Last week, I wrote Part One of this post and I dealt with “Fame,” written by David Bowie and John Lennon, and “Space Oddity,” written by Bowie. This week I’m going to deal with a John Lennon song covered by Duran Duran a little while back and David Bowie song covered by Duran Duran super recently.
John Lennon – Instant Karma!
This is one of the great John Lennon songs. Lennon was a great songwriter and a good singer. He certainly had a unique and recognizable voice. Lennon had a good singing voice that could sometimes lean into the realm of great, and this often happened when he let loose. The Beatles’s cover of “Twist and Shout” is perhaps the classic it is because Lennon blew out his voice to achieve a superb performance. He later achieved this with “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” as well. I feel there is an aspect of this side of his vocals on “Instant Karma.” This might be the track that most shows off both aspects of his vocals.
Duran Duran – Instant Karma
Then there is this cover. As I pointed out in Part One, I’m more of a fan of Duran Duran’s original music than their covers. Sometimes I do like their interpretation of a song, but in the case of their cover of “Instant Karma” I just couldn’t get there. Every time I listen to it, which isn’t often, I just feel like they could have done better with it. The track was for a tribute album and I think for charity. Here’s an Ask Katy question answered by Nick Rhodes in which he says that the recording took two days after some rehearsal time. This is a significantly different timeframe than Duran Duran often takes with their songs. I don’t know that more time spent would have changed my overall feeling about it though.
David Bowie – Five Years
This is the opening track of the classic album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” It was probably musically inspired by another John Lennon track called “Mother.” The song sets the stage for the tale of Ziggy Stardust and his mission to avert Earth’s impending apocalypse. This track is everything you would want from a rock opera, from a David Bowie track, and from 70s progressive rock.
Duran Duran – Five Years
And here’s where we can get into the question of opinion. If I’m being objective, it’s entirely possible that Duran Duran’s cover of “Five Years” suffers from the issues I complained about with “Instant Karma.” The difference being that somehow I feel like “Five Years” works as a Duran Duran song where I’m not sure “Instant Karma” did. I feel that the vocals (Simon’s and the backing) are better on “Five Years.” In case I wasn’t clear, I really like this cover. Of the four tracks I discussed in these two parts, this may be the best of the lot, although the “Planet Earth/ Space Oddity” medley may also be. Who knows?
I hope you’ve enjoyed my examination of these covers alongside the original tracks. One of these days, I will likely dig into the “Thank You” album, which may be largely why I’m averse to Duran Duran recording covers, but for now I’m done here.
Chris McGinty is a blogger who has a five year plan, so hopefully we won’t slide into an apocalypse during that time. I mean, I believe in contingency plans, but the end of civilization is a little harder to plan around than most other setbacks.