The Singer not the Song

On the subject of John Martyn, I have been informed (see comments) that he didn’t write ‘Rather Be The Devil’ but covered it.  I was curious to hear the original so I looked it up: it’s very different from Martyn’s version, being more of a typical blues number:

It set me thinking about how different a song can be when performed by different artists, and that led me to the original version of this number:

Like most people I knew Harry Nilssen’s cover but not this one, and there’s no comparison.  The Badfinger version is pleasant enough but plodding and dull; and when it comes to the chorus it just sounds plain awful.  Compare and contrast: the Nilssen number is utterly heartbreaking:-

All of which leads me to ‘Hallelujah,’ perhaps one of the most covered songs in the history of song, with so many versions that now is the time to call a halt.  Cohen himself said it had been covered too much, and some of the versions are saccharinely awful, showing scant respect or understanding.  There are some covers I admire, however, probably the best being Rufus Wainright’s:

All right.  That’s enough songs for today.

Kirk out

Yawn again…

A while ago, don’t ask me when, there was a band called “Pop Will Eat Itself” (PWEI for short.) Maybe they’re still around – I don’t know. At the time, I thought the name was prophetic: pop was indeed eating itself all over the place, what with tribute bands and, who knew, soon there might be tribute-bands-to-tribute-bands, and not to mention cover versions proliferating like cluster bombs, though without any of the same dynamic  effects. I gave up turning on the radio last Christmas: trying to avoid the three cover versions of “Hallelujah” was more than one dial could cope with. (I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had tuned to Radio 3 and heard some orchestral arrangement around the major lift succeeding to the minor fall.) However, thanks to the presence of a fifteen-year-old girl in our house, I now realise that all is not lost.  There is some original music out there; something with its own energy, its own dynamic, something that speaks for itself rather than being an echo of an echo of some fade-to-grey cliche. Don’t ask me who it is – I haven’t a clue, but I hear it and I feel it, and I know in my gut that this is the stuff: this is The Who before The Wall, The Beatles before they so wisely broke up, and, yes, even Paul McCartney before the Frogs got in his throat and the Mull of McIntyre turned his music to mush. This is real. So yes, pop will eat itself – but rock….rock will eat you. And that is just as it should be. So roll over, Bjorn Again – and just die, already!