In Hear This, The A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, in honor of Amanda And Jack Palmer’s covers album, we’re picking some of our favorite cover songs.
Einstürzende Neubauten, “Sand” (1985)
Nancy Sinatra’s trek with songwriter Lee Hazlewood isn’t the stuff of mainstream pop music, but it’s fairly spectacular for those who appreciate an off-kilter musical chapter. Hazlewood was already a prolific producer and composer (a co-producer of the famous “Peter Gunn Theme,” among others) when he found his muse with the Sinatra offspring in the ’60s. Their partnership resulted in hits like “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” and “Sugar Town” for Nancy Sinatra on albums like Boots and Sugar. The 1968 follow-up, Nancy & Lee, found Hazlewood putting himself in the foreground with Sinatra, resulting in downright trippy, renaissance-fair pop confections like “Some Velvet Morning” and “Sand,” referencing mythological beings like Phaedra and using pronouns like “thee” and “thy.”
“Sand” is nothing but the story of a sexual hookup between two strangers, cloaked in frilly acoustic strums and a call and response between Sinatra and Hazlewood before, during, and after this magical moment. Suffice to say, his plea of “Young woman, share your fire with me” is certainly answered.
Of all the many people who have covered “Sand” over the years, none were more inspired, hilarious, and innovative than the German industrial outfit Einstürzende Neubauten. This group is famous for crafting their own instruments out of anything they can find, mostly building materials and scrap metal. For “Sand,” the band used male vocals for the call and response, deep and gravelly for Hazlewood’s part, lighter and nasally for Sinatra’s. In typical fashion, Neubauten punctuates this cover with plenty of its trademark smashes and explosions, taking it from medieval fairyland to a grungy industrial landscape.
Neubauten’s version of “Sand,” like all legendary covers, highlights the fact that a truly great song is flexible enough to be translated in a variety of different ways. It’s an inspired take on a song that was pretty inspired to begin with.