Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Frankie Valli’

In Memoriam – August 2011

September 5th, 2011 6 comments

The two most notable deaths in August happened on the same day: the 22nd. I’ve already paid tribute to Nick Ashford (HERE); on the same day that great songwriter passed away, Jerry Leiber died. I don’t think it’s necessary to go into detail about the Leiber & Stoller story other than to say that they had a crucial impact on the development of rock & roll. Leiber was the lyricist, and as such got Elvis Presley to sing the great line in Jailhouse Rock: “Number 47 said to number 3,’You’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see. I
sure would be delighted with your company, come on and do the Jailhouse Rock with me.’”

Billy Grammer died at 85. Fans of The Originals will appreciate the song in this mix: Grammer’s I Wanna Go Home later became a hit for Bobby Bare as Detroit City. Grammer played at the rally during which the racist Alabama governor and presidential hopeful George Wallace was shot. Grammer apparently wept after the incident, suggesting that his views on race relations were less than entirely endearing.

Akiko Futaba, one of Japan’s most popular singers, had a lucky break in utter tragedy on 6 August 1945. Just as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, the train she was travelling in entered a tunnel. The singer, who had started recording in 1936, lived to the age of 96.

In May, we lost Bob Flanigan of the pioneering vocal group The Four Freshmen; this month the last surviving member of the original line-up, Ross Barbour, died at the age of 82. Through many changes in the line-up, Flanigan and Barbour remained Freshmen until the latter’s retirement in 1977.

I don’t often include recored executives in the In Memoriam series, but there are two this month who qualfy. Rich Fitzgerald, who has died at 64, had a massive influence on pop music. In the 1970s he worked for RSO, with whom he helped spearheaded the massively-selling Saturday Night Fever and Grease soundtracks (and, later, that of Fame). After RSO, he ended up via a handful of record companies as vice-chairman of Warner Bros. Along the way, he helped give artists such as The Pretenders, Prince, Madonna and Green Day achieve their breakthrough.

Frank DiLeo was a executive at Epic Records where he nurtured the careers of acts like Meat Loaf, Luther Vandross, Gloria Estefan, Cyndi Lauper, REO Speedwagon and Quiet Riot, as well as the US success of The Clash and Culture Club. He was twice Michael Jackson’s manager, in the late 1980s and at the time of Jackson’s death. And he played Tuddy Cicero in GoodFellas, impressing as Paulie’s brother who executes Joe Pesci’s obnoxious Tommy character. He also appeared in Wayne’s World.

Finally, it’s not at all usual to include non-musicians on account of their being the subject of a song. But in the case of William ‘Stetson’ Kennedy I must make an exception. The human rights activist’s infiltration of the Ku Klax Klan helped bring down the racist organisation and made it his mission to expose racists. Woody Guthrie wrote a song named after Kennedy.

Trudy Stamper, 94, Grand Ole Opry artist relations manager and first female presenter on US radio, on July 30
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Grand Ole Opry Song (1972)
Grand Ole Opry Intro (Prince Albert Theme) (1940)

DeLois Barrett Campbell, 85, singer with gospel group The Barrett Sisters, on August 2

Andrew McDermott, 45, singer of English metal group Threshold, on August 3

Conrad Schnitzler, 74, German musician (Tangerine Dream, Kluster), on August 4

Marshall Grant, 83, country bassist (in the Tennessee Two/Three with Johnny Cash) and manager (Cash, Statler Brothers), on August 6
Johnny Cash & the Tennessee Two – Cry Cry Cry (1955)
Leo Mattioli, 39, Argentine cumbia singer, on August 7
Leo Mattioli – Despues de ti (2006)

Joe Yamanaka, 64, Japanese rock singer, on August 7
Joe Yamanaka – Mama Do You Remember

Billy Grammer, 85, country singer-songwriter and guitarist, on August 10
Billy Grammer – I Wanna Go Home (1963)

Jani Lane (born John Kennedy Oswald), 47, frontman of US glam-metal band Warrant, on August 11
Warrant – Cherry Pie (1990)

Richard Turner, 27, British jazz trumpeter (Round House), on August 11
Rich Fitzgerald, 64, record executive, on August 15
Frankie Valli – Grease (1978)

