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

My year in cities, 2008

Jason published his yearly “My year in cities” post. I used Meg’s Mayfly-project to do something similar, but brief. So here is my full list, as archived by Dopplr, and some recollections.

Leersum (December)
Boxing Day at my parents’. Cooked Indonesian meal.

Paris (December)
It’s hard to pick favourites in a year of many highs, but I did like this one a lot. A bit of family. A lot of G. Everything was small and intimate. Saw ‘Handsomest Drowned Man’ again and it worked so much better than in Brighton.

London (November)
Saw Scott Walker’s Drifting and Tilting twice. Lovely time with Hg, Pixeldiva, B. and R. Traveled by Eurolines coach. Really, surprisingly comfortable. And cheap.

Galway (October)
Didn’t like staying in a hostel (hell very definitely being other people), but other than that it was good to get away and I think I shot my best picture of 2008.

Dublin (October)
The Dublin/Galway trip was my ‘summer holiday’. It was freezing, of course, but sunny anyway when the rest of Europe was awash with rain. Had an amazing time in Killiney filming G. and listening to his new songs.

Antwerp (August)
Unplanned trip to compensate for not getting the Lowlands festival photo gig I’d been promised. Bad karma… nearly got my head kicked in taking pictures in this Belgian city. And that’s no joke.

London (July)
Rogue’s Gallery at the Barbican. Only got photo access to the soundcheck. Light was bad, vibe a little dull, but the gig was good. Really enjoyed staying around Brick Lane. Quiet lunch with G. at morose Italian place.

Dublin (July)
Rogue’s Gallery in the Dublin Docklands. Fa-bu-lous experience. Great access all day, fab to hang with Davey, Gugs and G., lovely vibe in the photo pit, nearly killed myself shooting with the 70-200 for four hours.

Paris (July)
Quick trip to see the deafening My Bloody Valentine. Loved it.

Paris (May)
Became my nephew Louis Gustave’s godmother. Pretended to be Catholic. Everything in French of course. Lovely, but strenous.

Brighton (May)
Brighton was relaxed, just enjoying sea, sand and sun. The gig (‘The Handsomest Man in the World’) was unremarkable.

London (May)
Rather fraught and confused start as I was given the wrong medication hours before my flight and I felt poorly and disoriented. Fire alarm at Gatwick on my return.

Cologne (April)
Birthday trip. Didn’t enjoy this much. Party town, stag nights, large groups. No fun on your own. Crap weather too.

Dublin (Feb/Mar)
Sick as a dog, but I went anyway and coughed and sneezed and dripped through a Marc Almond gig (meeting Gini Ball backstage) and lovely dinner with G. at Eden. Also… Bambi!

Dublin (Jan)
No particular reason. Scouted some photo locations. Saw 30 seconds from Mars on a whim.

I don’t think I will be travelling quite this often in 2009.

If I could mind your read

I got tagged by Chris who got tagged by kfan who got tagged three years ago with this book meme. Three years ago, it would probably have been easier to answer the questions.

Total number of books I’ve owned:

500+. I’ve been trying to get rid of them. They take up too much space, all my shelves are double stacked.

 The last book I bought: 

Here’s the thing. I’m not buying a lot of books anymore because I’m not reading a lot of books anymore. Two reasons. I no longer have a train commute, which was the only time of the day I could read. The second reason is the fact that since (and for some time before) I got diagnosed with diabetes, I tend to fall asleep the minute I start reading. Whether on public transport, or sat on the couch, my eyes close very quickly. I used to read in bed for hours, but I can’t do that anymore either.

The books I buy now are mainly photography related. Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography book (1 and 2), Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure, a some more I wouldn’t recommend. Others are written by friends and bloggers: Walter van den Berg‘s West and Merel Roze‘s Fantastico, and I’ve just ordered ‘Things I Learned About My Dad’, which was edited by Heather Dooce.

Other than that my main reading material these days, believe it or not, is comics. I’ve got a subscription for all issues (and all covers) of Dark Horse‘s Buffy Season 8 and IDW‘s Angel – After the Fall as well as the Firefly/Serenity comics. I’ve also been reading Marvel‘s Runaways TPB 1-7. I never thought I’d be reading comics, but some of the characters from the Jossverse have stuck with me and I want to know their story. (Unfortunately, my favourite characters aren’t the ones the focus is on.)

The last novels I bought are still sitting on my shelves, unread: Robert Little’s The Company, Pullman’s Northern Lights, H.G. Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights.

The last book I read:

Today I picked up Angel – After the Fall #7 and Buffy – Season 8 #14 and read them at A-Fusion, a Chinese bar/restaurant I go to a lot. It’s two doors up from the comic shop. I don’t remember which novel was the last one I read. It may have been  John Banville’s The Sea, or Marc Almond’s In Search of the Pleasure Palace. I know I never finished Adriaan van Dis’ De Wandelaar. The last book I really enjoyed reading was Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife.

Five books that mean something to me:

I enjoy books, but they don’t really ‘mean’ a lot to me other than ‘that was a bloody good read.’

John Banville – The Untouchable.
Ursula LeGuinn’s Earthsea series.
J.J. Voskuil – Het Bureau series.

