John Peel liked cover versions.
He never liked the bog-standard replicas, but he enjoyed thoughtful cover versions.
For example, in January 2004, he told ‘The World Today’:
“When somebody comes along and does something original that you wouldn’t have expected, then that is particularly welcome.”
Chumbawamba seem like a group who would throw such a curveball.
In fact, when they recorded a Peel Session on 2 August 1992, they only performed cover versions.
Their interpretations of ‘Knock Three Times’ and ‘Y Viva España’ were perhaps a bit too wishy-washy, while their ‘Birdie Song’ instrumental was never going to be memorable.
However, the opener for this Peel Session, a version of Black Lace’s ‘Agadoo’, has aged particularly well.
It’s clearly a camp joke, but it’s also clever and subtle. Praise, of course, must go to the band for this – being conservative was not Chumbawamba’s forté during the Alice Nutter and Danbert Nobacon era.
It even sounds similar to the original – it still has the familiar tinpot sound while retaining the calypsos.
And, of course, this was the right decision.
The track didn’t need any extra cheese – and the idea of Chumbawamba covering ‘Agadoo’ should be enough of a novelty without it becoming a farce.
The fact that Chumbawamba haven’t cheaply and cynically gone for laughs means that it’s still an unexpected cover.
Instead, they have relied on their charm and craftsmanship to ensure that this cover works as a song. And it’s all the better for it.
Chumbawamba were never going to turn ‘Agadoo’ into a great song, but it’s still a great cover.
They have proven that anyone can polish a turd.
This review was self-published in October 2012.