At a time when the future of live music remains up in the air amid the current health crisis, we’re looking back at a period of nostalgia to get our music fix. Here, we’re bringing you a very special cover of Blondie song ‘Union City Blue’ from none other than Radiohead.
Performed in 1995, it is just one of many covers that the Radiohead boys have partaken in. Though the influx of renditions of their favourite artists’ work has slowed down of late, the band are famed for making the work of their contemporaries sound as if they would fit on a Radiohead album. Blondie’s ‘Union City Blue’, in that regards, does kind of buck the trend.
The 1979 track from Debbie Harry and the rest of Blondie, ‘Union City Blue’, is still a bonafide indie dancefloor hit. The song, steeped in the teapot of punk and finished with the creamy texture of new-wave, came to represent the evolution of not only punk into something entirely new but was a mark of the turning decades.
The golden-hued sunshine of the seventies was setting and the neon nightlife of the eighties was beginning to reign supreme. ‘Union City Blue’, in many ways, seemed to represent that. Written by Harry and Nigel Harrison, the song takes a lot of notes from the film Union City — a project which Harry was a part of — and was largely written on set during her downtime.
It would find it’s way on to Blondie’s fourth studio album, Eat to The Beat, and find a good level of success on both sides of the pond. It’s a song that would clearly resonate with a group of musicians from Oxford who would later go by the name of Radiohead.
The list of covers by Thom Yorke and the group is undeniably long. From Bjork to Carly Simon, the band have covered the weird and wonderful by using their own style and tone. As such, their efforts have, generally speaking, turned out positively on almost every occasion.
While on their previous efforts, the band implemented their own sound upon the work of another. The result was a hybrid of Radiohead and whomever they were covering. On this cover, however, it feels decidedly turned around. While Thom Yorke’s vocal is undeniably his own, the rest of the band fall in line for a somewhat straightforward cover.
With little information on where and in what circumstances the performance took place it’s hard to tell how much effort went into this cover, unlike the aforementioned triumphs. On those songs, Radiohead are the active participant, taking the song and manipulating it to their needs and will. On this cover though, the band seem submissive to Debbie Harry’s every whim—maybe that’s what they were shooting for.
With all that in mind, it is still one of the better Blondie covers you’re likely to hear. With Radiohead and Blondie together, this was always going to be a great listen, no matter who the aggressor.
Listen below to Radiohead’s 1995 cover of Blondie’s ‘Union City Blue’ below.