Tuesday 29 September 2020

Cover version

 Following on from the Cover Album, there are many many fine Cover Versions out there.

And probably the same number (if not more) of bad cover versions too

But ... which is the best (a highly subjective question which I'm sure you'll disagree with my suggestion)

For me, it's a straight fight between John Otway's "House Of The Rising Sun" and William Shatner's " Common People"

Otway's version is a staple of his live show featuring a call and response with the audience - he sings a line, they shout back a question.  The audience asks a question, Otway acts like he's never heard the question before, and then gives the answer in an explanatory tone of voice.
I've seen John Otway live several times over the past (ahem) years, and this is the one song that is always in the set.  If he left it out, I think the audience may lynch him.

William Shatner plays it dead straight, despite the fact that his tone of voice and ennunciation just has more than a touch of comedy about it.  Lifted from his fourth (!) album - 'Has Been' - the "playing it straight" card is assisted by the presence of Ben Folds on piano and production duties, lyrics supplied by Nick Hornby for one track, and a guest list including Joe Jackson, Aimee Mann, Henry Rollins, and Adrian Belew.

The comedy/novelty element is kept in check on this album, but it was the next album - 'Seeking Major Tom' - provided 12 cover versions delivered in Bill's indomitable style, which was probably not "played straight".

I think it's fair to say the William Shatner was not the greatest of actors.  And by the same token, Airplane II was not the greatest of films.  But add the 2 together and you get this:

But which Cover Version is better?
I dunno - you be the judge ...

John Otway - House Of The Rising Sun

William Shatner - Common People

These are two of the finest covers versions out there (there are many others, but I've chosen these two).

As said above, there are a plethora of bad ones - the video for this Pulp track contains bad cover versions in the flesh.

Pulp - Bad Cover Version


  1. Shatner's Common People is marvellous, but (and I may be courting controversy here) my personal favourite Otway covers are In Dreams and Green Green Grass of Home.

    1. Green Grass Grass was on the shortlist, as was Blockbuster, You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet, and Crazy Horses.

  2. That Bad Cover Version video never fails to bring a smile to my face.

    And neither does Shatner. That whole album is genius, particularly the Henry Rollins duet.