Ever idly listened to a track and suddenly thought if this song was a dress, it would fit Nick Cave perfectly? Well, I have, and I’ve collated these musings below. You see, the great thing about a cover is when an artist shines up a song like you’re, once again, hearing it for the first time. But it almost goes without saying that turning a pumpkin into a carriage is a lot easier if the shoe fits in the first place.
Whether it be the timbre of an artist’s voice echoing that of another’s or the zap of a song that would work wonderfully with a totally contrasting sound, sometimes fantasy covers just make themselves known.
While radio stations like BBC Radio One’s Live Lounge feature and Triple J’s Like a Version have been willing these fantasies into reality for years now, there are still plenty of others to be unearthed.
While in the past we’ve eulogised the likes of Julia Jacklin’s take on ‘Someday’ originally by The Strokes and Angel Olsen’s recent gem stripping back the Roxy Music classic ‘More Than This’, below we’re worshipping covers that don’t even exist.
Enjoy, and please feel free to reach out to us with your own takes.
Ten covers we wish were real:
Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ as performed by Mazzy Star
Sultry, atmospheric and set to the pace of a slow dance, Chris Isaak’s classic 1989 hit heralded the sound of Mazzy Star that soon followed as they released their debut album a few months later in the May of 1990.
Hope Sandoval’s feathery vocals would bludgeon home the lyrical metric tonne contained within the song with the bittersweet ease of a sinister singing Maleficent, and the chiming guitar work of David Roback could transpose the atmosphere and add the wistful air of dreaminess. All of this would shake together nicely for a perfect cocktail of early 1990s bedroom-bound indie.
The Carpenters’ ‘(They Long to Be) Close to You’ as performed by The Divine Comedy
Sweet love lyrics are sometimes the best. There is something to be said about simple honeyed prose being more personal and heartfelt. The Carpenters enlisted the luxury of loving springtime with their starry-eyed classic ‘(They Long to Be) Close to You’, and I can’t help but think that the wry smirk of Neil Hannon would deliver a brilliant sexed-up version.
With his own trademark compositions already well established, The Carpenters’ larger than life sound could be taken with a pinch of margarita glass salt by Hannon and The Divine Comedy. This butter cutting ease of musicianship would no doubt result in a fateful cover brimming with bravura and offer up the same warming smile as it twittered along in a chorus of heaven-sent half notes.
Camper Van Beethoven’s ‘Take the Skinheads Bowling’ as performed by Courtney Barnett
“There’s not a line that goes here that rhymes with anything” is a lyric tailored made for the laidback ways of a singer from sunny old Down Under. As if her own musical output didn’t already tell you, with magnificent covers of jovial ditties like ‘Being Around’ by the Lemonheads, Barnett is a master of the lighter, unguarded side of music.
It barely gets less guarded than the scratchy and sanguine ways of Californian 1980s college rock pioneers Camper Van Beethoven. Quietly seminal, so much of their sound can be heard in a lot of today’s alternative acts, and Barnett is certainly one of them.
Ian Dury & The Blockheads’ ‘Reasons to be Cheerful, Pt. 3’ as performed by Dry Cleaning
Speaking of seminal anthems, it would seem that a lot of truly great songs have two lives and Ian Dury & The Blockheads’ ‘Reasons to be Cheerful, Pt. 3’ is experiencing a wildly influential second wind in today’s post-punk explosion. From the lyrical content to the introduction of saxophones and cacophonous sounds.
One of the finest bands propagating a seemingly Blockheads-inspired sound at the moment is undoubtedly Dry Cleaning. With the same sense of lyrical individualism and irreverence, you can almost picture Florence Shaw masterfully subverting this ode to joy with a half-arsed delivery while the band wails around her.
Kate Bush’s ‘This Woman’s Work’ as performed by Julia Jacklin
With beauteously bottomless covers of ‘Sometimes’ and Big Thief’s ‘Paul’ that you could sink into, Julia Jacklin has already offered up a share of covers that herald her as one of the best performative artists around. This is just as well because some songs seem so definitively individual that they almost exist as the sacred calling card of a singular artist, but if anyone could transpose Bush’s belting sonic expressionist painting, then it’s the brilliant Julia Jacklin.
The G# key of the tune is right in Jacklin’s pocket, and I’m sure she’d strip it back to stirring perfection without losing any of the ethereal atmosphere. It is a mark of Jacklin’s performances that usually you forget they’re often acoustic anyhow, and that absorbing style would work a treat here.
Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ as performed by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
I don’t exactly know why, but whenever I listen to ‘Perfect Day’ I picture the unfurling scenes in black and white. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds similarly craft a monochrome vignette with their evocative sounds. Maybe it is the prose quality of printed word that Cave and Reed share in their lyrical output, but it certainly puts them in the same ballpark to collide with a burst more beautiful than Roman Catullus.
With Warren Ellis offering a sweeping arrangement and Cave’s dulcet earthy tones giving the song a gravelly reminiscence, a song about as heavenly as any could be blessed with its terrestrial transfiguration.
Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ as performed by Fontaines D.C.
With Grian Chatten exhibiting a similarly verbose lyrical style, Jim Morrison’s ‘Ghost Song’ was certainly in the running for a Fontaines D.C. cover, but in the end, the shadowy sound of Joy Division seemed a smidgen more suitable to match their recent solemn style.
Anthemic and full of vitality, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is a song that thrashes itself unflinchingly. Both acts are not ones that asked to be met halfway. They grab you by the lapels and shake you like a Skoda going over a cattle grid until you’re humming the most profound and visceral collision of sound and sermon like a radio advert jingle.
The Supremes’ ‘Stoned Love’ as performed by Alabama Shakes
Brittany Howard is one of the greatest singers around. Period. However, it has to be said that her voice is often at its most bristling when it’s fully let off the leash like a whippet at the racetrack. The Supremes afford any artist that liberty.
The southern blues-rock sound might seem a touch contrasting to the measured soul of The Supremes, but that contrast would make for a rattling epic jaunt that reimagines the song as a barnstorming unbridled swamp guitar riot.
David Bowie’s ‘Soul Love’ as performed by Arctic Monkeys
Alex Turner offered a sneak peek of how this cover might have sounded when introducing ‘Cornerstone’ to the Glastonbury crowd amid their frankly incredible 2013 headline set. With only one line sang, the teased cover proved so catchy that the crowd instantly joined in, and Turner had to briefly disappoint them by saying, “I’m only messing.”
Nevertheless, it got us wondering, and the guitar tones of the Bowie anthem sound like they’d lend themselves perfectly for the Sheffield crew to slip back into Suck it and See mode and transpose another cracking cover.
The Stranglers’ ‘Golden Brown’ as performed by Yard Act
With storytelling being a key asset to Yard Act’s style, they’re not the easiest band to picture in another man’s pants, so to speak. Frontman James Smith’s conversational style is akin to a manic pastor putting modern society to a playful sword is a unique credit to modern music. Still, timeless influences are also detectable, and the band themselves would soar with a slight departure towards The Stranglers’ most refrained hit.
It is hard to say exactly why this one would work, but it certainly sounds good in the mixing desk of our minds, and that is often the joy of a dream cover. Who knows, maybe it might even come to fruition one golden day soon.