I loves me a good cover version.
There is something quite thrilling about hearing a song you love by a band you love being covered by someone else that you love…or by someone that you have never heard of. I don’t care if it’s a straight, note for note, identikit version of the original or a reworking or reimagining. I also like hearing songs that I might not have enjoyed in their original form being covered by people I like.
Britpop bands were not averse to the odd cover version or indeed to odd cover versions.
The Kinks were a massive influence on all manner of Britpoppers but, I think it is safe to say, that the person they were the biggest influence on was a certain heart throb by the name of Damon Albarn. Like Kinks frontman Ray Davies, Albarn had an eye for the mundane and the ordinary…and possessed that same ability to take that and find something universal and beautiful from it.
Here are the two of them on “The White Room” performing one of the greatest songs of all time; “Waterloo Sunset”.
It’s so wonderful to see how happy Ray Davies looks in that clip. It would be fair to say that he is, at times, a troubled soul but in that moment he looks genuinely happy. As for Damon he looks like a kid who has just won first prize in something or other.
When they burst into a little bit of “Parklife” it’s raucous, rough around the edges and, to my cloth ears, all the better for it.
This wasn’t the only moment when Blur delved into the archives of British popular music of course. The b-side to “Chemical World” was this cover of “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart.
At around the same time blur also covered “Oliver’s Army” by Elvis Costello and the Attractions for a compilation album called “Peace Together” which aimed to raise funds for cross community projects in Northern Ireland. A worthy cause for sure but, at best, this is a lack lustre rendition of a great song.
Northern rivals to the Britpop crown Oasis were also fans of a cover…
I’ve written before about the special place in my heart that their version of “Cum on Feel the Noize” by Slade has. It’s a riot of rock and roll splendour and never fails to leave me grinning from one side of my normally miserable visage to the other.
An early staple of their live set was their blistering take on “I am the Walrus” by The Beatles. People who know me will know that I really can’t take to The Beatles, I don’t own any of their records, I’ve never really paid them much heed…what I’ve heard leaves me a bit cold to be honest but I love this version of the song. Funny old world innit.
Another band who loved paying tribute to their heroes were Gene.
Off the top of my balding head I can think of nine songs they released that were originally performed by other acts. From the sublime, like this version of “I Say a Little Prayer” by Sister Aretha to the, frankly, ridiculous with their rendition of “Back for Good” by Take That they doffed their caps to all sorts.
Suede were much more careful about performing music by other artists. When they did though they chose well. The Sex Pistols, The Pretenders and Robert Wyatt all got the Suede treatment and each time it was a treat. The best of the bunch, for me, is their rendition of “Bodies” by the Pistols.
The Small Faces were a massive influence on many of the bands of the time and many of them covered their songs…Gene released a version of “Autumn Stone” and then Whiteout contributed this take on “Rollin’ Over” to the “Long Ago and World’s Apart” tribute album;
That album also includes Ocean Colour Scene’s version of “Song of a Baker” which, in this clip, features a certain P. Weller on keyboards…
One of the great lost acts of the Britpop era, Mantaray, also contributed with a version of “I’ve Got Mine”…
Another band who were influential on several bands during the time were The Stranglers…who, like The Beatles, I just can’t take to. What I can take to is this cover of their song “Duchess” by King of the Dandies, Mr Jake Shillingford and his band My Life Story…
Anyone who has seen raconteur, wit, bon vivant and all around good egg, Mr Mark Morriss live will know that he loves a little cover version. Indeed his album of covers, “The Taste of Mark Morriss” is one of my favourite albums. As a band The Bluetones didn’t really do a lot of cover versions, I can only think of three “Pretty Ballerina” by the Left Banke, “Woman in Love” by Dame Barbara Streisand and this little beauty by Frank Sinatra…
Kenickie, who despite the protestations of some, were very much a Britpop band contributed a cover of Hot Chocolate’s “It Started With a Kiss” to a compilation album in 1997…an album that was also included the My Life Story version of “Duchess”, Octopus doing “Starman” and The Supernaturals doing what they do to the Queen song “You’re My Best Friend”.
The influence of Cliff Richard on Britpop was revealed when York’s finest, the mighty Shed Seven decided to do this…
One of the most intriguing and charming cover versions of the era has to be Cornershop’s take on “Norwegian Wood” by The Beatles…
How to finish a piece on Britpop acts performing cover versions?
The answer is simple.
Many thanks to the Britpop community for their help in identifying so many of these songs. Below are a small selection of the songs that came up during the discussion on Twitter a few days ago…
- The Universal by 60ft Dolls
- Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except me and my Monkey by 60ft Dolls
- That’s Life by The Bluetones
- Pretty Ballerina by The Bluetones
- Woman in Love by The Bluetones
- Maggie May by Blur
- Oliver’s Army by Blur
- Let’s all go Down the Strand by Blur
- Daisy by Blur
- Norwegian Wood by Cornershop
- I Can’t Make It by Dodgy
- St Swithin’s Day by Dubstar
- Carnation by Liam Gallagher
- To be Someone by Noel Gallagher
- A Town Called Malice by Gene
- Wasteland by Gene
- Ship Song by Gene
- Night Swimming by Gene
- Back for Good by Gene
- Autumn Stone by Gene
- Don’t Let me Down by Gene
- Dirty Old Town by Gene
- I Say a Little Prayer by Gene
- It Started with a Kiss by Kenickie
- I’ve got Mine by Mantaray
- Can’t Smile Without You by Menswe@r
- Duchess by My Life Story
- My Mind’s Eye by Northern Uproar
- I Am the Walrus by Oasis
- Cum on Feel the Noize by Oasis
- Helter Skelter by Oasis
- Heroes by Oasis
- My Generation by Oasis
- Street Fighting Man by Oasis
- You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away by Oasis
- Day Tripper by Ocean Colour Scene
- Song of a Baker by Ocean Colour Scene
- Wah Wah by Ocean Colour Scene
- The Poacher by Ocean Colour Scene
- Whiskey in the Jar by Pulp
- Wired for Sound by Shed Seven
- Jumping Jack Flash by Shed Seven
- Atomic by Sleeper
- If I can Dream by Strangelove
- Brass in Pocket by Suede
- Bodies by Suede
- Shipbuilding by Suede
- You’re My Best Friend by The Supernaturals
- Rolling Over by Whiteout