Akiko Futaba, 96, Japanese singer, on August 16

Kampane, 33, New York rapper, murdered on August 16

Ross Barbour, 82, last original member of barbershop band The Four Freshmen,
The Four Freshmen – It Happened Once Before (1953), on August 20
Jerry Leiber, 78, legendary songwriter and producer, on August 22
Elvis Presley – I Want To Be Free (1957, as lyricist)
The Clovers – Love Potion Number 9 (1959, as lyricist and co-producer)
The Exciters – Tell Him (1962, as co-producer)
Donald Fagen – Ruby Baby (1982, as lyricist)

Nickolas Ashford, 70, soul singer, songwriter and producer as Ashford & Simpson, on August 22
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – You’re All I Need To Get By (1968, as songwriter)
Ashford & Simpson – Street Corner (1982)

Glen Croker, 77, singer and lead guitarist of honky tonk band The Hackberry Ramblers (joined in 1959), on August 23

Cephas Mashakada, 51, Zimbabwean sungura musician, on August 23
Esther Gordy Edwards, 91, Motown executive who lent brother Berry Gordy the money to start Motown, and founder of the Hitsville USA museum, on August 24
Rod Stewart – The Motown Song (1990)

Frank DiLeo, 63, music executive, ex-manager of Michael Jackson and actor (GoodFellas, Wayne’s World), on August 24

Laurie McAllister, 53, bassist in The Runaways (post-1978) and founder of The Orchids, on August 25

Liz Meyer, 59, US-born and Netherlands-based blugrass singer, on August 26

William Stetson Kennedy, 94, author who helped bring down the KKK and subject of a Woody Guthrie song, on August 27
Billy Bragg & Wilco – Stetson Kennedy (2000)
Johnny Giosa, 42, drummer of hard rock band BulletBoys, on August 28
BulletBoys – For The Love Of Money (1988)

George Green, 59, songwriter (especially with John Cougar Mellencamp), on August 28
John Cougar – Hurts So Good (1982, as co-writer)

David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards, 96, Delta blues guitarist and singer, on August 29
David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards – West Helena Blues (1988)

Alla Bayanova, 97, Russian singer, on August 30
Alla Bayanova – Wolga
Alla Bayanova – Romance Ya ehala domo

DOWNLOAD
(Mirror 1 Mirror 2)

* * *

Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook

The Originals Vol. 9

October 13th, 2008 8 comments
Another installment of lesser originals (and their famous cover versions). After Volume 8, caithiseach of The Great Vinyl Meltdown send me an even older version of Whiskey In The Jar than the one I posted by the Seekers. I’ll add the Highwaymen version from 1962 to the original post, and stick the link to the file at the end of this one. caithiseach’s series on incredibly rare early ’60s vinyl is coming to an end. He has listed a few options for his blog’s future direction, which look great (personally, I could do without the instrumentals option, but that’s just me). Have a look and help this fine writer shape his blog. As for this batch of originals, we owe our friend RH for A Boy Named Sue and The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.
.

Badfinger – Without You.mp3
Nilsson – Without You.mp3
There is something dismal about the notion that a pop classic would be best-known among some people in its incarnation by Mariah Carey. Those with a more acute sense of pop history will have been dismissive of Carey’s calorific cover of Nilsson’s hit. But even Harry Nilsson applied a generous dose of schmaltz to his cover of the Badfinger original.

Without You apart, there is a chain of tragedy which links the Welsh band and Nilsson. Both acts had a Lennon connection (more tragedy here, of course). Badfinger were signed to the Beatles’ Apple label, on which Without You was released in 1970; Nilsson was a collaborator with and drinking buddy of Lennon’s. Nilsson died fairly young, so did two members of Badfinger, both of whom wrote Without You and committed suicide. Singer Peter Ham killed himself in 1975 (in his suicide note he referred to their “heartless bastard” of a manager), and in 1983, Tom Evans hanged himself after an argument over royalties for the song with former colleague Joey Molland (who both had played on Lennon’s Imagine album and other ex-Beatles solo records).

