Jimmy Cobb (drummer on Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue)
Gary Peacock (bassist with Keith Jarrett, Miles Davis etc.)
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry
Deon Estus (bass player with Wham!, George Michael and Marvin Gaye in Ostend, solo artist and producer)
Dusty Hill (ZZ Top bassist)
George Wein (pianist, impresario and founder of the Newport Jazz Festival)
Phil Schaap (jazz historian and key contributor to Ken Burns’ ‘Jazz’ documentaries)
Pee Wee Ellis
Matthew Seligman (Thomas Dolby/Thompson Twins/Soft Boys bassist)
Genesis P-Orridge (co-founder of Throbbing Gristle)
Cristina (post-punk singer of ‘Drive My Car’ fame)
Michael Apted (director of ‘The Coal Miner’s Daughter’, ‘Ptang Yang Kipperbang’, ‘Gorillas In The Mist’, ‘Bring On The Night’, ‘The World Is Not Enough’, ‘Gorky Park’ and co-creator/director of the ‘Seven Up’ TV series)
Ed ‘Duke Bootee’ Fletcher (teacher, hip-hip pioneer and co-writer of Grandmaster Flash/Furious Five’s ‘The Message’)
Phil Chen (bassist on Jeff Beck’s Wired and Blow By Blow)
Cicely Tyson (Academy Award/Emmy-winning actress and wife of Miles Davis)
Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Beat poet)
Al Schmitt (recording engineer for Steely Dan, Toto, Diana Krall etc.)
Robbie Shakespeare (Sly & Robbie bassist)
Malcolm Cecil (jazz bassist and co-producer/synth programmer on Stevie Wonder’s Innversions, Talking Book and Music Of My Mind)
Greg Tate (jazz and soul writer)
Barry Harris (bebop pianist)
Rick Laird (Mahavishnu Orchestra bassist)
Alan Hawkshaw (composer of many great TV and film themes including ‘Channel 4 News’, ‘Countdown’, John Carpenter’s ‘The Fog’ and this cracker which soundtracked much of my 1980s:)
‘I wrote this cos I’d like to shake your hand/In a way you guys are the best friends I ever had’
LOU REED, 1984
Adolescence: a period of chaos and confusion. There’s little rhyme or reason to one’s heightened sensibilities, and it didn’t help that 1980s pop songs had such bloody weird lyrics.
Initially, maybe it was a crap hi-fi/radio signal that sent you down the wrong track, or maybe some jackass got in your ear.
Either way, a song’s lyrics were often lost in translation, the meaning – such that it was – got skewed and from that moment on you couldn’t hear it without factoring in your messed-up version. And it didn’t matter if it was a tune you loved or hated.
Sad to report, to this day, when I hear these songs/lines, I get the lyrics ‘wrong’. And yes, it has to be said, you don’t have to be Dr Freud to see that sex was usually the driver. That’s adolescence for you…
Blondie: ‘Island Of Lost Souls’
Misheard line: ‘I’m f*ckin’ near/Can you help me put my truck in gear’
(Correct line: ‘Oh buccaneer/Can you help me put my truck in gear’)
Irene Cara: ‘Flashdance (What A Feeling)’
Misheard line #1: ‘Take your pants down/And make it happen’
(Correct line: ‘Take your passion/And make it happen’)
Misheard line #2: ‘I can have it off/Now I’m dancing for my life’
(Correct line: ‘I can have it all/Now I’m dancing for my life’)
Michael Jackson: ‘Thriller’
Misheard line: ‘And though you f*ck to stay alive/Your body starts to quiver’
(Correct line: ‘And though you fight to stay alive/Your body starts to quiver’)
Prince: ‘Strange Relationship’
Misheard line: ‘But I’ve seen you get a kick out of doing coke’
(Correct line: ‘But I seem to get a kick out of doing you cold’)
UB40: ‘Food For Thought’
Misheard line: ‘I’m a prima donna’
(Correct line: ‘Ivory madonna’)
Bryan Adams: ‘Heaven’
Misheard line: ‘Love is all that I need/And I found it there in your shirt’
(Correct line: ‘Love is all that I need/And I found it there in your heart’)
Billy Joel: ‘An Innocent Man’
Misheard line: ‘Some people live with the fear of a touch/And the anger of having dinner poo’
(Correct line: ‘Some people live with the fear of a touch/And the anger of having been a fool’)
Donald Fagen: ‘Ruby Baby’
Misheard line: ‘From the sunny day I met you/Made a bed where I will get you’
(Correct lilne: ‘From the sunny day I met you/Made a bet that I would get you’)
The Blue Nile: ‘The Downtown Lights’
Misheard line: ‘I’m tired of crying on the city’
(Correct line: ‘I’m tired of crying on the stairs’)
Lionel Richie: ‘All Night Long’
Misheard line: ‘Everybody’s seen everybody dance’
(Correct line: ‘Everybody sing/Everybody dance’)
Steely Dan: ‘Glamour Profession’
Misheard line: ‘When it’s all over/We’ll make some colds from my cough’
(Correct line: ‘When it’s all over/We’ll make some calls from my car’)
Boomtown Rats: ‘Banana Republic’
Misheard line: ‘Banana republic/Set to climb’ (To be honest, I didn’t have the faintest idea what Sir Bob was singing… Ed.)
