#630: 1994, Sonic Youth, Superstar

by George_East on February 25, 2013

Day 4 of our second covers theme week and another cover in the tradition of unlikely cover versions like Sid Vicious’ take on My Way.  This time we have New York art rock indie noisenik darlings, Sonic Youth, covering a song by easy listening brother and sister duo, The Carpenters.

The song came from a whole album of Carpenters’ covers called If I Were A Carpenter which I liked so much when it came out that I went out and bought a Best of the Carpenters double album as a result.   The album also included great cover versions by Shonen Knife (doing Top of The World), Babes In Toyland (Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft) and a lovely It’s Only Just Begun by Grant Lee Buffalo.

But it was this cover of The Carpenters’ biggest hit, which was the stand out.  Sonic Youth turn the Carpenters’ sound into a My Bloody Valentine like piece of shimmering, shambling indie dream pop.    Beautiful.

The irony is that although this is a song that pretty much everyone thinks of as a Carpenters’ song, The Carpenters’ version was itself a cover.  The original was recorded in 1969 by Delaney & Bonnie and Friends (and featured Eric bloody Clapton).    The Carpenters, consistently with their clean cut reputation, changed the song from one about groupies (in the same tradition as  Okkervil River’s On Tour With Zykos) to a far more wholesome love song. So wholesome that it would spend a couple of weeks at No 1 in the American Easy Listening chart.

And it is this more wholesome version, The Carpenters’ version, that provided Sonic Youth with one of their finest moments…

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