Quite by accident, there has started to appear a little run of posts with the theme of looking at things from different angles. The danger of making assumptions. The fact that life has more than one facet, and that just because something is produced in one way does not mean there is no potential or capability for it to be seen in another way.
Today we have the concept of ‘the cover version’. The taking of an existing piece of music and reproducing it as something different.
This is not, of course, anything new. J S Bach constantly produced his own cover versions of his own music – borrowing the same themes all the time from music he had already written and reusing them in new work. Well, when you are perhaps the finest musical genius of all time, why wouldn’t you?
And since then, there must have been hundreds of thousands, nay millions of ‘cover versions’.
The French band Nouvelle Vague specialises in this approach. Their interesting take on things is that not only does their band name mean ‘new wave’ in French, but they also focus on making covers of classic tracks from the New Wave genre.
And what fascinating interpretations they are. Let’s start with the example of In A Manner of Speaking. Here is Nouvelle Vague’s version. Here is the original by Tuxedomoon. The latter might not be to everyone’s taste, mine included, although to be fair, we should make allowance for 1980s technology. But I have included this as an example of the two tracks being pretty close, with NV’s version being, in my opinion, a vast improvement.
How about this then? Here is NV’s Teenage Kicks. Cool, huh? Here’s the original by the Undertones for reference if you don’t know it/can’t remember it. The great thing for me here is that I love both tracks even though they are so different. (By the way, fabulous to hear the original again – one for the wish list.)
Finally, let me present a track that I knew first from listening to NV, but did not know the original – I Melt With You. This is a cover of a single by 1980s post-punk band Modern English and you can hear their version here. This passed me by the first time round, but I rather like it now.
Here’s what two musical greats thought about re-using other people’s material:
“I wanted to hear music that had not yet happened, by putting together things that suggested a new thing which did not yet exist.” – Brian Eno
“My hobbie (one of them anyway)…is using a lot of scotch tape… My hobbie is to pick out different things during what I read and piece them together and make a little story of my own.” – Louis Armstrong
and from Jean-Luc Goddard, the film director, screen-writer and critic:
“It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”
Producing something brand new from a blank sheet of paper is one thing. Creating a fresh something out of an existing other thing is another talent altogether. Félicitations, Nouvelle Vague.