Almanac Music: the Top 50 ‘Like A Versions’

 

After some 16 years on air, Like A Version remains the most essential segment on the ABC’s national ‘youth’ radio station Triple J. The brilliance of the concept lies in the simplicity of its format: on Friday mornings, musical artists come into the Triple J studio and perform two songs – one original and one cover (the latter being the ‘like a version’). Conveniently, Triple J upload the video of the morning’s performances onto YouTube later in the day. And it is through this forum that, over the years, I have been introduced to quite a few artists about whom I previously knew nothing.

 

The list of musical artists – both international and local – who have taken part in this exercise is impressive in both its depth and diversity. No act is too huge to appear. Of course, the gig works both ways: it is a boon for Triple J, and for any touring artist (particularly from overseas) an appearance on the nationwide broadcaster is a no-brainer in terms of publicity and potential ticket and music sales. It is also an opportunity for musical acts to dust off any cobwebs, extend themselves, move out of their comfort zones, and show off their depth of range and ability.

 

After some to-ing and fro-ing, I have culled my favourite ‘Like A Versions’ down to a list of the 50 best. Most – but not all – of these tracks can be found on YouTube.

 

          50.  The Presets: Power And The Passion (Midnight Oil) 2019

Australia’s beloved Presets prove they can do more than just produce great electronic music with this rocking version of the beloved Oils classic.

 

         49. San Cisco: Get Lucky (Daft Punk) 2013

I thought San Cisco’s most recent album ‘Between You and Me’ was a little disappointing. But I do enjoy this cover of Daft Punk’s smash, with Scarlett’s bongos adding a rhythmic flourish, and some Pharrell Williams references thrown in for good measure.

 

        48.  Ziggy Alberts: Juke Jam (Chance the Rapper) 2018

I loved Chance the Rapper’s soulful laid-back original, which also happened to feature Justin Bieber. Having been introduced to Ziggy’s music by my eldest son, who is a big fan, I was aware of Alberts and intrigued by what he might do with the track. One listen will convince you what I already know: that Ziggy Alberts is a vastly under-rated local talent.

 

       47.  Denzel Curry: Bulls On Parade(Rage Against The Machine) 2019

This took the 2019 ‘Hottest 100’ by storm, finishing at #5. But I must confess that I am a little ambivalent, as it is just too close to the original to offer anything really interesting.

 

       46. C.W. Stoneking: Seven Nation Army(The White Stripes) 2008

Sounding a little like he has just stepped straight from a show at New Orleans’ famous ‘Preservation Hall’, C.W. gives us his own thoroughly unique take on the White Stripes’ bass-driven foot-stomper.

 

     45.Alex Lahey: Welcome to the Black Parade (My Chemical Romance) 2019

An absolute rock out by Lahey and friends (including G Flip). It is an extreme track to cover, and starts a little uncertainly, but the middle and ending are extremely well done.

 

    44. Sarah Blasko: Hey, Ya! (OutKast) 2011

This warm, stripped-down version allows the listener to listen to the lyrics more closely. And subsequent listens over the past decade have never failed to disappoint.

 

   43. Ocean Alley: Breathe/Comfortably Numb/Money (Pink Floyd) 2021

Full points to Ocean Alley for seamlessly melding three Floyd classic tracks into one excellent homage, and in the process reminding me that I again must spin some of my old Floyd vinyl.

 

  42. Julia Jacklin: Someday (The Strokes) 2017

I give plenty of credit to Julia Jacklin for having the courage to take on Someday, slow it right down, smooth it out like this, and make it your own. But she does it. A beautiful interpretation.

 

 41. Gordi: In The End (Linkin Park) 2017

In this haunting tribute to the late Chester Bennington, Gordi gives her arrestingly unique voice a full, expressive work-out.

 
 40. Art vs Science: Enter Sandman(Metallica) 2016

As they explain in the intro, the band feel that ‘Like A Version’ should be about covering a song from a totally different genre to their own. Happily, these guys pull it off with this funky version of the heavy metal classic.

