Things I hate #21

Shit cover versions. I mean, was Rod Stewart sat at home one day, thumbing through his iPod, considering the warranty left on another blonde and wondering what he’s going to watch on telly while the World Cup’s on this summer, when he clicked the wheel onto ‘Higher and Higher’ and, frowning, thought to himself: ‘Hmmm, Jackie Wilson didn’t really do much of a job with that. I could turn it ’round. There’s a tune in there somewhere.’ Och aye, the noo. And like a middle of the road version of the Blues Brothers band he got the boys back together and they plodded their way through a soul classic; one eye on the clock the other on some bird’s arse. Ah, well, it’s another Ferrari in the bag and maybe some gigs on the after dinner circuit. Have you heard Rod’s version? It keeps catching me unawares on the radio. Baby Jane, what a load of old crap. It’s karaoke. Pedestrian karaoke. It’s a bottler’s version with a big, fat yellow streak running through it. He avoids the dynamics. The sense of deflation I get when I hear it come on the radio is depressing. It’s like that rush of despair that comes through in hangovers and following a bad day when you’ve fucked up or have been fucked up and are still facing the appalling consequences of the fuck up. Rod’s version of ‘Higher and Higher’ is like Mr Asino who ran the Cherry Blossom B & B on the outskirts of Hiroshima glancing out of his window on the morning of Tuesday 7th August 1945 and thinking, ‘hmmm, it’s not looking any better.’ It’s a festering, radioactive wasteland. It’s a big, fat empty wank of a song. Driving along the M62 the last time I heard it, I slammed my head into the steering wheel. Fucking spiders! Why? Why? Why? Why? WHY?!

For a kick off, what is the point of a cover version that apes the original? Who would you rather have a conversation with – Magnus Pike or Mike Yarwood as Magnus Pike? Why have cotton when you can have silk, all that malarky? It serves no purpose. There’s no interpretation of the original, it’s simply vanity to want to sound like somebody else. Or get a cheap hit. Added to which, by and large a cover version is like King Midas in reverse. Touch gold and turn it to shit. So what sort of half-wit would want Wet, Wet Wet’s version of ‘Love is all around’, with the fat, lazy production and Marti Pello grinning like an online paedo that’s just convinced some teenager that he’s a fourteen year old called Brett who’s into JLS and hanging around in the shopping centre doing fuck all and to fire up the webcam, when you can have The Trogg’s original for all it’s tinny recording. Give me Reg ‘Crop circles’ Presley any day of the week. Or who would possibly want to hear Robson and Jerome wiping their chapped, shitty arses on ‘What becomes of the broken hearted’ when you can have Jimmy Ruffin tearing his soul out? And yet they do. Or, at least, they did. And, let’s face it, still do. Michael Ball, Daniel O’Donnell, every bastard winner of the X-Factor, Mark Ronson, Jamie ‘the singing Hobbit’ Cullum cobbling together some sub-Sinatra phrasing (the reason Sinatra sang like that, you short arse fucking twat, was because that was his voice. Whereas you’re from Romford not the Five Points, you shiny bell end), all these – and many more – second-rate shysters have all made careers on the back of other people. And while Sixpence None The Richer’s version of ‘There she goes’ might keep Lee Mavers in Everton season tickets and give him the freedom to play five a side whenever he wants, it adds nothing to the La’s original recording(ssssssss…) of it. It just cuts its balls off. Which is, perhaps, the point of a shit cover version. A lot of people out there want their music comfortable. They want it bland and beige. Listen to it a few times and then forget that it ever existed. Move onto the next three and half minutes of plastic. And who’s to say that they’re wrong…? Well, me. And Jackie Wilson. Fuck democracy. Fuck The X Factor and radio play lists and Simon Cowell and Christmas albums where some classical singer cranks out ‘Yellow Submarine’ to a backing by the London Symphony Orchestra. Fuck ‘em all.

