May 16 — “Everybody’s Talkin'”, as covered by The Beautiful South

The Beautiful South

If you only listen to one cover song today, make it The Beautiful South’s cover of “Everybody’s Talkin'” (1994, from the album Miaow). This was originally done by American folk singer Fred Neil, and appeared on his 1966 eponymous album. It was made famous by Harry Nilsson, when he covered it on his Aeriel Ballet album in 1968. The following year, it became even more popular when the Nilsson version was prominently featured in the hit film “Midnight Cowboy”.

The Beautiful South was a pop band from Hull, England. They formed in the late 1980s and were active until 2007. However, the salad days for them were the mid-late 1990s. Two of the founding members — Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway — were members of the hugely successful (in the UK) but short-lived indie band The Housemartins. Both bands, actually, were wildly successful in the UK, but virtually unknown in the United States.

The Beautiful South were known for their songs about the dreariness and mundanity of everyday life and also known for the revolving door of female singers who were seldom given lead vocal duties. Today’s song comes from the group’s fourth album Miaow. On the first three albums, Briana Corrigan was their female singer. She felt like the band wouldn’t let her be a part of the creative process, and she took issue with the politics behind some of the songs, so she left the band before they started work on the fourth album. She was replaced by Jacqui Abbott, who had been working in a supermarket as a stock girl. The band enjoyed much more success with Abbott aboard. However, she had to leave in 2000 to focus on raising her son. She was then replaced by Alison Wheeler.

There was actually a good bit of controversy surrounding Miaow. The original artwork, seen below, features a lot of terriers sitting in an auditorium, with a gramophone on stage. This got the suits over at HMV and RCA upset because they thought that the cover openly mocked their iconic logo.

After some angry letters were sent, the original artwork was scrapped. The revised version, seen below, features four German Shepherds in a row-boat at sea.

Revised album artwork for Miaow

Anyway, here’s today’s song, which is good, but not as good as the Nilsson version:
“Everybody’s Talkin'” as covered by The Beautiful South

I’m disappointed that this version didn’t have Nilsson’s signature long, sustained vocal note in the last “No, I won’t let you leave my love behind. No I won’t let you leave”. In fact, this version doesn’t have that line at all. Also, for some unknown reason, they changed the lyric “Skipping over the ocean like a stone” to “Tripping over the ocean like a stone”. That makes absolutely no sense. Is this something that gets lost in translation from American English to UK English? Is skipping stones something that UK kids are unfamiliar with? I literally have no idea why they would change that word, since it takes the imagery away. It’s a bit like changing “Candle in the wind” to “Flashlight in the wind”, isn’t it? It makes no sense. Sure, “trip” has almost the same meaning as “skip”, just as “flashlight” has almost the same meaning as “candle” you can’t take those words out of the context of their songs. They’re pretty essential to the meaning of the song. Funnily, I hadn’t noticed that subtle change until just now, and it kind of ruins it for me.

Still, there’s something quite nice about hearing this sung by a woman. While Jacqui’s scatting at the end isn’t nearly as awesome as Nilsson’s “leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeave”, it’s worth giving a listen.

At the end of 1994, The Beautiful South released a compilation of all their singles to date. This song also appears on that compilation — Carry on up The Charts. That record, which was released just in time for Christmas 1994, reached #1 on the UK charts. Even though it was released in November, it was the second best-selling record in the UK in the calendar year 1994.

You can buy Miaow from Amazon here and Carry on up The Charts here.

Just for good measure, here’s a video of the Nilsson version.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

One response to “May 16 — “Everybody’s Talkin'”, as covered by The Beautiful South

  • wjpurdy

    I have a major soft spot for this band, ever since “You Kept It All In” (which deftly disguises some truly morbid lyrics with a bouncy, cheery, singalong cloak).

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