Waiting for an alibi? Peckish after a jailbreak? Why not pour yourself a whisky from the jar, and get stuck into a hearty Phil Lynott breakfast? Now being served in a cafe in Dublin:
by Rhona Martin: Over 50 years, The Beatles have transcended mere fame and shifted to the status of near deities. But of course, if your songwriting skill has the knack of creating timelessly memorable pop songs, well there’s a price to pay.
As is their right, almost everyone has had a go at interpreting The Beatles in one form or another. So join me now as we take a trip to marvel at the sheer scope of Beatles covers from around the planet.
1. Italian variety entertainer Raffaella Carrà brought a touch of Euro-Disco to the Fabs, in this wonderfully glitzy TV special. Okay, more than just a touch of the old Disco, I admit. This is all-singing, all-dancing, glitzy, sparkly showbiz excess set to a Mersey beat.
2. A fleeting chart sensation in the early 80s, this Dutch novelty act were known as Starsound in the UK, but more commonly referred to as Stars On 45 by the rest of the eager-eared world. Famous for faithfully recreating hits from the past and stitching them together with a common tempo, they even attempted a Beatles mega-mix. Although rather painful to most fans, I developed a fondness for this effort in my early 20s (possibly a case of Stockholm Syndrome), after a tape became jammed in my friend’s Ford Fiesta – leaving us no option but to listen to it repeatedly on every journey for two years.
3. It’s the original Beatles song, but a late chart re-entry a decade or so after release, which gave Pan’s People an opportunity to take a song about literature to its most literal interpretive conclusion.
4. ‘Our Cilla’ moved up the showbiz ladder side-by-side with her pals, and dominated the UK charts during the 60s. With her slightly flat and melancholic voice, and Dudley Moore’s droll persona, this is a rather sweet rendition of ‘If I Fell’. This was Cilla at her best in every way.
5. Johnny Hallyday was the original French rock ‘n’ roll icon. The wild man and an institution in the French-speaking world, but largely ignored in the UK and America – although he was embraced by Steve Marriott and Jimi Hendrix. Musically, his songs did little to push boundaries, it was his stage performance, and the sheer volume of energy he put into them which gave him his notoriety.
6. Very little I can add to this rather majestic, and culturally enriching, Soviet tribute.
It’s yours to enjoy.
7. Not so much a cover version, more a work of plagiaristic genius, ‘Dekho Ab Toh’ is a Bollywood version of ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ from the 1965, Shammi Kapoor musical romance ‘Janwar’.
8. Just when you thought one of McCartney’s most benign songs couldn’t be made any more inoffensive, along comes Cliff – the ‘Peter Pan of Pop’ – to sprinkle his special brand of bland all over it.
9. Probably the most successful Swedish pop group of the 1960s, with their chirpy piano led version of Martha my Dear. The catchy arrangements by pianist Benny Andersson giving us the merest hint of his later, near universal success with ABBA.
10. Not Wings but Wing! New Zealand based Wing Han Tsang is a purveyor of what is known as ‘Outsider Music’. She has featured in South Park (guest starring in an episode named after her) and is a regular on Kiwi television. From a health and safety standpoint, it’s fortunate this shrill version of ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ was performed outdoors. Remarkable!
Rhona Martin – March 2014
by Rhona Martin: Guitar, bass, drums and vocals? Pop music wasn’t always so predictable. In their quest for originality and general far-outness, bands have frequently turned to rather less prosaic instruments in their recordings. Including the use of live animals, as you’ll see …
Beach Boys, Vega-Tables/Vegetables
Instrument: crunchy stalk
Brian Wilson’s tribute to healthy eating, originally recorded between 1966 and 1967 as part of the ‘Smile’ sessions. Features Paul McCartney skilfully munching on a stick of celery.
Scott Walker, Clara
Scott Walker’s career has taken him from major 1960s crooner, to a 21st century avant-gardist, signed to the 4AD label. From his 2006 album ‘The Drift’ comes ‘Clara’ (inspired by Claretta Petacci, mistress of Benito Mussolini, who was shot and hung by her feet for public display). This is a brooding, 13 minute drama, interspersed with a slapping, pounding rhythm – produced by punching a side of pork.
This was the speedy instrumental from their album ‘Last Splash’ (sampled by The Prodigy for ‘Firestarter’) which, thanks to home-craft loving Kelley Deal, features the sound of a sewing machine creating the urgent tune’s foundation.
One of Jonny Greenwood’s instruments of choice is not the common-or-garden synth, but the Ondes Martenot. Invented in 1928, it creates sound by varying frequencies oscilating in vacuum tubes; it has a sound similar to the Theremin but offers a keyboard to vary tonal quality.
In 2011 Bjork released her grand and experimental multi-format album ‘Biophilia’, which saw her uniting the worlds of music, science and art to convey the human position in the multi-universes. Or something. It features a pleasingly eclectic range of instruments, including a Tesla Coil on ‘Thunderbolt’, punctuating the song with a fizzing, electrical charge.
Tom Tom Club, Wordy Rappinghood
Talking Heads’ Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz’s side project, appropriately uses a typewriter to set the pace and tone for this early 80s electro-pop treat.
Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Trouser Press
The multi-genre eccentrics’ twelve-bar blues pastiche of the weird, dance-craze pop hits of the 50s and 60s (Mashed Potato, Twist etc.) features Roger Ruskin Spear on the Corby Trouser Press.
Small Faces, The Universal
Pink Floyd, Seamus
What marvellous and unusual ‘instrument’ do these songs have in common? None other than Steve Marriot’s German Shepherd dog Seamus! David Gilmour was looking after Seamus while Steve Marriott was away and included him howling, on this novelty blues track from their album ‘Meddle’. Obviously an ambitious fellow, Seamus also appears on his master’s track ‘The Universal’ from 1968.
Although often resembling something akin to electrified bees, trapped in a jammy biscuit tin, somehow Orbital harnessed the Stylophone’s unique qualities and wove it into silky vocal samples (‘Oh L’Amour’ by Dollar) in this track from the album ‘Middle of Nowhere’.
The Troggs, Wild Thing
The Troggs 1966 cover is a predacious, desirous ode to a thing of beauty – replete with low, prowling vocals and fuzz tinged guitars broken midway, not by a Recorder solo (as I always assumed), but an Ocarina; an ovoid shaped Mesoamerican woodwind instrument.
Rhona Martin – February 2014
Eraserhead (1977) David Lynch’s debut, setting the cryptic and nightmarishly visceral standard for his later films. This is a truly disturbing film, located in the post-apocalyptic world of Henry and Mary’s relationship and their newborn, extremely deformed baby. Eraserhead is a depressing and persistently throbbing confrontation of the senses; relentlessly gnawing at the nerves, twisting any sense of cerebral reality and correctness, and leaving the viewer fascinated, perplexed and utterly spent by the end. Unique.
The Haunting (1963) The crème de la crème of haunted house films, in which a researcher assembles a group of guests to an allegedly cursed mansion. This atmospheric gem relies on the use of sound and dark shadows to prickle the imaginations of both the assembled cast and the viewer, to tremendous effect. Proving the imagination is a far greater force for terror, than gore.
Freaks (1932) Tod Browning’s story of avarice, betrayal and murder in the world of circus sideshows, challenges every notion of beauty and morality. On release, the picture shocked audiences by giving those normally hidden from society, or subjected to lives of ridicule, prominent and equal roles. Again, ‘Freaks’ relies on the imagination for some of its impact, for we never truly know what happens in the end…
Night of the Eagle (1962) In the stuffy world of an English university, the wife of a sceptical psychology Professor becomes seduced by the occult practices with which she fills her time. When he forces her to destroy her paranormal paraphernalia, his life suddenly takes a turn for the worse…
The Elephant Man (1980) A startlingly beautiful and sensitive portrait of a disfigured man’s humility and courage in his struggle against the prejudices of Victorian England. The film is not of the horror genre, but David Lynch’s use of hypnotic and surreal dream sequences, depicting the trauma held within Merrick’s psyche, are a truly terrifying addition to this most moving of stories.
The Cat People (1942) Has a Serbian woman living in New York inherited an ancient curse from her homeland, ensuring each time she is angry or jealous she is transformed into a lethal panther? The movie’s atmosphere embodies the grace of a beautiful but savage animal, stalking its prey, while the swimming pool scene provides a superb example of the way a sense of dread can be created with skilful lighting and acoustics alone.
Dead of Night (1945) Unusual, in that horror films ceased production in Britain during the war (presumably because they did little for the morale). This is a portmanteau style movie, based on the arrival of a man at a country house party. He reveals he has met his fellow guests before – in a dream. Here is an eerie little film with a dramatic twist at the conclusion. It’s not the final act which is frightening, more the physical action of the assailant that is particularly disturbing.
The Nanny (1965) An non-supernatural outing from the infamous Hammer Studios, which sees an elderly Bette Davis playing a nanny quietly terrorising a family by means of subtle psychological manipulation, infantilisation and deflection of blame. A superb and frequently forgotten British gem.
Les Diaboliques (1954) A stylish, anxiety-inducing tale, highly reminiscent of Hitchcock’s finer moments. This is a journey of suspense and gut-tugging dread, as a wife and mistress come together to plot the murder of a sadistic husband. The subsequent mystery surrounding the whereabouts of the corpse leads us ever onwards until … well, that would spoil it for you.
Whistle, And I’ll Come to You (1968) Not a cinematic release, but a BBC adaptation of an M.R. James ghost story. Michael Hordern is a reserved academic, holidaying at an out-of-season, English coastal resort. After picking up an old whistle, carved from bone and found by an overgrown grave, he experiences a series of quietly unsettling nightmares which host a menacing spectre. A beautifully understated, but wonderfully effective spine-tingler.
Rhona Martin – February 2014
by Rhona Martin I assumed ‘Dogging Tales’ (Channel 4 Thursday 4th April 2013) would be another piece of ‘exploi-tainment’ – gratuitous, repellent and aloof. Then again, it did seem too good a subject to miss, so I put a reminder on my digital box as well as setting it to record. Aware I’d bought into the promise of cheap titillation disguised as journalism, I also knew watching it was now inevitable.
A good thing, as it turned out, as this was one of the weirdest, funniest, darkest and most confused hours of TV in recent years.