"Without music...

by tosca on Wednesday, October 26, 2011

...life would be a mistake."
~ Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

In which Tosca blathers on about 4 covers of Massive Attack's 'Teardrop' that she now cannot live without. Or something like that. And I know, it's Wednesday and this should be a work-reflective post but thanks to the long weekend I'm a day behind everybody. (Which is a common occurrence even when there's no long weekend, let's face it).

I was watching an episode of something-or-other the other day (at the time it seemed absolutely vital that I watch the show but for the life of me I can't remember why) when I heard Newton Faulkner's cover of Massive Attack's Teardrop and was surprised by how much I liked the different sound - laid back, acoustic and quite soulful sounding. It took me back to being in my early 20s when a good friend introduced me to groups like Massive Attack, Apollo 440 and Faithless. I think I thanked him but I can't remember. So if I didn't: Thank you, Zi. I was more into ska and classic rock so this was something outside of that altogether. The first time I heard Teardrop I loved it, even though the video clip freaked me out, I mean, a singing foetus? Really? I thought it ranked somewhere this side of macabre with a whole side order of creepy. But something about that song... Something about it stayed in my head for years. Add to that Elizabeth Fraser's light as feather vocals and I guess I was never going to be able to forget that track.

The song is off Massive Attack's 1998 album Mezzanine and Massive Attack, some of you may remember, are the trip hop duo from Bristol who carved it up - are carving it up still, I believe - right from the word GO in the early 90s. I was kind of impressed to see we have a copy of their debut album, Blue lines, in our collections but really Mezzanine is what I remember them for the most. To this day, though, I'm still not sure what the lyrics are exactly. I've seen quite a few intensely earnest online discussions over whether or not Fraser is singing 'Fearless on my breath' or 'Feathers on my breath.' Either lyric would be equally (and eerily) as appropriate and fitting. There's also a lot of discussion as to whether the song is about birth, abortion or Jeff Buckley's death. At the end of the day maybe it isn't important. Maybe the meaning of the song, regardless of what the performer intended, is up to each listener. It got me wondering though: 1) just how many covers are there and 2) would I like any of them? I decided to track down the version I'd just heard (he features here at #2) and see what YouTube could offer me by following links. My answers were: 1) far too many to count and 2) yes, I did, and I'm thankful I looked. So, here you go, 4 covers of Massive Attack's Teardrop I found by happy accident on YouTube that I now cannot live without. Ain't it funny how life works out that way, sometimes.

1. Teardrop by Massive Attack featuring Martina Topley Bird - YouTube clip is a live performance on KCRW's Morning becomes eclectic
Martina Topley Bird is a British singer/songwriter whose vocals came to the world's attention when she featured in trip hop artist Tricky's critically acclaimed debut album Maxinquaye. Her vocals give this song an almost Indian sound that is still manages to keep it sounding quite fey. This is, by far, my favourite cover.

2. Teardrop by Newton Faulkner from the album Hand built by robots - YouTube clip is
Faulkner is an English singer/songwriter (who was born in 1985, making me feel super old) who has supported musicians such as James Morrison, Paolo Nutini (I *adore* Nutini's voice), John Mayer and The John Butler Trio (who I've seen live and wow they're awesome). Newton Faulkner's voice is like whoa. I first heard his version of 'Teardrop' on a television episode of something-or-other that absolutely escapes me. All I remember is his voice and its simple, stripped back sound and this thing he does where he taps the body of his guitar with his hand. I've had his album Hand built by robots on repeat for the last two days and it's infectious.

3. Teardrop by Elbow. Elbow are an English rock band who have been together since roughly 1990. Their name, weirdly, was inspired by Philip Marlowe - a character from The Singing Detective - saying that the word 'elbow' (the way we say it, not what it is) is the most sensuous word in the English language. If you've never heard them you're in for a treat because lead singer Guy Garvey's vocals? Wow.

Teardrop by Margot MacDonald - YouTube clip is a live performance
Margot MacDonald's singing career began with the Washington National Opera when she was 10. Since then, Margot has won numerous Washington Area Music Association awards (WAMA). As well as vocals, MacDonald plays guitar, experiments with a loop pedal (as you'll see in this clip) and bottles (which you won't see in this clip) but which I'd really like to see because...what does it MEAN exactly? What does it look like? WHAT?

And the original.

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