From Massive Attack to Miley Cyrus: Adam Curtis’s favourite cover versions

Radical rewirings and weird new realms – reinterpretations of old classics can give us hope for the future, says the film-maker

Much of modern culture has become like an ageing ghost that constantly haunts us and refuses to allow us to move on into the future. It is extraordinary that we now still listen to music from bands in the 1950s and 1960s, like the Beatles. It is the equivalent of people in the 1960s still dancing to music from the 1890s. One of the most powerful symbols of this frozen culture is the cover version – a symptom of a static world where people constantly rework the material of the past. Just as they do in sampling, and with people constantly reusing and re-editing archive film from the past. But every now and then, people do covers of songs that break out to create something genuinely new. They show that invention is still possible – and that gives you hope we might move on from this static moment in time.”

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