in the collection:-

mp3 : Robert Palmer – Johnny & Mary

You know I’m a sucker for covers, and while this is nothing truly exciting or different, its a fairly faithful interpretation from the year 2000:-

mp3 : Placebo – Johnny & Mary




Placebo are a band that have long divided opinion.  I’m willing to confess that I really like an awful lot of their earlier material and own all three of the albums they released between 1996 and 2000.  I’ve no reason to explain why I stopped paying attention to them other than I was moving away somewhat from the goth/punk/glam concoctions that they were so good at doing and finding myself mellowing out somewhat.

There’s one particular single of theirs that I have a lot of time for and it’s as much for the quality of the b-sides as it is for the greatness of the actual single which has guitar licks that the Wedding Present should sue for:-

mp3 : Placebo – You Don’t Care About Us (radio edit)

A #5 hit in 1998, it was made available on 2 x CDs (as indeed were most singles in that era). The first of them had a more than half-decent Placebo song as its b-side along with a fabulous cover that paid homage the huge influence that Marc Bolan had on Placebo and particularly frontman Brian Molko:-

mp3 : Placebo – Ion
mp3 : Placebo – 20th Century Boy

The second CD could have been a bit of a rip-off as it featured two remixes of an earlier hit single but avoids such an accusation for the simple fact that both of them are very good and different sounding in their own right and indeed one of them, by Les Rhythmes Digitales, is IMHO, THE definitive version of the song:-

mp3 : Placebo – Pure Morning (Les Rhythmes Digitales mix)
mp3 : Placebo – Pure Morning (Howie B mix)




S-WC outlined all sorts of reasons why cover versions are recorded.  As he mentioned, sometimes it can be for a tribute album.  From wiki:-

The Smiths Is Dead is a tribute album to the 1980s’ English alternative rock band The Smiths, released in 1996. It was compiled by the French cultural magazine Les Inrockuptibles and released to celebrate the 10th anniversary of 1986’s The Queen Is Dead. The album was released at the height of the Britpop phenomenon and contained covers by many popular Britpop acts such as The Boo Radleys, Supergrass, Bis and Placebo.

It’s very much a mixed bag and I think it’s accurate to say that none of the covers improve at all on the originals, but that would have been a near impossibility to begin with. The other biggest problems are that too many of the tracks fail to digress all that much from how The Smiths themselves recorded the songs or that the band asked to do the cover do so in a way that even Morrissey’s backing band would have been embarassed by the efforts.  However, an honourable mention must go to Boo Radleys for what is a hugely different take on the title track… that too me many years to really appreciate but nowadays is the only one I have on the i-pod :-

mp3 : Boo Radleys – The Queen Is Dead
mp3 : The High Llamas – Frankly, Mr. Shankly
mp3 : The Trash Can Sinatras – I Know It’s Over
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Never Had No One Ever
mp3 : The Frank & Walters – Cemetry Gates
mp3  : Placebo – Bigmouth Strikes Again
mp3 : Bis – The Boy with the Thorn in His Side
mp3 : Therapy? – Vicar in a Tutu
mp3 : The Divine Comedy – There Is a Light That Never Goes Out
mp3 : Supergrass – Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others