Heroes album - the Legends behind the tracks

Bob Dylan cover version

Beck covers Bob Dylan - Leopard-Skin Pill-box Hat

Legend Credentials:

It’s a sign of Bob Dylan’s significance in the history of music that when he plugged in his guitar and ‘went electric’ folk fans would come to his gigs to boo and jeer ‘Judas’ at him. Dylan was not only at the forefront of the most exciting music revolution, but also saw himself adopted as a (somewhat reluctant) figurehead of cultural and political upheaval.

Born Robert Zimmerman in 1941, he made his name as a singer-songwriter in the cutting edge New York folk clubs in the early 1960s. Yet he made his actual name by adopting a new surname, taking inspiration from the poet Dylan Thomas. This was particularly apt as his early lyrics incorporated political, social, philosophical and literary influences. At the time his political songwriting broke all existing pop music rules and made Dylan the idol of America’s emerging counter-culture. A number of his songs became anthems of the civils rights movements, including classics ‘Blowin' in the Wind’ and ‘The Times They Are a-Changin''. 

Dylan’s shift in the mid 60s from folk into rock would change music forever. The albums ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ (1965) and ‘Blonde On Blonde’ (1966) brought his unique combination of sounds to the broadest audience and would become constant fixtures in critics’ top ten albums polls.

Bob Dylan is still making vital music today. His most recent studio album ‘Modern Times’ entered the U.S. album chart at number one in 2006 and was named Album of the Year by Rolling Stone magazine.


The original Song:

Included in his controversial electric live set from 1965, ‘Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat’ was to become a key track on the landmark album ‘Blonde on Blonde’.

The song had a difficult birth: in January 1966 Dylan and The Band went into Columbia recording studios in New York City, and despite eight takes, none were deemed satisfactory. Relocating the recording to Nashville, a further 13 takes were rejected by Dylan, until finally success was achieved in the early hours of March 10. It was certainly worth the effort, and Dylan’s persistence marks out the importance this track has for him. 42 years on, that recording responsibility has been passed to Beck.


Roxy Music cover version

The Scissor Sisters cover Roxy Music - Do the Strand

Legend Credentials:

“The second most influential band to come out of Britain.”

Music critics argue that Roxy Music are the group following behind only The Beatles in the legacy they have left on current pop.

The evidence is compelling: the scale of U2 and Radiohead’s ambitions; the glamour of Spandau Ballet or ABC; the aesthetics of punks and goths; the art-school sharpness of Talking Heads or Blur; the whole of electro-pop as we now know it.

Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno were the creative forces behind a band who changed the rules of pop music. Eno would go on to be one of the most influential record producers ever, while Bryan would set the blueprint for wannabe cool frontmen. Music simply would not be the same without them.

At the peak of their seventies pomp, Roxy Music were a band apart. With the charts dominated by Led Zeppelin at extreme and the Osmonds at the other, they managed to break into the Top 10 with an astonishing mix of futurism, retro rock'n'roll, camp, funny noises, silly outfits, art techniques, film references and oboe solos. "The early 70s," John Peel said, "were kind of boring apart from Roxy Music."

So many of their singles – “Virginia Plain”, “Avalon”, “Love Is The Drug”, “More Than This” – have become classics. Although their fashionability has ebbed and flowed, Roxy Music’s influence has been strikingly consistent.

Only last year Morrissey was asked to name 10 great British albums by the Observer. He said he could only think of one - For Your Pleasure by Roxy Music.

And their frontman has remained impeccably dressed, super cool and a total star. Definitely the most important Ferry in pop music. (Even more so than the one Jerry & The Pacemakers sang about…)


The Original Track:

1973, "Do the Strand" is the first song from the band’s second album ‘For Your Pleasure’. Not released as a single in the UK, the track would become a huge live favourite over the subsequent decades and would rightfully appear on the band’s greatest hits. Like many Roxy Music classics, the track was as catchy as the common cold and with more tunes than a chemists cold remedy shelf.


Lily Allen covers The Clash - Straight to Hell

Legend Credentials:

The Clash are legends for many, many reasons, not least because you can name 'em all… even the drummer. Jones, Strummer, Simonen and Headon. Few can claim such an honour - The Stones, The Beatles, erm, The Spice Girls – hardly a Litmus test for true legend status, but a half decent rule of thumb we'd wager.

