Take Cover! The Great Book Of John Vs. INXS

When is a cover song better than the original? Only you can decide. This week the Great Book Of John takes on INXS’ “Never Tear Us Apart.” MAGNET’s Ryan Burleson pulls the pin. Take cover!

For fans of legendary Aussie rock band INXS, “Never Tear Us Apart” is more than merely another great song in a catalog of many. It’s become an anthem of sorts, played while the members of INXS ferried their iconic singer Michael Hutchence in his coffin outside St. Andrews Cathedral after his untimely death in 1997, adapted in acapella style by British football fans to lend a loftiness to the matches of their favorite squads and co-opted by Bono amid live performances by U2. “Never Tear Us Apart,” the fourth break-out single from Kick, INXS’ sixth album and its most successful, would also show up in the director’s cut of 2001 cult film Donnie Darko. And these are, of course, only some of the song’s more popular applications.

“Never Tear Us Apart,” which started out as a bluesy number when it was demoed in 1986, is certainly interesting on a purely musical basis. The way it straddles the fence between lite and stadium rock without bowing to the worst tendencies of either, even with the inclusion of a Kirk Pengilly-ripped sax solo, is truly remarkable. Arguably what makes “Never Tear Us Apart” more than just a song, however, is the way Hutchence’s deeply personal lyrics reserve an intimate space for himself at the same time their themes of transcendent love and hope appeal to all. This is the power of song at its most potent, articulating the heart of a beloved artist at the same time it captures the imagination of generations. Its reach is universal without a hint of feigned intent or emotion.

In light of the classic stature of “Never Tear Us Apart,” then, it could be said that any attempt to adapt it meaningfully would be folly, not unlike the many egregious covers of “Imagine” have proved to be. In fact, as I’ve witnessed several times throughout my tenure as MAGNET’s Take Cover! scribe, our readers generally don’t take too well to artists who have the gall to pay respect to the more well-known of our heroes through a re-imagining of their work. But, if there ever were at time to do so, I hope this week you’ll put aside your adoration for an original long enough to give a new rendition a shot. The Great Book Of John’s cover is inventive and heartfelt, a nod to the song’s bluesy origins and a truly evocative introduction to a burgeoning band from Birmingham, Ala. Though worlds apart from Perth, “Never Tear Us Apart” clearly means as much in the deep South as it does in Australia.

Cast your vote wisely.

The Cover:

The Original:

YouTube Preview Image

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5 Comments

  1. kennedy
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    i love this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! who is this band? i mean, holy shit–this rocks so hard!!! 4 real….my friend told me that if i go to communicatingvessels.net or thegreatbookofjohn.com i could find out about these guys….anybody out there have anymore info on these guys?

  2. t. drew hardin
    Posted May 8, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Say what? I am sorry folks but The Great Book of John is a band practically living out of a suitcase and the rendition of “Never Tear Us Apart” is lukewarm at best. That is not to say I don’t like their sound. It’s terrific. But INXS rules here, people. They are King of the Hill on this one. The Great Book of John need more output and exposure to show me they belong. Right now, as described by Husker Du on their “Warehouse: Songs and Stories” CD, The Great Book of John is in a Belvedere with a trailer pulled behind.

  3. Gabe
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    Kennedy, dude there new album is coming out soon, I’m friends with the female vocals in the band so I got the album way early :P. You can hear a couple of there songs here…

    http://soundcloud.com/communicating-vessels/sets/the-great-book-of-john

    Tell your friends!

  4. Posted August 18, 2011 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    view the results. the great book of john wins. awesome cover

  5. Posted August 24, 2011 at 3:04 am | Permalink

    Yes this band is out of birmingham, they have been very amazing constantly changing but in the best way a band can change, only after two albums. I am good friends with taylor – the lead singer guitar.harmonica songwriter. I know they will blow up soon, it’s inevitable, i am 3 for 3 on bands i have come across that end up selling out shows to the crowd that really gets them, and in this case friend or not, they are in my top 5 favorite bands to listen to. i like jazz, new soul funk, progressive jazz, guitarists like tommy emmanuel, and then such a broad spectrum, but great book just is good soulful enlightening music, sorry for the rant, just can’t stop listening to the new album then the old. Have some videos online under gkilgore9 of them.

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  • […] John’s cover against the original in the magazine’s “Take Cover!” feature. Visit Magnet’s website to view videos of both bands’ versions of the song, then vote for… The Great Book of John’s next album is due out soon from Birmingham-based label Communicating […]