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An important examination of the BBC's star-studded version of Perfect Day, 20 years later

A forgotten classic.

IN November of 1997, THE BBC gathered together a starry cast of singers and musicians from a variety of genres to perform a charity cover of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day.

discogs

The single dominated the Irish charts for seven weeks, eventually becoming our Christmas number one for the year. We were hugely into this thing.

Being a child at the time, this version of the song lodged itself into my brain, and I’d like to take the time to dissect it now if I may. Listen along, why don’t you!

Source: camnai50/YouTube

0:23 – Lou Reed

lou reed Source: YouTube

This is his song, and it’s beautiful. and it’s definitely not about heroin. It would be rude not to let him start it off. He’s at peak Lou Reed here, which means he looks like the human embodiment of a leather jacket.

0:34 – Bono

bbono Source: YouTube

Bono’s trying to look like he’s too cool for this but WE KNOW YOU’RE NOT BONO.

0:37 – Skye Edwards of Morcheeba

morecheeba Source: YouTube

You’ve just been shot 20 years back in time upon reading the word ‘Morcheeba’, haven’t you? Here’s how I imagine the BBC got them on board:

“Hi, Skye? It’s the BBC. We’re recording a charity version of Perfect Day, and we want you to be on it.”
“Oh wow, brilliant! What do you need me to do?”
“Well, you could practice singing the three words ‘We go home’ to the best of your ability.”

0:45 – David Bowie

bowie Source: YouTube

Oh here comes Bowie now with his feather earring and his tiny beard and his white suit, as if to show Bono what being cool really looks like. Put it away, David!

0:49 – Suzanne Vega

suzanne Source: YouTube

Poor Suzanne looks like she’d rather not. Understandable.

0:55 – Elton John

elton Source: YouTube

Elton John got a significantly longer line than everyone else (bar Lou Reed himself), which makes me wonder if he specifically requested it to be so. I’d respect that.

1:03 – Boyzone

bin bag Source: YouTube

They have such an important bit in terms of the song, but why are they all wrapped in the same shiny bin bag? Guys? An explanation please?

1:08 – Lesley Garrett

lesley Source: YouTube

The dress, the hair, the voice – Lesley was not messing around, was she.

1:16 – Burning Spear

burning spear Source: YouTube

Here’s a lesson in making your little line your own, courtesy of Burning Spear, who just exudes joy.

1:20 – Bono (again)

bono2 Source: YouTube

Buck up Bono, for god’s sake. Burning Spear just showed you how!

1:23 – Thomas Allen

thomas Source: YouTube

Feck, this guy KILLS it. I hope he included this song in future set lists. Actually, he could just come out, sing “You just keeeeep me haaAAAAnnging oonnn” then leave the stage, and I’d be very satisfied.

1:33 – Heather Small

heather small Source: YouTube

Go away everybody else, Heather is here and she’s about to teach you something about selling your four seconds of recording time.

1:37 – Emmylou Harris

emmylou Source: YouTube

Voice of an actual angel, queen of the mullet, my problems really are left alone in the all too fleeting moments when she is singing.

1:43 – Tammy Wynette

tammy wynette Source: YouTube

Heather Small, Emmylou Harris and Tammy Wynette, one after the other? We don’t deserve this gift.

1:45 – Shane McGowan

shanemcgowan Source: YouTube

And then Shane McGowan crashes in with an “It’s such fun” so devoid of fun it’s actually comical. Good man Shane!

1:53 – Dr John

drjohn Source: YouTube

I’m crazy about this guy (a six-time Grammy winning jazz musician and more than just ‘this guy’, but let me live). He pronounces perfect as ‘poifect’! Incredible.

1:57 – David Bowie again

bowie2 Source: YouTube

I’m just sad now.

2:02 – Robert Cray

robertcray Source: YouTube

I’m getting ahead of myself, but Robert deserved the whole line. Let’s get it trending! #RobertDeservedTheWholeLine

2:07 – Huey Morgan of the Fun Lovin Criminals

hey Source: YouTube

See? Huey’s spoken-word bit always unnerved me slightly. No offence to Huey.

2:12 – Ian Broudie of The Lightning Seeds

ianbroudie Source: YouTube

I’ve also never been fully on board with Tinyman Babyvoice here. I feel better having admitted it.

2:16 – Gabrielle

gabrielle Source: YouTube

“HAMGLADEASPENDITWID-A-UUU!” Indiscernible as an actual sentence of words, but it sounds sublime anyway. We miss you Gabrielle! Come back!

2:23 – Dr John again

drjohn2 Source: YouTube

They gave him the word ‘perfect’ to say again! They had to have done this on purpose, it’s so delightful.

2:26 – Evan Dando

evan dando Source: YouTube

Confession time: Watching this video as a child I just assumed Evan Dando was Bob Geldof (I was six and didn’t know who The Lemonheads were, but very familiar with Dustin the Turkey collaborator Geldof). I’m just now learning his true identity.

Sorry Evan! You added a nice bit of dramatic flair with your five seconds of screentime!

2:32 – Emmylou Harris again

emmylou2 Source: YouTube

Emmy you’re doing amazing sweetie.

2:37 – F**K YES SAXOPHONE MAN!

courtneypine Source: YouTube

Excuse my excitement, his real name is Courtney Pine. F**K YES COURTNEY PINE!

2:54 – Brett Anderson of Suede

suede Source: YouTube

Oh god, here’s another one of baby me’s mistakes. I think I thought this was Larry Mullen. Never occurred to me that Larry Mullen is a drummer. Apologies to Brett, whose contribution is very much valued. (But what is going on in the background?!)

3:04 – Joan Armatrading

joanarm Source: YouTube

Joan Armatrading’s voice will have a very specific effect on everyone who has ever watched 10 Things I Hate About You. Never mind reaping, I’m weeping.

3:07 – Laurie Anderson

laurieand Source: YouTube

Laurie is of course a pioneering artist and musician, but a strange choice for the song until you remember she was Lou Reed’s partner of many years. Then it’s very sweet.

3:14 – Heather Small again

heathersmall2 Source: YouTube

I haven’t been able to listen to any version of Perfect Day for the past 20 years without roaring (or at least mentally roaring) “YOU’RE GOING TO REEEEEEEEEEEAP!” It’s iconic! She transforms the whole song. Heather Small is the MVP of this cover.

3:23 – Tom Jones

tom jones Source: YouTube

Gerrup Tom! The passion he puts into his bit is so admirable. I wish I could put even half of that passion into my life, in general.

3:35 – Heather Small again, like it should be

heather3 Source: YouTube

DELIVER US HEATHER! TAKE US THERE!

And at 3:50 – Lou Reed, closing things down

lou reed2 Source: YouTube

It’s only right and fair. God, this has been a journey. Thank you for doing it with me.

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