And more importantly it's a rule that works for us as we desperately try to think of something new to say about one of music\'s true legends. The Clash, you see, are not only head and shoulders the best punk band ever, they were one of THE best bands ever. But don't take our word for it – 1979's 'London Calling' is more often than not cited as one of the greatest albums of all-time.

Formed in London in 1976, The Clash were light years apart from their punk peers many of who saw any chance of longevity evaporate before the Seventies were even out. For starters, The Clash could actually play their instruments. And write their own songs. Stand anything they did alongside anything produced by any punk band you care to mention (listen again to any Sex Pistols you care to think of first) and it really is like calling 999 to get a match put out.

Mixing politics with punk, dub, dancehall, ska, funk, rap and rockabilly, The Clash wriggled and squirmed musically for their entire existence setting the agenda for pretty much everything with guitars that was to follow. No mean feat. And they looked at cool as mustard. We're gushing aren't we?


The Original Song:

Released as double A-side with 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go' in September 1982 it's hard to believe it only dented the Top 20, peaking at 17.'Straight To Hell' serves up some trademark Clash soapboxing with three issues for the price of one - the closing of steel mills in England, alienation of immigrant workers and abandonment of children born to GI fathers stationed in Vietnam during the war. You don't get those issues covered in one song that often let us tell you.


Paul McCartney cover version

Duffy covers Sir Paul McCartney - Live and Let Die

Legend Credentials:

The man needs no introduction.

Simply put, Sir Paul McCartney is the man who invented modern pop music. The most successful songwriter of all-time, few people had a bigger impact on the 20th Century than Sir Paul.

Launched to fame by The Beatles, his popular beat combo; since their split in 1970 he has enjoyed easily the greatest solo success of any of the Fab Four, both with his subsequent group Wings and alone.

His career spans five decades, and has seen him sell over 700 million albums Worldwide. As a solo artist, he was behind the biggest-selling non-charity record ever released: ‘Mull Of Kintyre’. He’s also the only artist to have achieved number one records as a solo act, a duo, a trio, a quartet, a quintet and a sextet (answers on a postcard pop trivia buffs…).

Sir Paul performed on the debut War Child album as part of The Smokin’ Mojo Filters, a one-off super-group created especially for the project. Together with Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher, the generation-spanning legends joined forces to cover The Beatles’ classic ‘Come Together’.

Sir Paul was one of the first legends to sign up to the “Heroes” project, and War Child is delighted to welcome him back. "I‘ve been supporting War Child since 1995,” Sir Paul says. “Their work with children in war zones saves lives, and their work with those who take decisions that help them to do something about it saves even more lives. I urge everyone to support War Child."


The Original Song:

A thoroughly deserving, unforgettable classic, and one of several Wings’ songs to equal any highlight of The Beatles’ catalogue. Originally recorded in 1973 as the theme to Roger Moore’s first Bond film, the song reunited McCartney with The Beatles’ legendary producer George Martin - who both produced the track and arranged the orchestral break. The epic number is still a worthy centre-piece of McCartney’s live show. “I think Duffy's version of 'Live And Let Die' is great,” Sir Paul enthuses. “I was really impressed. The breadth of talent on this project is amazing; it's great that so many people gave their time, energy and support to this initiative.”



U2 cover version

Elbow cover U2 - Running to Stand Still

Legend Credentials:

U2 have been the biggest music act in the world since the late 1980s.

It’s a position that iconic lead singer Bono insists the band have to prove their credentials for with each new album and tour (as he said in 2000 “we are reapplying for the position of ‘best band in the world’.”). Such has been U2’s insistence on pushing themselves that they have had creative and commercial successes beyond any other.

Some facts:

U2 have won more Grammy Awards than any other band (22); they were only the fourth band to appear on the cover of "Time" magazine (after The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Who); their 2005 Vertigo tour was the biggest grossing ever ($389m) being seen by over 4.6 million people; U2 have sold over 140m albums; their most recent album 2004’s "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" debuted at number 1 in 32 countries, smashing their previous US record sales in the process.

