Wednesday, June 26, 2019

"Spirit in the Sky" by Doctor and the Medics

Song#:  2811
Date:  08/02/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  69
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Glam Rock

Pop Bits:  UK-born Clive Jackson was not a singer and didn't know how to play any instruments. However, that didn't stop him from getting into music and he began by spinning records as a DJ. He began going by the name the Doctor and started to wear kabuki-inspired makeup. As 1981 rolled in, he had formed a band called Doctor and the Medics. They began playing clubs doing covers of 60s psychedelic rock tunes along with some offbeat originals. Their first single was the indie released "The Druids Are Here." The band gained a following thanks to their retro-rock sound, their glam look, and their performances which included two (originally three) female dancers that went by the odd name of The Anadin Brothers (they would eventually sing backup as well). The band would get signed to IRS Records in 1985 and then release two EPs including one produced by XTC's Andy Partridge. The EPs sold pretty well and that led to them recording their full-length debut album Laughing at the Pieces. This first single was issued out and it ended up going Top 10 in many European countries and #1 in several including the UK. The song made it across the pond, but the reception was not all that good. The track was able to reach #27 at Dance while staying in the bottom third of the Pop chart. A follow-up single, "Burn," couldn't do much of anything (#29 UK). Same with a failed attempt to cover ABBA's "Waterloo," which got to #45 in the UK. A second album disappeared quickly and the original band fell apart. The Doctor would still keep a version of the band going over the years. They would recording a couple of albums and continue to tour.

ReduxReview:  Except for having a more modern production, there's not much difference between this track and the original (see below). I would guess if you were a fan of the original, this one is not gonna do much for you. I find it to be a rather bland cover and it seems US listeners thought so too since they did not push it into the Top 10 like Europe did. I think the nostalgia factor kicked in over there and made the song a hit along with the glam look of the band. Had to have been. Otherwise, there is no reason this tepid cover should have been a hit.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally written and performed by Norman Greenbaum. His 1969 version would become a psych-rock classic that got to #3 in 1970 and went gold. Although he would have two low charting follow-ups, Greenbaum became known as a one-hit wonder. Greenbaum was an original member of the jug band Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band. They had a minor single with the Greenbaum-written tune "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago," which got to #52 in 1966. Many artists have covered "Spirit in the Sky" over the years, but besides Greenbaum and Doctor and the Medics, the only other artist to have a version reach the Pop chart was R&B/gospel singer Dorothy Morrison. Morrison joined the Edwin Hawkins Singers in the late 60s and she was the lead singer on their Grammy-winning #4 gold record "Oh Happy Day" (1969). She left for a solo deal and "Spirit in the Sky" was the second single from her debut album Brand New Day. Her version of the tune barely scrapped the Pop chart at #99.


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