Aligned to this there’s cynical and manipulative product placement; which, in earlier times, would have been easy to ascribe to racism. In the 60s it seemed that the Klan stalked the A&R rooms and the boardrooms of the big record companies. One of my favourite quotations from Julian Cope: ‘Young white 60s kids were quite happy to hear rampant declarations of impending fucking just so long as those songs were sung by pretty young white boys, and not by the scarily horny mid-40s Negro originators.’ This is perhaps less true than it was, but it still holds water to a degree. Shit cover versions tend to take an original and repackage it with an apparently more acceptable face. Whether that face be whiter or minus the overt drug problem or long hair or the inability to get through a sentence without saying ‘fuck’. Or simply more easy to use up and dispose of when you’ve done with them. It tends to involve applying loads of gloss and ripping the guts out of the original. You don’t as often get a white singer taking over a black artist’s song as you did, in fact in the cynical package exercise you might even get the opposite these days, but you do get some manufactured product riding on the back of someone else’s melody. Someone who’s usually more obscure, more mercurial, more awkward or more bloody difficult. Like Leonard Cohen (‘Hallellulah’, Alexandra Burke), The Smiths (‘Stop me if you’ve heard this one before’, Mark Ronson), The Undertones (‘Teenage Kicks’, fucking Busted), the shameful list goes on. This is Tin Pan Alley getting its revenge on The Beatles for having the audacity to write their own material and take control of their own career. This the recording industry reasserting who’s boss. Taking care of business.

In 1967 The Who released ‘I can see for miles’. It was the epitome of a Maximum R’n’B; Pete Townsend wind-milling out proto-power chords and Keith Moon coming at you like he’s going to drum his arms off through both extremes of the stereo landscape, Roger Daltry snarling out a freak beat melody and John Entwistle… erm… playing the bass. In a week that saw Cliff Richard at number 6 with ‘All My Love’ and Val Doonican sitting cosy at number 4 with ‘If The Whole World Stopped Loving’ (30th December 1967), The Who stalled at number 7. Pete Townsend was right. People are thick. In the wake of the single’s relative failure Pete spat on the record buying public. Do the same. Now go out and listen to some Jackie Wilson.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Where is there a fucking firing squad when you need them? Either for this fucker or to put me out of my misery. If there were any justice in the world this twat would be up against a wall. Any last requests, piiiiiiig? Yeah, tell this fucking cunt to shut the fuck up or I’ll save you the trouble and shoot myself… Not the fucking Eagles, man…

Post script. Good cover versions I can think of are Isaac Hayes’ version of ‘Walk on by’, stretched out and orchestrated into a deep soul classic. Or The Who’s version of the Vandellas ‘Heat Wave’. Then there’s the Small Faces tearing through ‘If I were a carpenter’ where Stevie Marriott nearly rips his diaphragm apart.


Things I hate #20

Impoliteness. It’s inexcusable. The main trouble with the modern world – apart from The X Factor, Robbie Williams, reality TV and the smell of baked beans on toast – is Ego. We worship at the altar of our own Absolute and Utter Greatness. The God we pray to is Ourselves. And yet we are all still imperfect. Every single last one of us. Despite iPods, and laptops, and Windows 7, and the iPhone, and SKY HD+, and Botox, and gastric bands, and package holidays we’re all fuck ups. And it doesn’t help that on top of this we’re all thin-skinned Prima Donnas. Every moment is subjective and open to a million reinterpretations, each one primed to be taken the wrong way. We are Gods with feet of clay. And we are jealous Gods.

Ego as a word has been pared down so that it’s entered popular consciousness as an amalgamation of the principles of personality espoused by Freud to become more simply regarded as a sense of Self. In the modern world Self is paramount. That’s what the Hippies told us. So that we could all become Dharma Bums and use other people as a matter of convenience and call it independence. 1960s Liberalism has freed the selfish bastard in us all. You don’t have to care what anyone else thinks or feels, flout your most extreme emotions like a slogan on a t-shirt and fuck ‘em all. You don’t owe anybody anything. Thanks to the babybooming flower children we all operate a kind of emotional Thatcherism; based on a fundamental lack of social and emotional responsibility to those around us and the primacy of our own desires. Which has got us to where we are today. Groovy, man. Fucking groovy.

