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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Janice Takes A Bow

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Janice Takes A Bow
by Simon Goddard

There’s a young woman called Janice who, unlike Dionne Warwick, knows the way to San Jose (she must do: she lives there) where, since the first week of January, she’s been devoting her spare time to an extraordinary feat of “apostledom”. By the stroke of midnight on 31 December 2010, it is Janice’s aim to have recorded a cover version of the entire Morrissey/Marr Smiths songbook via the power of some crafty computer technology but mostly the melodious set of pipes she was born with.

So far, Janice has been doing roughly one song a week and posting the resulting mp3 on her blog called simply The Smiths Project. The bad news for Janice is that there are only 52 weeks in the year but something in the region of 70 Morrissey/Marr songs (instrumentals included). Unless she gets those proverbial skates on, the chances of her bagging the lot by Hogmanay are a bit slim.

The good news, though, is that her efforts thus far has been remarkable. This week she celebrates the first major milestone in her quest having now covered 1984’s The Smiths album in its entirety...

Now, obviously, any old fool could sit in their bedroom and sing unaccompanied Smiths songs, badly, and share with the rest of the world with no skill or charm whatsoever. But Janice isn’t any old fool and what she’s done is so skilfully charming that I really would urge the world to listen. And I say that as somebody who, as a rule, doesn’t really like Smiths covers.* (As somebody once said of their hair, “Why meddle with a masterpiece?”)

Our Janice, however, has the voice of an angel, albeit one that’s been trapped in the catacombs. By accident, design or a divinely eccentric combination of both, so far she’s made those top 80s pop picks What Difference Does It Make? and Hand In Glove sound like pagan sacrifice. If ever a singing voice came wearing a cassock, it is hers. Listen carefully to her Miserable Lie and in the distance you might hear Edward Woodward being burned inside The Wicker Man. Janice’s You’ve Got Everything Now might sound like Jacqui McShee doing vocal warm-ups in an airing cupboard but the aroma of flaming torches prevails. Just to be perverse, her Suffer Little Children is as dreamy as a fabric softener commercial. There is something of the Pre-Raphaelite about Janice in as much as a part of me would like to believe every night she lowers herself to sleep in an icy brook. For her and her loved ones’ sake, I hope I’m wrong.

All this I mean as sincere praise. Janice has said some very kind things about my writing and she certainly warrants a gigantic, garland-strewn return of compliment. More than anything I applaud, not only her singing, but her near-radioactive joyous devotion. Talking of which, last week I interviewed an ageing bona fide “rock’n’roll legend” who also salivated in awe of The Smiths. “So much of that which has earned duckets in the rock industry of the late 80s plods,” they said. “The Smiths did not plod!”

More of that encounter next time, but for now congratulations to Janice. 11 down, another 59 to go (not including cover versions, the Cilla song, unreleased bits of fluff et cetera).

Check, and marvel at, her Smiths Project blog by visiting ...

(* - But I make an exception for Jeff Buckley’s I Know It’s Over)

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