 

 39. Something For Kate: Rock The Casbah (The Clash) 2007

A shout-out to Mel Bampton, who introduced the public to ‘Like A Version’ when she was in the breakfast chair at Triple J. Something For Kate were there for Mel’s last time in the chair. Hats off to Paul Demspey and gang, for this is an excellent performance of The Clash’s classic.

 

  38. Illy: ‘Ausmusic Medley’ (Silverchair/Hilltop Hoods/Paul Kelly/Flume) 2013

To celebrate Ausmusic month back in 2013, rapper Illy and friends came into the studio to cover a number of well-known Australian songs. The tracks are combined cleverly and expertly. I would love to see more of these types of medleys. The strings being a lovely touch.

 
  37. Angus Stone: Hold On(Alabama Shakes)

My eldest son regards me with some contempt for the fact that I am not a big fan of Angus and Julia Stone. He has even seen them in Paris, of all places. Julia’s voice is usually a big run-off for me, but there is no doubt they excel themselves in this uplifting version of Hold On.

 

  36. Sarah Blasko: Life On Mars(David Bowie) 2016

In the introduction to the track, Blasko explains her love of Bowie. She then produces a gorgeous rendition of his greatest track.

 

  35. Alex the Astronaut: Mr Blue Sky (E.L.O.) 2020

Jeff Lynne is an under-rated genius of pop music, and his legacy will be enormous. Alex reminds us how great a songwriter he is with her all-female ensemble taking on the joyous Mr Blue Sky, made even more enjoyable with the appearance of the legendary Lindy Morrison on drums.

 

  34. Tired Lion: Death to the Lads (Smith Street Band) 2017

Tired Lion and the Smith Street Band makes for a good mash-up. Sophie Hopes (who is just massively talented) beautifully smooths off the edges of the Smithies’ raucous original.

 

  33. Stonefield: Magic Carpet Ride (Steppenwolf) 2011

To look at this video is to marvel at how young the Findlay sisters were when they started out. This cover is simple and loose. And of course, it hints at the psychedelic feel to their music which Stonefield would later develop.

 

  32. Crowded House: Everybody’s Talkin’(Harry Nilsson) 2008

The outrageously talented Neil Finn could sing the words on the back of a ‘Corn Flakes’ packet and make them sound beautiful. And damn, isn’t Nilsson’s track simply timeless?

 

  31. Odette: Magnolia (Gang Of Youths) 2018

Were I to write a song as glorious as Magnolia, I reckon that I would not mind seeing Odette seated at a grand piano belting it out.

 

  30. Husky: Need You Tonight(INXS) 2012

It can be too easy to forget just how many great songs INXS produced. Husky gives us a timely reminder with this moody, atmospheric, keyboards-infused beauty.

 

  29. Deep Sea Arcade: Let Forever Be (Chemical Brothers) 2012

My favourite Chemical Brothers track. Deep Sea Arcade don’t quite capture the atmospherics of Noel Gallagher’s soaring vocals, but give it a damn good try.

 

  28.Holy Holy: Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division) 2014

I once believed that this song was so good that no-one could ruin it, but then I heard Paul Young’s version. Here, Holy Holy faithfully do justice to this classic.

 

  27. Montaigne: Chandelier(Sia) 2015

What a voice. And what a divinely deft touch Montaigne applies. Just glorious!

 

  26. Boy And Bear: Back to Black (Amy Winehouse) 2016

These guys are an excellent live outfit, so it is no surprise that they make their smooth take on this track seem so effortless.

 

  25. Tones And I: Forever Young(Youth Group) 2019

Well, well, well. Please accept my apologies, Tones, for I would never have guessed that you would sing a cover with such passion. You have won me over.

 

  24. Rubens: Friday On My Mind(Easybeats) 2014

I am not sure that I am completely convinced that one of the greatest songs in Australian music should be slowed down this much. Different, to say the least.

 

  23. Sticky Fingers: Rhiannon (Fleetwood Mac) 2012

“We wanted to cover a classic”, the boys say, before diving into the legendary Stevie Nicks track. Yet another cover which reminds you how well the original stands the test of time.

 

  22. Hilltop Hoods: Can’t Stop (Red Hot Chilli Peppers) 2015

One of Australia’s biggest artists covering the Chilli Peppers? Oh, yes please. Fun, raucous and brilliant.

