Complete Recovery: Unusual Takes on Others’ Songs, Volume Three

Complete Recovery: Unusual Takes on Others’ Songs, Volume Three

Written by Rich Isaacs

Sometimes a performer is so taken with another artist’s song that they just have to do their own recording of it. These cover versions can range from faithful portrayals of the original to something else entirely. This edition of Complete Recovery includes a few novelty acts. Here are some more of my favorites that are distinctly different from the originals:

801 – “You Really Got Me” (The Kinks)

801 was a project of Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera. It featured a shifting lineup of musicians, including (Brian) Eno, Francis Monkman (from Curved Air), Lol Creme and Kevin Godley (from 10cc), Tim Finn and Eddie Rayner (from Split Enz), Mel Collins (from King Crimson), and Eddie Jobson (from Curved Air/Roxy Music/Frank Zappa, and U.K.). The first album, 801 Live, showcases some fine drumming from a very young Simon Phillips. The second album, Listen Now, was credited to Phil Manzanera/801. A third album, K-Scope, with most of the same players, was just billed as Manzanera. This cover, from the (ostensibly) live album, predates Van Halen’s version by a year or so. Eno’s quirky overdubbed vocals set it apart.




Patricia Barber – “Ode to Billie Joe” (Bobbie Gentry)

Many audiophiles have been exposed to Patricia Barber at high-end audio shows and audio salons, due to the exemplary sound quality of her recordings. I first heard this track at the California Audio Show in 2019 coming through a pair of very expensive Magico speakers, and I was mightily impressed. This is a haunting, slowed-down version, with her voice accompanied solely by acoustic bass and finger snaps.




Big Daddy – “With a Little Help From My Friends” (The Beatles)

Big Daddy was a fun concept band. Think “contemporary hits done in the style of ’50s and ‘60s artists.” Thrill to the sound of the Everly Brothers singing Rick James’s “Super Freak,” or “Ice Ice Baby” with elements of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and other oldie hitmakers. How about Paul Simon’s “Graceland” combining the Talking Heads with Harry Belafonte? They even did a complete version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with each track performed in a different style. Here’s “With a Little Help From My Friends,” as it might have been done by Johnny Mathis.




British Standard Unit – “d’ya think I’m sexy” (Rod Stewart)

This comes from a strange album called Hybrid Kids with the subtitle of “a collection of classic mutants.” Somewhat similar in concept to that of Big Daddy, it was a project of former Mott the Hoople keyboardist Morgan Fisher for the Cherry Red label in England. I think it’s safe to say it was probably inspired by Devo’s cover of “Satisfaction.”

From Morgan Fisher’s website:

“The first album Morgan recorded in London’s Pipe Studios (actually a TEAC 4-track recorder set up in his Notting Hill bedsit). This bizarre album was originally conceived (with the collusion of Iain McNay, Cherry Red’s boss) as a spoof compilation album featuring a variety of ‘bands’ from Peabody, an obscure little town in Kansas (at that time American towns like Cleveland and Akron were viewed upon as hotbeds of modern rock music). When this concept was stated on the radio and in the press, quite a number of people believed it! In truth, it was all made [up] by Morgan. The musical approach was to take songs and perform them in a way that was diametrically opposite to the original version.”




Alice Cooper – “Talk Talk” (The Music Machine)

In 1980, Alice Cooper took a shot at the New Wave sound with Flush the Fashion, an album credited to “Alice Cooper ’80.” I have the 45 of the original by The Music Machine, purchased in 1966 while it was on the charts. This is a pretty cool remake.




Concrete Blonde – “Beware of Darkness” (George Harrison)

Appearing on the first Concrete Blonde album, Johnette Napolitano’s powerful, smoky vocals set this one apart.




Mary Fahl – “Money” (Pink Floyd)

Mary Fahl was the lead singer for the band October Project. This track comes from her solo album From the Dark Side of the Moon, a complete re-imagining of the classic opus by Pink Floyd. For my money (pardon the pun), I vastly prefer her work with October Project, but this is an interesting take.




Neil Merryweather’s Space Rangers – “Eight Miles High” (The Byrds)

Bassist Neil Merryweather (real name: Robert Neilson Lillie) was a little-known Canadian rocker with some interesting connections. One of his bands was called Merryweather, and Linda Ronstadt called him Neil Merryweather in an encounter, so he stuck with that. His second album (under that name), 1969’s double LP Word of Mouth, featured guest performances by Dave Mason, Steve Miller, jazz guitarist Howard Roberts, and others. He also played on 1973’s Blues from Chicago with Harvey Mandel, Charlie Musselwhite, and Barry Goldberg. Shortly after that, he released Neil Merryweather’s Space Rangers, which was quite a departure from the blues he’d been playing. The band was a hard/progressive rock outfit with synthesizers and Chamberlin (a Mellotron sound-alike) supplementing the heavy guitar work.




My Sin – “Moonlight Mile” (Rolling Stones)

Synthesizers and drum machines – if this doesn’t scream “Eighties,” I don’t know what does. My Sin was a one-man project by Stan Fairbank out of San Francisco. This track was on a four-song red vinyl 12-inch EP called Beyond Good and Evil, released in 1984.




Run C&W – “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” (Temptations)

Whole lotta twangin’ goin‘ on! Run C&W was the brainchild of ex-Eagle Bernie Leadon, ex-Amazing Rhythm Ace Russell Smith, and Nashville songwriters Jim Photoglo and Vince Melamed. Clearly a novelty act, they perform soul classics in a bluegrass style with a healthy dose of humor.




(Special Bonus Cover)

Randy Hansen – “Papa Was a Rolling Stone/Foxy Lady” (Temptations/Jimi Hendrix)

I found this while accessing the previous cut on YouTube. Randy Hansen has been doing a first-class Hendrix tribute act for decades. Where Hendrix was left-handed but played a re-strung right-handed guitar, Randy is right-handed and plays a re-strung left-handed guitar. That’s a nice touch.



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