02 November 2010

'Cover Me'

Who is reading Bettye Swann correctly here? Duffy or Blissblog?

My first thought, definitely Duffy. Innuendo has a long history in black American music by 1968, whether in blues, r'n'b, soul, or rock'n'roll. Led Zeppelin's 'Lemon Song' in 1969 - 'squeeze... till the juice runs down my leg' - dates back to Robert Johnson, 'Travellin Riverside Blues' (1937). And doesn't covering someone itself bear a strong sexual trace - isn't covering / being covered used as a euphemism in Elizabethan drama? Duffy's 21st century post-porn-boom reading suggests the money shot, which feels anachronistic, but then again, the withdrawal method of contraception didn't disappear overnight with the appearance of the pill.

And who's to say they're Swann's words anyway? Could be a songwriter sneaking something in under the singer's radar. And the sole credited composer is in fact not Swann but Marlin Greene. Greene produced and played guitar for Percy Sledge though – and it turns out that Sledge recorded 'Cover Me' before Swann... in 1967.

Duffy's reading is obviously available whatever the author's intentions, the text is detached from the author at birth and goes about the world beyond his power to intend about it or control it. The song belongs to the public. Et cetera. One day I'll post my reading of Meat Loaf's 'I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)' and the unspeakable sexual practice to which it refers.

But I think we can be fairly sure the Duffy Interpretation *wasn't* the one uppermost in Percy Sledge's mind as he recorded it. Was it?

note: has to be the worst Youtube visual of all time? it's the directional flashing lights that clinch it. only vid I could find of the 1967 version though.

postscript - 'Umbrella' ?

1 comment:


Umbrella -- obviously about water sports.