Remarkably for a band with such longevity and profile, they have never changed line-up (Bono, lead singer and songwriter; The Edge, lead guitar, keyboards, vocals; Adam Clayton, bass guitar; Larry Mullen Jr., drums joined together at their Dublin school in 1976) or manager, they have worked with Paul McGuinness since 1978.

Equally remarkably, the band began with high ideals and firm principles. They decided to use the band's career to promote their belief in social justice from the very start – and they have stuck by it to amazing effect.

Their popular early song "Sunday Bloody Sunday", from 1983, commemorated the slaughter of innocent civilians during the Irish troubles and called for a renunciation of violence. Throughout the 1980s the band used this song to campaign against the IRA. This led to threats that if they continued they would be kidnapped. The band continued anyway.

U2 were major participants in the historic and seminal "Live Aid" concert of 1985, and Bono has become prominent in efforts to end poverty and seek relief from AIDS and promote trade for Africa, using his profile to meet personally with world leaders and business chiefs.

U2’s new audition for the biggest band in the world begins again with their first album in five years, No Line on the Horizon, due in March.


The Original Track:

This beautiful, soft, piano-based song is the fifth track from “The Joshua Tree”, U2’s landmark 1987 album. According to Bono in a BBC TV documentary, the track order for the album was devised by singer Kirsty MacColl. She put her favorite song first, then her second favorite, and so on… Bono has since rated the track much higher, naming it in interviews as among his favourite five all-time U2 tracks.


TV on the Radio cover David Bowie - Heroes

Legend Credentials:

Ch… Ch… Changes…

David Robert Jones was born in Brixton in 1947. In 1966, he was to change his name to David Bowie, to avoid confusion with the Monkees star Davey Jones. At the time it was a seemingly straightforward showbiz switch – but it was to be the first move in a series of theatrical reincarnations which would mark out the career of the most inventive, creative and forward-thinking rock star we’ve ever seen.

First came the flamboyant rock star, the androgynous Ziggy Stardust and Thin White Duke. Later came Bowie the film director, the visual artist, the internet entrepreneur and the actor, most notably as The Man Who Fell to Earth. But, it’s as a remarkable singer that we know and love him best. He’s sold an estimated 136 million albums: one of the best selling acts in UK pop history.

Bowie was rocketed into public consciousness in 1969 by “Space Oddity”, a track that showcased his grasp of psychedelic rock and the unique line he had in the theatrical, unique styling and eyeliner that were to become his hallmarks. His career has seen him embracing, and developing Traditional Rock, Glam Rock, Electropop, New Romanticism and a brief foray into MTV friendly 80\'s dance.

With his deliberately shocking onstage performances, risqué alter egos and flamboyant costume, Bowie brought camp glamour to the mainstream.

His music defined eras from glam rock to plastic soul to Berlin-esque new wave. He is one of the most referenced and sampled artists in contemporary culture. In July 1999 David Bowie was voted as the "Biggest Music Star of the 20th Century" in a poll of the Sun newspaper and in 2000, a poll of contemporary artists voted him the "Most Influential Artist of All Time" in NME magazine.

He\'s always been “ahead of the curve”. He's been an artist who\'s constantly reinvented himself. To this day, Bowie has pursued his own artistic vision and continued to develop as an artist. Always seeking out the new, the exciting and the other.

A true hero.

The Original Song:

Written in and about Berlin. Bowie moved to Germany in 1977 to escape the stresses of touring and fame in UK and US renting a small flat above a garage with Iggy Pop.

This song tells the story of a German couple who are so determined to be together that they meet every day under a gun turret on The Berlin Wall.

Eno has said: "It's a beautiful song. But incredibly melancholy at the same time. We can be heroes, but actually we know that something's missing, something''s lost."


Joy Division cover version

Hot Chip cover Joy Division - Transmission

Legend Credentials:

Despite their brief existence, Joy Division garnered a widespread cult following which has resulted in them becoming one of the most significant and defining influences on modern music.

Formed in Manchester after witnessing the raw energy of The Sex Pistols, Joy Division quickly developed a sound and style that pioneered the post-punk movement of the late 1970s. They have become the blueprint for indie rock bands ever since: intense music; intelligent, dark lyrics; and even darker clothes.

