People who know me or who are familiar with this site will be more than aware that I’m not the biggest fan of covers. Yes, they serve many purposes but for me it is all about creativity, adding to the musical canon and looking to the next musical adventure and covers, standards, pre-loved songs, call them what you will often seem a bit redundant. At best they feel like treading water when you could be striking out for the azure blues of new musical horizons. Occasionally a song comes along that brings something new to the table, something that redefines the original, explores new territory, gives it new life, provides a second chapter to the story rather than merely plagiarises.
People will point at Jeff Buckley’s cover of Hallelujah or The Sunday’s reworking of Wild Horses for their sheer gorgeousness, I for one always hold up Kirsty MacColl’s cover of A New England, and in particular the 12 inch version (remember those kids?) as being, not just a perfect reworking but possibly the perfect pop record. And with the arrival of The Marica Frequency elegant cover of His Bobness’s most famous song, I have another to add to that small but illustrious list.
Unlike many bands who just seek to merely pay homage to the song, The Marica Frequency truly make this their own. They take nothing away from the greatness of the original but by drenching it in their own dream-pop gorgeousness, their eloquent vocal lines and ethereality, the song becomes more than the sum of its already considerable parts. The fact that it takes almost two minutes for the lyrics to kick in (again I refer you to the aforementioned 12” record) shows their desire to take this into new territory and the almost spiritual nature of this rendition is probably the most in keeping with the creation of the original than any of the many covers have got close to. Remember this song was written as the sound track to accompany one of the most memorable and moving death scenes in movie history for the 1973 film Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid and this is one of the few renditions of the song that could have been used in its place.
For someone who doesn’t like covers I can safely say that I love what The Marica Frequency have done here. The drawn out introduction, the gentle dreamscaping, the contrasting vocals, the hints of Mazzy Star (always going to get me) and again as mentioned The Sundays and the fact that considering that this is a cover of one of the most recognisable songs in history it is actually one of the most original songs I have had pass through the review pile for a while. If only all cover versions took the job this seriously.