24
Nov 09

The Top 100 Tracks Of All Time: 23. Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights

FT/7 comments • 1,226 views

There are 15 cover versions of Wuthering Heights on Spotify. They are all here in this playlist. Since Tom has covered everything I could say about the original here, I thought I’d look at these versions instead to see if there is a secret about the song that will be revealed. So in order of Spotify popularity:

The Puppini Sisters: They spread their Beverley Sisters for the noughties magic over Kate’s tragic, and in the process sing it as if they do not understand any of the words. Indeed they pronounce Cathy as Caffeine. Not trusting the original to be nuts enough they also add wacky milk bottle instrumentation, a musical saw and a thorough disdain for anyone who liked the original.

ANGRAAngra: I think its a non-native English speaking male singer trying it in a gentle falsetto. It is! Brazillian power metal, which only really comes on in a few drum fills and some underplayed choral guitars. Possibly a little bit too respectful, for a metal version the original has more oomph. Not bad though.

Hayley Westenra: I am guessing a country singer, again played straight but with an interesting set of lilting flutes in the background. Actually the backing is so tame we are tiptoeing into potentially Irish ballading/easy listening. Oh, she is a NZ classical music singer who later joined a Celtic band and is apparently quite big. Competent but bland.

Pat Benatar
: Now this one I was aware of but have never heard. The mid-eighties production understands to trust the voice, and goes for gentle but monolithic chords in the chorus. Again she treats it significant kid gloves (there’s even a faux harpsichord in the mix). The way the song builds means there is always a potential surprise around the corner, but this rocks a little bit more – with an odd breakdown squeal. But it still doesn’t get anyway near the rush of the original.

White Flag: I expected Black Flag (and you will be pleased to hear the 3 Colours Red version is not on Spotify), but instead this is more pop punk, almost psych on the vocals. Its a jolly strumalong version with a few nice little guitar licks that you would want from a pub band. Oh, they are from the US – and it turns out that this is the only band on this list where a member has kipped on my couch! Go Ken Stringfellow. Actually much more fun than I expected.

The Sweptaways: Hooray, the lady Flying Pickets – a female acapella choral version. Worth it for their treatment of the “My only monster” line, and a choral stab at Kate’s accent. Lots of fun as a novelty, but actually the first one to really “get” the otherworldliness aspects of the song. Recommended – if only once.

Studio 99: Its a lady club singer version! Warbling half cocked stab for some sort of Top Of The Pops albums, which doesn’t disappoint to disappoint. Excellent stereo effect on the drums, complete lack of feeling from the vocalist. You don’t need top understand what Wuthering Heights is about to get it, but you do need to at least know what the individual words mean.

Dannilu: It starts with a minute and a half of penny whistle, Lloyd-Webber moody synths and an ominous tolling bell. And then becomes, er, a straight instrumentation with another non-native English male falsetto mangling some of the lines. I am guessing Italian because they are trying to sound Italian. And Dannilu is….another super talento Brazillian: there is a video. Beware.

Janine Kitzen Straight version, probably another classical singer as she is over pronouncing the words, relishing the high bits and the backing is cheap synths. Mind you it throws in the kitchen sink and violins and in later stages someone appears to have left a drum machine on playing a completely different track in the corner of the room which enlivens it. Turns out to be German, good accent then.

Zoom Karaoke: A soft but faithful karaoke version with no guide versions. A good way of checking how simple the original is, and how it builds. Guitar solo at the end sounds like it was recorded in a different country. Nice ending, no fade.

Madeline Le Roy: With a name like that she must be French. OMG, its some sort of electronic goth version sung by a woman eating some hot chestnuts. Wonderfully menacing throbbing backing, with excellent out of tune backing vocals (probably by Le Roy). Its not a radical reinterpretation but its much more interesting than most of these. It is the goth version that Bella would approve of (Edward would rightly find it too sappy). See it performed in all its goth glory here. Filmed the same time as Dracul Follow Me!

Top Of The Poppers: See Studio 99 but with slightly higher production values, and a singer who is happy to just do a straight impersonation. It is a tough impersonation to do though , and this one falls into cockney vowels sometimes.

The Klone Orchestra: OK I can now spot a straight cover in two seconds. Very casio preset piano, but the singers voice does the best impersonation yet but frankly, I have the original on Spotify why would I listen to this except for the small strangling sounds in the chorus.

Susan Egan: This is an actress right? Yes, well recognised Pete, she did Belle in Beauty and The Beast on Broadway first and she goes all out for theatrical here. A really interesting version full of obvious overdubs, and relying on a string section instead of the piano. A completely different stab at the unstrung heroine vocals, its not actually that good, but top marks for trying something radically different.

Ameritz: The Spotify Karaoke name to trust. Actually pretty shonky vocal free version which almost turns into Hey Jude until someone turns on the Casio autofill button. Doesn’t even bother with the guitar solo! ROPEY.

And not strictly a different version there is a soft glitchcore remix of the Sweptaways version which if it had just boshed it up might have been good but takes a sweet novelty and makes it even more annoying.

So my conclusions? Well the absence of 3 Colours Red’s indie dash through the song means this is incomplete. Indeed lack of a proper bosh version also surprised me. But the main conclusion is that the song is way to scary for anyone to mess with too much. A few have noticed the goth potential, but instead it seems to be the token pop track for classical singers. None of them take it as seriously as Kate, NOT EVEN THE GOTH, and thus fail to make an impact. None of the versions really add much to the original, though I am glad I now have Dannilu in my life!

Comments

  1. 1
    swanstep on 24 Nov 2009 #

    One cover version to add to the list is Bush’s own. She rerecorded WH in 1986 for her ‘The Whole Story’ greatest hits collection. That version is, most fans agree, very inferior: echoey/boomy drums where the originals are warm and close, the vocal loses a few falsetto notes, the timing overall feels a little stiffer, etc.. The magic – the sound and feel that made a great song one of the best records ever – is gone (New Order rerecorded and/or remixed Temptation and Blue Monday in the late ’80s and mid’90’s with even worse results in my view.)

  2. 2
    Matt DC on 24 Nov 2009 #

    I have that Brazilian power metal version! It isn’t bad at all.

  3. 3
    Alan on 24 Nov 2009 #

    well done spotify for not having any China Drum http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBviQXfuu3c

  4. 4
    unlogged mog on 24 Nov 2009 #

    I must, obviously, hear the Madeleine Le Roy version at the earliest possible juncture. It sounds amazing.

    The worstest worstest worstest version ever was performed by someone (can’t remember who) on Dermot O’Leary’s show on Radio 2. It was so bad my mother emailed me three links to it with attached ‘ARGH, MY EARS WHY DOES YOUR FATHER LISTEN TO THIS FILTH?!’ commentary.

  5. 5
    Alan on 24 Nov 2009 #

    internet suggests it might have been one Josh Pyke who did it on Dermot’s show and recorded it on this compo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Man%27s_Woman

  6. 6
    Mark G on 24 Nov 2009 #

    Wasn’t it China Drum, or did 3 colours red do it as well?

  7. 7
    Pete Baran on 25 Nov 2009 #

    It was China Drum: I own it but lets be fair if you could tell China Drum and 3 Colours Red apart in a lineout YOU WOULD BE THE GUILTY ONE!!!

    OK, if you want to do the project above in one minute its here:

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