(Correct line: ‘Banana republic/Septic isle’)
It Bites: ‘Calling All The Heroes’
Misheard line: ‘High on a mountain the men looked below/Cucumber pineapple something and Poe’
(Correct line: ‘High on a mountain the men looked below/Cooked up a plan that would outwit their foe’)
The Police: ‘So Lonely’
Misheard line: ‘Simone/Simone’ (There was an Italian bloke at school called Simone…)
(Correct line: ‘So lonely/So lonely’)
We’ve briefly looked at crap cover versions before (though doubtless there’ll be more to come), but how about good ones from the 1980s?
It was quite easy coming up with a fairly long list. I guess the ultimate test is that at the time most people (including me) didn’t know – or didn’t care – that they were cover versions.
There wasn’t a great deal of looking back in this golden period for pop.
But it did seem as if a lot of ’80s acts had the magic touch, or at least a total lack of fear, making almost everything sound like their own. Punk probably had quite a lot to do with that.
Some of the following choices get in for sheer weirdness but most are genuine artistic achievements. Recurring themes? The Beatles, Motown, Otis Redding. Probably not too much of a surprise there. And 1981 seems a particularly good year for covers.
Anyway, enough of my yakkin’. Let the countdown commence…
33. Bow Wow Wow: ‘I Want Candy’ (1982)
32. David Bowie: ‘Criminal World’ (1983)
31. Ry Cooder: ’13 Question Method’ (1987)
Ry’s brilliant solo take on Chuck Berry from the Get Rhythm album.
30. Propaganda: ‘Sorry For Laughing’ (1985)
The Dusseldorf pop mavericks take on Josef K’s post-punk curio (apparently at Paul Morley’s urging) to produce a sweeping, majestic synth-pop classic.
29. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts: ‘Little Drummer Boy’ (1981)
28. Living Colour: ‘Memories Can’t Wait’ (1988)
27. Sting: ‘Little Wing’ (1987)
26. Randy Crawford/Yellowjackets: ‘Imagine’ (1981)
Who knew this would work? Sensitive and imaginative reading of the Lennon classic, with a classic Robben Ford guitar solo.
25. Lee Ritenour: ‘(You Caught Me) Smilin” (1981)
Gorgeous West-Coast version of Sly Stone’s pop/funk opus. Surely one of the most unlikely covers of the decade, but it works a treat.
24. Luther Vandross: ‘A House Is Not A Home’ (1982)
23. John Martyn: ‘Johnny Too Bad’ (1980)
Originally a reggae track by The Slickers and first released on ‘The Harder They Come’ soundtrack in 1972, Martyn and drummer Phil Collins rearranged it and added some lyrics. It featured on John’s fantastic Grace And Danger album.
22. Soft Cell: ‘Tainted Love’ (1981)
Cracking version of Gloria Jones’ ’60s Northern Soul classic (written by Ed Cobb). A hit all over the world, with pleasingly remedial synth arrangement, instantly recognisable soundworld and classic intro.
21. Grace Jones: ‘Use Me’ (1981)
The Nightclubbing album featured a veritable smorgasbord of good cover versions, but this take on Bill Withers scores particularly highly for originality.
