Cover yourself – in glory?

28/08/2010 § 28 Comments

One of my favourite albums of the last few years is God Help The Girl – the album (and much more) from Stuart Murdoch’s side project of the same name. God Help The Girl

I particularly like the re-working of the track Funny Little Frog which originally appeared on Belle & Sebastian‘s The Life Pursuit and here gets a funky face lift, turning it into a sort of soulful torch song.

I always find it interesting when an artist takes another bash at an old favourite of theirs – and I don’t mean a remix or an acoustic version – I mean a whole new take on a song. Same lyrics, same chords but with an entirely different feel to it.

Diana – Prefab Sprout

Version one appeared as an extra track on the double-pack 7″ single of When Love Breaks Down. About five years later, a much slower and more downbeat version turned up on the Protest Songs album.


Felicity – Orange Juice/James Kirk

This early live favourite from the floppy-fringed, Glasgow art-school pospters first saw the light of recorded day in February 1980 when a live version appeared on a flexi disc given away with a fanzine. A slightly more polished version turned up on the band’s debut album, the seminal You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever in 1982.

Orange Juice are thought by many to be synoymous with Edwyn Collins – and of course Edwyn was always at the forefront of what made Orange Juice great but it would be wrong to underestimate James Kirk’s contribution to the band: a contribution which included penning Felicity.

Many years after Orange Juice‘s demise, James Kirk embarked on a solo career, the highlight of which was the 2003 album You Can Make It If You Boogie. And the album included a reworking of Felicity – a less-frenetic, more thoughtful version, I think you’ll agree.

Pop trivia: when The Wedding Present recorded their own version of Felicity, David Gedge introduced it with the words “this is a William Shatner song” – a reference to the songwriter, James (not T) Kirk.


You’re The One For Me – Jonathan Richman

In 1990, Jonathan Richman recorded a whole album of Country songs under the title Jonathan Goes Country. Alongside some Country & Western classics, he reworked a number of his own songs, including You’re The One For Me, a semi-autobiographical song which had originally appeared on the 1983 album, Jonathan Sings.

Both versions are fab …

You’re The One For Me
You’re The One For Me

Funny Little Frog – Belle & Sebastian/God Help The Girl

The inspiration behind this post. I had known the original B&S version for years before hearing the more soulful version which features on the God Help The Girl album.

Funny Little Frog
Funny Little Frog

And here they all are in one handy clickable thingy:

So there you have it. I've chosen four examples from my own collection which (I hope) illustrate what I'm wittering on about, but I know you've all got your own favourite reworkings …



§ 28 Responses to Cover yourself – in glory?

  • Abahachi says:

    Dammit! Great idea, and I have no time at all to listen before I disappear out of the country again. Could you by any chance leave the tunes in the Dropbox until after 9th September? And, yes, I know I owe you a couple of bottles of beer…

  • bishbosh says:

    Great idea for a post (as Aba says)! Will comment at greater length when I’ve had a chance to listen…

  • Steenbeck says:

    I once sent a copy of a film I made to Stuart Murdoch, because I thought he would like it. Listen to what he said on his blog…

    “My school career was so boring! I was a nothing. I’m just watching a film someone sent me called ‘Persistence Of Vision’ by Claire Adas about an unusual young woman at a posh school for girls. I like her outfit and hair. I may try to copy her look, sadly trying to make up for the bore that was my mid and late teens.”

    I feel sure it was the inspiration for his new(ish) project!

    I’ll try to think of some re-workings, too. Dylan springs to mind…

    • saneshane says:

      steen – you are so in with the the ‘slightly to the left of the out crowd’ and that’s a good thing in my scrapbook.
      I’m going to do a Napoleon Dynamite style dance, in your honor just because I know you…
      ….can you feel the moves.. can you see the grin.

    • ToffeeBoy says:

      Wow! That’s one of the best claims to fame I’ve ever heard. You inspired a genius!!!

    • barbryn says:

      Great post ToffeeBoy, and fine claim to fame Steenbeck.

      Stuart Murdoch listened to my demo, I’m told. He found it either “winsome” or “whimsical” apparently, I forget which. Coming from him…

      I love that reworking of Funny Little Frog – I’ve listened to God Help The Girl once, but for some reason haven’t bought it. I really don’t know why not, and must do something about it.

      There’s a few examples of bands putting two versions of the same song on an album – my favourite example possibly being “Mistress” on the Red House Painters rollercoaster album (lo-fi distortion and bleak piano). “The Militant” by Lambchop on How I Quit Smoking. “Forever Young” on Planet Waves. The two versions of “Higher Than The Sun” on Screamadelica are perhaps too different to count.

  • saneshane says:

    ‘Proof’ by I Am Kloot gets a re working quite often.

    and Pixies were notorious for surf re jigs of their songs – usually live.. much fun. But the weirdest was Frank Black Francis doing a whole lot of his Pixies tracks with parping trumpets and everything ‘planet of sound’ is a whole 14 minutes of wig out if I remember correctly.. If you are going to fuck with perfect 3 minute tunes… Fuck with your own 3 minute tunes….

  • Abahachi says:

    I have a problem with the fact that the one example that springs immediately to mind is the absolute reverse, namely Whitesnake bowdlerising their legacy for the sake of the US market. Which is not an emaple which will speak to many people, and I am cuirrently typing this very slowly ‘cos I’m pissed. so will hope to resume discussion at some later date.