Nilsson reportedly thought that Badfinger’s Without You had been a Beatles recording – indeed, the Rolling Stone touted Badfinger as the Beatles’ heirs. His version, turning a fairly rough mid-tempo rock song into an orchestral power ballad (at a time when such things were rare) became a massive hit in 1972; Carey’s version hit the charts just a week after Nilsson’s death in 1994. One may fear the worst for Ms Carey should the Nilsson curse strike her: apart from the sad story of Badfinger and Lennon’s death, both Mama Cass and Keith Moon died in Nilsson’s flat.
Also recorded by: Shirley Bassey (1972), Johnny Mathis (1972), Percy Faith (1972), Vikki Carr (1972), Cilla Black (1973), Petula Clark (1974), Billy Paul (1976), Susie Allanson (1977), Heart (1978), Mina (as Per chi, 1978), Melissa Manchester (1980), T.G. Sheppard (1983), Richard Clayderman (1988), Beverly Jo Scott (1991), Air Supply (1991), Pandora (as Desde el dia que te fuiste, 1992), Mariah Carey (1993), Donny Osmond (2002), Natalia (2003), Jade Kwan (2003), Weezer (unofficial release, 2004), Clay Aiken (2006), Il Divo (as Desde el dia que te fuiste, 2006), Wing (2007).
Best version: Tough choice. Nilsson’s vocals are quite impressive, but I prefer Badfinger’s arrangement and Ham’s desperately sad voice. Or the phonetic Bulgarian Idols version now known as Ken Lee is worth watching, as well as the improved English version (“You alwees smile lolly nigh…Ilibu dibu douchoo”).

.


Frankie Valli – The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.mp3

Walker Brothers – The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.mp3
When some years ago I looked up the UK number 1 on the day I was born, I was delighted: the Walker Brothers’ The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore was one of my favourite ’60s songs. It’s magnificent Spector-esque production makes the song sound like a Righteous Brothers number (don’t the strings sound a bit like The Theme from A Summer’s Place?). I had not realised that the Walker Brothers’ 1966 version was a cover.

A year before the Californian trio recorded their biggest hit, it had been recorded by Frankie Valli on his debut solo album. The single release flopped, even though it was in almost every way a Four Seasons song. It was written by Bob Crewe and Robert Gaudio, who wrote most of the group’s hits, and produced by the Four Seasons’ producer, Crewe. There is little difference in the arrangement; the Walkers’ is a richer and more dramatic carbon copy. Their version attained some sort of notoriety as the soundtrack to a London gangland killing. The story has it that it was playing on a jukebox in the Blind Beggar pub when Ronnie Kray entered and shot his adversary George Cornell. A stray bullet hit the jukebox causing the needle to get stuck in the groove, repeating the line “The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore” as Cornell lay dying.
Also recorded by: Richard Anthony (as Le soleil ne brille, 1966), Caterina Caselli (as Il sole non tramonterà, 1967), The Lettermen (1970), Neil Diamond (1979), Nielsen/Pearson (1981), Long John Baldry (1986), The Flying Pickets (1986), Russell Hitchcock (1987), David Essex (1989), Cher (1995), Robson & Jerome (1995), Keane (2004)
Best version: With Scott Engel on vocals and the lush arrangement, it must be the Walker Brothers’.

.

Lou Johnson – (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me.mp3
Sandie Shaw – Always Something There To Remind Me.mp3
One would think that Burt Bacharach songs would feature strongly in this series. Somehow that hasn’t been the case, though some will still be highlighted. In some cases it is difficult to find the first recording (Richard Chamberlain singing Close To You), in many instances the original is already sufficiently well-known or indeed the best-known version (Walk On By). So I’m glad that I can include one of my favourite Bacharach songs in this series: Always Something There To Remind Me.

The most famous version is Sandie Shaw’s, which has some of the sexiest vocals I can think of (though nobody seems to agree with me). Shaw’s version has the standard Bacharach arrangement. Johnson’s original, like Shaw’s version recorded in 1964 but released as a b-side, has the Bacharachian trumpet, strings and keyboard, yet sounds like the soul song it is, especially when Johnson’s abandons the song’s structure and ad libs the final half minute as the backing singers spur him on. Dionne Warwick, who’d later release the song herself, sang the demo, and Shaw later recorded the song in German.
Also recorded by: Brenda Lee (1965), Gals and Pals (1966), Johnny Mathis (1967), Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles (1967), Dionne Warwick (1967), Mal dei Primitives (1968), José Feliciano (1968), Stanley Turrentine (1968), Martha Reeves & The Vandellas (1968), R.B. Greaves (1969), Barbara Mason (1970), Winston Francis (1970), The Carpenters (as part of their Bacharach Medley, 1972), Blue Swede (1973), The Stylistics (1982), Naked Eyes (1983), The Starlite Orchestra (1995), Tin Tin Out featuring Espiritu (1995), The Captain Howdy (1998), The Absolute Zeros (1998), Rebecca’s Empire (1998), Braid (2000), Steve Tyrell (2008) a.o.
Best version: Johnson’s is very good, but Sandie Shaw’s is heavenly (Her German version, Einmal glücklich sein wie die ander’n, is quite good, in a cute foreign accent sort of way).

