Monday, November 26, 2012

Cover me in four places

The subject of this post is a song that, since its first release, was dying for a cover. In fact the original band had 2 more cracks at it over the course of their career.

Throw Your Arms Around Me by Hunters and Collectors was originally released as a single in 1984. However when it appeared two years later on the band’s 3rd album, Human Frailty, it was re-recorded and re-released as a single.

He never names the four places

(Note that I couldn’t dig up a copy of the 1984 version, but this one is most people are referring to when they say the “original” – if you have a link to the 84 version, please put it in the comments).

In 1990, when it came time for the band to release a compilation of Collected Works they re-recorded it a second time, slightly slower:

I bet the bridge of her nose is one of them

Either version of this song (and they really are quite similar) is an “Oz Rock” classic. Every guy with a guitar and a campfire can, and will, sing it. But I was never a huge fan. It has a certain feel to it, musically, that a lot of Australian Rock from the 80s had, which I have never liked. People call it “raw” but to me it just feels a bit empty and hollow. And I’m not sure if Mark Seymour is deliberately singing bum notes in some of the verses but I physically wince a couple of times with how off key he is. (Again, maybe that’s part of the “raw” but I just don’t get it).

So it will come as no surprise that I much prefer this version of the song, performed by the Australian comedy trio The Doug Anthony All-Stars, made up of guitarist Richard Fidler, tall guy Tim Ferguson (who isn’t actually that tall) and lead singer Paul McDermott.

(Audio quality isn’t great, but beggars can’t be choosers)

I will admit to some bias here, as I loved DAAS from the moment they burst on to my TV screen in ABC TVs The Big Gig in 1989. They had a mix of satire, irreverence, abuse, immaturity and sweet harmonies that appealed to me instantly. I’ve been to see them multiple times, and own a couple of their albums. The above live cover comes from their 1994 album Dead & Alive (which also contained such lovely tracks as Skinhead Sooty and I Fuck Dogs).

What I like about this version is that it doesn’t feel at all empty. They are only 3 voices and a 12 string acoustic, but there’s a real depth to the sound. There is passion in the voices – and although there is probably more passion in Seymour’s voice there is strength behind the passion in this version. Which is odd, as there’s not a lot of expression on their faces. They are singing this, as they did with a lot of their serious songs, “altar boy” style. Standing up straight, looking forward (or slightly upward) and hands still.

Most live shows that DAAS did had one serious song, nestled among their other ruder works. This song was Dead & Alive’s and for the 3 or so minutes it took everything stopped and the atmosphere changed. Then the show continued. It was partly because it was unexpected and incongruous that it has such an effect. But, even when it stands alone - not contrasted against the rest of their material, it is still an amazing version.It is a pity, then, that Paul McDermott went on to milk this song for all it was worth, to the point where it became as much a standard for him as it did for the original band.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Guest Post: Smells like a cover

This very first guest post was written by my friend Haraash. We have known each other for just over 10 years, and although I wanted to cut the linkg to my own crappy cover at the end, he made me promise I wouldn’t.

The classic Nirvana song Smells Like Teen Spirit, sung by front man Kurt Cobain (who later realised he was so depressed he committed suicide) was seen by many as the theme song of a generation of moody, depressed, pretentious teens in the early 90s.

Released in 1991 it led the charge for grunge rock bands - in particular those from Seattle. I'm not from Seattle, I'm actually from Melbourne, Australia, but 1991 was a particularly important year for me as it was my final year of secondary school. And strangely enough whilst this song was just a wee bit popular it really didn't resonate with me; I suspect I was happy.

However, it really came to my notice a few years later when I heard Tori Amos's cover of it. I've always been a Tori Amos fan, her gorgeous voice accompanying magnificent piano has always delighted me. So when I heard her version I immediately got a hold of the original and not only compared them but began to appreciate the original a whole lot more than I had.

I find it somewhat interesting that a cover, and a really good cover - in that it was unique and nothing at all like the original - actually made me enjoy the original more than I ever had. Even now I still like to listen to Nevermind, the album on which Smells Like Teen Spirit originally appeared, from time to time.

In the end though, the Tori Amos version is still my preferred version, but I'm a sucker for Tori Amos.

On a final note, this blog's owner inspired me to write this brief guest entry because today I heard his own brief cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit on ukulele, and frankly it's pretty damn good!