A flurry of unpredictable and exciting gigs preceded the 1979 release of Joy Division's debut album ‘Unknown Pleasures’ on cutting-edge Factory Records, and the album was an instant critical hit.

Although the band's success grew and huge fame seemed imminent, vocalist Ian Curtis was beset with depression, and a diagnosis of epilepsy and suffering frequent on-stage seizures only heightened his personal difficulties.

In May 1980, on the eve of the band's first American tour, Curtis, overwhelmed with depression, committed suicide. The band’s second album ‘Closer’ and the single ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, completed before Curtis’ death and released posthumously, became their highest charting releases. As bassist Peter Hook would recall: “the great tragedy of Ian’s death was that all he wanted to be was successful. And he missed it… by a week.”

Joy Division and Curtis’ legacy is huge, not least through the remaining members of the band who reformed as New Order. The recent films ‘Control’ and ‘Joy Division’ have seen the band’s standing as genuine legends further affirmed.

The Original Song:

"Transmission" was the band’s last single before Ian Curtis’ death, released in November 1979.

Moving away from raw post-punk guitar sound into electronica, it was the song that paved the way for New Order - a shift in direction that was led by Ian Curtis, as Bernard Sumner recalls: “Ian used to play Kraftwerk records to us, saying ‘listen to this, this is something new, something fantastic.’ Maybe he knew and maybe he was showing us the way.”

Just last year NME magazine placed "Transmission" at number 20 in its list of the 50 Greatest Indie Anthems Ever.


The Kinks cover version

The Kooks cover The Kinks - Victoria

Legend Credentials:

Having made some of the most creative and interesting guitar music ever committed to vinyl, The Kinks are widely-hailed as the godfathers of Britpop and even had a guiding hand in the birth of Heavy Metal, placing them high up on any list of influential and important British bands.

Formed in 1963 and named after their unconventional dress sense (leather capes, boots, top hats…kinky), they were to make eccentricity a central part of their far-reaching charm. The band’s debut number one hit ‘You Really Got Me’ was in its day the loudest, heaviest record ever made. The distorted guitar and shouted chorus was unlike anything heard before, let alone like anything capable of topping the charts. However, this artful noise was not to mark out the band’s sound - pure pop with lush harmonies would become their calling card, on classic tracks such as ‘All Day and All of the Night’ and ‘Waterloo Sunset’.

The Kinks would later experiment with music hall and American rock which also served up classic tracks. The line up changed even more frequently than the band’s sound. Only brothers Ray and Dave Davies survived for long, and their relationship remained tempestuous as the band played on through the next three decades. During this time there have been two constants: the solid quality of Ray Davies’ songwriting and his music’s influence on emerging artists.

In the 1990s, Blur, Oasis and Supergrass were deeply indebted to The Kinks, as are The Killers, The Libertines, and Franz Ferdinand now. They were a band who constantly demanded attention, and they rank alongside only The Beatles as the enduring inspiration from the classic 60s British pop era.


The Original Song:

‘Victoria’ was the opening track of The Kinks’ 1969 album, “Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)”. In a single track, Ray Davies managed to distil the thrill of the 1960s. A simple, electric blues riff building to an exuberant climax of brass and strings, and all tinged with Indian psychedelia. It’s also comprises some of Davies’ greatest, satirical lyrics, poking fun at British stereotypes. A true classic.


Stevie Wonder cover version

Estelle covers Stevie Wonder - Superstition

Legend Credentials:

Only the late, great Marvin Gaye and the unpredictable genius of Prince can rival Stevie Wonder as the foremost R&B talent in music history.

Blind since a medical accident shortly after his birth, Stevie Wonder’s disability has never held him back.

It’s often been remarked that his heightened awareness of sound helped him create his mind-bending fusion of innovative beats, amazing vocals and vibrant melodies. He immersed himself in the world of music, developing a tireless fascination and passion for the widest range of rock, jazz, and reggae, as well as soul and funk.

As a child growing up in Detroit, the already musically obsessed Stevie began singing in his church\'s choir at six; from there he blossomed into a genuine prodigy, learning piano, drums, and harmonica all by the age of nine. While performing for friends he was discovered by the legendary Motown Records.