.

The Paragons – The Tide Is High.mp3
Blondie – The Tide is High.mp3
The Tide Is High probably is the least surprising of Blondie’s cunningly chosen covers. When Blondie suddenly turned up with a reggae-pop number, it was apparent that they had not written it themselves. And yet, the original by the Paragons, a mellow soul-reggae number, has not become a pop classic in its own right. Another case of the cover artist appropriating a song. The Paragons released The Tide Is High in 1967, in Britain as a b-side, and the song remained relatively obscure until Blondie’s 1980 cover, which added horns and more strings to the arrangement. Singer Bob Andy made an appearance in the British charts in 1970, as one half of Bob & Marcia, scoring a hit with a cover of Nina Simone’s Young, Gifted And Black. John Holt, who wrote The Tide Is High (or, more precisely, adapted it from a 1930s song), became a legendary exponent of lover’s rock. I’ll soare you the Atomic Kitten UK #1 version from 2002.
Also recorded by: Top of the Poppers (1980), Sinitta (1995), Nydia Rojas (as La número uno, 1996), Papa Dee (1996), Maxi Priest (1997), Angelina (1997), Billie Piper (2000), Up The Duff (2000), Sheep on Drugs (2000), The Chubbies (2001), Atomic Kitten (September 9, 2002), The Selecter (2006), Kardinal Offishall feat Nicole Scherzinger (as Numba 1 [The Tide Is High], 2008)
Best version: I never liked the song in Blondie’s hands much, but really like the original.

.

Shel Silverstein – Boy Named Sue.mp3
Johnny Cash – A Boy Named Sue.mp3
It’s a Johnny Cash signature tune, but was actually written by the ultimate Renaissance Man, Shel Silverstein (who previously featured in this series as the author of Dr Hook’s/Marianne Faithfull’s The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan). It is unclear what inspired Silverstein to create this fantastic story about the guy with a girl’s name (or why the boy named Sue just didn’t acquire a butch nickname). But there once was a prominent Mr Sue, Sue K Hicks, the original prosecutor in the notorious 1925 Scopes Trial. Cash (or possibly his wife June Carter; the accounts vary) was introduced to the song at a “guitar pull” party in Nashville, at which musician friends ran their latest compositions by one another. According to Cash, other artists present that night were Bob Dylan (who played Lay Lady Lay), Judy Collins (Both Sides Now) and her then lover Stephen Stills (Judy Blue Eyes), and Silverstein.

Just before his televised 1969 concert from St Quentin jail, June suggested that Johnny perform Silverstein’s song. And he did. On the film footage he can be seen referring to the scribbled lyrics of the song taped to the floor. And so his spontaneous performance of the song, apparently the first time he had even sung it, became one of his biggest hits. Some have claimed that Cash’s lack of familiarity with the song explains his half-spoken delivery. But Silverstein’s 1968 version, from the Boy Named Sue and His Other Country Songs album, is similarly half-spoken. Silverstein followed the song up with a composition from the father’s perspective, using the same tune, It’s very funny: check out the lyrics. Oh, and Mandark in Dexter’s Laboratory is in fact called Susan.
Also recorded by: Joe Dassin (as Un garçon nommé Suzy, 1970), Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs (1970), Mike Krüger (as Ein Junge namens Susi, 1975), Joshua James (1999)
Best version: Cash’s, represented here in its unbleeped version. Havea look at the video of Silverstein and Cash performing a bit of the song together

and, as promised above:
The Highwaymen – Whiskey In The Jar.mp3

Perfect Pop – Vol. 8

May 9th, 2008 3 comments

Here are a few more perfect pop records which brings the number of featured songs up up to 100 (by my rough count).

