Because future “Certain Songs” subject “Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles is perhaps the single greatest recording to come out of Motown, the degree of difficulty involved with covering it is extremely high.
And The Beat just nail it: reinterpreting with the same deftness that Jimi Hendrix electrified “All Along The Watchtower” or Hüsker Dü recontextualized “Eight Miles High.”
It’s also one the most apropos covers in history: simultaneously revealing heretofore hidden influences while reinforcing the happy music / sad lyrics dichotomy that suffuses I Just Can’t Stop It.
In theory, taking a song that’s a perfect 10 and do a cover version that is also a perfect 10 should be impossible.
And that’s right: The Beat’s version of “Tears of a Clown” is impossible. Totally and utterly impossible.
It’s impossible not to sing along with.
It’s impossible not to dance to.
It’s impossible not to enjoy how they reduce the big circus-music hook from the original into a quick, tossed-off guitar lick.
It’s impossible not to marvel at the snapchat drum rolls that glue the verses and chorus together.
It’s impossible not to notice ever great lick, fill and lead that Saxa plays.
It’s impossible not to smile when Ranking Roger comes in near the end singing “The tears of a clone / the tears of a clone.”
“Tears of a Clown” performed live on Top of the Pops, 1980
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