This is undoubtedly one of the oddest covers I’ve ever come across – and that makes it a great cover.
With the exception of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and perhaps a handful of others, not many recording artists have had the motivation – or the courage – to take on Streisand. But that’s what the British glam punk rock band Japan did in the midst of the late ‘70s, early ‘80s New Wave explosion.
Formed in 1974, Japan was the brainchild of David Sylvian, a British-born artist/musician who was heavily influenced by the music of glam artists like David Bowie and Marc Bolan, and art rockers like Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music. I find them fascinating enough that we’ve featured them in past years as part of our “Listening Room Lost & Found” feature.
The band, which produced five albums before disbanding in 1981, had a tinge of punk influence, including in Sylvain’s off-tune and raspy voice. To add to the musical stew they sported the pretty boy, teased hair look Duran Duran would later ride to international fame via MTV.
In 1978, Sylvain and the band, which included his brother, Steve Jansen, decided to cover Babra Streisand.
“Don’t Rain On My Parade” was written for the 1964 stage musical “Funny Girl,” which put Streisand on the musical map. The 1968 movie version of the musical launched her career in earnest, and made the song one of her standards to this day.
The Japan version works because of its musical departure from the original, and because of the mocking quality that, ultimately, is what made punk rock appealing in its heyday. That the video is severely dated today adds to the campy nature of it all, with the colorful Sylvain – who continues to record as a solo artist today – front and center.
So, consider this a glimpse inside a musical time capsule. First Babs’ classic, then the Japan thrash. Enjoy.
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