Wonder first made his name as a child star in the Motown mold - the irresistible, youthful exuberance of his album “The 12 Year Old Genius” gave Motown their first chart-topping LP - but he soon took control of his own career.

In the \'70s a series of incredible albums - as popular as they were acclaimed -made his reputation. His unique voice, peerless ear for melody, gift for complex arrangements, and pioneering use of synthesizers revolutionised R&B. A virtual one-man band, Wonder forged his diverging styles into a trademark sound, putting his musical signature on an epic quartet of albums that would change music forever - 1972’s Talking Book, 1973’s Innervisions, 1974’s Fullfillingness’ First Finale, and 1976’s Songs In The Key Of Life. They are essential listens today.

Wonder enters his fifth decade as one of the most prolific artists in music history, delivering 35 albums, totalling more than 72 million units. His contribution to worldwide social and political change is just as impressive, notably his championing of Martin Luther King’s work (in 1999, President Clinton remarked: “In so many ways Wonder has helped to compose the remaining passages of Dr. King’s legacy.”)

But it is Wonder’s song-writing legacy that has inexorably connected him to the world. From Motown prodigy to groundbreaking innovator, he has convinced the world of music’s power as a transformational force.


The Original Song:

One of the greatest songs ever written, this was originally penned by Stevie Wonder to be recorded by guitarist Jeff Beck. Luckily for the musical world, his manager heard the track and quickly insisted Stevie record it himself.


Brian Wilson cover version

Rufus Wainwright covers Brian Wilson - a medley of Wonderful and Song for Children

Legend Credentials:

No greater myth and mystique surrounds a musical legend than that which surrounds Brian Wilson. But no other figure in popular music has lived a life that justifies such interest.

Brian Wilson was The Beach Boys (his official roles included lead songwriter, bassist, singer, producer, composer and arranger). Formed in 1961 with his brothers Carl and Dennis, his cousin Mike Love, and a school friend Al Jardine, the group defined American pop music in the 1960s.

Initial appearances of a squeaky-clean boy band were misleading: Wilson was a visionary. His unique use of vocal harmonies; his individual style of lyrics; and his fierce studio perfectionism would soon push The Beach Boys into unchartered musical territory. He rightly considered The Beatles to be his only rivals, and they looked up to his work as a major influence.

Like many pieces ahead of their time, 1966’s ‘Pet Sounds’ sold only modestly on its initial release, but was slowly realised to be one of the all-time greatest albums. For Wilson, following it up would become an entire life’s work. The planned next album, ‘SMiLE’, was ambitiously described by Wilson as his "teenage symphony to God". Matters were to conspire against the album however – the rest of the band were reluctant to follow Wilson’s experimental path and his own personal and mental problems spiralled - leading to the cancellation of the project in May 1967.

The SMiLE sessions became rock 'n' roll legend. Wilson would refuse to even discuss the project, calling it "inappropriate music", until ultimately deciding to complete SMiLE as a solo artist in 2004.

Since 2004, Brian Wilson’s return to both the live and recorded music scene has marked a joyous reincarnation and a return to his rightful place.

The Original Song:

Taken from the aborted 1967 SMiLE album, ‘Wonderful’ and ‘Song For Children’ were written by Brian Wilson and American composer Van Dyke Parks. The original version of ‘Wonderful’ centred around a simple harpsichord, with the finally completed, fully-orchestrated version only performed live for the first time in February 2004.

In accordance with much of the myth surrounding these sessions, Brian Wilson claims that he and Van Dyke Parks wrote the song in a giant sandbox with a piano in it which had been built in Wilson’s living room.

Fittingly, Van Dyke Parks has since worked with Rufus Wainwright on several albums.


Iggy Pop cover version

Peaches covers Iggy Pop - Search and Destroy

Legend Credentials:

Where to start? Iggy is the legend\'s legend. Without Iggy Pop there\'d be no nothing. Well, Girl's no nothing with a guitar at any rate. He is the daddy of all rock daddies, the godfather of punk. He is a rare breed - even with a bus pass in his back pocket he\'s still doing it like he did back in the day, only a little slower and much less flexibly.

Born to an American father and English mother, James Osterburg began his career as a drummer in his high school band The Iguanas - that's the Iggy bit, the Pop bit, he claims, just sounded cooler than Iggy Osterburg. He had a point.

