Songs to the Siren

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Sweet Jane

Cowboy Junkies

15th November 1988

🇨🇦

A cover of a slower, quieter, version of The Velvet Underground’s Sweet Jane, the song’s writer Lou Reed has apparently gone on record as saying that this take, by Canadian “alternative country” band Cowboy Junkies, was his favourite.

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Throw Down Your Arms

Sinéad O’Connor

28th September 2005

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Although Sinéad O’Connor is an amazing songwriter, she is best known for her version of a song written by Prince. This is a cover, but not that one - this track is from an album she made of classic reggae songs she grew up with.

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Private Life / She’s Lost Control

Grace Jones

? 1980 (Single), 9th May 1980 (LP)

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After a disco period, Jamaican model and singer Grace Jones brought out a dub-heavy reggae album of covers in 1980, and had a hit single with her version of The Pretenders song Private Life.

Arguably even more astonishing is her take on Joy Division’s She’s Lost Control, which formed the B-side of the single.

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Torn

Natalie Imbruglia

27th October 1997 (single), 24th November 1997 (LP)

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With Natalie Imbruglia’s take on the Ednaswap song “Torn”, I’d suggest that we are getting into the relatively small list of “covers that sound better than the original” - regardless of whether you consider the “original” to me Ednaswap or Lis Sørensen.

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Song to the Siren

This Mortal Coil

September 1983 (EP) / October 1984 (LP)

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 🇬🇧

This is the song that gave this blog its title, so it seems right to open with it. Although it’s a cover, this is the most famous version and, I’d claim, the definitive version.

Recorded by Liz Fraser and Robin Guthrie of 4AD act Cocteau Twins, this was released on the B-side of a 12” release, then the A-side of a 7”, before appearing on the first This Mortal Coil album It’ll End in Tears

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