20. The Flying Lizards: ‘Sex Machine’ (1981)
19. The Replacements: ‘Cruela De Vil’ (1988)
From the brilliant Hal Willner-helmed Disney tribute album Stay Awake, you’d have been a brave punter to bet a dime on this one working, but work it does.
18. Quincy Jones: ‘Ai No Corrida’ (1981)
17. Donald Fagen: ‘Ruby Baby’ (1982)
16. Stanley Clarke: ‘Born In The USA’ (1985)
Who knows, maybe this could have provided Stanley with a novelty hit if CBS had been quicker off the mark. He references John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ in the intro while Rayford Griffin lays down seismic grooves and a funny old-school rap.
15. The Power Station: ‘Get It On’ (1985)
‘If cocaine was a sound…’, as a YouTube wag described it. This near-hysterical rave-up is mainly the sound of a fun late-night jam (Tony Thompson’s drumming being particularly notable). Also check out guitarist Andy Taylor’s little ode to Talking Heads’ ‘Burning Down The House’ throughout.
14. Deborah And The Puerto Ricans: ‘Respect’ (1981)
A one-off solo single from The Flying Lizards’ singer, this Dennis Bovell-produced curio missed the charts but remains a fascinating post-punk artefact.
13. Roxy Music: ‘In The Midnight Hour’ (1980)
Roxy’s first cover version presumably raised some eyebrows but the lads pull it off with some aplomb, aided by Allan Schwartzberg’s tough NYC drum groove – and the fact that Bryan Ferry can’t resist adding some typical weirdness in the first 20 seconds.
12. Ringo Starr & Herb Alpert: ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ (1988)
Another once-heard-never-forgotten cracker from the aforementioned Stay Awake collection, the album version is preceded by a very menacing Ken Nordine spoken-word intro.
11. Japan: ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’ (1980)
David Sylvian probably hates this but no matter. It’s hard to think of another band pulling it off. Ominous synthscapes from Richard Barbieri, a nice recorder solo by Mick Karn and brilliant ‘where’s-one?’ beat from Steve Jansen.
10. Everything But The Girl: ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It’ (1988)
It definitely divides opinion, but certainly fits the ‘sounds like they wrote it’ criterion.
9. Bananarama & Fun Boy Three: ‘Really Saying Something’ (1982)
Penned by Motown songsmiths Norman Whitfield, Micky Stevenson and Edward Holland Jr and first performed by The Velvelettes in 1964, it’s hard not to smile when this comes on the radio. I love the way the ladies pronounce ‘strutting’.
8. David Bowie: ‘Kingdom Come’ (1980)
The Dame’s magnificent take on a little-known track from Tom Verlaine’s 1978 debut album.
7. UB40: ‘Red Red Wine’ (1983)
No apologies for including this Neil Diamond-penned perennial. Great bassline, nice groove, lovely Ali Campbell vocal performance.
6. Phil Collins: ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ (1981)
Phil closed his Face Value album with this oft-forgotten corker, featuring a classic John Giblin bassline (later cribbed by Pearl Jam for the opening of their ‘Once’) and cool Shankar violin.
5. Robert Palmer: ‘Not A Second Time’ (1980)
Robert adds some New Wave grit to this Lennon-penned rocker, and his singing has rarely been better.
4. Siouxsie And The Banshees: ‘Dear Prudence’ (1983)
3. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts: ‘I Love Rock And Roll’ (1982)
First recorded by The Arrows in 1975, this is simply one of the great singles of the 1980s and a huge hit to boot.
2. Hue & Cry: ‘The Man With The Child In His Eyes’ (1988)
It shouldn’t work but it does, courtesy of singer Pat Kane’s excellent tone and phrasing. His trademark ‘na-na-na-na’s help too. I wonder what Kate thought of it.
1. Blondie: ‘The Tide Is High’ (1980)
Written by reggae legend John Holt and first performed by The Paragons in 1966, this was an inspired – if somewhat cheesy – choice for the band. It’s mainly included here for Debbie Harry’s delightfully off-the-cuff vocal, sounding like her first crack at the song.
Sometimes a decent music documentary can really open up a subject like a good book or movie.
