Friday, 19 February 2010

Run For Cover – The Curious Case Of The Disco Version

It's not a statement that'll win me any points for originality, but it bears repeating: if you're going to cover a track, don't just replace the tyres on it, do something fresh, otherwise you're just an artistically bankrupt, morally deficient commercial hack-whore-journeyman whose only reward should be a fiscal and metaphorical cheeky feel from the bored housewife who works in accounts at Sony.  No offence, mind.

As I was rustling up a list of favourite covers for my good friend Piley - whose Podrophenia podcast with the equally stout Mondo is always worth an ear-shufty - I realised how many of the more inexplicable beauts came from the disco scene. Mindful of the the fact that the best covers are always the ones that recontextualise the piece and eradicate the memory of the original (think Incredible Bongo Band's Apache, then try to picture The Shadows' original, likewise Neil Young after hearing Saint Etienne's Only Love Can Break Your Heart), a number of them are striking reboots, to use that oh-so on-trend hideous phrase.

Four words do it for for me: Boney M's Painter Man. A frothy, predominantly lame, molecularly commercial act taking on a lesser-known single by fringe psyche-rock mods The Creation. How did that happen? Picture Cheryl Cole doing Human Fly by The Cramps and you're almost there. Not only that, Boney M also took on Neil Young, Iron Butterfly's proto-metal opus In A Gadda Da Vida, My Friend Jack by garage bods The Smoke and many others. Maybe their Germanic puppeteer Frank Farian sought to redress the credibility balance. Maybe he had a keen sense of irony. Either way, I don't give too big of a shit, I'm just glad that he wasn't alone – and here are five of the best oddball disco covers to prove it...

5 – 96 Tears by Thelma Houston
Jaunty sixties garage nugget by ? & The Mysterians repositioned using a diva filter to create the most heart-rending bit of plinky plonky I've heard in the last five minutes.

4 – Fifth Of Beethoven by Walter Murphy
Dude gets bonus points for dragging the funk from a bunch of tuxedo-encrusted muso-nerds in this storming live version. And for writing the Family Guy theme. Judging by the static crowd, this was filmed in Maoist China or that town in Footloose where funk is verboten.

3 – Please Don't Let me Be Misunderstood by Santa Esmarelda
What was originally a craggy-faced whinge opus by The Animals is transmogrified into a latino disco joy with enough handclap potency to stop the global recession. Plus you've got Uma in the Bruce Lee jumpsuit, which I'm at one with.

2 – Fire by Lizzy Mercier Descloux
It shames me to use such a woeful YouTube clip, but needs must. Originally a pompous mentalist pantomime from within the heads of The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, here it's defanged and made over as a perky percussive tum-te-tum procession with a percussion breakdown par excellence. Speaking of things French, I can't let this pass without savouring Descloux's accent, which appears to validate years of onion-necklace, accordian-playing mockery, and makes Allo Allo look like a work of high social realism. Delightful.

1 – For Your Love by Chilly
Just, wow. Much loved by nu-disco ambassador In Flagranti, this is the size of a house. Set to optimum disco, with its Moroder synth loops, wedding-cake dainty string passages and proto-house 4-4 bass drum throb, Chilly's For Your Love also boats a guitar attack that matches the thrust of The Yardbirds' original. But let's not overlook the best/worst video imaginable - does the presence of the blond paintywaist in the leather dunagrees and some woman who may or may not have been a presenter on Magpie improve or spoil the glory? Both. Enjoy.

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