Kirsty MacColl | Cover Versions

They Don’t Know

Tracey Ullman Tracey Hits

Tracey Ullman took ‘They Don't Know to Number 2 in September 1983 (and US #8). Phil Chapman, the engineer who mixed Tracey’s version of ‘They Don't Know”, had this to say in a newsgroup reply:

“I've listened to the two (versions again) and the backing tracks are similarly arranged, but not identical. Tracey’s is a semitone up on Kirsty’s, and, although Kirsty re-sang the backing vocals (the harmonies on the last verse are different), neither of them could get the ‘Baby’ to sound as good as Kirsty’s original, so it was pitched up and ‘flown in.

I may well get corrected on this next point: Although the early TU tracks were recorded with live musicians, the later ones were played to drum machine, sometimes not adding a real drummer. Both versions of TDK sound like they could be machines (the snare sound is pretty consistent), in which case it could be the same basic programme with a different bass, guitar and piano.

Another of my habits from the early days was to mix for radio, usually monitoring through a single loudspeaker in mono. Consequently anything to the sides came out a little louder when listening in stereo, and I kind of like that. Also, TDK is three part harmony, if you include Tracey’s melody as the middle part, and I guess I must have balanced them equally (so Kirsty’s background vocal appears as prominently as Tracey’s lead)”.

Katrina Leskanich Leslie Carter

Katrina Leskanich’s 2004 cover was played a lot on BBC Radio 2.

Teenage singer Leslie Carter recorded it in 2003, from the album ‘Like Wow’.

Tara Jane ONeil Andrea Corr

Tara Jane O’Neil sings ‘They Don’t Know’ on ‘Songs To Break God’s Heart’, a 2005 compilation.

Most recently Andrea Corr on her 2011 release ‘Lifelines’, and Kim Wilde on her ‘Snapshots’ release.

Dawn Eden Departure Lounge

Dawn Eden & the Anderson Council recorded TDK on ‘The Stiff Generation: If It Ain’t Stiff It Ain’t Worth A Tribute’ in 2002.

Departure Lounge (fronted by Tim Keegan) on Out of there in 2000.

Gigolo Aunts Gas Giants

Gigolo Aunts’ version appeared on the Magazine Volume (Issue 10).

Gas Giants from Tempe, Arizona recorded the song on their Quitter CD single.

Kenny Howes Holsteins

Kenny Howes and the Yeah! from Atlanta covered TDK on ‘Until Dawn’ in 2002.

Irish outfit The Holsteins recorded it in 1999 and their version is on ‘Covers & Others’, an Irish collection on Immortal Recordings.

Island Texas Young Fresh Fellows

Austin band Island Texas’ 2005 release ’Sailing again‘ give the song a “Carribean flavor” in the hands of singer Jaymie. Young Fresh Fellows’ cover is on their 1996 album ‘A Tribute To Music’.

Nailpin Kamino

The Belgian rock band Nailpin covered the song in 2007, with an excellent video shot in Las Vegas.

Another Belgian band Kamino feature TDK as well as ‘You and Me Baby’ on the flip side of ‘I Have Got To Love Me’.

Subterfuge Janine Olsen

From Germany, Subterfuge released it as a B Side in 1988 (the A side was another cover: REO Speedwagon’s ‘Keep on loving you’. Also from Germany, Janine Olsen recorded it as ‘Sie Werden Es Nie Verstehn’, translating as ‘They will never understand’ so presumably a reasonably faithful lyric.

Pale Cartoon Characters

San Francisco synth band Pale also covered the song in 2004. From Japan … Cartoon Characters released it on Monarch Records in 2002, on the compilation album ‘Chaan! Ban! Thank you Ben!’.

Ben Gibbard Amy Rigby

Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie played it live on KEXP.

Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs covered it on ‘Under the Covers, Vol. 3’ on the Shout Factory label in late 2013. Thanks to Steve H.

