Talking Heads’ first single from their 1979 album Fear of Music, “Life During Wartime” only went to #80 when it was first released. Now, however, it is one of their most iconic songs, in part thanks to its inclusion in their legendary concert film Stop Making Sense. The song combines David Byrne’s manic delivery of his dystopian lyrics with a strong synthesizer hook and a funk underpinning, one of the first examples of the band exploring that genre.
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
Much has been written about the rise and fall of the Dixie Chicks. They were riding high with hit after hit in the late ’90s and very early ’00s, but after one on-stage comment in 2003, everything changed. We almost take for granted how music and politics intertwine now without rocking the boat too much. When Taylor Swift took a stance on a Senate race in her home state, President Trump remarked: “Let’s say that I like Taylor’s music about 25% less now, OK?” and life went on. But twenty-ish years ago, when Natalie Maines said they were ashamed that then President George W. Bush was from Texas, the backlash was swift and severe.
However, it looks like the Dixie Chicks are finally ready for a comeback. After a European tour in 2016, a collaboration with Beyoncé in the same year, and a song with Taylor Swift on her latest album, the Dixie Chicks are focusing on their own new album, due this year. The album is being produced by Jack Antonoff of Bleachers, whose list of writing and producing credits include Taylor Swift’s album Lover, Lorde’s Melodrama, and St. Vincent’s Masseduction. I’m ready for some “Don’t Take the Money” energy on this album, and with a title like Gaslighter (teased here), I’m hoping for an explosive, patriarchy smashing, good time. #sorrynotsorry to all of the Earls out there.
I’m all for covers of the Dixie Chicks, but we’ll save that for another post (ok, here is one to tide you over). For now, let’s take a listen to the Dixie Chicks’ interpretation of classics from country and soul standards to modern hits.
on Strange Little GirlsCover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.
Wham, Steely Dan, Bette Midler, Bill Withers, Rihanna, Led Zeppelin, Madonna, Eagles, the Stones – Tori Amos has covered ’em all, and anyone and everyone left in between. (OK, maybe except maybe boybands – it wouldn’t surprise me if she tackled, say, “Back For Good” at least somewhere live, but I couldn’t find it in the pages and pages and pages of YouTube Tori Covers links.) Not necessarily successfully every time, it’s true, but always challengingly and usually well worth the ride.
Despite this evident love for the songs of others, Amos has officially issued only the one covers project, such is her own prolific muse, with well over a dozen discs of her own. (There’s also Midwinter Graces, a festive album with several traditional songs, and Night of Hunters, reimagining several classical pieces of inspiration to her over her years, but they don’t really count as cover albums.) Strange Little Girls, which came out in 2001, had a specific intent. Rather than a outpouring of personal favorites, this was a procession of songs delineating a masculine view of the world. By men and about men. With Amos’s acknowledged feminist opinions and activism, this was a deliberate stance, with the aim of subverting them and offering a female perspective thereto.
Just from the title and photo alone, you already know too much. In a perfect world, the ideal way to hear San Francisco based singer-songwriter Graham Norwood’s stunning take on Kate Bush’s 1988 classic for the first time would be to close your eyes and hit play without any knowledge of Norwood’s name or what he looked like. Then after you were inevitably blown away by the performance you could open your eyes and enjoy the added surprise of of finding out Norwood was the performer.
The heart of rock n’ roll is still beating in 2020, at least if Huey Lewis and the News have anything to do with it. The famed ‘80s stars, who once ruled MTV with their blend of retro rock, new wave and soul, recently released their first new album in a decade – Weather. Among the original recordings, the group included a cover of one seemingly forgotten hit, Eugene Church’s “Pretty Girls Everywhere.”
To determine just how obscure the track is, I consulted a leading authority on ‘50s pop: my Dad. He remembered the song itself, could even sing the chorus, but had no idea who sang it.
Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.
Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).
Today’s question, from staffer Jordan Becker: What’s a great cover of a cover?