Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Pop Goes The Rockabilly

1. Union Avenue - White Wedding
Rockabilly quintet Union Avenue hail from Scotland and have found a niche in the market by covering pop songs in the style of Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two. Some songs work better than others but the ones that do work are great. They make the songs like they were always Cash songs, in no small part to the vocals of Andrew Cardno and the Luther picking of guitarist Paul Paterson. They recently had the Radio 1 record of the week for their cover of Motorhead's Ace Of Spades and have been support acts for The Stranglers and Lee Rocker among others. Billy Idol's White Wedding was a frantic slice of pop in the early 80's, with a full blown production. Union Avenue stripped the song to the bare bones and even recorded it on vintage equipment for an authentic Sun sound. They pulled a master stroke in slowing the tempo and letting the song breath the way JC's best songs did. A classic version that makes Billy Idol's redundant.

2. Paul Ansell's Number Nine - Red Light
A highlight of Number Nine's live set, Red Light does indeed spell danger when the wrong version is played. Billy Ocean is as shite as Paul Ansell is great, and their versions show the difference. Ocean's is just drab pop music whereas Paul Ansell and Number Nine give a menacing rocked up performance. Not rockabilly per say but that isn't what they're about. It's high energy with a rocking emphasis but not restrained by the narrow parameters of pure rockabilly.

3. Big 6 - Tiger Feet
The Dream Team of the rocking scene, band members include Mike Sanchez and ? among its ranks. They play with a smile on their face and the music ranges from Bill Haley style rock to ska. They are particularly adept at converting glam-rock songs into rock 'n' roll with the likes of Slade and T-Rex being given the sax and slap-bass treatment. Their version of Mud's Tiger Feet is a romp, heavy on the sax and drums. Like the original it's a dance-floor cert.

4. Dave Phillips - Tainted Love
If ever you needed to explain to someone why a guitar is better than a synthesiser just take a listen to Soft Cell's version then take in Dave Phillips. I first heard this on Radio 1 on a school trip to see the Severn Boar and tried to convince everyone on the bus that this was better than Soft Cell's limp version. I'm not sure what percentage of John Beddoes School was bent, but no-one agreed with me.

5. Darrel Higham - Kingston Town
I know it wasn't the original but it was the UB40 version that I first heard back in the 80's. I never liked them and thought Red Red Wine was abysmal. Darrel's version of Kingston Town is a different animal all together. There isn't a lot of difference between reggae and rockabilly, the hypnotic, incessant beat being the embodiment of both styles.

6. Demented Are Go - Crazy Horses
There couldn't be a bigger contrast between the squeaky clean Osmonds and psychobilly trio Demented Are Go. The two versions of the song echo the differences with the toothy Mormon family sounded contrived and controlled as they reach for an orgasm of excitement. The Cardiff stompers, by contrast are totally convincing as they rape the song and bring it to a crazy level that would make Donny and Marie blush.

7. Doug Church - Graceland
Elvis impersonators aren't my favourite people in the world but where Doug Church manages to avoid my hatred is that he doesn't copy Elvis songs. Instead he gives modern songs the Elvis styled vocals, and it works well. There's the saying that riding a moped and shagging a fat girl are both fun to ride as long as your mates don't find out. I think listening to Doug Church is a bit like that as well. It's surreal hearing what sounds like Elvis singing about "going to Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee".

8. Stray Cats - You Can't Hurry Love
Not the Stray Cats' greatest moment but still a lot better than either Phil Collins or Diana Ross. Much like the Dave Phillips selection at number 4 it was good to hear a pop song with a double bass and therefore given a bit of balls.

9. Jets - Yes Tonight Josephine
I didn't even realise this wasn't a Jets original when I first heard this back in the day. It seemed such a straight ahead rockabilly song that it was impossible to imagine it was just a run of the mill pop song. This was the break out song for the Cotton brothers and for a couple of years they were on tv everytime you turned it on. Oh how we wish those days would return.

10. Meteors - These Boots Were Made For Walkin'
Apparantly Frank Sinatra hated Tommy Sands as a son in law so much that he used his Mafia influence to make sure that Sands couldn't get work. If Nancy had of married Meteors front-man Paul Fenech instead I reckon Ol Blue Eyes would have arranged for Fenech to take a trip down the Hudson in a body bag. Whatever, the Meteors version of These Boots Were Made For Walkin' is a miles from Nancy, just like a good psycho should be.

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