It’s always a bit weird for me to hear a Hall & Oates cover not recorded live in Daryl Hall’s living room. But Lonely Benson, a Nashville-based one-man “bandless band” powered by Daniel Young, decided to give it a try, cranking out an electronic cover of “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).” He released the song in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a full-length album on vinyl. “These days, even the news is enough to give you a nervous breakdown,” Benson writes on his site. “That’s why I’ve set out to create music that helps people CHILL.”
Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.
It’s hard to comprehend that Jeff Buckley should be 51 years old today. He’s forever frozen in our mind’s eye, no older than 30 (still, a couple years older than his father Tim got to be), at the peak of his beauty and talent. These days he’s best known for a cover song (three guesses which one, first two don’t count), but he was no slouch with a pen himself – “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over,” from Grace, was less a breakup ballad than a broken-up ballad, one that showcased remarkable imagery and a truly painful longing just as surely as it showcased Buckley’s remarkable voice.
“Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” gets a lot of covers from YouTube artists, most of them determined to follow in Buckley’s footsteps; this leads to such faithfulness that the covers tend to have a sameness to them, no matter how expressive the performer. But a few manage to break free from Buckley’s binds…
Long before the Internet treated us to daily doses of celebrities behaving oddly, William Shatner released his infamous spoken-word cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Included on his 1968 camp classic The Transformed Man, the song has set a high-water mark for low culture, routinely appearing on “worst of” lists. Though to be fair to the Captain, it’s not as weird as Leonard Nimoy’s ode to Middle Earth, “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.”
The man who was Kirk (and to a lesser extent T.J. Hooker) adds another chapter to his way-out-there-in-the-blue singing career with a cover of the Cramps’ 1980 song “Garbageman.” The track will be included on a forthcoming 64-track compilation from the novelty-record king Dr. Demento, entitled Covered In Punk. The two-CD/three-vinyl set will include punk rock-flavored covers from a wide variety of artists, including Elvira, Moon Unit Zappa, “Weird Al” Yankovic and the original Batman himself, Adam West.
The Mountain Goats’ latest album Goths contains a song titled “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back to Leeds,” which requres a bit of explaining. Andrew Eldritch is the lead singer of pioneering gothic rock band Sisters of Mercy. As Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle explained to Noisey about the song, “The Sisters of Mercy haven’t made any music in over 20 years, and I just thought at some point you have to go home and I liked the idea of Andrew Eldritch being a person. Like, ‘I take off my hat and my sunglasses and go hang out with my friends who knew me when I was just a person who enjoyed a nice, sunny day in Leeds.'”
Growing up as a teen goth (though he knew the genre as “death rock”), Darnielle’s favorite band was the Sisters of Mercy. “My girlfriend and I loved the fact that everyone else was making albums and touring, but in the beginning, the Sisters of Mercy only made 12-inch EPs that were fucking unbelievable,” he told Noisey. “We loved the first album [1985’s First and Last and Always], I saw them twice on that tour, but it lacked the magic, the total mystery of these 12-inches that had almost no details of any kind, just the names of the musicians and the songs. Each EP felt like something to parse, like a text to say how they’d grown.”
Kevin Russell knows his way around a cross-genre cover. Probably his best-known song is just that: The Gourds’ bluegrass version of “Gin and Juice.” In the early days of Napster, the tune went viral under another band’s name and…well, you’ll have read that chapter in my book to find out the rest. The Snoop Dogg cover gave the band a lot, but played a small role in their demise too.
Russell’s latest cover flips the “Gin and Juice” script in two ways: it hasn’t gone viral – or even been widely released – but he actually earned some money from it. It’s a solo ukulele take on Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” recorded under his new performing name Shinyribs. He taped it last year to celebrate New Belgium Brewery’s 25th anniversary, but director Mike Woolf says it was rarely seen because the brewery never put the films online.
The Strokes’ “You Only Live Once” comes in two forms: as the opening track and third single from their album First Impressions of Earth and also as a demo version with the title “I’ll Try Anything Once,” released on the b-side of their “Heart in a Cage” single. The “You Only Live Once” single is upbeat, catchy, and features the full strength of the band. The “I’ll Try Anything Once” demo, however, is very different. It’s this version that Haim cover so beautifully during their recent visit to BBC Radio 1’s Piano Sessions.