Yesterday, while checking out a video of Paul Weller playing his The Style Council-era gem "Man of Great Promise" on YouTube, I noticed in the related videos list that there was also a host of cover versions of the song, written about the premature death of Weller's childhood pal, poet and early member of The Jam, Dave Waller.
It struck me as odd. First of all, the song -- one of Weller's best ever -- is a very personal song. It was also an album track (from 1985's "Our Favourite Shop") never released as a single or charting as a hit. But it's always been one of my favorites, so I can see why others like is so much that they're moved to give it a try.
Other than that I can't really imagine what makes someone sit in front of a video camera to play a cover of a song and then post it for the world to gawk at.
But, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so maybe the versions are little tributes to Paul Weller.
I couldn't help myself. I started to click.
The first version I found was by this fella playing the song in his bedroom. Despite being about the same age as Weller and sporting the same haircut and hair color, there are some obvious differences.
Chippauly also chimes in with covers of tunes by the Small Faces and Ocean Color Scene.
All the versions lack the urgency of the original, but the song has resonance for some people, including Billyhuntuk, who notes that the song, "was about one of Weller's mates Dave Waller I think ... but I'm singing it about my old mate Bob Malpas."
And Duckymear, who turns in an unusually haunting reading -- probably the best (and certainly the most self-assured) of all the covers I found on YouTube -- plays for "Brendan and Michael."
Minstrel20, who dedicates the song to his friend Shaun Dytham, has the most Weller-esque voice and replaces the standard video of him playing the tune with a photo, presumably of the performer and his friend. This version thanks to the impassioned vocal is up there with Duckymear's, reminding us that while most anyone can play the chords, putting one's heart into the vocal is the key.
In a trio of unusual videos, Stanhopeplace (whose name comes from the address of Weller's former studio and whose face we never see) plays along with the record on his 1962 Strat ...
And then with his 12-string acoustic ...
... and, finally, his six-string acoustic.
... and Logos120 gives it a go, too ...
Mattyrocknroll offers up a rare duo version ...
Weegabber donned his cowboy hat for this version, which is the most unlike the original ...
11thedogfather takes his time getting into the frame for his decent 12-string acoustic version ...
But, check out eddiecouncil playing his bass along with the original recording. Eddie looks like a most unlikely Style Council fan ...
PeteTJones opts for a solarized video to accompany his slow, folky version of the song ...
Check out this great full band version with a Japanese singer that clearly doesn't speak English but likely learned the words phonetically. It's by NICOL and recorded live in June 2008 at Futago Tamagawa "Pink Noise."
And the band played it at Shibuya Cozmos Cafe in October '08, suggesting it's a regular feature of NICOL's set.
Here is NICOL learning the song in a studio a year earlier ...
... and playing it in another setting.
Do you have a favorite YouTube cover version? Tell us about it using the Talkback feature below.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.