The Dexys/Kevin Rowland film ‘Nowhere Is Home’ did the job recently, and last weekend’s ‘Promises & Lies’ does it superbly too.
It lets the protagonists speak for themselves purely in interview format without any ‘I’m-going-on-a-journey’, narrator-led BBC guff.
Like Simply Red, Madness or The Beautiful South, UB40 are so much part of the ’80s UK chart furniture (39 Top 40 singles including three number ones to date – surely only Shakin’ Stevens and Madness bettered them during the decade?) that it’s quite hard to listen to their music objectively these days.
By the mid-1980s, they had essentially become a stadium reggae band, exemplified by their joyous Nelson Mandela 70th birthday duet with early mentor Chrissie Hynde (she headhunted them at a London Rock Garden gig in 1980 for a big US tour).
UB40’s huge success has possibly obscured their great passion for the music – singer/guitarist Ali Campbell claims several times in the film that they were always promoting reggae rather than seeking fame, and the claim rings true.
But their amazing hit-rate was somewhat of a smokescreen for some serious inter-band issues, culminating in a disastrous schism between vocalist/guitarist brothers Ali and Robin in 2008 that makes the Gallagher boys’ break-up look like a petty family tiff.
It was arguably always on the cards. A very tight-knit bunch of Brummies in their early days, UB40 had always split all their performance and songwriting royalties eight ways, a decision which created financial ‘situations’ (millions missing) that would have given even Billy Joel and Leonard Cohen serious cause for concern.
The resentments, claims and counterclaims piled up, and now in 2016 there are two bands gigging as UB40, one almost unbelievably fronted by another Campbell brother, Duncan.
James ‘Jimmy’ Brown
‘Promises & Lies’ gleans strikingly honest interviews from everyone involved – no punches are pulled. And despite lots of fascinatingly-grim stuff, the documentary shows all band members to be an incredibly resilient, exceptionally talented, somewhat stubborn bunch.
Drummer James ‘Jimmy’ Brown gets an especially bad ride in the film, apparently the chief social-media ‘Ali-hater’, but his playing sounds great throughout (no less an ’80s pop personage than The Police’s Stewart Copeland once named him as his favourite rock drummer), as do almost all of UB40’s classic ’80s anthems.
I’ll be looking more closely into a band I’d mainly ‘dismissed’ as a singles act. Catch ‘Promises & Lies’ while you can on the BBC iPlayer.
The Red Wedge gang including Paul Weller, Jimmy Somerville and Glenn Gregory meet Ken Livingstone and Labour leader Neil Kinnock, 1987
Some might say that music and politics should never mix. But it’s less than two weeks to the General Election here in England. Looking at the music press or listening to music radio, you’d never know it.
Is politics just terminally uncool? Do today’s musicians not give a damn about who gets into power? It seems to be a mixture of both, though I was intrigued to see Paloma Faith hand-picking the writer Owen Jones to open some of her recent gigs.
The deafening silence (apart from a recent Jazz For Labour event at the Barbican) can’t help but beg comparison to the state of play 30 years ago when the movement known as Red Wedge got underway.
Formed in 1985 initially as a Labour-supporting group to encourage young people to vote and get Margaret Thatcher out of office, it arguably politicised a second generation of music fans a decade after Rock Against Racism and punk. Though I was too young to fully understand Red Wedge’s aims (and too young to vote), I certainly took notice.
Red Wedge officially started on 21st November 1985 when Kirsty MacColl, Billy Bragg, Paul Weller and Strawberry Switchblade were invited to a reception at the Palace of Westminster by Labour MP Robin Cook.
Major tours followed in the next few years leading up to the 1987 General Election featuring additional artists such as The Communards, The Style Council, Junior, Jerry Dammers, Madness, The The, Bananarama, Prefab Sprout, Elvis Costello, Sade, The Beat, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions and The Smiths. In short, this was no Mickey Mouse setup.
Unfortunately, their efforts amounted to diddly squat; the 1987 election resulted in a third consecutive Conservative victory. But at least they tried and their message didn’t fall on deaf ears. And where is the new batch of protest songs and protest singers? Unfortunately the current crop of musicians are just like most of the politicians: bland, middle-of-the-road, lacking in ideas and desperate not to offend.