Cover Madness

Wow, you should see this.

Not just because it’s cool, either. I mean, obviously it is cool, because it’s as instructive to look at where the earlier covers beat hell out of the newer ones, as it is to — with a shock! — observe covers that very well might have been the originals, but for the artist’s individual quirk. And this is the whole thing, really, isn’t it? Choosing the moment. There are lots of possible moments to choose…it’s like drawing a punch: you can choose to show the instant before it connects, or the instant after. But oh, how awesome to see that in a really good story, the instant after can be just as good as the instant before! I don’t think a modern cover can ever quite show the weird, thing-of-the-moment magic of place that an older one does…some things can’t, and probably shouldn’t, be recaptured with 100% fidelity. Mind you no one will ever be able to recapture these later images with 100% fidelity either, will they? There will always be a subtle time-stamp on ’em, whether it’s the colouring or what I like to call “the inking accent”…

…Because the thing is, you know, there are time-based accents as well as space-based ones…and they’re just as unmistakable…

…And it isn’t just accents, although that is a thing I found distressing about the movie “Backbeat”. More to the point, however…and it’s kind of like the accent thing…I mean it isn’t even like no one can reproduce an old space-based accent, many actors of recent memory have managed a very creditable “old” accent…

But it’s the musical background. You see, no one would dream of attempting to replicate Beatle voices (or instrumentations, or onstage performances) by using performers who had no musical training…and yet that selfsame training could never occur in a vacuum, it would itself be a product of the welter of untracked influence…and here’s the thing, that the Beatles were influential enough that they didn’t just produce easily-trackable influences on modern-day musical training, but they also fell into the “no one knows where the hell this came from but it’s good so we’re gonna use it” category! You can hear it in the voices, and in the guitars — I don’t want to be a bastard, so let me make it clear that I don’t expect the actor playing Lennon to have Lennon’s voice, but the fact remains…

…That the Beatles’ musical training (though it was on the job — well, I don’t expect performing talents of the Beatles’ caliber to be available for this film either — those people are off making records somewhere, if they’ve got any brains!) had a cultural context too, and it’s a real specific one. Anyway: “accent”. There are musical accents too, and they’re not all space-dependent too

Anyway I thought it was a very time-of-production-specific movie! Ten years from now, if you’ve got a good ear and a good education, you’ll be able to watch it and nail down the era of its creation…!

But anyway…!

We were talking “One Minute Later”, and I have to tell you…

There’s an “inking accent”. It’s the same as a musical accent, kind of. Which is the same as a time-space accent, sort of. I guess not really. But I think so…

However I often think things that are utterly beside the point, so that shouldn’t be too surprising. Therefore, let’s leave all that to one side, and return to the main point…

Which is: it isn’t only cool…although it is very cool!

But it’s a bunch of hockey cards, too.

What I love about it: you want to know the name of that artist? You want a quick-and-dirty snapshot of what he looks like, how he makes decisions? Having the hockey card isn’t like seeing the games, but it’s a good front-pocket reference, and I think that’s pretty neat.

I think the whole thing is pretty damn neat.

Go and take a look, won’t you?

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11 responses to “Cover Madness

  1. Part of the problem with the music in Backbeat was that they *did* try to use Beatles-quality performers – the music was done by members of REM, Sonic Youth and a couple of other bands who were big at the time. The problem being of course that those bands were musicians rather than students of the music of the period. If you want to get that musical ‘accent’ you have to know the music of Lonnie Donegan and Frank Ifield at least as well as you have to know the ‘cooler’ music they played…

  2. Sean: Ha! Too bad we’re just never going to have trading cards for artists! We could have coasters, though…

    I’d totally get a bunch of coasters, with “stats” on the back! Oh my God how ridiculous, now that is something I could use a scanner for…

    And Andrew: Exactly right. You know, another thing that bugged me about that movie — intrigued me about it? — was how the American actor playing Stu Sutcliffe had his accent fluctuate depending on who he was standing next to. And I am almost tempted to call this deliberate…although the implication of it would then be a little, um, hard-edged. Essentially it makes SS look like a bit of a poser, putting on the rougher voice when he’s around the rougher people, and a smoother one when he’s around the fancier folks. I don’t know, you could call it textually-warranted, but to my mind it goes a bit far! The whole thing seemed caught between wanting to be Quadrophenia on the one hand, and Absolute Beginners on the other…not to say Velvet Goldmine. Okay, that really would be going too far, but to me the theme seemed quite heavyhanded at times…I don’t know, everybody thought I’d like it! But maybe that’s because I’m a big fan of the early Beatles history…and maybe that’s why I didn’t like it as much as everyone thought I would. Though I did think the guy playing Paul did an excellent job…