Stevie Wonder – You Are The Sunshine Of My Life.mp3
This song has been covered a zillion times and by some of the finest singers ever to commit their voices to record (Sinatra, Fitzgerald). And every one of these covers has failed to translate the sweet vitality of the original. It is a shame that this gem of a song has become a muzak staple; few major songs have been as poorly understood at this one. Written when Stevie was just 20, this mid-tempo samba number seems unassuming, until you listen to Stevie’s vocal inflections and, even more carefully, the deceptively simple arrangement. This song needs no big orchestration to fix its simplicity; indeed, strings or a big band treatment poison its sweet intimacy. And this is the key: it is a loveletter, not an epic declaration. Give it an orchestra, and the sentiment is varnished with cliché. All Stevie needs is keyboard, bass, drums and percussions. And the joyous exuberance of his voice (with the help of Jim Gilstrap and Lani Groves, who sing the first verse; listen to it over earphones). Stevie sounds like he is in love, because he is: with Gloria Barley, who sings backing vocals here. And isn’t that lovely?
Best bit: “Mmm-mmm-hmmm-mmm (2:22)

Frankie Valli – Can’t Take My Eyes Of You.mp3
The Four Seasons had a number of great pop songs, but Valli’s finest moment came as a solo performer, albeit with the help of his old pals Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio, who wrote this song. Can’t Take My Eyes Of You begins as a mid-tempo ballad, unremarkable except for Valli’s beautiful phrasing, frequently lagging half a note behind the beat, enunciating some vowels as if to provide an off-beat percussion. Suddenly staccato notes signal a change in tempo; jolly strings (not unlike those used on many disco records a decade later) suggest that Frankie is going to get quite excited now. And then Valli launches into a giddy chorus. He’s in love all right, but our fears that it may not be reciprocal, hinted at in the first verse (“but if you feel like I feel…”, “You’d be like heaven to touch”) are realised as the chorus tails off, and Frankie gently, anxiously asks: “let me love you”. We return to the mid-tempo verse, and are quite aware of Frankie’s doubts and that the giddiness (thanking God he’s alive) may just be the oxytocin talking.
Best bit: The way Frankie chews the final vowel in touch (2:17)

Jens Lekman – Your Are The Light.mp3
Among indie-pop fans, the Swede Jens Lekman is a semi-deity. He writes catchy, quirky tunes. His lyrics are invariably hugely entertaining, sometimes touching, sometimes off-beat. You Are The Light has a great tune, introduced by a Earth, Wind & Fire-ish clarion call and supported by a beat that seems just a little too fast for the song. The chorus is proper singalong stuff. The melody and arrangement, with its occasional blasts of horn now and harmonica there, are hugely attractive. But it is the lyrics that captivate. In the opening verse, he uses his one phone call from jail to dedicate a song to his girl (who landed him in this predicament in first place) on the radio. Later the cops are “sad” because they can’t prove his act of delinquency. This song has much by way of completely likable charm — which sets it apart from much of contemporary pop.
Best bit: The horn intro (0:01)

Matt Monro – We’re Gonna Change The World.mp3
If Barack Obama was into the British crooners of the ’60s and ’70s, he might well have adopted this as his campaign anthem. Monro, whom Sinatra described as the only British singer, might have been an easy listening merchant, but this song has a socially conscious edge which was not usually reflected in the genre, even in the late ’60s (the song itself was released in 1970). The song tells of three women, two of them going on a protest march, presumably for peace, while another sees the demonstration but doesn’t join. In the punchline, the non-joiner is a war widow, crying in her office over her dead husband. Monro’s chorus suggests that her option is the wrong one as he calls, as if from within the throng of marchers: “So, come with us, run with us! We’re gonna change the world. You’ll be amazed, so full of praise, when we’ve rearranged your world. We’re gonna change your world.” And don’t these words sum up the message Obama has been trying to sell? Add to that a wonderfully jaunty tune – try not be lifted by it – and Monro’s enthusiastic vocals, and you have a perfect campaign pop song.
Best bit: Monro nearly shouts the word “run” in his call to action (2:54)

