Besides Barenaked Ladies' If I Had A Million Dollars, Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild, and Murray McLaughlan's Down By The Henry Moore, is there a more Toronto-centric song than Martha & the Muffins' Echo Beach? For proof, head down to Sunnyside Pavillion at sunset on a hot, hazy August night and look back across the harbour to the skyline and suddenly Mark Gane's evocative lyric makes perfect sense.
"On a silent summer evening, the sky's alive with light,
Buildings in the distance, surrealistic sight,
On Echo Beach, waves make the only sound,
On Echo Beach, there's not a soul around."
Echo Beach propelled the Muffins from Queen West's legendary Beverley Tavern to the top of the charts in Britain, Germany and Australia and was named Canada's Song Of The Year at the 1980 Juno awards, an honour shared with Anne Murray's You Needed Me. Since then, Echo Beach has inspired countless cover versions in several musical genres including Euro disco (Boys Of A New Age), ska (The Hot Knives) and French new wave (La Grande Sophie's Egoiste). There's even a brilliant remake released two years ago by UK boy-band guitarist Tom Vanderkill that reconfigures the cheery uptempo pop number into a dirge-like Nick Cave murder ballad. When Vanderkill dolefully croaks, "At Echo Beach, I watch the sun go down," one can imagine he's only hanging around to make sure his victim's weighted body sinks beneath the waves.
Though Echo Beach has been recorded often, very few of the versions manage to duplicate Gane's signature guitar hook. Self-taught, left-handed Gane learned on a right-handed guitar. No wonder no one can figure the riff out!
Trawling through YouTube the other day in search of Echo Beach covers, I came across the original with an impressive 61,603 hits as well as this embarrassing rendition by the aptly named Mid Life Crisis.
Not only can the inept Bristol combo's guitarist not master the hook, he doesn't appear to know the song's chords. The bass player isn't familiar with them either and just follows along blindly while the less said about the arrhythmic drummer the better. At least, the 45 year-old goatee-sporting singer - and I use the term loosely - gets the words right, or at least those he can remember. Don't quit your day jobs just yet, boys.
Worst cover ever?