June Tabor’s No Man’s Land is of course Green Fields of France under its original name, making the song one of the very few to make the F50 in two different versions (Shipbuilding and Song to the Siren spring to mind immediately – any others?), and surely the only song to appear in two different versions with entirely different names.
Well, I love a challenge, so I put my thinking cap on. I posted the Men They Couldn’t Hang version last year, so I was aware of the Tabor connection. The complete (as far as I know) list of songs to make the FF in two different versions is:
- Shipbuilding (Elvis Costello & Robert Wyatt);
- Song To The Siren (Tim Buckley & This Mortal Coil);
- O Superman (Laurie Anderson & Laurie Anderson remixed by Henry Cullen); and
- Big Eyed Beans From Venus (Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band & Magic Band [sans Beefheart-SIG]).
- Babylon’s Burning (Ruts & Zion Train) [thanks to Steve W for pointing this one out…see comments below-SIG].
This naturally excludes different recordings by the same band (for example, as I have already noted, Pulp charted with the session recording of Common People in 1994, and again with the studio version in 1995). Then there is the other feat, two songs which are the same bar the titles. Apart from the one Hugh mentions, there is one more which forms the basis of today’s post.
The Smiths were at the peak of their popularity when they released The Queen Is Dead in 1986. No less than five tracks (not including The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, which had already featured in the 1985 chart) turned up in the Festive Fifty for that year. Morrissey apparently insisted on no more than two takes for the vocal of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (FF 1986 #1 and All-Time FF 2000 #9), and this gives his rendition a subdued, fragile quality that suits the song’s tender yearning and sweeping melody.
It was not released as a single until the band were no more, in 1992. Morrissey subsequently put out a live version (like Paul McCartney, not above adding songs by his former band to his repertoire) in 2005 which was a sizeable chart hit in the UK.
Dirk Dresselhaus operates a solo project known as Schneider TM. Dirk was a former rhythm-section member for German indie rock bands, and The Light 3000 (FF 2000 #8) is an electronic version of the Smiths’ song, released on the 2000 EP Binokular in collaboration with KPT.michi.gan. The use of a vocoder for the vocal adds further distance to the lyrics, thereby suggesting the incident related as a kind of past memory.
Wire magazine voted this one of the best cover versions ever made. Dirk has various tracks (including this one) available for download at his website.