So I was on a covers album.
I just had a nice postcard from Jamie “Currently in Australia” Doe, also known as The Magic Lantern, and it made me want to write a word or two about the distant experience of being involved with the Too Much Love of Living – Remixes album. It’s Jamie’s superb 2014 album remade by loads of his friends and collaborators. It’s based on a similar project conducted by This Is The Kit, who is also on the record – which means I’m on a record with This Is The Kit. And Rozi Plain! And Sam Brookes! And Hot Feet! And a buttload of awesome other people. (This Is The Kit were on Loose Ends with Jon Ronson this morning, which also means that by the transit of properties I am Jon Ronson).
The song I got to cover was ’28 years old’, which I wrote about in a stupidly discursive blog post a little while ago, long before I knew about this project. It’s the raw heart of the original album in my view, and I wanted my version of it to be raw to match. The challenge of a cover, of course, lies in doing something worthy of the original but technically distinct – so I messed around with some lyrics, popped into the studio with a rather bad cold, and sang the song at about half my usual ability level (and therefore at about 20% of Jamie’s). And then I forgot about it for ages, because the post-production took a really long time.
When I got the package containing a CD from Jamie – beautifully produced, of course, and a snip at £10 – I was more surprised than I should have been to discover that everyone else had put much more effort in than I did. The opening track in particular, Emilia Mårtensson’s version of ‘Harvest Moon’, is a beautiful and complex masterpiece which both showcases her own considerable skills and makes your realise the depth of Jamie’s original piece. The quality throughout is like this – it’s an eclectic listen, as you’d expect from a compilation album, but the overall bar is pretty high. There’s only one disjointed seam, really, which is when I gargle loudly and then start shouting. I don’t think anyone else did their version with a cold.
The gargle is real. The theory was that it masked the ill effects of the virus a little and allowed me to hit the notes I couldn’t hit any more. Dean wanted to edit it out, which shows that although he is a recording genius he still occasionally needs gentle and nurturing guidance. I spent the first few listens to this album with a severe impostor syndrome accentuated by not having heard my own lousy contribution since the day I recorded it, but I’ve come around to it now. I don’t think it hurts to have a little rough edge in there to remind Jamie where he’s from, and I think the song is not quite like his others – it asks for an honesty that only a really well-meant but quite substandard performance can truly do justice to.
In an abstract, ideal world, it’s not how I’d have chosen to appear right before Rozi, and I doubt it’s a track that will win me any ears among Jamie’s discerning audience. But it feels to me Right that it’s there in all its silliness, and Dean and I had a great time laying it out.