For this commercially pushed week of romance, we turn our attention to “Thank You”, the song originally released by Led Zeppelin in 1969. Written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, the song was written for Maureen, Robert Plant’s wife (at the time).
Duran Duran’s version of “Thank You” was one of the first to be released from the sessions that created the Thank You album, and their cover of this song is included on the soundtrack to a forgotten 1994 film titled, With Honors.
Let’s get into it!
If the sun refused to shine
I would still be loving you
When mountains crumble to the sea
There will still be you and me [Verse]
Kind woman, I give you my all
Kind woman, nothing more
Little drops of rain whisper of the pain
Tears of loves lost in the days gone by
My love is strong
With you there is no wrong
Together we shall go until we die
My, my, my
Inspiration is what you are to me
Inspiration, look to see
And so today, my world it smiles
Your hand in mine, we walk the miles
Thanks to you it will be done
For you to me are the only one
Happiness, no longer sad
Happiness….I’m glad [Chorus]
Okay, I’m just going to say it – some songs shouldn’t be covered. Whether or not this is one of them is probably up for debate, but if you’re a true Zeppelin fan, this is a tough one to review. As much as I love Duran, and I do, I really question many of their song choices on this album. The album, as well as this song, come off a bit like an ego on overdrive, without quite being able to live up to the assertion.
Listen, the song isn’t bad. In fact, it’s one of the better songs on Thank You. The problem isn’t that the cover is awful, the quandary is that the original is perfect as is. How do you improve, modernize or reimagine it? Slick modern production, and a different arrangement doesn’t change a thing. The muted guitar solo done by Warren Cuccurullo doesn’t live up to the original, nor does it reimagine it enough to make it stand on it’s own, either. The song is good, but it tends to lose the infusion of magic by Led Zeppelin.
What I openly applaud, despite my criticism, is that Duran Duran uses the opportunity to really create a mood. The production is a bit too big in parts—sounding far too flat and noisy at times— but at other moments I appreciate the swirling effect of the sound, so that it seems like Simon is singing in a dream sequence. I feel like I’m standing in the middle of a cloud with the sound circling me in dizzying circles.
I have little doubt that this is what Led Zeppelin had hoped to achieve with their original, however, it just took this long for innovations in production to catch up. The question is whether or not Duran Duran really took the song to the next level. I’m just not sure.
Musically, I can’t scream enough good things about the drums, the acoustic guitar, and the synthesizer/keyboards that both open and close the song. They do their job drawing the listener in, as though you’re entering and exiting a dream. The music reminds me of what it is like to begin and end a yoga or meditation session.
There is a lot to like here, no doubt. If the original weren’t already perfection, perhaps Duran Duran would have found more to say with their own cover.
It seems to me that each and every track on this album of covers is dicey to cover. The band certainly didn’t choose obscure songs or artists to cover. No, it feels like they went out of their way to choose some of the biggest artists and/or songs to cover. This track definitely shows this. Is it really a good idea to cover Led Zeppelin? I cannot say that I’m a big Zeppelin fan but, even I cringe a bit that they thought they should do this. Can they match the quality of the original? Do they take it to the next level? Do they make their own?
The two versions definitely share a lot in common. Both of them have moments when the instrumentation takes the spotlight, especially the guitars. They also have moments when the vocals become the center of attention with minimal instrumentation that seems to fade into the background. Both end with a whimsical feeling even though Duran’s version is longer than the original. Is that how Duran tried to make this song their own? Maybe. Clearly, they didn’t want to veer off into their own direction too much. So, the answer to the question did Duran remake this into their own is obviously a no. That was probably the right move.
Did the band take it to the next level? I think it is hard to argue that the band took the song up a notch. While I’ll admit that I like Simon’s vocals better, is that enough? Yes, I think we can also mention that there was a more modern production. Did that help make the song better? While it sounds more up-to-date, I’m not sure that a song like this needs it. I think the goal for Led Zeppelin was to create a song that is timeless, a classic, that lives forever, that is still deemed quality even after many decades. Therefore, I cannot say that the modern production helped. I sort of a view it to having some new band out there cover Ordinary World, thinking that they would make it better by making it more “modern”. Is that possible? Would that do it justice? I don’t think so.
Duran Duran did not make the song their own. They did not take it up a notch, in terms of quality. Did they live up to the song? I think they tried. They took the best elements of the original and implemented them here. But could they really match it? Is that really possible with a song like this? I’m not sure anyone could. This leads me to wonder why the band thought they could. All of that being said, it is not that the Duran version is bad. It isn’t. I like it but that is not how I judge these covers. I have to compare it to the original. It doesn’t hurt the original but doesn’t add anything really either.