I don't know about you but I can't help but feel a slight flush of excitement when our little country is acknowledged overseas. I was in the US when David Lange resigned as PM, and I was quite impressed that the story was the lead in the World News section of the San Francisco Chronicle. And I remember once when watching an episode of the original Star Trek that when Captain Kirk and the crew beamed down to a strange alien planet it was clear that the scene had been filmed in a New Zealand section of some botanic gardens. They were surrounded by flax, toi toi and cabbage trees. Then just recently I was watching an episode of the TV series Weeds and was completely distracted from the plot when I heard some kiwi dub playing on the soundtrack.
Many NZ musicians have tried to make it overseas, but the reality of competing in a global market from the bottom of the earth means the successes are few. So it's nice when the musical and songwriting talent of our musicians is recognised overseas. In a bit of depature from the norm this episode of Counting The Beat features overseas artists- but performing New Zealand songs.
Two New Zealand artists who have received considerable overseas recognition are Crowded House and OMC. Both have also been covered, albeit in very different ways. OMC's worldwide hit, 'How Bizzare' has been given a lo-fi indie treatment (with ukelele!) by Montreal band, The Diskettes. And while there are many covers of Neil Finn and Crowded House tunes, one that stands out has to be Donny Osmond's cover of 'Don't Dream It's Over' - unfortunately it stands out for being bland, saccahrine and utterly beyond redemption. (See the video for the originals on the video page)
Marshall Crenshaw is a musician from Detroit, Michigan. He got his break playing John Lennon in the stage show Beatlemania, and he also played Buddy Holly in the film, La Bamba. His sound has been described as, clear, clean-lined, guitar-centered pop-rock with roots in classic soul music, British invasion songcraft and Burt Bacharach." So it was somewhat of a surprise when he covered a song by lo-fi Flying Nun band, Tall Dwarfs. The song appears on Crenshaw's 1991 album Life's Too Short.
Also from Detroit are The Dirtbombs, although rather than clear and clean-lined, they're distinctly rough, ready and dirty, fusing punk and soul with an unusual line-up of two drummers, two bassists and one guitar. Although they've released four albums they were originally conceived as a singles band and they still release a number of limited edition 7" records. These are often released in conjunction with tours, covering bands from the region being visited. The Dirtbombs recently toured New Zealand and recorded two covers of Ray Columbus and The Invaders, 'Kick Me' and 'The Crunch'. The single is yet to be released.
The Lemonheads 1988 album Lick contained a couple of covers - well known songs like Suzanne Vega's 'Luka' and less well-known songs, that is outside of NZ punk rock circles, like Proud Scum's 'I Am A Rabbit', a song from the classic punk compilation AK79. If anything, The Lemonheads version is more raucous than Proud Scum's, showing the influence of American hardcore in the intervening years. (On the video page is an interview with Proud Scum recorded when they reformed for last years AK79 show)
What I'm looking forward to now is to see if any overseas musicians have a go at reinterpreting Scribe's massive US hit, 'Swing'. If they do I'll be sure to be it playing here on Counting The Beat.
Download the Counting The Beat - International Covers podcast
Previous cover specials:
Covering The Beat - Chills special (mp3)
Covering The Beat 2 (blog post and podcast)
Covering The Beat 3 (blog post and podcast)
Covering The Beat 4 (blog post and podcast)