Ego is to blame for bad parenting. Ego is putting yourself before everyone else. Ego is to blame for juvenile knife crime and gang culture. Ego is to blame for drugs misuse. Ego fucks us all up. Selfishness, self-pity and chips on shoulders. Wars aren’t started by religion or God, despite what many people would wish to project. They may be carried out in the name of God or religion but really it’s the petty ego of individuals that are truly behind them. It would be just as easy to start a war in the name of Atheism or Humanism except that they aren’t as long established in popular thought as the Roman Catholic Church or Islam and don’t have the same organizational structure to exploit. So long as you know that you’re right and everybody else is wrong, that’s all you need. Just ask people like Uncle Joe Stalin, Arthur Scargill, Bruce Forsyth and Osama bin Laden. Religion and Politics are a framework for the Ego to play with. Money? Perhaps. But greed and arrogance play a part in the love of money. And greed boils down to Ego. You have to be the richest or else you feel inferior; that nagging hole inside that needs to be filled by being better than everybody else. Arrogance is simply you saying get fucked to the rest of the world. It’s all about Ego. Self, self, self. I, me, mine. It was Ego that drove Hitler. That prodded Idi Amin up his big, fat arse. That fed into the actions of the IRA, the UDF, the ICF, the C & A and KFC. Ego is the root cause of all conflict between people. Ego is the motivating force behind road rage. Behind neighbour disputes, football hooliganism, domestic violence and pub fights. Ego is what makes me want to kick you out of my way when you step in front of me in the supermarket. Because you’re in MY way, you fucking inconvenient cunt! When Charlie Manson got turned down for playing the bass in The Monkees he couldn’t understand it. And why should he? Everybody’s going to be famous. Everybody’s going to be a star. It’s been promised to us. Except not everyone will tickle out the bass run in ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ or play in the Premier League or win an Oscar or become a millionaire. And then what?

Impoliteness is the most common symptom of Ego. It’s everywhere. Haughty looks and cold stares. How dare you say hello to me? Added to which some people are political; constantly grafting to go higher and higher. Their interactions with other people are by turns venal and bullying depending on the relative positions in the hierarchy. You feel like shit, you take that out on someone else. X might feel like crap because he’s just had to lick Y’s arse, but pissing on Z’s day will make X that little bit happier about himself and get the taste out of his mouth for a while. These people are cunts, always have been and always will be. They can only afford to give you a ‘hello’ if it’s paid back with interest. Other people shy away from communicating with the outside world. I can understand shyness. Especially given the arrogant reactions dished out by a lot of people we encounter. You expect to be blanked and so you don’t show your hand. A self-defence mechanism kicks in. And so we all walk around cramped up ignoring each other. Our actions open to misinterpretation. But some people are simply arrogant cocks. Big headed fuckers that strut around with their heads up their own arses admiring their own turds. Their faces soured by the scent of their own effluent farts but still trying to keep a brave face on it like their sucking in Boss black label as they look down their snotty noses. They are a set of cunts. Festering, puss filled boils on the hairy back of humanity. And I despise them. And why are they like this? Because their Ego whispers to them that they are Alexander the Great and their desires are the most important thing in the entire universe and that they are never ever wrong.

So here we are. A 60s child that never grew up. An impulsive child further nurtured by 70s Hedonism and 80s Greed. Before it was abandoned to 90s hypocrisy (New Man my arse) and the new Millennia’s total disorientation. Liberalism preaches the Gospel of Self. If I want it I will have it, and fuck you. And why not? Everybody’s talking about John Lennon, Joan Bakewell, Polly Toynbee, Chakrabarti, Chuckle Brothers, New Labour, Clare Short, Mike Mansfield, Big Brother, Pizza toppings… They have given me the earth to inherit and I will shit on you and smile while I do it. It’s my right. As organized religion falters under the weight of its own corruption, secularism rises. Easy and guiltless and pandering to the selfish twat in us all. There is no such thing as society. And you think we’re all going to be free? Nothing will change for the better. All that will happen is that the glue that held us together will break apart. Which can’t be good. Even if that glue was boring and repressive and told you that sometimes you might just be wrong. Because Ego will create new Gods in its own image. A billion cults spreading out to cover the globe. Hippies deified the Self. Hippies will destroy the world. Hippies will kick start the next World War. The Hippies will kill us all.