Iggy had a brief stint in The Prime Movers before forming The Stooges in 1967. The rest is the stuff of legend. Drug hoovers of the highest order, it's a wonder they got anything done among the punch-ups, nose-ups, smash it ups, leg overs and break-ups.

Following one of the many bust ups, almost all of which were drug-related, the Stooges finally split in 1970 following the release of the classic 'Fun House' album. Iggy moved to Florida, took up golf and became a greenkeeper. Like you do.

For many, his meeting with one David Bowie in 1972 is where things get interesting. By 1975, Iggy decided a spell in rehab to get him off the horse might be prudent. Bowie remained his one true friend throughout and got him back on his feet with an appearance on 'Low', before the pair invented New Wave with Iggy's debut solo outing 'The Idiot'. Produced by Bowie, natch. 'Lust For Life' appeared in 1977 and spawned two of the greatest songs ever written in the title track and 'Passengers'.

A true, true legend. Any questions? No. Good.


The Original Song:

'Search And Destroy' is the standout track from Iggy & The Stooges’ 1973 album “Rough Power” (Fact Fans: Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain wrote numerous times in his Journals that this was his favorite album of all time, The Smiths’ Johnny Marr agrees and Henry Rollins has the words "Search and Destroy" tattooed across his shoulder blades.). Iggy Pop has said the title was pulled from a Time magazine article on the Vietnam War – and the track is suitably aggressive, loud and angry.


Bruce Springsteen cover version

The Hold Steady cover Bruce Springsteen - Atlantic City

Legend Credentials:

“People deserve truth, they deserve honesty and the best music is there to provide you something to face the world with.”

So says Bruce Springsteen. For nearly four decades he has been a rock & roll working-class hero: The Boss.

From huge, commercially accessible rock or personal, somber, more folk-oriented work, his records have spoken directly to millions, whether recognising the plights of millions in America’s small-town heartland or voicing a nation’s response to 9/11.

His musical eloquence has earned both a stash of top awards (including eighteen Grammy Awards and an Academy Award) along with a notoriously dedicated and devoted global fan base. His most famous albums, 'Born to Run' and 'Born in the U.S.A.' are among the biggest selling of all time, and he has sold over 120 million albums worldwide.

But much of his iconic status stems from his intense and rousing live performances with The E Street band.

Springsteen has long had the deserving nickname "The Boss", a moniker he was initially reported to hate. But now even he seems to have come to terms with.


Original Track:

An anthemic favourite from Bruce’s live set, this was an acoustic track when first released in 1982 on the album Nebraska.

Released as a single in the UK and some other European countries, but not in the U.S, ‘Atlantic City’, this was the first Springsteen song to be made into a video.

His song tells the story of a Philadelphia Mob hit, orchestrated by Nicky Scarfo, who took over the Philly boys so he could control the new Atlantic City gambling rackets. He made such a mess of things that he and most of his crew were either murdered or incarcerated within a few years.


Elvis Costello cover version

The Like cover Elvis Costello - You Belong to Me

Legend Credentials:

Let\'s not mess around here. With a career that spans four decades and a discography that totals 28 studio albums, underestimate Declan McManus at your peril.

The son of a big band leader, Declan took his great-grandmother's maiden name and was performing as DP Costello when he was signed to the now legendary Stiff label in 1977. The Elvis bit came from the other famous Elvis, natch.

Recruiting a backing band, The Attractions, via an ad in the back pages of the Melody Maker and with the daft specs, shiny suits and awkward manner, he quickly became the misfit of punk rock.

Costello's first long-player, the phenomenal 'My Aim Is True', set its creator on a path that finds him regarded as nothing short of a musical maverick and a true legend. It's often said a debut album is a lifetime in the making and is rarely surpassed. With Costello it's rare that each new album doesn’t surpass the last. No mean feat when you've done everything from scoring ballet to killer performances of Bert Bacharach classics.

Cut the man in half, and it says music in neat little minty circle right through his core.

The Original Song:

More boring people than us would tell you that Elvis Costello's dad wrote and performed the now legendary R Whites secret lemonade drinker song for a TV ad in 1973 while a teenage Elvis served up backing vocals. Anyway, from the classic 'This Year's Model' album 1978, 'You Belong To Me' is light years ahead of its time. If EC appeared today, he'd be on the cover on NME before his label could get a single out.


