I’ve long been a fan of unusual covers. And the Hackney Colliery Band’s cover of Nirvana’s ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ certainly ticks that box.
It’s by no means a novelty cover. What it does is to transform Nirvana’s 1993 hit single into a dark jazz track. Though it loses the vocals, it maintains the spirit, mystery and angst of the original.
It’s taken from the Hackney Colliery Band’s forthcoming live album, entitled, umm, Live. This will also include cover versions of Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggety’ and Toto’s ‘Africa.’ The album is released on May 12, and two weeks later, the band will headline London’s KOKO.
…and in case you thought this was a one-off, their version of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’ is pretty special, too:
The Last Battle remain one of my favourite bands, and not just because I put out their debut, either!
their second album will be ready when it’s ready, but for now, check out their take on Nirvana’s ‘Pennyroyal Tea.’ Nirvana’s version originally appeared on their third and final studio album, In Utero, which as you have probably noticed, is just celebrating its twentieth anniversary.
Stream and download The Last Battle’s version below:
Madonna and Nirvana both became massive in the UK after Top Of The Pops performances, although I suspect they probably would have done even if they had not gone anywhere near the BEEB.
Madonna had already had several hits when the title track of her second album was released. Quite why she chose to turn up wearing a god-awful outfit -and a pink wig that even Lady Gaga might have passed on remains a mystery. Her record company boss reportedly rushed down to the studio to plead with her not to appear with it, but she did, anyway…
Meanwhile, Nirvana might have been committing career suicide, what with singing an octave lower and changing the words to the charmingly moral-majority baiting ‘load up on drugs and kill your friends.’ I have to confess when I saw this the night it went out I didn’t know the tune that well, so it bypassed me. But in time, this, like the Madona appearance, showed that bizarre appearances may also make acts, as well as break them.
As you will doubtless be aware, this year marks twenty years since Nirvana’s Nevermind was released, challenging forever people’s perceptions of what would get played on daytime radio, and ten years since Strokes’ Is This It? updated indie for the twenty-first century.
While not my favourite albums of those respective years necessarily (I’d plump for Massive Attack’s Blue Lines and Low’s Things We Lost In The Fire), there’s no doubt that they’re awesome records.
Spin magazine in the US have put a free download album together called Newermind, which features thirteen artists paying tribute to Nevermind by covering a song from the album in turn. The album features contributions from Cobain faves like the Meat Puppets and The Vaselines, as well as newer acts like EMA.
Ah…1991. School was rubbish, the UK got involved in a war in Iraq (plus ca change la meme chose etc..) and the UK recession bit. How times change. Bryan Adams was no.1 for sixteen weeks with the theme for a film about Robin Hood that showed Kevin Costner doing an appalling English accent -‘Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves.’ Music, yet again, would save us. Depending on what got through, of course. Bizarrely, songs not played during the time of the Gulf War were ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’ by Elton John, the Bangles ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ and Lulu’s ‘Boom-bang-a-bang.’ The Cure’s ‘Killing An Arab’ didn’t make the blacklist though. In the middle of all this, there was the incongruous sight of the Clash getting a no.1 with the re-issued ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’
I have to admit, this track didn’t do much for me in 1991, but over the course of the decade, it and parent album Blue Lines grew on me. It was actually credited to Massive, rather than Massive Attack, being as the name was considered inappropriate at the time of the Gulf War. This track is without a doubt my favourite track of the last twenty years.
Massive -‘ Unfinished Sympathy.’
A few weeks ago, a twelve year old started trying to tell me abuot when Nirvana first appeared on Top of the Pops. ‘You don’t have to tell me,’ I explained ‘I was watching it, I know!’ But that’s the thing: for my generation he was the one who pushed open the door for alternative music into the mainstream; for another generation after us, he’s an icon of doomed youth. Perhaps it’s how people in their fourties feel when i ask them about their experiences of the punk days. Ah well…
Nirvana -‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’
Hello to shoegazing (part 1). Curve were one of those names I would gaze it in the indie chart each week, wondering how I could even get to hear their music -the likelihood of hearing it on daytime Radio 1 was slim, and I had no access to MTV, and filesharing meant something different in 1991. Eventually I heard them – bought a cassette single of ‘Coast Is Clear’ and was not disappointed. This was the debut single though, featuring the man who held the record for many years for being the world’s fastest rapper – ‘JC 001.’
