Laki Mera: Turn All Memory Into White Noise
Notes On the Crack-Up of America

Laura Donnelly Sings Kate Bush

I ran across this when I was working on that Laki Mera post, and I love it. It's a rare instance of a cover that's neither a mere copy nor a complete transformation--not that there is anything wrong with complete transformation, if it works. Everyone who knows Kate Bush's music at all knows this song, "Running Up That Hill," which is on what most consider her best album, Hounds of Love. It's a very striking song, and Kate's voice was of course pretty spectacular back then, and the big arrangement, with lots of multi-tracked vocals, is very effective--the whole thing is just big, a movie on the big screen (although according to Wikipedia it's all done by five people, counting Kate). It sort of demands to be played loud.

Here Laki Mera make it intimate without really changing anything. Laura Donnelly's performance exemplifies what I like about her singing: it's soft but not weak, not overtly expressive but still somehow full of feeling. You might call it restrained in comparison to Kate, but it doesn't feel constrained. Instead of a cry of passion it's a gentle word, but the emotion is still there.

The song seems to be a sort of musing on the strangeness of the male-female difference, and the fact that neither can know what it feels like to be the other, in the sex act but not only there. 

If I only could
I'd make a deal with God
And I'd get him to swap our places

I guess I should include the original, in case you don't know it.



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That is a very good cover. As you said, neither a copy nor a complete transformation. I think that's the key to doing a good cover version of a song -- make it your own while keeping it recognizable, but in a way that makes it a little surprising.

Several years ago someone did a cover of Talk Talk 80's hit "It's My Life" that was so close to the original that the only real difference was the vocal (female vs. the original male). I wondered how it became so popular when it was so similar, then realized that a lot of its fans were too young to have known the older version. Most of them probably had no idea it was a cover version. (In talking about music with people 40 and under, I find that most of them know 90's music very well, but they tend to know earlier stuff only via the big hits.)

I have a Richard Thompson tribute album, Beat the Retreat, which has good examples of both. There are some that are so much like the originals that you think "why bother?" and some that are brilliant re-workings. One of the best of the latter is the Five Blind Boys of Alabama doing "Dimming of the Day" (I think that's it anyway--I haven't heard it for some time.)

I am reminded of the Urge Overkill cover of Neil Diamond's "Girl, You'll be a Woman Soon" which was featured in a scene of Pulp Fiction. Whoever that singer is sounded so much like Diamond I found the two versions very hard to tell apart!

That sounds like it's in the "why bother?" category. Maybe Neil Diamond wouldn't give Tarantino the rights or something.

No one covers Kate better than Kate...

According to the description she was actually singing that, not lip-syncing. She is something.

By the way, I didn't say "better." :-)

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