12 Favourite covers

Crossposted from Facebook where this has been going round as a meme.

My Death – David Bowie (Jacques Brel)
It was a toss up between his cover of Wild is the wind (Johnny Mathis) and this one. Used to hear this on the radio and learnt of ‘Baal’ and ‘Brecht’ through Bowie when the LP was released in 81/82.

Coil – Tainted Love (Soft Cell)

Coil completely decontructs Soft Cell’s dance floor hit, creating an elegy in the decade AIDS started making headlines.

Nature Boy – Jose Feliciano (Nat King Cole, et al)
I first heard this song in summer camp in 78 or so. It was played to me on guitar by a guy called Hans, he was one of the camp leaders. He tried to teach me how to play it, but I only mastered the jazzy chords a few years later. I found the song, which has been covered by many, on a Jose Feliciano album I found in our library. Since it’s the first cover I heard, it remains my favourite – though I haven’t heard it in years.

What Makes a Man a Man – Marc Almond (Charles Aznavour)
Almond brings more tears and a sob to this song than the slightly more understated Aznavour.

Lovelight – Robbie Williams (Lewis Taylor)
I was tempted to pick Robbie’s cover of The Human League’s Louise off of the same album, but went with Lovelight instead, because I didn’t know the song before I heard Robbie sing it. It’s one of those Hi-NRG songs I can’t get enough of lately.

Les Filles du bord de mer – Arno (Adamo)
This will probably be fairly unknown outside of Europe, in fact I didn’t know the song before I heard the Belgian singer Arno (ex-TC Matic) sing it live. It’s a crowd pleaser. Arno’s version slows it down, drags it out, makes it great.

Night and day – U2 (Cole Porter/Frank Sinatra)
Recorded for the Red, Hot and Blue album in support of AIDS charities and accompanied by a stupid video, this is one of my favourite U2 recordings. Obsessive love songs are the best.

Paper Thin Hotel – Fatima Mansions (Leonard Cohen)
Cathal Coughlan turns Paper Thin Hotel’s jealous lover into an axe-murderer. A left over from the sessions for the Cohen tribute album ‘I’m your man’, released on a sampler given away at FNAC.

Brother can you spare a dime – George Michael (Bing Crosby, et al)
Almost went with Somebody to love (Queen), but I’m really not that keen on the song, eventhough George covered it so brilliantly at Wembley. Anyway, I just wanted to include him. Love his voice.

Scorn not his simplicity – Sinead O’Connor (Phil Coulter/Luke Kelly)
Written by Coulter for his disabled son and occasionally sung by The Dubliner’s Luke Kelly. There’s many songs Sinead’s covered that I could have picked, not in the least Prince’s Nothing Compares to You, but this one is pure and lovely.

Better Days Ahead – Hothouse Flowers (Gil Scott-Heron)
A slow burner, a plea for love in times of trouble. Liam O’Maoinlai at his best, I think, forever hovering on the good side of sharp. It has a sax-solo that doesn’t get on my nerves. It was an extra song on the Flowers’ I can see clearly now-single, also a cover. I don’t remember ever hearing the original.

Heartbreak Hotel – John Cale (Elvis Presley)
John Cale has done my favourite cover of Hallelujah, the first version of it that I ever heard, long, long before it became fodder for the idols. But I’m picking his Heartbreak Hotel, because it takes a great song, demolishes it, and then rebuilds it. Really brings out the despair, as well.

By this river – Gavin Friday (Brian Eno)
Can’t have a list like this without our Gav. He picks a song, takes a good look at it from all sides, then twists himself inside of it until he thinks he wrote it. Then he makes you believe the same. He’s done that to Sinatra’s Cycles, Coldplay’s Yellow, Brel’s Amsterdam and Next, to Blue Velvet, Nina Simone’s Four Women, Hot Chocolate’s Put your love in me, his extraordinary cover of Singin in the rain, and many, many Kurt Weill classics. But I’m picking this more recent song, because it’s such an odd one out, and one of his best vocals.

Some of these songs, or their orginals, can be heard on this playlist I made in Spotify

2 Replies to “12 Favourite covers”

  1. Phil Coulter wrote Scorn Not His Simplicity for his son who had Down Syndrome. Sineads version is indeed wonderful but nothing can beat Luke Kelly and the Dubliners- hardened gnarled pint swilling creatures of the night softening their tone to sing lovingly of their friends child.
    Interestingly I spoke to Phil Coulter late last year about recording a version to benefit Down Syndrome Dublin. Unfortunately with single sales so low you wonder if there is monetary value in pursuing this form of fundraiser…

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