Welcome back to the blog and I hope your weekend is going well. I’m pleased to say it’s a three day weekend here and those are never a source of complaint for me. Just in case you missed it or don’t read the Facebook page I’m going to also conduct a weekly poll of sorts about random Clash concerns, the first of which appears here in case you’d like to answer.
Another feature I want to add is ‘cover your tracks’ which looks at the good, the bad and the ugly cover versions of Clash songs, as opposed to songs that The Clash covered. I’m a bit obsessed with covers recently, going back to listen to as many originals of songs that artists I like have covered over the years. You find all sorts of good stuff. The other way round it might also lead to some interesting versions and as always if you’ve heard artists cover the song in question that I’ve managed to omit then please let me know so I can add it to the post.
I thought I’d start with one that also happens to be a favourite of mine in ‘Train in Vain’. Has a song that initially was accidentally relegated to becoming an album’s unplanned ‘missing track’ been quite so good? Like much of London Calling what makes it so good is that it’s so atypical of what The Clash were known for. Strangely enough it was the song that became the first legitimate hit in the US for them reaching #23 in the charts, whereas in the UK it wasn’t even released as a single. Even now, decades later, when I come across an American who doesn’t think they know The Clash they will always twig on Rock The Casbah but just as many remember Train in Vain but think it was called ‘Stand By Me’, although fewer associate the song with the band.
As for cover versions of the song this one has pretty diverse representation but we’ll begin with one I like. I’d like to know what you think in the commentsts and after part two (later this week) as I mentioned above if you know of others then please email me or add them in the comments.
Dwight Yoakam released a version on his all cover album ‘Under The Covers’ in 1997. ‘All-covers’ albums have been around as long as most of we have but some of the notable artists that have put one out to varying degrees of success include Siouxsie and The Banshees, David Bowie (okay all but one song on Pin Ups) and Placebo. The Clash could have probably made the best one of all just based on what they did cover. As for Yoakam, he’s covered a few dozen songs during his career and enjoyed the project of the album as it took less of a strain on him. As for the how and why, he did work with Joe Ely in 1992 which could be the root of interest in The Clash or although a country singer I’m sure he was aware of The Clash as he mixed in the L.A. punk scene with X, The Blasters and Los Lobos. In Don McLeese’s biography of Yoakam he writes the following on p. 160:
His cover version much like the story behind it is one of the more interesting ones. For me a cover version has to add something new or unique to the original while still honouring the tone of the original song if that’s something an artist can interpret and I think Yoakam accomplishes this. I don’t know enough about country music to be objective but I like his voice and it does sound like it’s recorded in a different key entirely to my ears. Plus how many banjo solos do you get on this blog?
On the same covers album he does a version of The Kinks ‘Tired of Waiting For You’ if you’re interested. Later in the week we’ll look at more covers of Train in Vain so don’t now go searching them out! Thanks for reading as ever.