Elvis Presley – Hound Dog.mp3
Big Mama Thornton – Hound Dog.mp3
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote Hound Dog as teenagers for Big Mama Thornton, apparently in ten minutes. Meditate on that for a minute. A couple of teenagers write what will become a timeless classic for an intimidating blues singer, and do the job in ten minutes. The way Thornton sings it is the way the composers conceived it. Hound Dog became a local hit, and inspired a plagiarised response song, which turned out to be the first ever record released by Sun Records, Sam Phillips’ label which would go on to produce Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and, of course, Elvis Presley. It took Elvis a few years to get around to Hound Dog, which had been brutalised in a series of covers which dismantled the original lyrics and added doggerel to it (such as the rabbit line) to become the nonsense we know today. In the 31rd take we know today, Elvis made no attempt to sing the lyrics, symbolised by the way he chews up the pronunciation of the title. He shouts and sneers through the song with his band rocking to the beat of the handclaps, while the Jordannaires gamely try to instill some civility over the raucous guitar solo. Guitarist Scotty Moore’s final chords are a breath of post-orgasmic release. It seems clear while Hound Dog threatened the USA’s repressed sexual morality: Elvis is fingering America’s daughters right there.
Best bit: Drum roll, Elvis groans something, and a guitar chord closes the song (2:09)

Sex Pistols – Pretty Vacant.mp3
The Sex Pistols were the poster boys for the British punk revolution; more than their music, it was their exploits and, more to the point, their image that made Middle England nervous. They swore on TV; they insulted Her Majesty with a song that was banned from radio and yet reached #2 on the UK charts (some have smelled a conspiracy to keep the Pistols off #1, to the benefit of Rod Stewart’s I Don’t Want To Talk About It); they used a naughty word in their album title (it was later established in court that “bollocks” is a non-vulgar Olde English word) . And now hear how Johnny Rotten supposedly pronounces the second syllable of the title’s second word. Ooooh, the threat. Ooooh, the publicity! The Sex Pistols invented punk as much as Elvis invented rock & roll. In many ways, they were the Spice Girls of their day: a phenomenon managed by a clever svengali, whose music was secondary to the image. That’s why Glenn Matlock, the really talented one, could be replaced by a disorientated thug who’d become the most pathetic junkie in rock history. It was all about presentation. But that also glosses over the music. While the primary sales pitch was the image, the product – the music – was very good too. For all the punk posturing, the Sex Pistols had some fine pop tunes. Other than John Lydon’s hysterically sneering delivery and the nature of the lyrics he sneered, there was little revolutionary about the Pisxtols’ music. Never Mind The Bollocks, a very well produced LP, was a harder-edged, faster version of glam rock, with an additional debt to the likes of the Kinks. Of the handful of hits, Pretty Vacant has was the best pop song. Shook your head at the glam reference? Matlock said the riff was based on Abba’s S.O.S.
Best bit: “And we don’t caaaaaaaahre” (1:44)

Human League – (Keep Feeling) Fascination.mp3
The Human League’s Dare probably was the most perfect pop album of its era. But when I pondered which Human League song to feature, I kept coming back to Fascination, which was a single release only. An EP featuring to mixes of Fascination came out later (it also included the excellent preceding single, Mirror Man). Fascination kicks off proper with the swirling, horn-like synth hook which runs through the song and, in the intro, instructs the listeners to get on their feet and dance. The band members take turns singing lines, including even guitarist/keyoardist Jo Callis.
Best bit: “…and so the conversation turned, until the sun went down” (1:00)

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit.mp3
Paul Anka – Smells Like Teen Spirit.mp3*
Cobain’s Pixies moment (he admitted consciously copying them) sounds as much as the uncles of grunge as it sounds like an angry glam rock song. Cobain tried to write a pop song, and succeeded. Tori Amos might have fucked it up, but when Paul Anka covered it as a big band swing number in 2005, the pop sensibilities of Teen Spirit revealed themselves from beneath the grime of discontent. The anthem of non-conformity had, by dint of its over-exposure on MTV and radio, acquired the status of conformity; much of what came after – all the “feel my pain” emo gubbins – was no more non-conformist than the industry and its hit machines Teen Spirit was railing against. Anka stripped the song of its suburban rebellion sheen, turned it into a swing song, and perpetrated an act of subversion one hopes Cobain would have approved of: turning on its head the conformity of Nirvana’s own followers. It may not be the best Nirvana song, but it certainly is their best pop song.
Best bit: Apologies for being boring, but it’s the “yay” bits (1:31)

More Perfect Pop

%d bloggers like this: