OVERDOSING ON COVER VERSIONS (1)

I’m taking up the suggestion made last month by a few readers to devote some time and space to cover versions. By doing so over the next two weeks it sort of gives me a break from having to think too much about what to write at a time when, understandably, visitor numbers are down and there’s a desire not to come up with what proves to be a thought-provoking or well-written piece that gets lost amidst the mistletoe and decorations.

I’m starting things off with an example of a great cover in that the band involved make it sound nothing like the original and instead would have you believe it was genuinely one of their own. I’m sure that just about all of you will be familiar with the song being covered, but just in case not:-

mp3 : The Stranglers – No More Heroes

The song was included on the soundtrack to a 1999 comedy/action movie called Mystery Men but instead of the four punk/pub rockers from London, it was a version recorded by the finest band to ever come from Milwaukee:-

mp3 : Violent Femmes – No More Heroes

And while I’m here.

mp3 :  Violent Femmes – Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?

Enjoy

NOT AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : THE VIOLENT FEMMES

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Inspired by Jez from the excellent A History Of Dubious Taste who, in featuring a song by Violent Femmes, said this about their debut LP

one of my favourite albums ever, all killer no filler, but most people only seem to know “Blister in the Sun”, the opening song from the album. For me, though, “Add It Up” is the best thing on there.

This was an album that I covered in some depth over on the old blog back in January 2008 and again in 2013 just before Google closed me down. As I more or less said on both occasions….It is a true classic which has gone onto to sell millions but yet rarely appears in any long lists of best ever records by critics in magazines.

I’ve a great memory of my first time hearing the record. To my ears at least, American music was really appalling in the early 80s. Maybe I was so accustomed to the punk/post-punk/new wave/indie stuff that I was wrapped up in my student flat that I missed some things. But America was, at time, all stadium anthems from the likes of Broooooce, Van Halen, Fleetwood Mac and the like.

One day, a flatmate came in and demanded we all listen to a new album he had picked up. It was from an American band called Violent Femmes. Not expecting much, the other four of us gathered round the turntable and speakers …wow!!

This was something truly different. Songs of unrequited love, misery and suicide but not like we had heard before. These tunes were upbeat…the lyrics were funny….you could even dance to them!! It was a truly innovative record – it was the first time that I realised a ‘punk’ record could be made with acoustic instruments.

Over the years, this is a record that has made it into the collections of many, and yet the band have never really gotten anything beyond cult status. Seemingly, it reached platinum status in the US ten years after its release – and remains the only record to have sold over 1,000,000 copies without ever breaking into the Billboard Top 200.

This record is now more than 30 years old and it still sounds fantastic today. The full track listing of Violent Femmes:-

01 Blister In The Sun
02 Kiss Off
03 Please Do Not Go
04 Add It Up
05 Confessions
06 Prove My Love
07 Promise
08 To The Kill
09 Gone Daddy Gone
10 Good Feeling

It’s almost the perfect album. There’s not a single duff track on it, and the whole thing ticks over in just 36 minutes. I love it so much that I’ve got a vinyl copy, a CD copy and a remastered CD copy that came with extra tracks.

A groundbreaking effort in all sorts of ways. Who could have realised that angst-ridden and miserable lyrics could be so infectiously enjoyable??

The opening track, Blister In The Sun, is just a fantastic pop song – and is probably the best-known song the band have recorded, thanks to its use in the John Cusack movie Gross Pointe Blank. But.like Jez,  I don’t think that you can beat Add It Up – simply the best song ever written about not being able to have sex. I always thought it would have been great fun if, at the height of their fame, The Smiths had recorded Add It Up as a cover version.

mp3 : Violent Femmes – Blister In The Sun
mp3 : Violent Femmes – Add It Up
mp3 : Violent Femmes – Prove My Love

But all in all, it offers ten superb songs that would make a perfect ICA, except that it exists in reality.

Bonus cover and acoustic versions:-

mp3 : The Wannadies – Blister In The Sun (live)
mp3 : The Schla La Las – Add It Up
mp3 : Violent Femmes – Prove My Love (acoustic live)

Enjoy

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s at 45

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You can blame The Swede for this. The Belle & Sebastian posting a while back led him to leave this comment:-

“Your 45 45s at 45 sounds like fun, but was a bit before my time. Any chance of reposting the list one day?”

So I thought I’d delve into that archives for the entire series which more or less tells the story of the first 45 years of my life between 1963 and 2008. One per week for the forseeable future and with it being a cut’n’paste job it also in some ways gives me a bit of free time. Here’s the preamble to how it all began:-

“On June 18th 2008, I will turn 45 years of age. That’s in just under three months time.

One of my all time heroes, Bill Drummond, marked his 45th Birthday with the writing of a book that was partly biographical, partly philosophical but completely genius.

I’d love to have the talent to do something similar, but instead I’ve decided that I’ll make do by saying a few words on 45 of my all-time favourite 45rpm records.

Actually, that previous sentence is totally misleading. In fact it could even be regarded in the same light as Heather Mills’ evidence in her divorce case – ‘inconsistent, inaccurate and less than candid.’

Here’s why…..

(1) Not all of the songs on the list were released on bits of plastic that spun around your turntable at 45 revolutions per minute.

(2) The list is not my 45 all time favourite singles as I’ve decided to restrict each act/performer to one entry. Otherwise it would have been a chart dominated by a handful of bands such as The Jam, New Order, Orange Juice and The Smiths.

(3) What consists of a list at this particular moment in time could fluctuate on a daily basis. I reckon I’m firm on my all time Top 10…..but what one day might, for example, be sitting at #24, could the very next jump up to #13 or drop down to #33. And at the lower end of the list, some songs which bubbled under may find themselves sneaking in at the expense of something sitting proudly in the 40s or 30s.

(4) The 45 in question had to have been bought by me (or on the parent album as I was sometimes skint) at the time of release – this means that stuff that I grew to love years after it first came out are controversially disqualified.

So, over the coming weeks, I’m going to have a regular series counting down some great singles – and I’m going to also post the b-side as well (or Tracks, 2, 3 and 4 in the case of it being a CD single).

I’m in no doubt that what will gradually be revealed will irritate almost all of you as something you think should appear high up the chart suddenly makes an appearance in the high 30s. Or you’ll be hacked off when I choose a song that you’ll consider can never be regarded as the best 45 he/she/they ever released. Or worst of all, when a band or performer who you would have in your Top 5 doesn’t appear in the list at all…..

To give you an idea of how long this particular exercise took, I started off with a list of almost 300 names. For most of them, it was relatively simple enough to find my one favourite single that they had recorded. For others it was a really tough task. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I whittled it down. Once I was below 100 songs, it became almost impossible.

I hope that this will prove to be a series you find enjoyable enough, and please feel free to come on board with your comments, views and observations and savage attacks on my taste at any point in time. For now, in artistic alphabetical order, here are the songs which came in at Nos. 46-50…

mp3 : Billy Bragg – Levi Stubbs’ Tears
mp3 : Morrissey – November Spawned A Monster
mp3 : REM – Electrolite
mp3 : Stereolab – Ping Pong
mp3 : Violent Femmes – Blister In The Sun

See….I told you it wasn’t an easy task.”

BLUE JEANS AND CHINOS; COKE PEPSI AND OREOS (Part 9)

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A few weeks back I featured Violent Femmes take on Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? while many moons ago over on the old blog I had an in-depth look at the band’s self-titled debut LP. It struck me when reading S-WC’s contribution from yesterday, and the fact that he is 11 years and 363 days younger than me, that many readers may have missed out on the greatest band to ever come out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin given that their best and most enduring material dates back to the early-mid 80s when the likes of S-WC and his peers were maybe just too young to pick up on bands that never had the slightest hope of making it onto Top of The Pops.

They began life as a busking trio consisting of Gordon Gano (vocals and guitar), Brian Ritchie (bass) and Victor DeLorenzo (drums/percussion) in their home town. Legend has it that in August 1981, the late James Honeyman-Scott of The Pretenders caught them performing on the day his band were playing a show in Milwaukee and invited the trio to open for them. This led to a fair bit of publicity and requests to open for other bands touring the USA and before you know it their records were coming out via Warner Bros.  The American Dream in full swing……

The debut LP was released in April 1983. It is the ultimate definition of a slow-burner as it took eight years to be certified platinum, by which time the band had released 5 albums and 9 singles, none of which charted in any meaningful way, although the critical acclaim and the fact that they always put on an entertaining live show meant that they had a fair-sized fan base, particularly in the UK and Australia.

