Sunday, 12 July 2009

1986 Dr & The Medics: Spirit In The Sky

Originally a 1970 number one hit for Norman Greenbaum, 'Spirit In The Sky' has always, to my mind anyway, walked a perilous tightrope between sincere statement of religious belief and flaky hippie ephemera. I suppose the truth is somewhere in-between, but that needn't concern us here.

In terms of visuals, Dr & The Medics present an interesting proposition. Looking like a gaggle of new age hippies harbouring a Goth identity crisis and with the good Dr himself looking like Catweazle in drag after a heavy night on the sauce, they don't want for colour certainly. But does this eccentricity follow through to the music?

Well from that unmistakable opening guitar riff in it's clear we're in for a carbon copy re-run of the original, albeit one scrubbed up and deloused. Whereas Greenbaum's version creaked and wheezed like an Audiobook of the Old Testament read by God himself, Dr & The Medics are happy to fall to the novelty side of the high wire and emphasise the basic tune with a standard rock beat to play up their pantomime persona and swoon all around it.

So what's the point in all this? None really as far as I can tell. Rather than breathing new life into the track, the song itself is playing the band rather than vice versa (it's not typically representative of their usual business) and no new light is shone into any of its cracks. We've Got A Fuzzbox And We're Gonna Use It did their own cover version of this at almost exactly the same date to the month and it showed what the song could become
with a little bit of imagination, a little bit of true eccentricity and a little less musical talent.

'Spirit In The Sky' by Dr & The Medics sounds like something knocked up in the studio during a jam session which grew legs and ran out the door to the top of the charts without any underlying rhyme or reason. It's a competent cover of a decent song, but any half arsed bar band could have churned it out and I like to think that a number one single needs to be a bit more than that. It's a pity the record buying public don't always share my beliefs. Tant pis.

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