Saturday, May 26, 2007

Like a cover...but different

Sometimes two people collaborate on a song and record it with their respective bands. Usually, one is far more successful than the other. These don't qualify as covers since the songwriters are the performers in both cases. They're just collaborations that were recorded apart rather than together. Off the top of my head, I can think of three:

"China Girl" by David Bowie and Iggy Pop
Like the rest of Iggy Pop's The Idiot, "China Girl" was co-written with David Bowie. While Bowie's version on 1983's Let's Dance is far better known, Iggy's was released six years earlier. Iggy's version has more raw energy and conveys a bit more madness, but has a vibraphone part that's a little out of place. Bowie's version taps into the Asian angle and his voice is superior, but it's a bit slick and the production is somewhat dated. Both version are very good and my preference would probably change with my mood.

"Our Lips are Sealed" by Jane Wiedlin and Terry Hall
This was a hit off of the Go-Gos 1981 album, Beauty and the Beat, but didn't make Fun Boy Three's self-titled debut the next year. Instead, FB3 included it on 1983's Waiting. The well-known Go-Gos version is an upbeat pop song with bit of edge that they retained from their early days in the LA punk scene. FB3 on the other hand turned this into a melancholy affair (with backing vocals from Wiedlin for contrast). I prefer the Go-Gos version, because I really love their first album, but FB3 certainly made a worthwhile recording of it as well. It works out well that the two versions are so different.

"Because the Night" by Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith
Patti Smith's version on 1978's Easter is better known, but Springsteen only recorded this for the Live 1975-1985 box set. Smith isn't my favorite singer and I still view her as a bit overrated. However, her version is passionate and compelling. Springsteen's version is more raw (obviously since it's live). His voice isn't that great anyway, but he also manages to convey passion. Still, it may be best that he left the song in Smith's hands to record the definitive version.

Can you think of any other songs where the songwriters recorded separate versions?



Blogger Metal Mark said...

That Hellraiser song that Ozzy and Lemmy wrote. It seems like Lemmy sang with Ozzy on the version that appeared No more tears and it was gone. Then I believe Lemmy did it with Motorhead on March or die. I have not heard the latter verison in years. I remember it being different and not as good, but it has been a while.
I am not sure if this counts, but Mustaine wrote a song called Mechanix when he was in Metallica. He left they kept the music and changed the lyrics to make it the Four Horseman in 1983. Two years later Megadeth did it as Mechanix which Mustaine claimed was how he originally wrote it. Metallica's version is much tighter to my ears.
Not quite the same thing is "It's my life which" which Paul Stanley and Gene Simmone wrote and originally Wendy O Williams recorded in 1984 I think. Then in 1988 Paul and Gene were working with King Kobra and they recorded the same song. I prefer King Kobra's version. I don't think KISS recorded it, but could be wrong. It's sound just like a lot their mid-80's stuff.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Welp, Mark claimed the two I could think of...the "Mechanix" story and I would add with the Wendy O and Gene Simmons thing, that "Thief in the Night" was done by Wendy first on the W.O.W. album with some Kiss members playing, and then Gene, realizing it caught on, hijacked it for Crazy Nights, which is far less preferable to Wendy's. Gene's such a fucking whore.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Layla (aka Barbara) said...

Oh, great post. I will have to think on this since none pop into my mind. I know Bruce has written many songs made famous by others, but I don't know if they collaborated. Great question.

Does "Under Pressure" by Queen/David Bowie count? They both wrote and recorded it but they did it together not separate and both put it on an album.

2:10 PM  
Blogger taotechuck said...

The only one I could think of actually ended up not being true. I thought Andy Prieboy (post-Stan Ridgway Wall of Voodoo) and Johnette Napolitano (Concrete Blonde) had written "Tomorrow Wendy" together, but it turns out that it was just Prieboy. Concrete Blonde recorded it, then Napolitano and Prieboy did a duet of it which was released on his first (?) solo album. (I saw them perform it live together ~1990 in Los Angeles. Incredible.)

When I was a kid, I always thought Patty Smythe was the one who did the kick ass cover of "Because the Night." I looked on every Scandal cassette, over and over again, but I could never find it. And if you ever confront me with this story, I will deny every single word of it. Lies. All lies.

10:04 PM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

Mark - I remember the Ozzy/Lemmy collaboration now that you mention it.

Wasn't the song still called "Mechanix" on Metallica's demo?

The Wendy O Williams/King Kobra thing is a little different, but interesting nonetheless.

Ray - I didn't realize that Wendy O also did "Thief in the Night." Did she co-write it?

Barbara - "Under Pressure" occured to me too, but I don't think it counts since it was just the one version.

Chuck - Doesn't everyone confuse "Because the Night" with "The Warrior?"

12:20 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I never knew Bruce had a version of "Because the Night." I personally love Patti Smith and find her to be underrated, lol. I never was a big fan of Bruce so I doubt I would like his version more.

10:05 AM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

Jeff - Patti Smith is one of those artists that I appreciate more than I actually like. As far as Springsteen is concerned, it took me a long time to separate him from his fan base. If you think about his songs, they're about disaffected outsiders and American tragedy. Yet his fans seem to be oblivious to this. I'm not a big fan of his voice either, but he is a very good songwriter. I think the album that really sold me on Springsteen was Nebraska which is probably his least commercial effort.

12:17 AM  

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