Friday, 23 July 2010

Suggs 'I'm Only Sleeping'

Chart Peak: 7


It's a coincidence that I happen to be writing about this song this week. I recently treated myself to The Beatles In Mono and as such have had the opportunity to listen to this (not my upload, I hasten to add!) and compare all the variations between the mono and stereo versions of the original. Hours of fun for all the family there. Thinking back to 1995, though, I was nowhere near as familiar with the original version: I knew it was a cover of a Beatles song, of course, but somehow Revolver was one of the few Beatles albums we didn't have. The advantage of this was of course that I was much better placed to appreciate this on its own merits.

That said, I - like many other people who grew up in London in the 1980s - had a lot of residual affection for the former lead singer of Madness. Well, I say former: technically speaking, the band were sporadically back in action in the mid-1990s, playing Madstock concerts annually, although they didn't release new material until 1999. Thus the launch of Suggs as a solo artist was his first studio collaboration in over a decade with Mike Barson, who co-wrote and produced much of the album. With that sort of reunion in prospect, it seems slightly odd to launch the project with a cover version (officially it was a double A-side with 'Off On Holiday' but only this side seemed to get any exposure). However, it is an attention-grabbing sort of track.

It's a pretty hackneyed observation, but when you cover a Beatles song there's not a lot of mileage in trying to outdo them at their own game; the only worthwhile tactic is to approach the song from another angle. And they certainly do that here, recasting the hazy, stoned original into an upbeat old-fashioned ska track with lots of trombone and cartoon sound effects. It's catchy (adding its own hooks as well as those John Lennon supplied), jolly and an enjoyable listen. The major flaw is that this doesn't entirely match the subject matter of the song, although some sort of excuse might lie in the chorus lyric "please don't wake me"; all this noise is interrupting his sleep. That certainly seems to be the interpretation the video's based on. Anyway, you can always ignore that bit and just listen to the trombone.

Also appearing on: Now 34
Available on: 100 Hits - 90s

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