    The business of the musical accent, and the musical education, is very interesting to me: of course how is a musician supposed to separate out his own habitual rock vocals, look at them, and say “oh yes, that bit’s from McCartney, actually…how strange, because it totally makes me not sound like him“…mind you, maybe there are things only musicians would notice, too: “yeah, I tried to sing along with Lennon’s vocal track on “Anna”, and I ran out of mid-range! DAMN!”

    But yeah: this is a grand principle of the universe, I think, that products aren’t easily replicable all by themselves. Trying to define it: there are examples everywhere, like you can’t get an oxygen cycle on a planet by just tossing oxygen into it, wheat didn’t evolve on the North American prairie but it also won’t grow where it did evolve, anymore…”ecosystems are migratory”, I guess I could say, though that doesn’t really cut it…

    But clearly if you wanted to get a bunch of people to genuinely sound like the early Beatles, the last thing you ought to do is have them exclusively study old Beatle recordings. If you wanted to get someone to draw like Jack Kirby, you wouldn’t just toss them a stack of Captain Victory and say “like that“?

    I’m still not 100% sure.

  3. Pingback: Linkblogging for 06/03/09 « Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!·

  4. I talked about time-specific accents when I started listening to Sounds of the 60s, a great radio show hosted by a guy who’s been playing these songs since it was the 60s (I heard his voice introducing a live Kinks song on an mp3 I have and just about got dizzy with the cognitive dissonance).

    His show sounds like a time capsule, and not just because it features letters from listeners who’ve clearly never heard of Google or mp3s (I can understand wanting the proper vinyl as well… but to say you haven’t even heard the song you’re requesting in the last 20, 30 years just seems bizarre to me; I suppose that’s showing my age though, and even I’m counting my blessings that I didn’t grow up with the internet but learned to like music back in the days when you had to press pause after every few words and scribble down the lyrics itself rather than look them up on websites full of malware, when relative scarcity meant that the music you got to hear was worth something, when I’d wait hours by the radio with my C60 at the ready and my finger hovering over the record button at the start of every new song in case it was the one I’d been wanting to record so I could listen to it whenever I wanted… anyway I digress).

    It sounds like a time capsule because he sounds like a proper old BBC announcer, because that’s what he is, and in recent decades they’ve mellowed out about that whole RP thing to the point where “BBC English” isn’t BBC English any more and RP isn’t even what it was any more. Which is great; I’m all for diversity of accents and sticking it to the snobs. But I do love that Proper Old Radio Guy voice. America has that kind of thing too but not so noticeably. I still remember the crazy delight when I first realized this, the time-specific accent. Pretty much anything that makes me think of time in a way I usually think of space makes me pretty happy though.

    Andrew can — I know this because he has, and then I think I made him do it again months or years later because I liked it so much — explain and demonstrate the differences between the Beatles’ accents, both in a head-voice/soft-palate kind of way and a sociocultural way and I think even a geographical kind of way because there’ll be wildly different (to his ears) accents in different parts of Liverpool and the different social classes. It makes my head spin, especially when I “pull back” and try to think of it all, of the Beatles and him and the Queen and Geordies and Glaswegians and people from Cardiff who are all British and my family calls Andrew’s accent “British” and they love it. And now they think I’ve got one too, a British accent, which means I sound just like Andrew. Ha. I wouldn’t sound like him if I stayed here a million years. Even if I took lessons. When he’s tired he lapses into Scouse enough that I have to giggle (I find most Liverpudlian accents hard to listen to with a straight face, a fact I’m sure is going to get me bottled some unfortunate evening before I can explain my well-meaning linguistic admiration for their accents…). But it’s no good telling my parents about accents. Andrew was sure my family wouldn’t be as impressed by him as they thought before they met him; “they’ll be expecting someone who sounds like Hugh Grant,” he said, “and they’ll get me.” I told him not to worry; they wouldn’t see any difference between his accent and Hugh Grant’s. He found this unbelievable but of course I was right. No wonder he doesn’t like some of them much; I wouldn’t think kindly of people who couldn’t tell the difference between me and Hugh Grant either.

