#31songs: 4: Best cover version

Roadrunner

Prolific songwriter though he is, Pat Fish has also always been a generous performer of cover versions.  There’s a generosity to the audience — we get introduced to songs that we might not otherwise have heard — and a generosity to the original artists, especially those who are not so well known. Pat’s skill has been to make the songs his own without utterly tearing them away from their original performers’ versions.  On his records there are songs by Lou Reed, Jonathan Richman, Classics IV, Kevin Ayers, and Pavlov’s Dog, but it’s at the gigs that the full range of his interests comes clear.  At the first gig I went to, in March 1987, he announced that he was about to sing a sure-fire number-one song. Cue collective hush: is he about to perform a new song that will propel him to household fame?  The opening bars revealed otherwise: it was Ben E. King’s’s ‘Stand By Me’, then enjoying a revival thanks to some Levi’s Jeans adverts.  A few years ago he was frequently covering a song by an otherwise obscure Austrian songwriter, Wolfgang Tschegg, and he also did a great one, ‘Regrets of a Spaceman’, by Charlie Sundown.  Most recently there have been songs by Peter Blegvad (Gold, Blue Flower) and Ayers again (Singing a Song in the Evening.)

But my choice is one that positions where The Jazz Butcher group were coming from on their early records, a song by Jonathan Richman that — as many people have said before me — is the missing link between the Velvet Underground and punk.  There’s lots to love here: the relentlessness, the slightly mechanical (and very V.U.) chorus of ‘RADIO ON’, the spoken vocal in the breakdown.  There’s the same rough-and-ready garage band feel to it as on the original ‘Southern Mark Smith’, and the home-made video brings out those qualities too:

 

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One thought on “#31songs: 4: Best cover version

  1. Pingback: Thirty-one songs: Pat Fish (The Jazz Butcher) | Michael Whitworth

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