‘Just Like Heaven’ by The Cure covered by Dinosaur Jr – Magnificent Cover Version No. 10

Dinosaur Jr cover The Cure. It’s J. Mascis, legendarily bone-idle grunge idol taking on a classic love song from anemone-haired, godfather of goth Robert Smith. Two true, indie-rock big guns here.

Dinosaur Jr increased the pace, beefed up the rhythm section, got rid of the synthesiser and grunged it all up. There’s only two years (’87 and ’89) between these two versions but those years make a huge difference. The drums, synthesiser and general jangle all place The Cure’s original firmly in the 80s (which is no bad thing), while the while the fuzzed-up bass, drawled vocals and overdriven guitars place Dinosaur’s version firmly in the grunge canon, making it seem more like a 90s track (also fine, obviously).

The Cure

The Cure were the first band I ever saw live. I was 14 and I had to wear a Joe Bloggs t-shirt because it was the only black garment I owned.  Obviously, I blended right in.

The Cure had some truly fantastic songs before it all started going wrong with Friday I’m In Love. I know Cure fans who consider Just Like Heaven to be one of Bob’s masterpieces. It’s a lovely example of one of Bob’s bittersweet love songs but if NoiseCrumbs was going to compile a Top 10 of Cure songs – and don’t put that past me – I’m not sure this would make the cut.

Dinosaur Jr’s punked-up version adds power and irony to the pop melodies – as well as a blast of Mascis’s trademark guitar heroics – changing the tone completely. The video for the cover version is great too – they enlisted puppets to provide the visual energy that J., Lou and Murph resolutely refused to deliver. Gotta love those lazy-arse Generation X-ers!

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‘Different Drum’ by Linda Ronstadt, covered by The Lemonheads – Magnificent Cover Version No. 27

‘Judgment Night’ Soundtrack – Rap Rock’s last stand

 

 

Butthole Surfers covering ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ by Donovan – Magnificent Cover Version No. 8

Legendary Texan, scatological, psychedelic, avant-garde, punk-rock reprobates, Butthole Surfers taking on Hurdy Gurdy Man, a 60s, British, hippie/folk classic by Donovan of Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow fame.

This was released as a single in 1990 and was included on the Surfers’ 1991 album ‘Pioughd’ – at that time their most accessible yet, by a distance. It builds from a finger-picked acoustic guitar line into a soaring, uplifting rock song that verges closer to straight up pop music than the band ever had before. It’s the bizarre vocal delivery that sets it apart though. It’s hard to tell if Gibby is using effects or his own unique skills, but it comes across like a trippy, vocal wah-wah – a typical, playful Butthole Surfers touch.

And yet, it’s NOT a Butthole Surfers touch; Donovan used the exact same vocal style in the original.  In fact the original is practically the same as the cover, except with sitars and slightly unsettling tone. There’s a theory that Jimmy Page and John Bonham were session musicians on the but nobody seems to be able to say for sure either way.

Eartha Kitt covered ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ too, without doing the weird vocal trick. It’s not that good.

Butthole Surfers’ version of Sweet Leaf by Black Sabbath nearly made it on to the list, but it’s not really a cover, more a reimagining, retitled ‘Sweat Loaf’ to make that clear. It’s not as good as the original either, but it’s still great.

 

 

(I’m Not Your) ‘Steppin’ Stone’ by The Monkees, covered by Minor Threat – Magnificent Cover Version No.6

Minor Threat doing (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone – Oh yes! Every version of this song is fucking great! You just can’t go wrong with that E, G, A, C chord progression.

 

 

 

It turns out it’s not a Monkees’ song after all – who knew? They made it famous but it was originally by Paul Revere & The Raiders.

I like The Monkees (not as much as Marge Simpson likes them, maybe), but I do like them a lot and I’m not afraid to admit it. Whether they wrote them and/or played them or not, they had some great songs, their TV show was awesome and I particularly love the fact that Mike Nesmith’s mum invented Liquid Paper/Tipp-Ex.

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The Monkees’ version of Steppin’ Stone is a typical slice of their acceptably psychedelic bubble-gum pop, with Hammond organs, hand-claps, harmonies, tambourines and an uncharacteristically bitter sounding vocal from Micky Dolenz. Like most of The Monkees’ output, it’s bouncy, hippie-ish fun.

I like Minor Threat too – the definitive hardcore band and the polar opposite of The Monkees, in many ways.

Hardcore punk appeared in the late-70s, when the original punk rock scene was beginning to wane. Hardcore took the volume, aggression and speed of punk and refined it, making it louder, heavier and, above all, faster.

Black Flag were the single biggest drivers of this resolutely underground movement; touring relentlessly across the US with local bands from unfashionable cities, away from the cultural epicentres of LA and New York, in support. Washington DC was one of the least fashionable cities at the time, but its punk scene in particular thrived. This was ‘harDCore’ and Minor Threat were its star players.

