Cover Versions: The Drones’ Shark Fin Blues by Ben Salter & Missy Higgins

I guess this is a no brainier after yesterday’s post. I’ve wanted to for a while now to put all these together in the same post but haven’t for some reason. So with a couple of extras here it is for my Saturday morning post.

It does take a brave soul to cover The Drones songs but here’s a couple of the most likely the biggest songs ever by them. So to start with, if for some mad reason you’ve not hear the track here’s the band themselves preforming it on New Zealand radio in Neil Finn’s Roundhead studio a few years back.

Great version of the track with Gareth Liddiard the singer-songwriter wrapping a belt around his headphones so I do wonder if it’s his own belt and lucky his pants don’t fall down half way. Anyway he intro the song in the clip as a blues song about having the blues.

It’s the opening song from The Drones’ 2004 album Wait Long By The River And The Bodies Of Your Enemies With Float By. I do know he wrote it after his mother passed away and he was at the time listening to Karen Dalton’s Same Old Man and lifted/nicked the line of “I’m floating away on a barrel of pain” from the track, which she was just playing an old Traditional track with no credited songwriter anyway. So before the covers here’s are all the words.

Shark Fin Blues lyrics by Gareth Liddiard

Standing on the deck, I watch my shadow stretch
The sun pours my shadow upon the deck
The water’s licking ’round my ankles now
There ain’t no sunshine way, way down
I see the sharks are in the water like slicks of ink
Well, there’s one there bigger than a submarine
As he circles, I look in his eye
I see Jonah in his belly by the campfire light

See the albatross up in the windy lofts
He gets to beating his wings while he sleeps it off
I hear the jettisoned cries from his dreams unkind
Gets to whipping my ears like a riding crop
Well, the captain once as able as a fink dandy
He’s now laid up in the galley like a dried-out mink
He’s laying dying of thirst and he says, or I think
“Well, we’re gonna be alone from here on in”

Well, you are all my brothers, and you have been kind
But what were you expecting to find?
Now your eyes turn inwards, countenance turns blank
And I’m floating away on a barrel of pain
It looks like nothing but the sea and sky would remain

I say, na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na
Na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na
Na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na
Na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na
Na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na
Na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na
Na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na
Na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na

A harpoon’s shaft is short and wide
A grappling hook’s is cracked and dry
I said, “Why don’t you get down in the sea
And turn the water red, man, like you want to be?”
‘Cause if I cry another tear then I’ll be turned to dust
No, the sharks won’t get me but they don’t feel loss
Just keep one eye on the horizon, man, you best not blink
They’re coming fin by fin until the whole boat sinks

Fin by fin
Fin by fin
Yeah, fin by fin
Oh, fin by fin by fin by fin

Now come a couple of covers plus a couple extra thingys with each. Just above is Queensland’s Ben Salter acoustic guitar version from about five years ago now. Salter’s debut solo album called The Cat from 2011 was even co-produced by Liddiard so maybe as a bit of a thank you a year later Ben does Gaz song. They have been mates for years too. So as a big bonus you can also have listen the album right now by hitting play.

With also The Drones members Fiona Kitschin, Stevie Hesketh and Dan Luscombe all roped in to play on the album and the then drummer Mike Noga but now ex-member co-writing the song I Am Not Ashamed, can you call it a bit of Drones side-project of sorts? I love this album so much I really should write more about it at some later date but maybe this post could be a bit of an intro to him for anyone who’s not checked him out yet. Ben did also feature at the very top of my The Triffids’ covers list, if you want more of him or even more covers.

Next up is Melbourne’s own Missy Higgins with my fave version her cover of the song. It’s just her on piano but a full band with strings can be found on her album of Aussie covers called Oz released in 2014 so coming ten years after the original. She wrote a little book of essays, one about each song she covered on the album which was really cool. Here’s the Shark Fin Blues read by herself as a another bonus extra thingy.

I’ve blogged about two Drones covers previously if you like to check them on too? They are Rosie Boring’s Your Acting Is Like The End Of The World and Kirin J Callinan’s A Moat You Can Stand In.

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The Drones’ Shark Fin Blues 7″ vinyl single.

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