Monday April 2, 2007

Video Free Association

After the jump: a random walk though pop culture and my subconscious via YouTube.

I love covers of old songs.  New interpretations of old favorites?  Yes please—I like my pop culture predigested, remixed, and regurgitated.  Sometimes, I'm surprised when I find out that a song I thought was an original was actually a cover.

For example, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' "I Love Rock and Roll": a cover, with the gender of the object of desire reversed, of an old song by the Arrows:

Also, Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy":

...recently featured in Marie Antoinette:

...was another gender-reversed cover, this time of an old Strangeloves song.  Here's a performance of it from an episode of an old NBC show called Hullabaloo (which was hosted by Sammy Davis Jr.):

Similarly, the first time I heard Power Station's "Get It On (Bang a Gong)":

...I didn't realize it was a cover of an old T.Rex song:

Unlike the previous two, the T.Rex song was pretty well known, and I suspect most listeners were aware it was a cover, but I fell in the half-generation gap between the two and so had never heard the original.  (This also happened to me with Fine Young Cannibals' "Suspicious Minds" and Echo and the Bunnymen's "People are Strange".)  The lead singer of Power Station, Robert Palmer, was no stranger to covers.  Here's his song "Girl You Want":

...which was a cover of one of my favorite Devo songs, "Girl U Want":

...or perhaps you prefer this live version:

I was at that concert.  Good times.  YouTube, I love you!

Devo have inspired a lot of geeky, oddball groups over the years.  One you probably haven't heard of is a band from Japan called Polysics.  Here's their sort-of-a-cover of an old Styx song, titled "Domoarigao Mr. Roboto"—check out the distinctive helmet on the robot:

If you want to watch the Styx video, go ahead, but I refuse to embed it—except for the famously memorable chorus, it a terrible song.  Interesting linguistic note about the Polysics version: even though they're Japanese, they (mis-)pronounce the Japanese words of the chorus as if they were English speakers, presumably in imitation of the Styx version.  For example, they clearly use the English approximant R in himitsu wo shiritai, '(I) want to know the secret', instead of the usual Japanese flap.

Polysics has also done an excellently odd cover of...well, watch it and see how soon you recognize it (it's a bit too herky-jerky at first, but stick around for the chorus):

...or perhaps you prefer this Final Fantasy-based video:

"My Sharona" was, of course, originally performed by The Knack:

Another fun Polysics video features some impressive dancing.  It's called "I My Me Mine":

Isn't that little girl an amazing dancer?  Apparently the band thought so too—there's another version of the video that includes just her part:

If you can believe it, she's apparently 11 years old in the video.  Her stage name is "Strong Machine #2".  "Strong Machine #1" is her father, who also dances:

Here she is in a funny promo video for the Raindance Film Festival:

Of course, cameos in music videos are nothing new.  Here are some you may not have known about (or forgotten about):

Milton Berle in a double role (again with the gender reversal...) in Ratt's fantastically quotable "Round and Round" ("What comes around goes around...I'll tell you why."):

Director Sofia Coppola starring as an underdog gymnast in her then-husband Spike Jonez's video for The Chemical Brothers' "Elektrobank":

Actress Tilda Swinton (who you may remember as the White Witch from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) in the video for Orbital's "The Box":

I love that song!  It's from the sub-genre of electronic music I like to think of as "open source techno", in which each new instrument and theme is layered on, one by one, so that the structure of the song is transparent to the listener.

Finally, a non-music video and a related question.  First, the video.  It's the opening to the old UK TV series "Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons":

Now the question: why does Henry Kissinger want to destroy London?

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Comments a cover, with the gender of the object of desire reversed,

You missed what is (in my subconscious) the prime example of this: Indigo Girls' cover of "Romeo and Juliet" ( They don't change a single word, but the fact that it's the Indigo Girls affords a completely different interpretation from the original by Dire Straits ( For years I didn't know that there was an original, and when I found out that there was, I found it comparatively boring.

Posted by: JS Bangs at Apr 2, 2007 7:49:08 PM

Good lord... I wondered what was causing my browser to crash every time I tried to view this site feed ...

Posted by: Steve at Apr 3, 2007 5:32:24 AM

Dr. Kissinger is a well known associate and defender of super-villians. He's obviously just trying to work his way up the ladder of Evil.

Posted by: includedmiddle at Apr 6, 2007 12:25:41 PM

If it's covers you're interested in, don't forget Weird Al! He has his own unique versions of "I Love Rock and Roll" ( and "My Sharona" (

Posted by: Kivi at Apr 13, 2007 7:56:57 AM

...but I guess it's unlikely anyone would take those for originals.

Posted by: Kivi at Apr 13, 2007 8:10:35 AM