The Ramones cover version

Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover The Ramones - Sheena is a Punk Rocker

Legend Credentials:

“Hey, ho! Let’s go!”

So arrived a sound that would shape guitar music for the next 35 years.

Formed in 1974, New York’s Ramones were at the frenetic, messy conception of punk rock. Starting with their earliest live forays in Queens and honed at the infamous CBGB’s venue in the Bowery, they would make their mark for 22 years, playing 2263 gigs before hanging up their logo-studded leather jackets. Their high-volume, high-intensity genes are among the most dominant and familiar in rock music today.

Marked out by short, sharp songs packed with simple, direct power chords and dead-pan lyrics, The Ramones’ 1976 eponymous debut album would set the blueprint for punk. The group’s sound was already perfectly formed on songs like “Beat on the Brat,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”, all 14 of them clocking in at under 30 minutes.

Similarly, the band’s unified appearance - matching denim and leather outfits, Converse sneakers, lank long hair and pallid, skinny physiques - would be copied by wannabe punk rockers everywhere. Even their band logo would become iconic, shifting an estimated $6m of t-shirts a year today.

The group travelled to England in 1976, giving the nascent British punk scene the same boost they had provided to New Yorkers. Bands such as The Clash and The Sex Pistols were born of that - and every rock band from U2 to Nirvana would benefit.

The band released 16 albums until their split in 1996. With all of their peers either retired or having moved on to other musical styles, the Ramones stayed loyal to the same determinedly basic sound.

Sadly, the end of the 20th century saw the tragically early deaths of founding members Joey Ramone (vocals), Johnny Ramone (guitarist) and Dee Dee Ramone (bass). Tommy Ramone (drums) is the last surviving member of the original line-up.

Needless to say, their influence and legacy live on.

The Original Song:

"Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" first appeared on ‘Rocket To Russia’, their third LP in 1977, and released as a single, reaching #22 in the UK singles charts.

Written by lead singer Joey Ramone it is one of their most popular and enduring songs, and tells the tale of the rebellious Sheena\'s break away from her mundane world of disco and surfers to be true to her punk self.

Joey Ramone would recall: “To me 'Sheena' was the first surf/punk rock/teenage rebellion song. I combined Sheena, Queen of the Jungle with the primalness of Punk rock. Then Sheena is brought into the modern day:

'But she just couldn't stay/she had to break away/well New York City really has it all.' It was funny because all the girls in New York seemed to change their name to Sheena after that. Suddenly everybody was a Sheena." The track runs to 2:45, which is fairly long for The Ramones.


Blondie cover version

Franz Ferdinand cover Blondie - Call Me

Legend Credentials:

If anyone in their right mind should ever want to put together the perfect band, Blondie would be the blueprint they should be reaching for. Formed in 1974 by former Playboy bunny girl, Debbie Harry, and her boyfriend Chris Stein, they pretty much invented New York cool. With bells on. In real terms, all they did was take the Warhol/Velvet schtick and pour sex appeal all over it. Simple, effective and quite enough to earn the legend tag.

So effective was the sell - just ask any boy passing through puberty in the late Seventies – it was almost art… in fact it was quite literally art in 1985 when Andy Warhol painted Ms Harry's portrait using a new-fangled Amiga computer.

But there was more to Blondie than the former bunny girl thing. There were songs, boy were there songs. When the charts still mattered and finding yourself in the Top 10 was akin to realising you've scaled Mount Everest on a very cold day dressed only in your underpants and slippers, Blondie's major label debut, 'Denis', got all comfy at Number 2 in the UK charts in February 1978. A year later they topped the very same charts with 'Heart of Glass' and went on to have a further four Numbers Ones (answers, in order, on a postcard please), and not one of them was anything short of an absolute stone cold classic.


The Original Song:

A Number One single on both sides of the Atlantic, 'Call Me' was released in April 1980. At 2 minutes and 12 seconds it is the shortest Number One single of all-time. We have, of course, just made that up, but it sounds quite likely and at stands a chance of being true in that a) it was Number One, and b) it isn't very long.