 

  21. Stella Donnelly: Love Is In The Air (John Paul Young) 20

Australia has an amazing range of talented female musical artists. Here, Stella looks like she is having an absolute ball. As a result, we do too.

 

  20. Billie Eilish: Bad(Michael Jackson) 2018

Any old-timers who might be wondering what all the fuss is about multi-Grammy Award- winning Billie need only listen to her stripped-back version of ‘Bad’. Accompanied by only an acoustic guitar, she absolutely nails it to the wall.

 

  19. John Butler Trio: Happy (Pharrell Williams) 2014

I defy you not to be tapping your foot while listening to guitar virtuoso John Butler in this joyous singalong.

 

  18. Lime Cordiale: I Touch Myself(Divinyls) 2020

A jazz-infused take on Chrissy Amphlett’s classic. The Leimbach Brothers and friends use of horns is uplifting effect.

 

  17. Middle Kids: Don’t Dream It’s Over (Crowded House) 2017

No cover will ever get near Neil and the band’s original, but Hannah Joy brings an ethereal, almost mystical, touch to the track.

 

  16. Gang of Youths: All My Friends(LCD Soundsystem) 2017

While the long wait for Gang of Youths’ follow-up to Go Farther In Lightness continues, we can comfort ourselves with their ‘Like A Version’ appearances. I initially missed this sensational cover, delivered in soaringly epic GoY style, but was alerted to it by my youngest son. It is rare for me to admit preferring a cover version, but here we are. Brilliant.

 

  15. Anne-Marie: Listen To Soul, Listen To Blues(SAFIA) 2016

Englishwoman Anne-Marie Nicholson is one of my favourite female singers. I would love for her to venture down more soulful roads, such as this, rather than the dance/pop she tends to favour.

 

  14. The Herd: I Was Only 19 (Redgum) 2006

This is a model for how an artist should take a song by the scruff of the neck and put their own indelible stamp upon it. And that opinion comes from a rusted-on Redgum fan.

 

  13. Amy Shark: Sugar,We’re Goin’ Down (Fall Out Boy) 2021

I had not heard this song in years, and instantly I was reminded of the unusual film-clip which accompanied the original (it is worth seeking out). I have a sort of love/hate relationship with the music of Amy Sharp, but this a wonderful and passionate rendition.

 

  12. Custom Kings: Boys of Summer (Don Henley) 2011
(song can be heard at 34.88 mark on link)

Whatever happened to Melbourne’s Custom Kings? the internet does not offer many clues. Their album ‘At Sea’ was a cracker, but they seemed to have all but disappeared. This cover of the 1984 Henley classic was the track that first got me hooked on the whole ‘Like A Version’ deal.

 

  11. Franz Ferdinand: Was There Anything I Could Do?(Go Betweens) 2013

The Scotsmen and their jaunty jangly guitars tackle one of the best tracks from ’16 Lovers Lane’. Treading carefully because they are dealing with the Go Betweens, the appropriate level of respect for the original is written all over it.

 

  10. Methyl Ethel: Cry Me A River (Justin Timberlake) 2016

Is it just me, or are Perth’s Methyl Ethel almost reimagining this as a torch song? Whether or not they are, this is superb.

 

  9. Ball Park Music: Paranoid Android(Radiohead) 2020

I would assume that this would be the most difficult of tracks to cover, but Ball Park Music actually pull it off with a performance that is breathtaking.

 

  8. Chvrches: Love (Kendrick Lamar) 2018

The music of Chvrches is so far outside my wheelhouse that I have absolutely no business liking them, but I do. Maybe it is beguiling lead singer Lauren Mayberry who makes me sit up and pay attention. Listen to Kendrick’s original, and then listen to the wonderfully tender tweaks which Chvrches apply to make this cover memorable.

 

  7. DMA’S: Believe (Cher) 2016

The DMAs could never have believed that this cover would grow as big as it did. So much so that it was voted into sixth place in the 2016 “Hottest 100”. The band also performed it in their set at the 2020 AFL grand final.

