Hands up if you think that Valerie is a song by Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse. You’re right of course, but do you know that the Ronson/Winehouse version is a cover of a song released by the Zutons, an English indie band, in 2006? The Zutons original reached # 9 on the UK singles charts. That’s impressive, and the fact that the song is generally associated with Winehouse shows what a star Amy is.
It is not surprising, then, that when Dean Heckel posted his cover of Valerie in 2014, he credited it to Amy Winehouse. Appropriately, perhaps, the cover was recorded at River City Winery in New Albany, Indiana. This was a wine house in all respects as the wine was mixed, bottled, labelled and stored in the building’s basement. In the video, Heckel plays to the ground-floor, indoor customers.
In the video (2.8M YouTube views), one sees Heckel sitting with his back to the glass front near the entrance, which has the Stars & Stripes hanging over the door. New Albany is on the Ohio River, opposite Louisville, Kentucky, so it’s fairly far South. In the video you can’t see that the venue is decent-sized with a large outdoor patio area down the side, to which the music was no doubt piped. The video is deceptive as it looks like Heckel is playing at a family event in a small venue.
kieranoloughlin comments, “No better compliment to a performer than to have people spontaneously get up & dance. Better than applause. Sounds great!” What is especially charming is the age-range of the dancers. One doubts that many of them had heard of Amy Winehouse, never mind the Zutons, but they were up for grooving to a great song. ikaikae6948 says “I’m addicted to this version of Valerie. I’ve heard this song a few weeks ago & I can’t stop listening to it.” Now, here’s the Zutons’ original:
Valerie refers to an American friend of Zutons singer Dave McCabe. Valerie (later revealed to be celebrity makeup artist Valerie Star) was arrested for driving under the influence. Sean Payne, Zutons drummer, has described the song as “musical postcard” to Valerie, in which McCabe says “he is having a hard time and can she come over and see him.”
The Ronson/Winehouse versions are very different to the Zutons’ version. The version that was released as a single in October 2007 is from Mark Ronson’s 2nd studio LP, Version (2007). Winehouse had previously recorded a slower take, which was later included as a bonus track on re-issues of Back To Black.
According to Ronson, Winehouse seldom listened to any music released after 1967, so she was struggling to think of a cover she could contribute to Version, which Ronson conceived of as a collection of “soul covers of guitar records”. Ronson has said that when Winehouse suggested Valerie, he couldn’t imagine how her voice would work on the song. When they tried it (borrowing the beat from The Jam’s 1982 hit Town Called Malice) Ronson loved it. The single reached # 2 on the UK Singles Chart & spent 19 consecutive weeks on the top 20. Take a listen:
The River City Winery, New Albany, Indiana closed in 2018. It re-opened in 2021 with new ownership and a new name: Baers City Winery. The Stars & Stripes no longer hangs at the entrance. If you would like to see more from Dean Heckel, you can subscribe to their YouTube channel or follow them on Facebook.