I’ve been a DJ since the ‘70s. I’m also a bonafide music fanatic who gets a kick out of turning people on to stuff they’ve never heard before.  For a long time, when cassettes were king and “mixtapes” were all the rage, one of my favorite past times was to fill up one of those long-ass 120 minutes Maxell’s with original and cover songs played back to back. I would really go out of my way to find obscure covers for very well-known songs, then I’d get my friends together and have listening parties where we would discuss the songs with each other for hours on end. Yeah, it sounds incredibly nerdy, but damn it was fun.

The other day, in a fit of nostalgia, I retrieved an old box of tapes that had taken up permanent residence in the back of my closet. So, who wants to play with me — Original Vs. Cover?

SONG: Our Lips Are Sealed

ORIGINAL – The Go-Go’s – 1981

COVER – Fun Boy Three – 1983

THE ORIGINAL

This song is 2:44 of Pop perfection, from the opening uptempo march bip-bop, bip-bop of the drum and tambourine, the guitars, and finally the rubbery bass line that slides in and anchors the beat before Belinda Carlisle chirps in with the first line, “Can you heeeaaarTHEMMMMM, they talk about us…telling lies, well that’s no surprise…”- in an instant you’re jumping around like a giddy little kid.

This song is so damned bright you need to wear sunglasses while you listen to it.

It’s California sunshine, uptempo hand claps, and cutesy harmonies, and even the winsome bridge lilted by Jane Wiedlin…you just can’t help but smile when you listen to it. And I’m sure you remember the video, all the gals romping around in a fountain, being so silly and giddy somewhere in Los Angeles..this is the soundtrack of the best slumber party EVER!  Wheeeeeeeee!

THE COVER

I knew that this song was co-written by Jane and Specials/Fun Boy Three member Terry Hall because I read it in a British Magazine after the original came out.  The Go-Go’s opened for The Specials during their 1980 US tour – I saw a few shows, and they were both great! Terry and Jane had a brief affair (he had a girlfriend back home in England) and this song was about it.  In the original, you don’t really think about the lyrics because of the jingle-jangle of the arrangement…but that all changes here.

The song opens with very rhythmic drums and then a minor key, uptempo, foggy dirge of a cello, ghostly backing vocals, and an ominously deep voiced “bum, bum bum”vocal in time with a deep bass line before a Terry (sounding a bit like Robert Smith from The Cure) comes in with the vocal.  He sounds very melancholy.  There’s a single female voice doubling and harmonizing with him, and she sounds even sadder than he does.

Conga drums erupt a bit, sad violins, and the ghostly bv’s get louder. It seems like Terry just got his ass handed back to him by his girlfriend who just found out that he cheated on her, and he’s moping about the gloomy streets of London in a drizzle…but I dig it!

SO WHO DOES IT BETTER?

IT’S A TIE!

This is a prime example of the power of a cover version – when the arrangement is soooooo different from the original, but is just as great.  Listen to them back to back and I think you’ll agree with me.

NOW YOU DECIDE!

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About Author

Crystal is today’s black Renaissance woman. She lives in Harlem, is always up for a new experience, is a magnet for all kinds of crazy, and smells like fresh flowers.

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