Amy Rigby has never recorded the song in the studio but a version is available on the live ‘Faulkner, Dylan, Heinz and me’, available from gigs or Amy’s website. She rather nicely played it for me in a pub in Leith. Thanks, Amy! Ron Sexsmith performed as part of a White Ribbon benefit concert in June 2005, and followed it with Stevie Wonder’s ‘I was made to love her.

Ron Sexsmith Kim Wilde

Other live outings for the song included The Postal Service and Bucky, who performed it on Kirsty’s May 2000 tour “like the Lemonheads trashing of He’s on the beach”. Kirsty liked it! Andrea Corr and Kim Wilde both performed this song at the 2010 tribute concert in London, and have since released the song on their 2011 albums.

In these shoes?

Bette Midler Ginger Leigh

In 2000, Bette Midler recorded by far the most successful cover of ‘Shoes’, released on the album ‘Bette’ and as a single. It is the perfect song for The (original) Divine Miss M, and she changed the lyrics slightly, to include the “Peace Corps” amongst other things.

Ginger Leigh sang it live in downtown Austin, along with ‘Mambo de la Luna’. According to Wes E, “not too badly either. Stylistically, she is a shapeshifter and as eclectic as advertised. It’s good to hear some MacColl music live once in a while, especially in the heart of Texas.”

Shaynee Bolt Key of She

Shaynee Rainbolt’s fine 2006 cover is from the album ‘At Home’. Key of She are a New Jersey based six piece acappella outfit and their version is adapted from the Midler version, on their album ‘In The Key of She’ in 2004. Finally, Barbro ‘Lill-Babs’ Svensson sang the song ‘with Swedish lyrics and dancers and all’ on Swedish TV.

Claudia Acuna Chantz

A collaboration between Chilean jazz singer/ pianist Claudia Acuña and an Afro-Cuban jazz band led by arranger Arturo O'Farrill. Jazz singer Chantz recorded the song on ‘Stories Of Me’ - “the male reply to Kirsty’s original. I wonder what she would have made of it?”

Lora Mahaffey Julie Reyburn

Lora Mahaffey sang it on her 2007 album ‘At Last’. Hailing from Anchorage, Alaska, she was accompanied by Kevin Barnett on piano, Kerry Maule on trumpet, Jim Davis on sax, Drik Westfall on bass and John Nyman on drums.

Another jazz singer, Julie Reyburn, covered the song in 2009 live at Feinstein’s - a New York nightclub.

Cathi Walkup Camille

Cathi Walkup is a San Francisco-based jazz singer, and she delivers Kirsty’s two big Latin shuffles in a cool alto on her 2002 album ‘Cathi Walkup playing favorites!’.

Meanwhile, Camille O’Sullivan polarised opinion by performing the song on ‘Later with Jools’, and it later appeared on her live album ‘At Olympia’.

Od Tapo Imi S Ballo

Now then. Od Tapo Imi appear to be Chicago’s Steel Drum ensemble, and they give it a good old go. Stranger still is their cover of Kirsty live standard (and Ramones classic) ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’. Find both on &lquo;Tank Tops & Flip Flops’, their 2008 release. In 2009 we have an album from Calpysonuts (Rob and Lynley), who appear to play cruise liners and parties in the Florida region. Unheard, but it is surely our song. New Mediterrana Group’s version was was released in 2010.

Bailo Mambo Deborah

A version from May 2010’s aimed squarely at Clubland with a thumping dance backbeat over a pretty standard rendition by the mysterious Deborah. Hear it for yourself on Spotify - search for the album ‘Fiesta Compilation, Vol. 2’ or ‘Balli Di Gruppo 2 Part 1’. Another clubby cover from 2008 can be found on the album ‘Baila Mambo’ and on a various artists CD in 2009 called ‘Fabulous Salsa’ by Baila Mambo. It’s on Spotify under Baila Mambo.

Fairytale of New York

It gets its own page!

Continue reading the next column …

Chip Shop

Picketts Jane Doe

The third major source of covers is her composition with Philip Rambow, Chip Shop. The Picketts (featuring Christy McWilson) from Seattle covered it on the compilation ‘Shotgun Barbecue’. Kirsty fan Wes E told us “It was delightful to meet and chat with Christy before and after her set. She’s a huge Kirsty fan (her words); she’s also, as befits a songwriter, perceptive and sharp as a fresh X-Acto knife. Her album is titled ‘The Lucky One’.

