Cover versions are always interesting when they’re cut to ribbons. So it is with Lydia Lunch and Rowland S Howard’s 1982 version of the Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood classic.
Already pretty trippy, as befits a proto- psychedelic nursery rhyme, Lunch and Howard decided to make it even murkier. The duo, who met during Howard’s Birthday Party days, became firm friends, seeing themselves very much as kindred spirits, musical outsiders. Lunch latterly spoke of being drawn to his dark wit and feminine side, which complemented her witchiness. You can hear this all over the cover. The duo take the lysergic, fever dream qualities and ramp them up to a sweaty, orgiastic conclusion.
Howard sounds unhinged, Lunch eerily vulnerable. The contrast is disturbing, and as ever Howard’s guitar playing is as sharp and serrated as a kitchen knife. There’s always been that danger lurking within his music.
Howard stayed at my flat once, my old flat, in 92. My then- partner put bands on, and we couldn’t believe it when These Immortal Souls agreed to play.
He was sweet, drily hilarious but really fragile. He wore silk pyjamas and golf socks and his girlfriend Genevieve McGuckin, the keyboard player, was equally gorgeous, kind and funny. I’ll never forget them. The gig was incredible. He never got his dues: people take a while to catch on sometimes, often when it’s too late. He passed away aged just 50 in 2009.
This song means a lot to me, as it’s two of my favourites collaborating for the first time (Shotgun Wedding is their wonderful album from the early nineties, but we’ll get to that later) and it feels increasingly poignant, the older I get.