Jack Ladder’s “Songs I’ve Covered”

Jack Ladder’s “Songs I’ve Covered”

Australian rocker Jack Ladder shares with TIDAL a playlist of memorable songs from other artists that he has covered.


Marilyn Monroe, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”
This is the first song I sang in public. I was 10 years old and had been watching old black and white films on Sunday afternoons with my family. Marilyn really got to me as a kid and I dug the phrasing and wordplay in the showtunes. I decided I’d perform it at the school talent show, but hadn’t really considered the musical element so I sang it a capella. The more absurd part is that I couldn’t really sing or dance. I had no training. I just wanted to do it. Seems to have been my ethos ever since. I made it to the final, but lost out to a kid doing a perfect rendition of The Beatles’ “Yesterday.” Boring.

David Bowie, “Be My Wife”
One of Bowie’s most underrated tracks from my favourite Bowie record, Low. We decided to perform this at our Dreamland show for Sydney Festival. Bowie had recently gone into space and it felt like the right thing to do to pay tribute. It was to be one of many Bowie songs I’d have to sing that year. Later, I sang “Loving The Alien,” “China Girl,” “Golden Years,” “Heroes,” “Stay” and “Absolute Beginners” as part of a tribute at the Sydney Opera House.

Leonard Cohen, “A Thousand Kisses Deep”
Another tribute concert to a dead hero for Sydney Festival. I saw Leonard Cohen recite this track as a poem at a concert in a vineyard and it has never escaped my memory. Dear friend Holiday Sidewinder asked me to help her out on this one in the Speigletent and I think we got a pass.

Conway Twitty, ”You’ve Never Been This Far Before”
I bought a bunch of country compilation cassettes from a thrift shop. A lucky dip. This was the first track on the first tape I put in. I fell deep. I looked up the video on Youtube and couldn’t believe what I’d stepped into. Conway Twitty’s square, forlorn head in a musk pink tracksuit in a barnyard set. It was too much. I was getting ready to record Blue Poles and I thought I’d just knock out a version of this. It feels so good to sing. It’s tender and insane like all my favourite songs. I decided I’d try it live last year on tour with Alex Cameron through the south of the United States and see if I couldn’t get a few fans on our side. I kept playing it.

Nico, “My Funny Valentine”
I sang this at a Valentine’s Day concert my friend was throwing at the famous Hopetoun Hotel in Sydney. Probably about 2007 or 2008. I love this song. I love so many different versions of it. Nico’s version stands apart. It’s almost aromantic, which is a thing I like in songs. It feels narcissistic, as though she’s singing it to herself. I like that angle.

Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson, “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before”
I remember seeing the cover for this single before hearing the song. A friend had it stuck on her wall. The image was burned into my brain of Willie and Julio, side by side. It seemed so ridiculous. How did these two guys ever come into contact? I didn’t hear it for a few more years. Suddenly, it clicked when I was on tour with Kirin J Callinan in New Zealand and we decided we’d download the MIDI files and sing it as a duet at the end of our show. It went down pretty well, so when Kirin was organizing his Skype duet concert for Sugar Mountain in Melbourne, he asked me if I would sing it with him from my home while he was on stage. I never heard how it sounded, but what a concept!

Iggy Pop, “Shades”
Iggy Pop is famous for many things. For me, it’s his writing that I get excited about. It’s so simple and beautiful and deep. Almost every line is equal parts poetic and clumsy. I had a new keyboard I wanted to try something on. I loved the Oneohtrix Point Never track with Iggy from the Good Time Soundtrack and had an idea to do this song more in that style. I recorded it quickly and didn’t think too much about it. Then, on my recent tour, through Europe with Alex Cameron, the Conway Twitty cover was starting to wear thin. I got the feeling the Germans didn’t care much about country music and Alex had said these people love synthesizers. Give them what they want. So, I started singing it in the middle of my set in a pair of sun-blocker sunglasses for the elderly.

Lou Reed and John Cale, “Nobody But You”
We were asked to perform a show at the National Gallery of Victoria during the Andy Warhol and Ai Wei Wei retrospective a few years back. I’d been obsessing over Lou Reed and John Cale’s Songs For Drella record, “A Tribute To Andy.” I thought it’d be fitting to play a song from it. We didn’t have a rehearsal, so it had to be a simple one. I spent a week memorizing the words. Then, when we turned up for soundcheck, they were blaring the track in the bathrooms. It made it seem a little less special, but somehow more appropriate.

Suzi Quatro and Chris Norman, “Stumblin’ In”
In 2008 or 2009, I was asked to go on the Australian television institution that is Rockwiz and perform an original and a cover. I was to sing the cover with my dear friend Holiday Sidewinder’s mother Loene Carmen. She chose this song that I wasn’t familiar with, but probably lied and said it was a favourite to be cool. This was a big deal. National television broadcast. I haven’t been asked back since.

Bruce Springsteen, “I’m Going Down”
I was going through a Springsteen thing as everyone should do at some point in their life. I’d done the hip records, but somehow avoided Born In The USA. Curious, I went and bought a $10 copy and played it in my car for 2 years. That and Roxy Music’s Avalon. I was in London and had seven shows booked for me in as many days. I was at the seventh show playing above a pub for the sound guy and two punters and as the hopelessness of the situation dawned on me, I started playing this song. Almost without thinking about it. Completely unplanned. It just seeped out.


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