Instruments of pleasure: (6) Music for a Found Harmonium by Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Patrick Street or Sharon Shannon
Cover Story (47). Losing control: Zombie by the Cranberries, Miley Cyrus and others

Cover Story: (46) the songs and the story so far with Beeswing way in front


The most widely read item at Salut! Live, at least this week, is the piece I posted yesterday about the vibrant song of defiance and opposition to fascism, Bella Ciao, in which I briefly describe how performing it in northern Italy is often unwelcome and even, in one or two areas, forbidden. I am glad to say a lot of the readers have come from Italy.

But the consistently most popular pages at this site, as I write, are those listed under Cover Story, a series now stretching to 45 instalments, each describing different versions of the same piece of music. Click on that title for the series, or use the clickable list you find by scrolling down the column to the right, and you will find each of the articles published so far.

By far the most often viewed such posting, if I consider current statistics, is my look at the marvellous Richard Thompson song Beeswing, which has been covered umpteen times. It was only after stating my marginal preference for Christy Moore's version that I changed my mind and went with the composer's own, or one of his own many performances available at YouTube. This was how I put it when thanking readers for their feedback:

Great set of comments here. I discussed the merits of Richard vs Christy ... and came down on Christy's side ('the emphasis, warm texture, complete understanding of each character's thoughts) but honestly now accept that Richard's version, live, of his own magnificent song is unbeatable. Others will, and may, disagree ... as Dave Swarbrick once said, 'you can do anything you like with music. It won't mind.


Poor, much-missed Swarb. I've recycled that quote so many times that I sometimes forget it was not him but his long-term musical partner Martin Carthy who gave me it (Carthy was talking about a practice session in which he had been trying out a new arrangement on guitar, prompting him to ask Swarb whether he thought it worked).

But those words perfectly sums up the spirit of Cover Story. Everyone has preferences and sometimes these will be robustly expressed. Equally, just as one version of the same song or instrumental may seem incomparable to someone, another will sound atrocious. My friend Bill Taylor is as eloquent when declaring his aversion to a piece, in his own contributions to Salut! Live,  as when offering praise. But many interpretations of the same piece can have merit, to the extent of offering something beyond what its writer intended. 

The purpose of this item is to alert new readers and maybe a few older one to the existence of an apparently worthwhile series. Please explore the links given, and the (incomplete) list to the right and let us all know any pressing thoughts you may have.

For the record, Beeswing is followed in this week's stats by the Cover Story instalments dealing with The Auld Triangle, The Queen and the Soldier and another Thompson classic, From Galway to Graceland (which Bill, though a great admirer of the man, dislikes). But all trail far behind in term of "hits" (ie readership). If I check the figures for a month, the rankings do not change; I currently have no way of tracing the numbers of hits over a longer period. And when I reopened discussion of Beeswing to consider yet more versions - you'll find onward links in the original article) that also attracted a lot of interest and plenty of comments.

Thank you for the visits, which I take as encouragement to keep the site going.


* Here is one of many clips of Richard Thompson singing Beeswing:


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