I was watching a clip of Bowie & Annie Lennox, doing a rehearsal of Under Pressure for the Freddie Mercury Tribute and in the background George Michael, oblivious to the fact he is being filmed, is singing every word with them. Rockstars are just like us, they are fans first and musicians second and the music that they are subjected to, from the day they are born to the the day that they pick up their first guitar, will influence who they are.

I have wrangled over many a pint the merits of doing cover versions to young bands and the root of my argument is twofold: you wouldn’t want to go into a courtroom with a lawyer who had not studied the law, so how can you write a great song until you can play one and understand what makes it great?

Secondly, fans love them. The list below is full of people who have written remarkable songs in their time, but they all understand the desire of their audience to be entertained, and often the strongest memory of a show for a fan is not what they have heard from the band’s own catalogue, but what cover the band did as an encore. So here in no particular order is my attempt to point our readers towards some marvellous Scottish moments of musical homage.

(Note from The Dear – though Alec says these tunes are in no particular order I thought it’d be more fun to have a countdown. So, with Alec’s help, next week we’ll do the top 10. Feel free to chip in with ideas).

First of all, a couple of  songs that just missed the top 20.

Skye Boat Song – Tom Jones

This has to be the cheesiest cover of all time and the most gorgeous obscure piece of 60’s trash pop. The production and vocal is so over the top, it is truly memorable for its audacity and guaranteed to get any Scottish granny bopping at a family party.

Joke – Eddi Reader

I have a confession to make that ‘Perfect’ by Fairground Attraction was and remains one of the most irritating songs it has ever been my misfortune to be subjected to, so Eddi Reader had a lot to do to turn me around. But a listen to ‘Patience of Angels’, her work on Burns, or this heart wrenching tune written by the brilliant Boo Hewerdine, and past sins of the ear were forgiven.

Now the top 20:

20. Purple Heather –  Rod Stewart

I hate the blatant commercial pillaging of this song and could have picked a dozen Rod songs, ‘Bring it On Home’, ‘Drift Away’, ‘Dirty Ol Town’ or the stunning cover of ‘Maybe I’m Amazed [Live]‘, which can be found on the Faces Box Set, “Five Guys Walk Into a Bar”, (one of the best Rock n Roll records ever). But as much as I hate everything this version stands for I have never had the courage to remove it from my hard-drive and damn you Rod, you pull me back to my lost youth growing up in Canada and watching my Mother, family and friends play old songs, from, “the old country”, and that is why it is here.

19. Why Should
We Idly Waste Our Prime Sluts of Trust

Recorded for the Radio One World Burns Special I am fortunate to have rescued a copy courtesy of John the singer. The show had a ton of unique, entrancing and special performances of Burns songs and none more so than this from Sluts of Trust, glorious.

18. Caledonia – Popup

I have punted this track before but I am still in awe of this band (pictured above) and how young bands can play songs they love with a freedom they never quite realise in their own material, so there is a lesson hidden in great songs!

17. After All I Live My Life – Edwyn Collins

Beyond the sublime lyric, “I saw a dragon shake the cathedral walls”, there is an incredible subtlety about this track. Edwyn collects old guitars and valve amps and studio equipment so the guitar tones and solo on this record are astonishing, as is the vocal, which audibly gets older as the song reflects on a past life, with Edwyn ending up sounding like a creaky old Dylan, truly beautiful!

16. This Flight Tonight – Nazareth

I am going to put my neck on the line here and say it is a huge disappointment that while Scotland consistently produce cutting edge indie and pop bands, we have struggled to produce a great rock or metal band for some time, though RAAR was a near miss. The temptation to have Guns and Roses’ version of Hair of the Dog was strong but these Dunfermline legends deserve their place in this list for doing what all we 60’s children would have liked to have done to Joni Mitchell in our youth.

15. Grace – The Cinematics

I have been privileged to see and hear this fabulous band and other young bands do a number of covers in my time including a standout version of Boys Don’t Cry by The Cinematics for a John Peel gig and Leo Condie of The Low Miffs singing Hallelujah or indeed The Low Miffs cover of Springsteen’s Jungleland. Covering Buckley is a dangerous occupation as his fan’s reactions can be brutal in the extreme but this version at SxSW wins any argument hands down as Mary Guibert, Jeff Buckley’s mother, was in the room, and she was visibly moved to tears by this performance.