The music at its best has an acoustic bent blending pop, country and folk with many of the songs reflecting on how life doesn’t always turn out as planned. By 1992, the band had gotten a bit tired and briefly split-up reforming again after about 15 months but with Guy Hoffman coming in on drums. This incarnation of the band was very busy throughout the remainder of the decade on the road and in the studio with a further three LPs. It was during this period that the band perhaps got their biggest ever exposure when long-time fan John Cusack had featured the band’s songs in the cult movie Gross Point Blank.

This led to a newer younger fanbase discovering Violent Femmes and so it was no surprise that 20 years on from the release of that amazing debut LP that plans were made to re-release it with a whole number of extras of demo versions, non-LP singles from the period and live tracks. Unlike many such re-issue editions, this didn’t in the slightest detract from the quality.

There was a further fall-out in 2009 when their most famous and enduring song, Blister in The Sun, was licensed for use in a TV ad in the USA. The fact that it was used to promote a burger chain particularly infuriated Brian Ritchie and he attacked Gordon Gano, who ironically is a vegetarian, for putting the band in a situation where this could happen. The band broke-up…

It looked as if that would be it, but in 2013 news came that they were getting back together again in 2013 to promote the 30th Anniversary of the debut LP. Some of you might think that’s just taking nostalgia too far, but believe me, this debut LP is one of the best records ever released and fully deserves to be acknowledged by its makers in every possible way. But in one last surprise, it was revealed that Victor DeLorenzo was not going to be part of the plans, and his place behind the drum kit was taken by Brian Viglione of the Dresden Dolls.

The band is still going strong and tomorrow night are playing here in the UK in London before appearing at a series of folk/roots/blues festivals across North America in the summer.

Here’s one track from each of the first five LPs plus a live track taken from a 1999 acoustic tour of their home state:-

mp3 : Violent Femmes – Blister In The Sun
mp3 : Violent Femmes – Country Death Song
mp3 : Violent Femmes – Special
mp3 : Violent Femmes – Lies
mp3 : Violent Femmes – American Music
mp3 : Violent Femmes – Prove My Love (live)

Enjoy

IT’S MEANT TO BE A TUNELESS TAKE DUMBASS….

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The bio of Violent Femmes in the on-line edition of the magazine Rolling Stone says:-

“..too bad the Violent Femmes‘ tuneless take on Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” actually makes you pine for Boy George”

It’s such sentences that remind me irony isn’t always a strongpoint of Americans.

At the risk of stating the obvious…..IT’S MEANT TO BE A TUNELESS TAKE DUMBASS.

Personally, I never did care much for the music of Culture Club. That’s one of the reasons I have a great deal of fun listening to a wonderfully bitter, twisted, and yes tuneless, cover version:-

mp3 : Violent Femmes – Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? (7″ edit)

The original took the world by storm. It was #1 or #2 in twelve different charts around the world selling who knows how many millions of copies. But that doesn’t make it a good song.

It’s trite, it’s inspid and, well boring is the word that springs to mind. It’s also wholly unrealistic.

The protagonist is heartbroken because a love affair has come to an end. And he’s willing just to let it slip away and take all the agony, pain and heartbreak imaginable without wishing any ill on the other person. The lyrics are sickly, syrupy and unreal:-

You’ve been talking but believe me
If its true you do not know
This boy loves without a reason
I’m prepared to let you go

If its love you want from me
Then take it away
Everything is not what you see
It’s over today

Do you really want to hurt me?
Do you really want to make me cry?
Do you really want to hurt me?
Do you really want to make me cry?

Gordon Gano on the other hand, with just a few little word changes here and there, ends up turning into a quite shocking tale of someone revelling in the hurt, pain and misery of a break-up:-

I’ve been talking but believe me
I know that its true now that there no more
I’m in love and loves the reason
I’m not prepared to let you let me go

So if it’s love you want
Then take all of me
It’s this love I want
I can finally see

Do I really want to hurt you?
Do I really want to make you cry?
Yes, I suppose I want to hurt you
You told the truth but it was still a lie

Methinks the man from Rolling Stone didn’t actually listen to this re-interpretation before making his ill-advised comments.

C’mon…..whose take on the song is closer to reality?????  Here’s the other tracks on the CD single:-

mp3 : Violent Femmes – Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? (full length)
mp3 : Violent Femmes – Dance Motherfucker Dance!
mp3 : Violent Femmes – To The Kill (live – November 1990, The Palace, Melbourne, Australia)

Enjoy

(Originally posted on 7 August 2008)