In Pipeline 57 (2002) 66, Ray Steer offers some thoughts on the uses (and abuses) of the expression 'cover version':

"The term ‘cover version’ seems to be used these days, even in the pages of Pipeline, to refer to a new version of a previously recorded tune. I’ve always understood that a ‘cover’ referred to a version of a song released at around the same time as, and therefore in competition with, the original. For example Cilla Black’s rendition of ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’’ ... or a host of UK hits by Marty Wilde and Frankie Vaughan in the fifties. To my mind, calling any revival of an old tune a ‘cover version’ seems pointless, particularly where there might be 50 years between the two recordings."

Since then Ray has written to me on the same topic, and we have also talked on the telephone. He adduces as a further consideration:

"If The Shadows had released a single of ‘Walk Don’t Run’ in 1960 when The Ventures were having success with it in America, as I believe had been suggested to them, that would have been a true cover version, to my mind, because it would have been in competition with The Ventures’ single. However, if they had recorded it in 1961 for the first LP I can’t see that it could be termed a cover, even if it had then been lifted from the LP and released as a single."

In fact, if you look at pp. 20–21 of the Shadows At Polydor book, where this contentious topic rears its head, you will note that I was (deliberately) very guarded in using the term ‘cover’: particularly when I talked about a body of Shadows’ material that is "generally referred to under the blanket term ‘cover versions’". That is the nub of the matter. What is done is done, or in the evolution of linguistic usage, what is habitually misused can, and very often does, pass into accepted usage.

A good example from our own tongue is the use of the expressions ‘each other’ and ‘one another’: the first properly refers to two, the latter to more than two. But we hear often enough today expressions like "these two loathe one another". Fowler’s standard work on English usage regards the distinction I have indicated as "untenable", and quotes various literary sources (respectable, or reasonably respectable) in support. In other words, misuse is sanctioned by usage. I cringe every time I hear or read of "a single phenomena" or "one criteria", but these are now in common use everywhere. And what’s wrong for that matter with prefacing (or concluding, or both) everything you say with "you know"? For that, you know, we can appeal to the authority of none other than David Beckham, you know.

Going back to The Shadows: even if it were thought desirable to attempt to repair the perceived damage to the English tongue, we would still be left with the question of just what to call the various categories of, er, 'cover versions' which present themselves.

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