  • nilpferd says:

    The Chills’ Secret Box collection has some interesting Peel session versions of their songs- especially Rain. Herbie Hancock famously reworked Watermelon Man on Headhunters, making it almost unrecognisable from the original. But (though I know you’re not really aiming at jazz artists here) probably the artist who most often and radically reworked his own material for my tastes would be Miles Davis, especially in sixties live versions of his late fifties hits. One 1969 performance (Juan-les-pins, Antibes) of Milestones by his pre-rock band is (almost) a piss-take of the orginal, the theme is deliberately left unfinished. It’s still brilliant.

    • saneshane says:

      nilpferd 2 days left – for downloading The Kid Koala Solid Steel Mix – never released. Haven’t listened yet but looks promising.

      • nilpferd says:

        Cheers shane.. Kid Koala flowing through my telephone line as I type. Glad to register with NT- (I hope the quality of my spam will improve in the near future).

        Speaking of NT I may be a few knuckles short of a punchline, but wasn’t Ageing Young Rebel perfect for RR this week?

      • saneshane says:

        I had a lovely mellow listen this afternoon .. much needed, had to go back to work this morning.

        as for spam – I get useful rubbish that comes from what looks like my own e-mail address- weirdly I know myself enough to know that I don’t want a free bet or v*****.. but this one I set up does get lots of fee music, so I cope.

        ‘Ageing Young Rebel perfect for RR this week’ I clicked recommend – but I’ve been 404ed from my first post an hour in on Friday morning to late last night.. even my jokes are being used hours after I’ve posted them here.

        It’s not a funny weekend for noms – loads of DJ Format missed cos I couldn’t post.. and a huge Saturday night post lost (the worst thing was it didn’t save in my documents either cos that crashed – I know it’s only daddypig that reads them – but I feel I’m letting him down!)

        roll on sept 20 when the ninja box set comes out.

      • nilpferd says:

        I read them too.. probably won’t manage your playlist this week though, too much going on…. I’m just hanging on for a week’s holiday starting Thursday.. stupid time on the current project with everybody freaking out, I need a break.
        Fanfare Ciocarlia at the open air last night improved my mood immensely (it was pissing down outside but with all that brass, hot air and uncoordinated dancing Germans, it was steaming inside the tent)

      • saneshane says:

        Fanfare Ciocarlia, sounds ace,

        once followed a travelling gypsy brass ensemble for two hours around a festival, a mass of uncoordinated dancing and a showing of the film ‘Black Cat /White Cat’ at the end of it (in the woods at midnight) a more grin inducing time is difficult to imagine.

        sorry for the tangent Toffeeboy!

      • ToffeeBoy says:


    • ToffeeBoy says:

      Jazz reworkings work for me – I’m just interested in any emaples (!) of an artist revisiting a composition with a fresh eye/ear. It is probably more of a jazz concept than a rock/pop one so perhaps I am more interested in the latter but … all ideas are welcome.

  • amylee9 says:

    Since no one has mentioned it yet, does Unplugged count?

    • ToffeeBoy says:

      It’s not really what I’m looking for – acoustic versions, sessions and live gigs can all throw up interesting interpretations but what I’m really after are conscious decisions to rework an exisiting song, taken into the studio and put out there for the world to hear.

  • Shoegazer says:

    Usually a sign of a band coming to the end of the road. “Boy’s we can’t improve on the originals so why don’t we try to improve the originals”.

    Seems to have happened on the new Little Axe album – the 2 re-workings were the best tracks.

    • ToffeeBoy says:

      It may be true of Little Axe but it’s not the case in any of the four emaples I gave …

      • Shoegazer says:

        Don’t think your emaples prove or disprove the point. OJ split up long ago, Paddy is a recluse, Jonathan is unlikely to split up with himself & it’s been a while since B&S put out a good album.

        Nilp made a good case for Jazz reworkings.

        Sherwood & Mad Prof revived Perry. Studio stuff was new, but did shine up some oldies live.

        New Order re-releasing Blue Monday was the beginning of the end. Stranglers & many other survivors became self-tribute bands

      • ToffeeBoy says:

        Yes, but. the point you made was that reworkings were:

        Usually a sign of a band coming to the end of the road. “Boy’s we can’t improve on the originals so why don’t we try to improve the originals”.

        My point is that this isn’t the case in any of the four songs that I posted.

        Both versions of the Prefab Sprout song were recorded when the band were at their recording prime.

        Orange Juice may long have been a thing of the past when James Kirk re-recorded Felicity but this is hardly an example of someone lacking ideas. More a case of a songwriter given the opportunity to show how he envisaged the song. Personally, I prefer the original but that’s neither here nor there.

        I’m not quite sure where you’re going with the statement that Jonathan is ‘unlikely to spilt up with himself’ – the song I posted seems to me to be a perfect example of an artist revisiting a song and giving it a different twist.

        As for Belle & Sebastian, I agree that the last albums haven’t reached the heights of their predecessors. It’s all subjective anyway but God Help The Girl is (imho) Stuart Murdoch’s best work for years and the version of Funny Little Frog is just one of many brilliant tracks on the album.

      • ToffeeBoy says:

        Must remember to close those italic tags ….

  • Abahachi says:

    Ha ha ha.

  • DarceysDad says:

    I’m with Abahachi on Whitesnake’s godawful reinvention of themselves.

    Mark Kozelek’s AC/DC covers spring to mind; he never seemed quite sure whether to completely strip the songs down (acoustic versions), or merely re-interpret them (electric versions).

    I love Thin Lizzy’s slow version of Don’t Believe A Word, much more than I do the well-known faster version. I think it’s wonderfully melancholic as a slow blues number, which (as Phil Lynott explained on Lizzy Life-Live) was the original arrangement.

    I’ll have a think about this one: it certainly is a thinker of a thread.

    Cheers, Toffee.

    (Still awaiting an email with your address for your Spillstake prize, btw.)

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