  5. I used to be able to distinguish B.C. accents from Albertan and Ontarian ones quite easily…don’t know if I still can, haven’t tried it out in a while…then I went to England, and crap. The accents were like the food, full of flavour-enhancers, too much fat, too much taste for my comfort after a while…it wigged me out. Then I got back to Canada, where regional accents are for the most part composed of extremely subtle differences…it’s the coldwater swimmer thing again, when you’re swimming in very cold water after a few moments you become sensitized to very fine temperature differences in the currents around you…it can be a relief.

    And ahhh…RP, in which individual letters are pronounced. It’s a very, very strange sort of way of speaking, and I always enjoy hearing it…Canada never really had anything like this, but just at this particular moment in time an interesting break is apparent between older broadcasters and younger ones in re: the time-accent. Old hockey announcers and national-news anchormen alike sport the pronunciation “nyooz” for “news”, with even a slight kick on the liquid “w” just before the “z” sound…and newer ones say it like I do: straight-up “nooz”. Of course there’s some regional bias in there as well, which is hard to separate out: Canada is a little bit like a time-tunnel, the East is the oldest and the West is the youngest, in terms of mass settlement…many social shifts that took place in the 20s in Central Canada, happened in the 50s in B.C. In this sense, my father’s upbringing here has more in common than a friend of mine’s grandfather’s upbringing in the core regions, that it does with her father’s…

    The history of Canada is a history of lateral pushing westward, you see — kind of like the Roman Empire in Europe, sort-of-not-really — or maybe, like the formation of the Hawaiian islands? Industries that drove the national economy began in the Maritimes, then were supplanted by Quebec, then by Ontario. And it’s still Ontario, because Ontario’s got the biggest population…but just because business hit a roadblock doesn’t mean other social features didn’t continue to move on along the rail line, station to station to station…the destinations of immigrants are especially interesting to follow, in this sense, as are the changes in ideas about schooling. And I think it’s how both of these combine that makes old guys from Ontario so much more likely to do the RP-variant thing. Anyway I will miss that, when it’s gone. I enjoy being able to say “nyoo(w)z” when I want to…

  6. then I went to England, and crap. The accents were like the food, full of flavour-enhancers, too much fat, too much taste for my comfort after a while…it wigged me out.

    Tell me about it.

    I miss Minnesota accents like hell. I used to watch Fargo when I was homesick. Now when I’m waiting for a plane to Minneapolis, usually somewhere like Amsterdam, it always seems to be full of people from Minnesota rather than from Europe; I’ve been known to say that if I could I’d make a blanket out of the sound of all their chatter, to wrap myself up in.

    Much as I like the variety of accents here it never seems right to me, in the way the winters don’t seem right without a few big blizzards and a constant blanket of snow, even if I inherently prefer the merits of the less-snow version because it’s less hassle and slightly less uncomfortable, it doesn’t matter; it’s still wrong. And so is this Tower-of-Babel accent diversity. :)

    I think there’s a similar time/space pattern in the US, except for the fact that the west coast also skipped ahead of us so maybe it’s just the middle bit that’s lagging behind while the edges rush off ahead of us. I would never say “nyooz” but I do miss some other options so I know what you mean with your nostalgia-for-the-present there.

  7. Andrew was sure my family wouldn’t be as impressed by him as they thought before they met him; “they’ll be expecting someone who sounds like Hugh Grant,” he said, “and they’ll get me.” I told him not to worry; they wouldn’t see any difference between his accent and Hugh Grant’s. He found this unbelievable but of course I was right.

    The other manifestation of this is all the people who watched The Dark Knight and had no problem at all hearing Alfred speak with Michael Caine’s accent. I couldn’t get past it. I was all, “Michael Caine’s great but it’s not right!”

  8. Oh God, yes, Caine’s accent’s completely wrong. The other thing that got me about his Alfred was referring to Bruce as “Master Wayne”. It should either be “MISTER Wayne” or “Master BRUCE”

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