Monday, November 2, 2009

It's Crazy, But It's True

Compare and contrast

Growing up, I never paid any attention to Dusty Springfield; she seemed about as relevant and important as old Glenn Miller albums. In college, some of my cooler friends had copies of Dusty in Memphis, but I never really listened to any of her records until years later.

Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien was shy and demure. But when she became Dusty Springfield (who drank, popped bills, cut herself, wore wild wigs, embraced her own sexuality, and suffered from manic-depression), she was really something. And it didn't hurt that she could sing like an angel being chased down a dirt road by a devil on a motorbike. (Link for Gmail subscribers.)

The Bay City Rollers put a bubblegum shine on Dusty's song (which works about a third of the time). At times, this version seems to be less a song and more a battle to the death between different tempos and tones. And are there any non-chemical explanations for the bizarre part in the middle where the string section tries to take over the universe?

Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart (later of Eurythmics) and their early band the Tourists try for a new wave/power pop feel -- dig the synthesized handclaps and cheesey early-rock-video colors. Still, Annie Lennox channeling Dusty Springfield was enough for a number 4 single in the U.K. in 1979 (although the record only got to number 83 in the U.S.).

And if one chick and some synthesized sounds are good, surely four chick singers and lots of synths must be at least four times better! And if the math doesn't quite work for you, what if they sing everything but the song's title in Japanese?

Where can you go from there except to Denmark, where Volbeat answers the question you never thought to ask: What would it sound like if Metallica covered Dusty Springfield?


Alex said...

Bonus: Shelby Lynne takes the same song and gets close enough for jazz:

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

Oh man, I seriously love this (labor intensive!) kinda thing; thanks for putting it all together Alex.

Dusty is always worth a listen – I actually like the video as well; as you note she’s got this sexy wanting to come out -- you can totally tell.

Bay City Rollers … God the mid-70s sucked. I’d say their cover works a fourth of the time, rather than a third. That is, I’m a sucker for backing vocals, but that’s really all I can possibly like about this.

The Tourists – damn! I personally think this is a great find. I literally never heard this before (the 80s were a long lost weekend for me). But Annie makes it kinky as always & it's tons of fun.

All 4 chick singers of the band that I (probably like you) can’t bother to look up: they're undeniably cute. But even with that benefit I couldn’t listen to the entire thing.

I did like the Volbeat, much like I like Bryan Ferry’s covers of songs like “It’s My Party” etc. – they get it, then they twist it.

In order of my faves I’d say: (1) Dusty; (2) Annie & The Tourists; (3) Volbeat; (4) Bay City Rollers; (5) the sorry babes but … 4 chick singers (in the band we didn’t look up)

A freaking great post Alex!

Holly A Hughes said...

I understand the impulse to cover a Dusty Springfield song -- but jeez, that's like remaking The In-Laws or Bedazzled. Why mess with perfection?

Though I do kinda like the Shelby Lynn album....