Rhino’s Got You Covered: The Dream Academy, David Bowie, Luka Bloom, and The Monkees
Welcome back to our weekly run-through of a quartet of cover songs from the Rhino catalog. This time around, we’ve got a collection of tunes which were originally recorded by The Smiths, Morrissey, LL Cool J, and Wreckless Eric, and while you may already be wondering, “Wait, which one of them did the LL Cool J cover?!” we’re going to make you sit back and read the piece to find out. (We will, however, assure you that it’s an absolute must-hear.)
- The Dream Academy, “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” (1985): This is a rare occasion where Rhino has actually had a conversation with one of the artists responsible for a cover we’ve spotlighted in the column, so we thought we’d just let Nick Laird-Clowes do the talking on this one and its history:
“When we first got signed in England, we went to every major and every minor label, and we got turned down by absolutely everyone again and again! And then Geoff Travis of Rough Trade called us back in, and he said, ‘I'm going to go to America, and I'm going to play your stuff to Warner Brothers and Columbia, and we'll see what they come up with. I just don't think I can do this myself.’ And he had played us ‘Hand in Glove,’ and he said, ‘This is the new band I've signed,’ and we said, ‘Wow, amazing, the guitar!’ Because when I first heard the Smiths, it was like the Byrds on guitar, and that was the first time I'd heard that thing for a long time. It was sort of pre-R.E.M. and things. We'd been trying to get a deal for over a year by that point, but when he came back from America, he said, ‘Yes! They both want it! Now let's work out who we go with.’ And then when we went into his office, he said, ‘Oh, listen, this is the new thing by the Smiths,’ and I think he played ‘This Charming Man’ and ‘Back to the Old House.’ And we were obsessed. We suddenly said, ‘Hold on, this guy may sound miserable, but this music is unbelievable!’ And when we did our band rehearsals in Kate's little flat, we listened to the Smiths a great deal.
“So when we had our hit with ‘[Life in a] Northern Town,’ we thought we would love to show to friends, like David Gilmour and all these people, that this band has got really great songs. You might not like the way they've been done or something about it may turn you off - because some people were quite turned off by them and called them ‘miserablists’ - but we said, ‘You're crazy, you've got to listen to these songs.’ And on the B-side of one of their singles, because they had so many extra brilliant tracks, they had ‘Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want.’ And nobody had done a cover of the Smiths, so we said, ‘Let's do it as a follow-up to 'Love Parade.'’ And we went into the studio, played it to David, and he said, ‘Brilliant!’ So instead of going in with our usual engineer and things, he said, ‘Just come down to the studio on Saturday,’ and it was just him, Kate, Gilbert, and me. And David programmed the drum machine and played the bass, and we all did our thing, and it was done in a day, and it was one of those very enjoyable, pressure-free things.
“Because of the ‘Northern Town’ video, Warners wanted to do a video, and I think Paula and Peter were now doing some huge ads for the first time, so they were going off into the stratosphere, so they said, ‘Let's use Larry and Leslie again,’ which we did. And we used a deconsecrated church, which was actually The Limelight, if you remember the nightclubs of that period, which were always in churches. I think we shot it the night after Nile Rodgers had had his 40th birthday party there, because somehow we were invited to that, as was the way in those days. It was all one big, nice, happy family!
“And it was so thrilling that John Hughes used us… Well, he used us twice in his things, which was amazing for us, but what was particularly wonderful was that he used ‘Please Please Please’ for what I would call the acid sequence in Ferris Buller's Day Off! You remember how in films there'd always be the psychedelic sequence where everybody looked at flowers for awhile and everything went super-colorful? Well, it was definitely the equivalent for a teen movie when they bugger off school and go to look at the (Georges-Pierre) Seurat exhibition, and you get lots of close-up on the pixilation, and it was wonderful, we thought, to use the Smiths' music but our music. Because that's where we felt our place was. And then he used ‘The Edge of Forever’ as well, which was fantastic in the love scene at the end, with the kiss and all of that. So that started our relationship with John Hughes, which was very good.”
[You can read Rhino’s interview w/ Laird-Clowes in its entirety by clicking right here.]
- David Bowie, “I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday” (1993): By the time Morrissey released his YOUR ARSENAL album in 1992, it was already well documented that the mopey Mancunian was a Bowie fan from way back, but who could’ve expected Bowie to turn out a Morrissey cover? Well, as it happens, YOUR ARSENAL was produced by longtime Bowie cohort Mick Ronson, and when Bowie heard this particular track, he reportedly mused that it sounded a little like the riff from “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” and then joked that he wasn’t sure whether to sue or record a version of the song himself. Thankfully for all parties concerned, he chose the latter.
- Luka Bloom, “I Need Love” (1991): When it comes to covers, you wouldn’t necessarily expect a folk singer from County Kildare, Ireland to take his acoustic guitar and launch into a version of a song by a rapper from Hollis, Queens, but once you get past the initial burst of laughter that’s only inevitable when you hear Bloom deliver his opening salvo – “When I’m alone in my room, sometimes I stare at the wall” – you find a remarkably earnest version of the song.
- The Monkees, “(I’d Go The) Whole Wide World” (1987): Given how successful The Monkees’ GOOD TIMES! album proved to be with the boys tackling songs written by other notable artists, it should be remembered that their late ‘80s LP POOL IT! also found them having a go at a couple of tunes by established names. This was one of them, as you might have guessed, and while the man responsible for the song didn’t experience much in the way of American success, just ask a Brit if they remember Wreckless Eric, and you’ll likely get an instant glimmer of recognition.