There are several classic movies that, in my opinion, are crying out for big budget Hollywood remakes - The Wizard of Oz, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Gone with the Wind mainly because the old acting style and dialogue now seems quite dated, but also because they would benefit so much from modern production values and special effects. In popular music some of the biggest hits over the years have been remakes (cover versions). The best ones are those that bring something different to the song to set it apart from the original – Jimi Hendrix's guitar in All Along the Watchtower, the synths disco beats in You were always on my mind (by the Pet Shop Boys). Some cover versions were big hits even though the original was quite obscure (Torn by Natalie Imbruglia and Tainted Love by Soft Cell come to mind) but serious music fans do tend to get a little sniffy when people cover the classics especially if the performer is considered mainstream. The only way to get away with it seems to be to do it as a joke - Rolf Harris did "Stairway to Heaven" and the Muppets did "Bohemian Rhapsody" - but when someone takes on a classic and tries to do it seriously, the response tends to be "why?" So why then, do people not remake poetry? It seems as though poetry is sacred in some way, but can it really be true that every poem ever published is already perfect, and could not be improved by a second poet coming along and tweaking a few words, and adding a line here and there? This brings me to "The Night before Christmas". Everyone loves this poem, and it is perfect in every way and could never be improved, right? Well, before you answer, try reading it aloud to a five-year-old, as I did recently. The beautiful structure and rhythm of the poem was rather spoiled by me having to stop every few lines to answer questions: "Daddy, what's a sugar-plum?" "Why was mamma in her 'kerchief?" "Who is St Nicholas?"
Published on Dec 3, 2013