Minor Theat

Formed by Ian McKaye with school friends, their name came from the fact that despite their aggression, they were all minors (and small ones at that). For a lot of hardcore bands, speed was everything and while Minor Threat delivered that, they did it without compromising the power and heft of their music. They also reacted against the self-destructive overtones of punk, advocating a virtuous, straight-edge manifesto – no drink, no drugs, no promiscuous sex.

Minor Threat’s songs were ordinarily furious rants against social injustice, religion, violence or the normalisation of mind-altering substance use, so a Monkees’ cover (sorry, Paul Revere & The Raiders cover) seems quite unlikely. And that’s one of the things that makes a good cover version; when a band takes a song from a different genre, outside its comfort zone and gives it its own twist.

Minor Threat’s cover is a straight-edge, hardcore blast that starts fast and gets faster – though, in truth it lags behind a lot of their output in terms of tempo. The guitars and drums are thrashed out, McKaye barks out the ‘I, I, I’ part and there are certainly no Hammond organs or harmonies. There are though a few production tricks in there – the first part of the track is compressed before it opens up after a minute or so and there’s a reprise of the chorus vocals at the end. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s still unusual for MT to mess around like this and it all works great.

I love this Magnificent Cover Version. The original was wonderful and the cover is even better. I love the fact that The Monkees are a glossy, ’60s, manufactured, Technicolor, idealistic, mainstream hippie pop band while Minor Threat are a no frills, ’80s, back to basics, self-started, black and white, furious, underground, hardcore punk band. Two polar-opposite bands playing the same song and each coming up with something unique.


Sex Pistols also did a very solid take on it:

 

and The Farm’s 1990 baggy reimagining is well worth a listen too:

 

 

Minor Threat’s version is the best though.

The Sex Pistols covering ‘Substitute’ by The Who – Magnificent Cover Version No.29

‘Eight Miles High’ by The Byrds, covered by Husker Du – Magnificent Cover Version No.21

‘Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)’ by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, covered by The Wedding Present – Magnificent Cover Version No.4

Jilted John (Gordon Is A Moron)’ by Jilted John would be the perfect choice of cover version for The Wedding Present, with its themes of love, loss and jilting, but failing that, this’ll do.

Come Up And See Me (Make Me Smile) was The Wedding Present’s contribution to the Alvin Lives In Leeds, anti-Poll Tax compilation – a rich source of covers, but they’re mainly a bit shit. I first heard it as a B-side.

I got the 3 Songs EP that includes this cover on cassette from Woolworths or Our Price as a kid (it’s written about here, just below the L7 piece). I remember playing the tape to my mate Millhouse and him saying, “Woah, that’s grunge!” It wasn’t grunge of course, but it had a harsher, heavier sound, which complemented rather than overwhelmed the songs. This sound was largely due to the production of Steve Albini.

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The Wedding Present recorded two EPs (including 3 Songs) and the Seamonsters album with Steve Albini. These recordings are, to me, the strongest work that The Wedding Present have produced. Seamonsters has the same brooding, claustrophobic feel as The Breeders’ Pod (also produced by Albini and discussed in Magnificent Cover Version No.2). Like Pod, it also has brilliant songs.

Around this time, I remember reading an interview with Steve Albini in which he complained about love being the default subject matter for songs. He couldn’t understand why this was the case since love, to him, boiled down to the act of rubbing genitals together; the old romantic. Makes you wonder what he made of David Gedge’s lovelorn lyrics.

Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) was a cover of a Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel song and it was perfectly suited to The Wedding Present. They speeded it up and stripped it down from the sleazy, sub-Bowie original, turning it into an edgy, angst-filled indie-rock classic.

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I’d never heard of Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel before hearing this cover but I discovered two things about them afterwards. 1) Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel are a band, not a duo. 2) Steve Harley’s cousin lived in the house that backed onto mine when I was growing up. I don’t know if he ever visited but I wouldn’t have recognised him if he had.

The sister of Bob Catley, the lead singer of Magnum, lived a couple of doors down from us too. I saw him a few times – my dog once took exception to his leather trousers and ran up to him barking furiously. It was the most upset I ever saw her. She was absolutely livid about those trousers. She didn’t bite him or anything and I dragged her away pretty quickly. During the incident Bob Catley looked a bit alarmed but he didn’t run away. He just said, “Hey, cool it dawg”, in an American accent, like he was from Venice Beach rather than Aldershot. Nice fella.

 

‘Different Drum’ by Linda Ronstadt, covered by The Lemonheads – Magnificent Cover Version No. 27

‘Head On’ by The Jesus & Mary Chain covered by Pixies – Magnificent Cover Version No.16

 

 

NoiseCrumbs

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Decades of music that has grabbed, shaken, lifted and thrown this listener immeasurable distances generates fodder for the beast. It remains insatiable. Inspiration is sought and arrives through the unlikely medium of the cover version. The MAGNIFICENT cover version.
I check and can immediately reel off 10 magnificent cover versions in 10 seconds – that’s a rate of 60 a minute. That works out at 3,600 per hour. That will feed NoiseCrumbs. That is the answer. NoiseCrumbs will never be without sustenance again.