Caribbean cover versions with the wrong words

Among the many pleasures in reggae cover versions is that they don’t take a great deal of trouble to get the lyrics correct. This was spurred by listening to yet another Trojan Box Set, this the Reggae Brothers one, with plenty of covers. The best in the terms under discussion is Delroy Wilson’s version of ‘This Old Heart Of Mine’, which isn’t a hard song to understand, but Delroy sings “You’ve got me never knowing if I’ve got it all by myself,” which isn’t even close. Ken Boothe’s ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ tends to leave words out if he doesn’t know them.

But reggae’s king of this is Pat Kelly, a fine singer who has done loads of covers, and who enunciates very precisely, so you can hear the wrongness very clearly. The highlight is his ‘Whiter Shade Of Pale’, admittedly beyond anyone’s ability to make sense of, but I always grin when I hear him start with “You skip a light and dangle,” and the line “as the mirror drove its chair” is another winner.

Reggae isn’t the only Caribbean style where you can get this. My favourite mangled lyrical performance ever is from the great Bahamian guitarist Joseph Spence. He offers ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ without having a clue as to most of the lyrics. The chorus is therefore “You better look out / You better look out / You better look out / You better look out / Sandy Glaw is coming eurghhhhh.” It’s fantastic.