Did you think it was an idle threat when I said I’d be doing more of these?
I could cheat on this and just say Patty Griffin’s stolen car, Bowie’s hard to be a saint, and the entire of Pony Face’s brilliant Nebraska tribute. That would, however, make for a very short blog so…
- Growin’ up by David Bowie
As Springsteen recently acknowledged, just a couple of days after the Starman’s passing, Bowie was a big supporter of Springsteen’s early career. I had written about that in my post which you can read here so it was satisfying to have the Boss confirm it all just a month or so later. I find this cover a little odd, to be honest. It fails to hit the right tone somehow. It has a lot of great elements but somehow they fail to coalesce into a satisfying whole. Bowie must have agreed because it didn’t make it onto Pinups only appearing years later as an extra on the German reissue. It’s still a fun listen, though.
My favourite original song: Ashes to ashes
- Atlantic City by The Hold Steady
I love this band and Springsteen actually personally selected them to do this cover. It’s a pretty cool version, let down a little by too much repetition towards the end. This song has been covered by so many people from Pete Yorn to Levon Helm and this won’t be it’s only appearance here in my top 10.
My favourite original song: I hope this whole thing didn’t frighten you
- The mansion on the hill by The National
I really like Matt Berninger’s voice and, though this is not one of my favourite Springsteen songs, this version is achingly beautiful (dang, I was saving that line for my number one, ah well). I’ve been a big fan of this band since I first heard I need my girl and this cover was a pleasant surprise when I came across it. Springsteen should definitely get some violin happening on his own live version (he has fantastic violinist Soozie Tyrell in his band after all).
My favourite original song: I need my girl
- Born to run by Paul Dempsey
I had to include this one, it’s such an ambitious solo effort from Something for Kate frontman Dempsey. He messes with the lyrics somewhat (I’m not happy about that) but the guitar playing is amazing, as is his voice, so it’s in.
My favourite original song: Morningless (this week at least)
- Drive all night by Glen Hansard
I only recently discovered this little gem from Irish singer-songwriter Hansard. It’s a very different interpretation of a Springsteen classic and as an added bonus features The Little Big Man himself, Jake Clemons on sax as well as a certain Springsteen fanatic you may know named Eddie Vedder on backing vocals. This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it grows on you if you give it a few spins.
- Open all night by Pony Face
You could say this is the version that birthed a Springsteen zealot (hey Jim, see how I appropriated your label there?). It was after hearing this cover (not even knowing it was a Springsteen song) that my journey into the ranks of the true fanatics began. Hearing a Melbourne band singing about New Jersey obviously peaked my interest and, after finding out who wrote the song, I was hooked. I now walk around with the entire Springsteen songbook on my Nook tablet. I’d call myself a tramp but I’m pretty sure you have to have been to at least one actual Springsteen concert before you can wear that jacket.
My favourite original song: The Sea and the dunes
- Ghost of Tom Joad by Rage Against the Machine
This gets my vote for the most original cover of a Springsteen song ever. It’s so different from the original that it almost counts as their own composition. The anger and disgust at the inequalities in this materialistic world are hammered home loud and clear. I personally love this version.
My favourite original song: Killing in the name of
- Used cars / My father’s house by Pony Face annnnd It’s hard to be a Saint in the City by David Bowie
Yep, them again and another big cheat from me. Sorry but I really couldn’t choose between these three. Simply beautiful, all.
- Atlantic City by Pony Face
And again! This was the first version of this song I ever heard. I fell deeply in love from the opening bar.
- Stolen car by Patty Griffin
This was always going to be the one. Patty took a beautiful song and made it a truly great one. This may well be the most unbearably gorgeous piece of music I’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter. Springsteen must have wept the first time he heard it.
My favourite original song: When it don’t come easy
And just for the hell of it, here’s Springsteen covering one of my favourite Australian bands The Saints.
Well, for better or worse, there’s my selection. Any comments or opinions are welcome and encouraged.