Like a cover…but different

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Sometimes two people collaborate on a song and record it with their respective bands. Usually, one is far more successful than the other. These don’t qualify as covers since the songwriters are the performers in both cases. They’re just collaborations that were recorded apart rather than together. Off the top of my head, I can think of three:

“China Girl” by David Bowie and Iggy Pop

Like the rest of Iggy Pop’s The Idiot, “China Girl” was co-written with David Bowie. While Bowie’s version on 1983’s Let’s Dance is far better known, Iggy’s was released six years earlier. Iggy’s version has more raw energy and conveys a bit more madness, but has a vibraphone part that’s a little out of place. Bowie’s version taps into the Asian angle and his voice is superior, but it’s a bit slick and the production is somewhat dated. Both version are very good and my preference would probably change with my mood.

“Our Lips are Sealed” by Jane Wiedlin and Terry Hall

This was a hit off of the Go-Gos 1981 album, Beauty and the Beat, but didn’t make Fun Boy Three’s self-titled debut the next year. Instead, FB3 included it on 1983’s Waiting. The well-known Go-Gos version is an upbeat pop song with bit of edge that they retained from their early days in the LA punk scene. FB3 on the other hand turned this into a melancholy affair (with backing vocals from Wiedlin for contrast). I prefer the Go-Gos version, because I really love their first album, but FB3 certainly made a worthwhile recording of it as well. It works out well that the two versions are so different.

“Because the Night” by Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith

Patti Smith’s version on 1978’s Easter is better known, but Springsteen only recorded this for the Live 1975-1985 box set. Smith isn’t my favorite singer and I still view her as a bit overrated. However, her version is passionate and compelling. Springsteen’s version is more raw (obviously since it’s live). His voice isn’t that great anyway, but he also manages to convey passion. Still, it may be best that he left the song in Smith’s hands to record the definitive version.

Can you think of any other songs where the songwriters recorded separate versions?

About bobvinyl

bobvinyl, writer and co-editor of No Song is an Island, founded its predecessor, Rock and Roll and Meandering Nonsense (whose archives are found here), in 2005 and served as editor and principal contributor until it went on hiatus in 2010. He has also been published in AMP and Loud Fast Rules! (in print) as well as Glide and FensePost on the web. He has been an avid record collector since he was seven years old and enjoys sharing his love of music from the common to the esoteric.

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