Jane Doe were a rockabilly group from Ontario. On this - their only release - they do a cover of Etta James’s Roll With Me Henryas well as their 80s Kirsty cover.’

Elisabeth Andreasson Gunter Gabriel

Sweden’s Elisabeth Andreasson recorded the song in 1997 as ‘Killen Nar Pa Konsum Svar Att Han Ar Elvis’. Elisabeth was half of Eurovision outfit Bobbysocks - she also represented Norway in 1994.

Germany offers Gunter Gabriel’s ‘Heute Trinken Wir auf Alles, was wir Lieben’, which translates as ‘Today we're drinking on everything we love’ so no straight cover from our Gunter. On being told about this one, Kirsty said ”What A Laugh!”.

Barely recognisable and therefore essential is Moiterei’s cover of ‘Heute Trinken Wir auf Alles, was wir Lieben’!

Maggie Mae

Another German language cover comes from Maggie Mae with ‘Und der Weihnachtsmann Nehauptet, Er ist Elvis’. This translates weirdly as ‘And Father Christmas is claiming he is Elvis’.

A final European version comes from Hannela Suominen’s 1982 album ‘Oma Tie’.

Wat Tyler Minipops

Wat Tyler recorded two different versions in the early nineties. These were entitled ‘There’s a guy works down the chip shop swears he’s Saddam’ and ‘There’s a guy works down the chip shop swears he’s Satan’. Compilation ‘I'm forever blowing Bubbles’ on Rugger Bugger Records, 1992.

Mini-Pops was a television series broadcast in 1983 on Channel 4. For younger viewers, it consisted of music performances on a brightly coloured set, featuring children singing pop music hits of the time as well as older classics. The children were usually made to look like the original performers, including the clothing and make-up. An album came out in in 1982 on K-Tel including Kirsty’s song!

Thin Lizzy

Live versions we know of include the New Seekers who, in late 1981 added it to their set list, replacing ‘Why Have You Left the One You Left Me For?’ Also, esteemed Irish rockers Thin Lizzy sequed one of their songs into a brief chorus of ‘Chip Shop’ in a live show on 16th August 1981 at Slane Castle.

The Rest

All I Ever Wanted

Eliza Carthy Eliza Carthy is a leading English folk singer and musician. She appeared on a BBC TV tribute programme for Kirsty in March 2001.


Kendall Meade Paisley and Charlie

Kendall Meade is a former member of Helium and Sparklehorse. Blogger Jim Hanas wrote about her ‘smoking cover of this smokey ode to loneliness and resignation from MacColl’s final record’.

Nearer to home, Paisley and Charlie also covered the song.


Mary Coughlan

Irish singer Mary Coughlan performed ‘Bad’ live in the original tribute show in London, and later recorded it for her own album ‘The House of Ill Repute’.

Dear John

Eddi Reader

Written by Kirsty at the end of her 10 year marriage to Steve Lillywhite, but never released by Kirsty herself at the time. Kirsty’s demo version was eventually released on ‘From Croydon to Cuba ’ in 2005. Eddi Reader performed the song on the BBC2 tribute program in March 2001, on ‘Later with Jools’ (see footage) and released her studio version as a single in 1994.

Don’t Come the Cowboy with Me,
Sonny Jim!

Kelly Willis

Kelly Willis is based in Austin, Texas. On her 2002 CD ‘Easy’, she covers ‘Cowboy’. It’s a song she had wanted to record for a long time, as she told Billboard. “I love her music. I was drawn to it because she was so strong and confident, playing all those instruments. When Kirsty died, it was a renewed inspiration to record that song. I had to think twice about doing this because of her death. I really wanted to do it justice, I had been biding my time until I thought I was mature enough to do it.”

Fifteen Minutes

Cerys Matthews

Cerys Matthews was the lead singer with Catatonia. She appeared on a BBC TV tribute programme for Kirsty in March 2001.