Curve -‘Ten Little Girls’
In which the world of shoegazing meets goth (see also the Cocteau Twins). By 1991, Siouxsie and the Banshees were pretty much the elder statesmenandwoman of the ‘indie-alternative’ spectrum, but I still carried a torch for them that I had done since I saw ‘Candyman’ as a nineyear old on Top of the Pops. This song was prime Banshees, even if parent album Superstition wasn’t. As shoegazing and baggy battled it out (well, sorta), the instrumental break seemed to bear more than a passing resemblance to Chapterhouse’s single of the same time ‘Pearl.’
Siouxsie and the Banshees -‘Kiss Them For Me.’
It’s a truth not generally acknowledged that there was a successful pre-Britpop indie scene, that dind’t involve Shoegazing necessarily, but did make it onto Top Of The Pops, Smash Hits and quite often daytime Radio 1. The Wonderstuff were one of those bands, along with Pop Will Eat Itself, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Jesus Jones, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine who often did rather well. This was their biggest hit as band (not involving covers and Vic Reeves).
Wonderstuff -‘Size Of A Cow.’
This song got me from the off: ‘Says she won;t be forced against her will/says she don’t do drugs but she does the pill.’ sufficiently parent-baiting, I hoped. I still have a spot for the Fanclub but I kinda preferred them when they were mashing up Big Star and Dinsoaur Jr, rather than the Neil Young of the scottish west coast which started setting in about 1997.
Teenage Fanclub -‘The Concept.’
It has been said about many of the pre-britpop bands that they made more money selling T-shirts than records, but they did have hits too. This song got Carter onto the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party in October 1991. The show might have passed off without incident had host Philip Schofield then muttred an insensitive gag about thier haircuts…see “>here. heh heh…My little brother and I were there, having won tickets, and we sorta saw it, but it was only completely clear when we got home and wathced the video afterwards…
Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine -‘After The watershed (Early Learning The Hard Way).
*Would be here also: REM -‘Losing My Religion’; Billy Bragg ‘Sexuality.’ Problems with what is available on YouTube at the moment.
Here are ten songs today from the legendary Festive Fifty compiled by John Peel. As yesterday’s entry focused on the eighties, it seemed only fair to do the nineties today. Some of the records were obscure, but other artists went on to do massively well. Much like the eighties, in fact.
(The Vaselines, looking rather like The Velvets here, I think)
As Andrew said, Beatles covers are always welcome.
What function, if any do covers serve?
For some acts, it’s the chance to revive a flagging career. For others, the chance to show versatility or to raise funds for anyone whose career they are indebted to.
And what about the listeners? Do they have anything to gain?
Well, I don’t know how many Nirvana fans were led to investigate Shocking Blue, whose track ‘Love Buzz’ was covered for Nirvana’s first ever release. I do know that Nirvana covering ‘Molly’s Lips’ ‘Jesus Wants Me for A Sunbeam’ (though Nirvana changed it to ‘doesn’t’) and ‘Son Of a Gun’ led to me checking out The Vaselines and the Raincoats, who definitely made more of an impression on me than The Meat Puppets.
As for the other tracks, well, I already knew the Beatles and Bowie, but hey…they kinda fitted with the post. And Siouxsie and the Banshees led me to Iggy Pop, The Sparks, Roxy Music, even Billie Holliday…
Nirvana -‘Molly’s Lips (Vaselines cover).’ mp3
Nirvana -‘Son Of A Gun (Vaselines cover).’ mp3
Nirvana -‘The Man Who Sold The World (David Bowie cover).’ mp3
Nirvana -‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night? (leadbelly cover).’ mp3
Siouxsie and the Banshees -‘Helter Skelter (The Beatles cover).’ mp3
Siouxsie and the Bandshees -‘Dear Prudence.’ mp3
As always, if you like what you hear, SUPPORT THE ARTISTS!
Here, rather like it suggests on the tin, are seven covers for Sunday. I am now only six days away from my wedding to the wonderful soon to be Mrs. 17 Seconds, so there may not be as many posts as I run around trying to sort out yet another thing.
One thing there will be is the very first 17 Seconds interview, with Swimmer One. Hopefully up here tomorrow…
Hell Is For Heroes-‘Boys Don’t Cry (Cure cover).’ mp3