Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Songs #55 & 56 of 9999 - It's TWOsday!

Songs #55 of 9999                          Song #56 of 9999

Title: China Girl                             Title: China Girl
Artist: Iggy Pop                              Artist: David Bowie
Year: 1977                                      Year: 1983
Album: The Idiot                            Album: Let's Dance

 So yesterday, I decided to post Jeff Buckley's brilliant cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and then impulsively posted to Facebook that all this week I would feature "covers that improve on the original." Almost immediately, I was chastised by my good friend Paul who said Buckley's version was not an improvement and they both have their merits. Faced with another opportunity to get yelled at, I planned to post a couple of Lou Reed covers which would most certainly result in people calling me crazy.

But while searching for Bowie's version of "White Light/White Heat," I discovered much to my surprise that his 1983 hit "China Girl" is actually a cover of a 1977 Iggy Pop recording. Bowie had written the song for Pop to sing and then recorded it later for his Let's Dance LP. I know I miss stuff sometimes, but I was absolutely astonished to learn this. But surely, the Bowie version is better, right?

I love the David Bowie version of this song, especially the vocal performance, the bass line, Stevie Ray Vaughan's guitar solo, the keyboard tracks, well, everything--it's a perfect pop record. But the Iggy Pop version is fascinating. Noisy guitars, detuned bells, a similar but less certain vocal--it's really enthralling. The part that begins "I stumble into town..." is downright frightening. A stunning raw complement to Bowie's polished gem.

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