Monday, October 5, 2009

Pixie Lott: Use Somebody

With the difficulty of climbing out from under the covers on Mondays, my cover song feature today is Pixie Lott’s acoustic version of the Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody.” While she is not the only artist that has covered this tune, her version seems to have a little more umph than Paramore’s acoustic version. I like their version to a point. Paramore’s treatment of the "oh-oh-oh’s" in the intro and elsewhere, however, seems to fall flat; whereas, Lott’s treatment of the same is more credible.

This is one of those cover tunes that came out on the heels of a massive hit. Earlier this year, the Kings of Leon topped the US charts and peaked at number 2 in the UK with “Use Somebody.” In the UK, “Use Somebody” appeared as the B side to Pixie Lott’s #1 single, “Mama Do (Uh Oh, Uh Oh)” – eventually the B side was flipped and her cover of the Kings of Leon hit peaked at 52 on the UK charts. I’m still wondering how one flips a CD single, but the language used for vinyl 45s of a bygone era is still used.

Here’s the Kings of Leon’s original.


In the world of popular music, we don’t often encounter cover versions that chart at the same time or right after the original hit peaks. This was fairly common, however, in the 1950s and early 1960s when you often had competing versions of the same song – just imagine Pat Boone singing Little Richard’s “Tutti Fruiti” and you get my point.

When I was working in radio in the 1980s, there were several examples of when competing versions of a song were released. The one that I remember specifically was the song “Der Kommissar,” which was originally recorded and released by Falco. To my knowledge, Falco’s original version of the song either had never been released in the US when it was issued in 1981; or if it was, this first release never charted within the top 40.

In 1983, Atlantic Records released Laura Branigan’s song which utilized the same tune, but she added new lyrics under the title of “Deep in the Dark.” This was the follow-up single to her smash “Gloria”; however, it did not have the strength to compete with After the Fire’s version of "Der Kommissar" released by Epic (CBS). Atlantic wisely pulled the “Deep in the Dark” single from release and put their efforts on Branigan’s next single "Solitaire," which did quite well.

ATF’s version was the US hit and peaked at number 5. During the time ATF was climbing the charts, A&M reissued Falco’s original version and it got airplay in a number of markets, but was too late to do any damage to ATF’s hit – Falco peaked at 72.

During 1983, I was changing jobs from music director/midday announcer at WCIR-FM in Beckley, WV to morning drive announcer/music consultant at WOAY-FM in Oak Hill, WV. At both WCIR-FM and WOAY-FM, we played the ATF and the Falco versions. ATF was in heavy rotation, while Falco's "Der Kommissar" was played perhaps once or twice a day to add a little variety to the mix. Neither station reported the Falco airplay as it was insignificant.

At CIR, we put Laura Branigan's "Deep in the Dark" in what we termed as an album cut rotation, which in essence was played perhaps once an evening. The song generated no interest and never charted for us and hence we never reported it to Radio & Records, Cashbox or Billboard. At WOAY-FM, which was transitioning from an AOR (album oriented rock) format to CHR (contemporary hit radio i.e., Top 40), we never played “Deep in the Dark.” Timing and promotion probably decided which version become the US hit record. Food for Thought.

Additionally, the local band I was in at the time, Audio Game, did this song and featured drummer Meredith Trent on vocals and it became one of our more popular numbers. The band often beat other local bands to the punch on learning new songs, as I had immediate access to new music before they charted and supplied the band with recordings. We often were the most contemporary local band in Southern West Virginia for this reason.

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