Roger Zelazny – Amber series.
Can’t think of #5.

Tag five people and request they fill it out on their blogs:

The last time I tagged people nobody did anything with it, so I’m going to save myself the embarrassment.

My Week in Media

Oh dear, I’ve been tagged for a meme by Meg, who got it from Neil, who got it from James. It’s been a while. It’s 3AM as I notice this. I must brood on it over the weekend.

Alright, I’m done brooding.

What I read
I haven’t read a book in ages. I still buy them, though not as often as before, but they sit on my shelves unread. I canceled my subscription to NRC Next because I no longer have a commute, at least not one long enough to read anything, my tram ride lasts about five minutes. The only magazine I currently subscribe to is The Word, formerly known as Word. I never read them when they arrive, but I keep them for when I travel or when I finally get tired of the internet. Is it me, or is Word slowly becoming more like Q magazine? It doesn’t seem as decidedly different from the mainstream music mags as it used to do. Over the Christmas holiday I did spend some time reading an issue on the couch and promptly fell asleep. At work, I try to start the day reading our own newspaper, DAG, but there’s usually some other pressing matter concerning our tv guide to attend to.

What I watched
I watch so many tv shows I hardly ever get round to films. But as my favourite shows are either on strike or suspended over the Christmas break, I caught up on some films. I checked the Times Online’s 100 best films of 2007 and picked The Last King of Scotland, Atonement, For Your Consideration, Bridge to Terabithia and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. All of which I enjoyed to varying degrees, but none of them blew me away as much as my favourite film of the year, Babel, which I would have liked to see again. It’s on my iPod, lacking essential subtitles. I watch quite a bit of video on my iPod in bed, over the last couple of weeks I have been falling asleep watching entire seasons of Battlestar Galactica. (Gaeta is so the fifth remaining Cylon.)

I wish I’d seen all of The History Boys on the BBC, I had planned on watching it, but forgot and only caught the second half. I liked it, but half expected the boys to break into song, it had that kind of stagey rhythm to it. Talking about singing… When Joseph met Maria was a lot less engaging than Lord Webber’s actual competition was and it just reminded me that the blandest candidates won. Bland… yeah, I’ve never liked Tom Hanks much and he didn’t do anything to impress me in the awful The Terminal, which I also managed to see half of.

I also caught Catherine Tate’s Christmas show – and was a little taken aback by her ‘Northern Irish Christmas’ sketch, but George Michael made up for it with his scarily effective Shane McGowan impresssion. I also saw the Extras Christmas special, which I thought was just a rehash of one of the regular episodes. I caught bits and pieces of Dara Ó Briain’s stand up gig on the Beeb. I can’s stand him when he’s on panel shows like Have I Got News For You, but didn’t mind him that much on his own.

I almost forgot the Doctor Who Christmas Special. Maybe that’s because I didn’t find it too memorable. Kylie and Tennant worked well off each other, but the story was a little is that all there is. I hope the much hyped start of Torchwood’s second season (January 16) will be more exciting.

What I listened to
I don’t listen to the radio, haven’t really since college. Since I got the iPod a few weeks back, I have set up an elaborate playlist which ensures I won’t hear a track twice. I’m doing this because there are way too many songs in my collection that I’ve never listened to, because I tended to put favourites on repeat before. I’ve exported my playlist from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve for your perusal: listened.txt

Other than that, I spent many hours transferring some of my own old DAT and MD bootlegs to hard disk, splicing them up in tracks and uploading the full shows to a private tracker. I made a handful of people very happy and I enjoyed reliving the memories that go with the concerts and the friends I went with. Precious moments.

As for albums, that dying breed of a format, the new Einstuerzende Neubauten ‘Alles Wieder Offen’ is really, really good. If you’re the kind of person who dismisses them for being German, or ancient, or just… ‘weird’, now’s the time to actually listen to their new work. It may surprise you. Or, you know, confirm your suspicions. If the single Weil, weil, weil puts you off, give Nagorny Karabach a go.

What I surfed
My usual haunts. Television Without Pity for my daily portion of undiluted snark. Our own Whedonesque, of course – things got rather heated over Christmas. I still visit Metafilter though not as often as I used to. I checked out Derek Powazek’s new magazine blog Magazineer.com. I also spent time on various tapers related forums like taperssection.com, looking for information on the hardware I use to record, or to find out the best ways to reduce hiss and remove pops and clicks. Most of the time, though, I was probably reading what folks were up to on Twitter.  

What I played
Meg added this one to the list of questions. I’d really love to have more opportunities to play board games, like we used to in college. On New Year’s Eve I played one round of Trivial Pursuit which I enjoyed a lot. It’s probably the only game I have some chance of winning as I’m useless at all tactical games like Risk.

Who I tag
Please feel free to join in, or not: Derek Powazek, Hydragenic, maybe I can wake Reluctant Nomad from his slumber and I know it’s not going to happen, but I’d love to read what Stephen Fry’d make of this meme. Last but not least I’m going to try to infect the Dutch blogosphere (oh god no, I’m using the b word) and that’s why I tag Erwin Blom, who doesn’t visit here I’m sure, but if you all click on the link a few times he might get the idea.