I mentioned, over at Northier Than Thou, the other day, where Daniel had posted a really odd (but rather good; you should check it out) cover-version of of Led Zeppelin's Moby Dick, that I've been meaning to post an occasional piece on rockabilly cover-versions of rock and pop numbers. Because; why not? So here we are with the first of those.
I should, I suppose, say right out front that I'm in no way claiming that such reworked versions are better than, or even necessarily as good as, the originals. I do, though, have something of a soft-spot for cover-versions which radically change the style and feel of a song, rather than the usual method, which often—it seems to me—ends up being more an imitation or, gawd-forbid, an impersonation, with no real creative input. And, of course, I'm a life-long fan of rockabilly music in all its many forms, so that part of my preferred choice of genre-switch is pretty-much pre-ordained.
I'd intended to post four videos in all; two cover-versions and the originals, so that you could compare and contast, if you felt inclined. I'll probably stick to that in future, but this one features six videos—three songs—because a chain of links occurred to me, which I can't resist taking advantage of.
I could have begun this short series of connections from either end, but even before I noticed the chain, I'd always meant to start with the Polecats. They were, as far as I remember, the first of the late '70s, early '80s British "rockabilly revival" acts to rework non-rockabilly songs in a rockabilly fashion, and so set off a trend which continues to this day; so it's only fitting to give them the top slot, as it were.
British listeners, if they remember them at all, will probably know them from their two 1980 chart-singles, Rockabilly Guy/Jeepster (the latter a T-Rex cover, and the former a reworking of a number they'd previously recorded on the U.K. specialist rockabilly label, Nervous Records) and their cover, below, of David Bowie's John I'm Only Dancing B-sided by their version of Jimmy Carroll's 1958 Big Green Car. Those on the ex-colonial side of The Pond, on the other hand, might remember their 1983 U.S. chart-single, Make A Ciruit With Me and its rather awful B-side, Juvenile Delinquents From A Planet Near Mars.
So, anyways, here's their verion of John I'm Only Dancing…
And here, for comparison, is the original by David Bowie.
And so to the second link in this chain. The Shillelagh Sisters. A band which, I have to say, largely passed me by at the time. I remember hearing this cover version of Nancy Sinatra's These Boots Are Made For Walking, but it was pretty-much oveshadowed for me by the Meteors' remake of the same song. It's actually the B-side, the A-side being Passion Fruit (which I can't find a video of to link), but joins that noble company of B-sides, (such as Cliff Richard's Move It) which proved more popular than their purported betters on the A-side.
As to the chain, well the band was managed by Polecats double-bassist Phil Bloomberg, and the guitarist was fellow-Polecat, Boz Boorer. And then there's the lead singer, Jacquie O'Sullivan. More about her after the videos.
And Nancy Sinatra's original.
And so to the third link in the chain. It's a little bit of a stretch, but not much. Jacquie O'Sullivan, lead singer of the Shillelagh Sisters, went on to replace Siobhan Fahey in Bananarama, who had previously had a hit with a cover of Shocking Blue's 1969 Venus. Which, as it happens, I know a rockabilly version of…
If there ever was a band who seemed to delight in counfounding those of us who tend to pigeonhole music into genres, then Southern Culture On The Skids are that band. Their fried-chicken-greasy, humorous and slightly sleezy mixture of garage-surf, soul, rockabilly, blues, country and gawd knows what else, is unique to them and them alone. And indescribable. All I can say is I heartily recommend them. This is their version of Venus, from their 1993 E.P., Girlfight.
And, of course, Shocking Blue's excellent original.
And that wraps it up for the moment. Next in this series, some psychobilly, methinks.
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