14. Still In Love With You – Thin Lizzy featuring Frankie Miller

Recorded by Thin Lizzy for their album Nightlife, this is a cover that is not really a cover, more a duet but if you ask Frankie about it, he will tongue and cheek ask where his writing credit and royalties are. That aside it remains a Lizzy classic and Clarkston’s own Brian “Robbo” Robertson plays one of the greatest guitar solos ever recorded live on Lizzy’s 1978 Live & Dangerous album. And after being fired by both Lizzy and Motorhead for doing too much drugs and booze (now that is hardcore Pete D), Robbo went on to tour with Frankie for many a year.

13 Psycho Killer – Rico

Now when I think of Talking Heads, I think of NYC and I have always thought that David Byrne was as New York chic as an East Village Manhattan cocktail at Marion’s, though our wee Davy was actually born in Dumbarton of all places. I have seldom ever heard a Talking Heads cover that I like, but Rico’s version has a menace and irony true to the original and uniquely unusual. The video was filmed on the roof of his studio in Argyle Street; watch out for the Kingston Bridge in the background and the little wobble from Rico as he walks along a tiny ledge, 5 floors up.

12. King of the Road – The Proclaimers

If ever your insane enough to allow me behind a pair of DJ decks this is going to be played towards the end of the night and a ton of drunken punters are going to throw themselves about, hug, sway, click their fingers badly and become best friends with people they hardly know for 2 minutes and 48 seconds whilst singing along to a classic, and that is exactly why these Leith boys have toured the world longer than so many “it bands”.

11. Love Vigilantes – Laura Cantrell

Ok so she is American, singing an English song but if I can do an article on why Amazing Grace is not Scottish then I can have Laura Cantrell, as without a wee Glasgow label called Shoeshine who specialise in Alt Country and cool pop finding her, she would not be the star she is today.

Alec xx

Next week : The Top 10

Suggestions welcome….


  1. If the “Caledonia” you refer to is the one that was on the Tennent’s advert in the late 80s/early 90s, and is sometimes played at Hampden, then it’s the most god-awful dirge and has no place on any “best of” list anywhere, ever, and no-one should be allowed to cover it. Or do it as karaoke. Or play it in public.

  2. Mother Glasgow – Hue and Cry
    Love is all Around – Wet Wet Wet
    Needle and Damage Done – Simple Minds

  3. My niece walked down the aisle to ‘Caledonia’ last week. Sadly not the Popup version.
    Oddly enough, saw David Byrne last week and the nly song he *didn’t* play was ‘Psycho Killer’.
    Can’t wait for the top 10, just to see if either Spare Snare’s ‘Say My Name’ or the wife’s version of ‘Ever Fallen In Love’ have made it in 😉

  4. I beg to differ on your “Grace” choice. Although the Cinematics did a fantastic version on the song, it was just a reproduction of the same exact song. King Creosote has by far the best Buckley Grace cover there is. Not only were they able to perfectly catch the mood of the song, and all of the vocal nuances, but they were able to make it their own, and own it.

  5. Ah now I love Kenny’s version of Grace and it shows there are two distinct ways of taking on a cover, be rigid to the original and leave yourself open to comparison or take a risk and make it your own like Jump by Aztec Camera.

    The top Ten has not even appeared and I bumped in to a few covers that should be in or around the top 20, I was playing Billy McKenxie’s version of Bowie’s Secret Life Of Arabia yesterday and was thinking, shite that so should have been in there, Babygod also do an amazing cover of The Associates White Cars in Germany. Traditionalists will slaughter me for leaving out Shout by Lulu, which is a cover of Alex Harvey, covering The Isley Brothers, though the reason for the omission will be apparent in a week or so. I also got dragged licking and screaming to see Marti Pellow once and that boy could sing Happy Birthday and make it sound like it was written by Otis, though Love is All Around does not feature, even if the chart history and vocal performance suggests it should!

    In the end of the day it is a bit of a craic to get folk talking and listening to stuff they might have not yet heard or bring back fond memories so I hope you enjoyed some of the tracks..

  6. King Creosote’s version of Grace appears on the album Dream Brother: The Songs of Tim + Jeff Buckley. You can listen to it here http://tiny.cc/w99gd . Will it be in the top ten? ….You’ll have to wait until Wednesday.

  7. any chance you could upload the Sluts of Trust burns cover? fuckin’ love that poem and i cannae find it anywhere – be ace if you could stick it on youtube or something. cheers!