BBC’s Radio 1 has its “Live Lounge” and Australia’s Triple J has its “Like A Version”. You might have heard about the British radio series but I bet you had no clue a similar Aussie thing existed. Let me change that.
Part 4 OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE
Both “Live Lounge” and “Like A Version” (LAV) are radio segments, based pretty much on the same concept. Local and international music acts that happen to be in town are invited to the studio (or elsewhere, sometimes) to play two songs: their own one (most likely promoting their current album or tour) and a cover. Very straightforward, right? Yet, both programs are super famous in their respective countries precisely because of those creative renditions. Musos really go out of their way to make the tracks they’re covering their own. It’s also because of the acoustic/unplugged setting and the intimacy of the studios – all of those factors contribute to the good banter and general chilled vibe that, in turn, reflect on the sessions’ music quality.
Let’s focus a bit more on the Aussie segment. “Like A Version” was created in 2005. I don’t have to tell you what the title refers to – but you gotta admit: it’s a pretty ingenious play on words. This brekky show is aired live weekly on Fridays around 8am when – let’s face it – all you think about is the weekend. When I came to Oz at the beginning of 2017, the popular presenter duo: Alex Dyson/Matt Okine had just been replaced by Ben Harvey and Liam Stapleton who are still the hosts today.
I’m not sure how it works in the UK but Triple J apparently suggests some tunes to the artists in advance, so it’s not entirely the guests’ choice. Nevertheless, it usually works out awesomely, and there have been many special performances over the years. Just this morning (Friday, 26 April) Adrian Eagle performed a pretty cool version of Ocean Alley’s “Confidence”.
Sometimes, the featured acts invite their mates to perform and they literally bring the house down. There’s also a twist to the cover part: even though the suggestions come from the hosts, the musos don’t reveal their actual choice until the very last moment. Instead, they drop a clue for the audience to guess what the cover will be. Another interesting fact is that, many times, the acts visiting from overseas cover local bands, acknowledging the Aussie music scene and less known artists, which I think is a pretty nice touch.
Lucky for you and me, the performances are also filmed and made available on Triple J’s social media channels. And since we’re not here to f**k spiders, I’m giving you below a little rundown of my favourite “Like A Version” covers performed by Aussie artists or where musos from overseas cover Aussie tunes. They’re accompanied by (very subjective) explanations why I find them special, but aren’t listed in any particular order.
Philly – Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”. I had a pleasure of working with this hip hop artist from the Bad Apples Music family on an occasion involving Aboriginal issues in Australia. This cover is right up the same alley – as Philly says himself: Bob Marley was “all about peace, love and unity”. And Philly really put his own spin on it, too.
Ocean Alley – Player’s “Baby Come Back”. Since the Hottest 100 winning band covered it, it pretty much became more famous in Oz than the original. Ocean Alley frequently incorporate it now in their gig sets as well.
Chet Faker (Nick Murphy) – Sonia Dada’s “Lover (You Don’t Treat Me No Good No More)”. It’s actually not very far from the original but it’s such a positive tune, based mostly on voice harmonies and simple guitar strokes, that you just can’t not like it.
Illy – Silverchair’s “Tomorrow” + Hilltop Hoods’ “The Nosebleed Section” + Paul Kelly’s “To Her Door” + Powderfinger’s “My Happiness” + Flume’s “On Top”. Yep, all of the above blended together. This cover was commissioned for AusMusic Month at Triple J and features Kira Puru and Joyride. It’s not easy to rap such different music genres to the accompaniment of string instruments and the result is pretty rad.
Nothing But Thieves – Gang of Youths’ “What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out”. The two bands have something in common: their music is often theatrical and dramatic. Yet, their vocalists have very different voices. So I was really curious about how Conor from NBT would approach this quite recent Aussie hit.
Slowly Slowly – Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love”. This cover was recorded only a week ago at the Melbourne Town Hall as part of Triple J’s Easter “Good Az Friday” segment. I also happened to be there to see it.
Luca Brasi – Paul Kelly’s “Making Gravy”. This is one of the most iconic Aussie songs, so any band attempting to cover it deserves respect.
Briggs & Gurrumul – Briggs’ “The Hunt”. Where do I even begin? This is actually not a cover but everything about it is special. Performed with an exceptional musician – Gurrumul – a beloved visually impaired Aboriginal guitar player who, sadly, passed away a couple of years ago. And Trials, another Indigenous rapper, is also there on the decks.
Tuka – Angus & Julia Stone’s “Big Jet Plane”. Apart from Thelma Plum singing the chorus, Tuk also brought a drummer with a very interesting and innovative instrument. You gotta see it to believe it.
Gordi – Linkin Park’s “In The End”. I’ll just say this: you will NOT recognize this tune. And that’s what “Like A Version” is all about. Amazing!
Ecca Vandal – Rhianna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money”. I couldn’t have imagined anybody more fitting to cover this track. And I wasn’t wrong.
Holy Holy – Beyonce’s “Hold Up”. If I were a singer, I don’t think I’d ever dare touch Bae’s songs, especially from “Lemonade”. But Holy Holy did. And good things happened.
M-Phazes ft. Ruel – Jack Garratt’s “Weathered”. It’s insane how talented Ruel is. And he’s only 16!!!
Meg Mac – Tame Impala’s “Let It Happen”. Okay, I might step on some toes here but I really think that you have to come to understand Tame Impala’s music overtime. So I was really intrigued by Meg Mac’s choice. And she brought it. I’ll even risk a statement that it’s better than the original.
Denzel Curry – Rage Against The Machine’s “Bulls On Parade”. Okay, so this is not an Aussie artist performing and the song covered is not Aussie, either. But it’s Denzel Curry vs RATM! Need I say more?