Well, it was, predictably, another flop of a vote here, with only a handful of virtual ballots virtually cast and no consensus to speak of. I’m thankful to everyone who participated and am trying to be scornful to those who didn’t. As for you who failed to vote because you didn’t visit and have no idea of the existence of this blog, for you… I have nothing but unbridled indifference.
On to the results. Four votes were cast in Column A, each for a different selection. Forced to make a tie-breaking decision, I hereby deem “Hotel California” to be the winner, primarily because it was the only candidate that aroused passion (true, it was antipathy from CyWyGY, but even that counts for something). Column B garnered 5 votes (I have no idea why there was a participatory imbalance between the columns), one for “Eleanor Rigby” and two each for “96 Tears” and “Norwegian Wood.” Once again, I was compelled to intervene and determine a definitive winner. In this instance, I chose “Norwegian Wood,” primarily to counterbalance my actions vis à vis Column A. Pann giveth and Pann taketh away. I am the benevolent tyrant of Pannsylvania.
I’m not a huge fan of reggae, and I most certainly dislike The Eagles, but I absolutely adore this syncopated cover of the most hoary of Eagles songs. It washes away the laughable seriousness of the original in a sea of shimmery tropical beats. And the backup singers are perfect.
I’ve never known much about Edi Fitzroy (née Fitzroy Edwards), but I first heard this in college and spent quite a while in the pre-world wide web era (I usually call it the dub-dub-dub, but I thought that might be confusing while I was discussing reggae) locating a copy of this song for personal consumption.
In 1965, when The Beatles’ Rubber Soul was released, George Harrison had been noodling around with a sitar after a chance encounter with some Indian musicians while filming Help! It wouldn’t be long before he’d hook up with (dragging along the other band members and friends) the Maharashi Mahesh Yogi to explore transcendental meditation, among other things. This song, along with some by other British bands (including The Kinks and The Yardbirds) helped introduce the sitar to the wider Western World.
It’s amazing, then, that it took 32 years for the concept to come full circle, when the Anglo-Indian indie-dance-rock-turntable band Cornershop recorded a cover of “Norwegian Wood” sung in Punjabi.
For those of you who are interested, here are the expanded identities of the other candidates:
- “Big Log” – covered by Viktor Krauss. Jazzy and country, very atmospheric. With vocals by his more famous sister, Allison.
- “Brain Damage” – covered by The Austin Lounge Lizards. Bluegrassy, hyper, and very entertaining. Waggy scamps, scampy wags.
- “La Grange” – covered as “Sarayushka” by Crazy Backwards Alphabet. Supergroup of insane and wacky musicians, sung in Russian.
- “Manic Depression” – covered by Les Miserables Brass Band. Nothing to do with Victor Hugo or Andrew Lloyd Weber, thank goodness. Seven horn players, two percussionists and perhaps the best party band that ever lived.
- “Ripple” – covered by The Persuasions. An a capella group started in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn back in the 60s, the Persuasions always seem to be just under the radar. They got a major-label break thanks to, of all people, Frank Zappa. To pay homage to their benefactor they released an album of Zappa covers and then, six months later, a Grateful Dead tribute album. It’s the only way (with a few exceptions) that I can tolerate songs by either of those two artists.
- “96 Tears” – covered by Pascal Comelade. Musical imp Pascal Comelade loves the toy piano. He plays it solo, he funkifies arrangements with his ragtag coconspiritors, and on the album Haikus de Piano, from which this song is taken, he duets with himself on toy piano and grand piano.
- “Come Together” – covered by Brian Bromberg. Acoustic jazz bass, slippy-slidey, snakey and altogether brilliant.
- “Eleanor Rigby” – covered by Margaret Leng Tan. Margaret Leng Tan is the undisputed queen of the toy-piano-as-pretentious-avant-garde classical instrument. Unlike Pascal Comelade, she’s at least 90% serious about what she does, collaborating with twits like Philip Glass. I still like her, though.
- “The Letter” – covered by Pianosaurus. The toy piano once again! In the 90s, the indie band Pianosaurus roamed the Earth, playing toy instruments exclusively. Guitars, horns, drums, you got it. I distinctly remember seeing them with a Fraggle Rock drum kit, and recall hearing them talk about how they could play a gig, smash up all their instruments on stage, and replace them the next morning at a local toy store for less than $100.
- “Walk- Don’t Run” – covered by Penguin Cafe Orchestra. They’re usually classified as practitioners of “new age” music, but to me they’re a heck of a lot more interesting than that label implies. They had a deep interest in ethnic musics and classical styles, and wrapped it up in a subtly subversive melange that, unlike most new age concoctions, is more interesting the more closely one listens to it.
nb: Audio tracks will remain available for approximately 2 weeks after date of post; if you are interested in hearing something you have missed, please make a request in the comments.