 

  6. Catfish & The Bottlemen: Read My Mind(Killers) 2015

This has always been a huge favourite of mine. Lead singer Van McCann’s vocals are understated, and his acoustic guitar is just delightful. His mid-song stumble, pause, and exclamation “live music, what the kids want!” adds to, rather than detracts from, the performance.

 

  5. Chet Faker: (Lover) You Don’t Treat Me No Good No More (Sonia Dada) 2014

I cannot stress how feel-good this is, and how much fun the ten or so members of the ‘choir’ seem to be having – and that element of fun often that makes all the difference. That, and the fact that I am a sucker for handclaps.

 

  4. Wiggles: Elephant (Tame Impala) 2021

When it was announced that one of Australia’s biggest and most successful bands would be appearing on ‘Like A Version’, with original members Jeff and Murray joining in, the internet almost broke. Currently, the You Tube video has over 2 million views. In keeping with their image as the most popular children’s entertainers in the land, the Wiggles cleverly chose Tame Impala’s Elephant and added elements of their classic Fruit Salad into the mix. Footnote: how smooth is ‘new’ purple Wiggle Lachy Gillespie’s voice?

 

  3. Ocean Alley: Baby Come Back(Player) 2018

One of the joys of ‘Like A Version’ is hearing an old track being reawakened and subsequently thinking ‘that really was a great song!’ Ocean Alley selected this song very wisely, and then did it proud, the bass-line being an amazing highlight. Why are one-hit-wonder songs some of the best?

 

  2. Rudimental: Ready Or Not (Fugees) 2013

I own the Fugees’ album ‘The Score’ on which this track first appeared. I rate it highly. Eight years ago, British collective Rudimental crammed into the studio and comprehensively killed it with this funky version. The vocals of Sinead Harnett and Anne-Marie are simply superb.

 

  1.  HAIM: That Don’t Impress Me Much(Shania Twain) 2017

Lashings of humour, plenty of respect for the original, and outrageous musical talent all combine perfectly in this cracking performance by the Haim sisters. Lead singer Danielle Haim once again proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that she possesses one of the purest voices in all of pop music.

 

 

 

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About Darren Dawson

Always North.

Comments

  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Outstanding compilation Smokie, can’t fault any of your words or selections. Like you, I consume Like A Version almost exclusively via YouTube.

    Alex Lahey’s version of “Welcome to the Black Parade” is one of my absolute favourite LAV’s, Alex also does a cracking version of “Torn” with a fantastic introduction to the history of the song.

    Luca Brasi’s version of “How to Make Gravy” is another favourite.

    Huge effort to get a list of just 50 out of the dozens and dozens of wonderful covers on this segment, well played!

  2. Like many I rarely hear this live but am always interested in each week’s offering. So many great covers and I reckon Julia Jacklin’s Somebody is great. She brings elegance and timelessness to her music. I was nervous about anyone tackling Magnolia such is its power and cinematic sweep but Odette’s interpretation is bravely engaging.

    Thanks Smokie (don’t tell anyone but I’m now listening to some of these in my barren little cubicle).

  3. Some ripper choices Smoke – big fan of numbers 4, 7, 14, 36 and 43.

    Tones and I’s choice was the somewhat rare ‘cover of a cover’.

    One of my faves early on in the life of LaV was Little Birdy’s cover of ‘Six months in a leaky boat’.

  4. Wayne Matthews says

    Well done Smokie. There are more than a few versions here I confess to being not familiar with. I have noted to address my oversight.

  5. How good is Ziggy Alberts.

  6. Thanks Smokie, have been giving some of these a run today.
    9 would be the personal favourite with honourable mentions to 17, 27, 28 and 36.
    Just to have the nerve to try and cover Paranoid Android should be applauded.

  7. Daryl Schramm says

    Thanks for this Darren. This is going to be an interesting exercise for me. This evening I started on 50 and got down to 39. I soon realised that there were no nominations where I was familiar with all three components (cover performers, the song and original artist). The majority I’d not heard of any of the three components, so I have triple the research to do. I never got into Triple J, so that probably is a contributing factor. Then, flukely, I saw Spicks and Specks this evening and was introduced to Gordi, and up she pops at #41. How pleased with myself was I!
    Cheers

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