Three Minute Hero are a Japanese band, and they apparently covered this on a Japanese punk compilation.


Frederick & Nina released an ‘avant’ pop solo voice / organ cover of the song on a 2003 single (Council Folk Records).

He Never Mentioned Love

Stephanie Nakasian Stephanie Nakasian is a jazz vocalist of Armenian descent, find this on ‘ Invitation to an Escapade’, 2001.

He’s on the Beach

Lemonheads Dawn Eden

As Kirsty recalled, the Lemonheads performed a spirited rendition of ‘He’s on the Beach’ “when the boys were out of their tree” in Rio. Kirsty of course later sang with Evan Dando on the single ‘Perfect Day’. From the ‘Big Gay Heart’ single, 1993. In the same year Evan also released a dreamy ‘Miss Otis Regrets’ in Kirsty’s Irish death ballad style as a track on their ‘Into your arms’ single.

Last Day of Summer

Piltch & Davis David Piltch & Aaron Davis perform as part of the Holly Cole Trio. Their Kirstycover comes across as a laid back instrumental version, and it’s an unusual song to pick so kudos to them for doing it. The song has been playlisted on CBC Radio from Toronto. Thanks to GB2 for hearing it (twice!) and tracking it down via the station.

Mambo de la Luna

Ginger Leigh Cathi Walkup

Ginger Leigh sang this at shows in Austin, Texas according to Wes E. Also, San Francisco’s Cathi Walkup on her 2002 album ‘Cathi Walkup playing favorites!’.

Australian Karen White performed ‘Mambo’ in her show ‘Quintessential Quirk (QQ)’ as a charity show for local kids in need.


Tracey Ullman

Covered of course by Tracey Ullman.

Walking Down Madison

Esza Kaye Esza Kaye released a LEX remix (Dj Eddie X & Luigie Gonzalez) of Madison. Her MySpace profile lists her as Alternative / Gothic / Electronica.

You Broke my Heart in 17 Places

Tracey Ullman Tracey Ullman

Tracey Ullman named an album after the song. This song is an oddity, since there are no recordings of Kirsty herself singing the track.

Denise Gyngell (front) Denise Gyngell (back)

Denise Gyngell was a member of pop group Tight Fit in 1981-2 (notably ‘The lion sleeps tonight’), but this solo single is a slice of classic pop music. On the jacket it says File under popular: pop satire. Co-produced by Pete Waterman, it really is as good as Terry says.

You Caught Me Out

Tracey Ullman Christie Allen

Tracey Ullman’s version of ‘You Caught Me Out’ was for many years the only one readily available in the UK, since Kirsty’s excellent original never made it to the shops due to record company problems. Later issued on her box set of course.

However, a 1980 recording by Australian singer Christie Allen appeared on her Mushroom Records album ‘Detour’.

On the Side

The Shine Songs

Frida Alisha

Co-written with Daniel Balavoine, Frida and Simon Climie, ‘That’s tough’ now appears only on the ‘Agnetha’ & Frida compilation. ‘One Little Lie’, ‘Chemistry Tonight’ and ‘The Face’ appear on Frida’s solo album ‘Shine’, released in 1984. Note that Kirsty also sang backing vocals on the album including (if you can find a copy) a special appearance on the 12 version of the title track.

Alisha was a New York teenager when she recorded ‘One Little Lie’ in 1986.

Incidentally, French singer Catherine Ferry recorded a single called ‘Quelqu'un quelque part (Someone, somewhere)’ in 1986. This song had its roots in ‘The Face’:

Daniel apparently wasn’t too happy with the production of the original song, and decided to make a French version with new lyrics for Catherine. After Balavoine’s death in a helicopter crash in 1986, fellow musician Jean-Jacques Goldman eventually wrote a set of French lyrics (Goldman must have liked the title -- he wrote another, entirely different, song called ‘Quelque part, quelqu’un’ in 2000).

Many thanks to all our sources for this page, particularly the mighty researching skills of Phil M.