Musical musings

Quinland posted a list of his favorite cover songs on his blog yesterday and asked everyone to share their favorites. I replied but couldn’t link to the songs themselves, so I thought I’d do so here. The list is by no means complete, but they were the first ones that came to mind, which must mean something!

“Tears of a Clown” was the first one that came to mind. Way back in 1981, when I first heard it, I had no idea it was a cover. I was a freshman in high school; I was totally into ska music after a friend of a friend brought a cassette back from England that had One Step Beyond by Madness recorded on one side and The Beat’s I Just Can’t Stop It on the other. I remember the first time I heard the oldie, about 10 years later. I was floored. I do like it, but it can’t compare to the ska version, to me.

“Tainted Love” was another high school favorite. I don’t apologize for not knowing that was a cover, since I bet most people think that Soft Cell’s version is the original. This was a very handy song to play while in the midst of a relationship meltdown in college. By “play,” I mean opening the dorm room window and cranking the stereo up as high as it would go. . . which was 40. (I don’t know what the Spinal Tap guys were thinking with the whole “11” thing.)

It goes without saying that I was not a rocker in my youth. With apologies to David Thompson, Van Halen was not my cup of tea. So when the lovely and talented Roddy Frame decided to cover “Jump,” I could not have been happier. I like the Loaded Version; it’s still slightly lounge-y, but still with a blistering guitar solo. Because, of course, Mr. Frame was a child guitar prodigy.

The Bobby Fuller Four must have time traveled to the future, realized that The Clash would need to sing “I Fought The Law,” and then come back and written it for them. (Dang it. I just looked it up and they didn’t actually write it. It was written by the guy who replaced Buddy Holly in the Crickets. That would have been a hard job to take. Kind of like being the guy who replaced Ian McCullough on that one Bunnymen album.)

Miles Hunt from The Wonder Stuff loves The Jam. I know this because he told me so, one summer evening back in 1998. I’d heard “That’s Entertainment” by The Jam years and years before, but didn’t give it much thought until I saw Miles sing it to a crowd of 18,500 people in Bescot Stadium on their Welcome to the Cheap Seats documentary. I fell in love, looked up The Jam’s original version, and became somewhat obsessed.

Now, “Closer to Fine” had been a song I loved from the very first. (I saw Indigo Girls as an opening band for Hothouse Flowers at Pine Street Theater back in the day!) The Stuffies do a lovely, respectful cover of it as an extra track on Construction for the Modern Idiot.

I have to get this posted in the next five minutes, so suffice it to say that I love Smashing Pumpkins’ cover of “Landslide.” Stripped down and gorgeous.

Meeting Miles Hunt

Lori, Deb and Miles <3
Lori, Deb and Miles ❤
I must find a higher-res copy of this one!

The Wonder Stuff may be my all-time favorite band.

Most Americans are asking, “The… who, again?” Just in case your memory of late 80s/early 90s alternative music is foggy, I’ll jog it for you: Caught In My Shadow? Don’t Let Me Down, Gently? The Size of a Cow? Radio Ass Kiss? Give Give Give Me More More More?

No?

I’m not surprised. The Wonder Stuff had eight Top Twenty hits in the UK, but they never broke through onto mainstream radio here in the US, with the exception – I do believe – of certain parts of California and New Jersey. (Actually, Greg Glover of 94/7 fm here in Portland loves them as much as I do, so he sneaks them into his morning show on occasion… and he knows I am always giddy when he does.)

But I digress.

Once upon a time in the summer of 1998, I was pregnant and on bed rest (after going into preterm labor at 25 weeks that Fourth of July morning). My OBGYN’s rules were strict: I was to lie on my right side for as many hours a day as possible, sitting up only to eat and standing up only to walk to the bathroom. I was bored and hot and uncomfortable, but I followed directions and stayed put.

Then I found out The Stuffies were coming to town. Now, when I say “The Stuffies,” I mean Wonder Stuff lead singer Miles Hunt and guitarist Malc Treece, and when I say “coming to town,” I mean coming near enough to Portland that one could drive there to see them fairly easily. They were coming, in fact, to the little hamlet of Bingen, Washington (population at the time: 654).

I did what any conscientious-but-music-obsessed pregnant woman would do: I asked my doctor if it would be okay to go. He gave me the thumbs-up on one condition: I was to stay as reclined as possible during the whole thing. I could walk to the car; walk to a chair and put my feet up; walk back to the car; and walk to the house. Period. I agreed – I was so happy that it was possible, I might have agreed to anything.

All went as planned, with one exception: virtually nobody attended the show. Oh, all the Bingen locals were there, laughing and drinking in the bar, but in the back room where the little platform they called a stage was, we fans numbered seven (and four of us – David, my brother, my best friend Deb and I, had come in the same car).

Miles and Malc
Miles and Malc

Rather than being put out by the lack of fans in attendance, Miles and Malc seemed to take it with a grain of salt – and they put on the most fantastic show for us. After playing a few brilliant new songs, they let us call out our favorites, which they gamely attempted to play. After ages of this joy, they capped off the evening by coming right off the stage and sitting down with us for beers. (Not that I got to have a beer, of course!)

And so we were introduced to the sweet and quiet Malc Treece and the kind and gracious and hilarious Miles Hunt, up close and personal. Miles (who was sitting closest to me) had us laughing our heads off with tales of himself, including a fine one where he got Paul Weller (yes, the Modfather himself) to ring his brother, Russ – who didn’t believe it was really him! Perhaps it was the fact that Miles’ own idol Mr. Weller was gracious enough to go out with Russ for a curry that made Miles himself so open and friendly with us. Not a hint of his fabled sneering and snarky persona in sight!

Thus began my crush on Miles Hunt, singer and such a nice guy, to go along with my love for his music. No ill effects resulted on the child in my womb from this little jaunt, either*… though he does have a lifelong love of the Wonder Stuff.

(* In fact, he came almost two weeks late, in the end. But that’s another story.)