Holy s–t! I remember hearing this song a lot when my Mom played a constant rotation of Linda Rondstadt, Roberta Flack, Rita Coolidge, and Crystal Gayle back in the 1970s. However, I completely forgot about this song until today, when I listened to Adam Carolla’s podcast and a caller asked Carolla if there’s a song that made him weep. Carolla rose to the challenge and said, in so many words, “Oh, I’ve got one for you!” Apparently, he heard this for the first time in 1981 after a painful breakup when he was listening to the radio in his Dad’s driveway. And damn, is this song the absolute LAST song you want to hear when someone has dumped you. OK, maybe This Mortal Coil’s “Song to the Siren” may be worse, but this is first runner-up. Damn. Completely devastating lyrics, an arrangement that guarantees buckets of tears, and Rondstadt’s non-Auto tuned voice … sweet Lord … it will put a shiv in your heart. Devastating stuff. You are warned.
From Big Star’s album “Third/Sisters Lovers” album, which was recorded in 1975 but not released until 1978, “Holocaust” is one of those songs you really don’t want to listen to if you’re in a particularly dark mood, especially after a breakup with someone. The song is notorious for being one of the most depressing songs from one of the most depressing albums ever recorded and a departure from the power pop of Big Star’s first two albums. It was later covered by This Mortal Coil on their classic album “It’ll End in Tears.”
One of the things I love discovering music-wise are unique and cool covers of great songs. Today’s model: a cover of Chris Bell’s mopey, but brilliant mid-1970s pre-emo classic “I Am the Cosmos” by the 4AD masters of mope (not meant to be an insult, by the way), This Mortal Coil. I never thought I’d say this about This Mortal Coil, but this kind of rocks a little. Not so much you’d put a lighter and fist in the air, but it’s a bit peppier than “Song to the Siren” or “Holocaust.” And I really like the double-tracked vocals that reminded me of Grand Funk Railroad’s cover of “Locomotion.” (Yes, I know, I’m making this sound dreadful, but trust me, it’s really very very cool). It’s better than Scarlett Johannson’s decent, but pedestrian Fiona Apple-esque take with Pete Yorn. Color me impressed.
Here is the earliest known recorded version of Tim Buckley’s enduring and classic ballad. It’s quite different than the version that was eventually recorded for Buckley’s 1970’s “Starsailor” album. The version here (performed for “The Monkees” TV show in 1968) is more of a straight-ahead ballad, instead of the bizarre and heartbreaking version that appears on “Starsailor” that sounds like it was recorded by someone really ready to cast themselves on the rocks in despair. A great and underrated song that keeps gaining more resonance as the years continue. In just the last few years, Robert Plant, Bryan Ferry, and Sinead O’Connor have all done covers. The most famous cover, by This Mortal Coil, has already been posted on Dave’s Strange World.
Arguably, the most famous cover of Tim Buckley’s most famous song. Director David Lynch apparently wanted to use this for “Blue Velvet,” but because he couldn’t afford the rights had to make do with the Angelo Badalamenti-Julee Cruise song “Mysteries of Love” (not a bad substitute by any means, in my opinion). Lynch eventually got to use this in 1996’s “Lost Highway” and it also appeared in director Peter Jackson’s 2009 film adaptation of “The Lovely Bones.” Comedian Patton Oswalt made mention of this during his famous KFC Famous Bowls routine.