“Mountains of the Moon” is an obscure song, even by the standards of the Grateful Dead who had a habit of turning deep album cuts into concert staples. The group originally recorded it for their third studio album Aoxomoxoa (the name nobody can pronounce). Written by Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter and Phil Lesh, the lyrics resemble a lost medieval ballad: “Cold mountain water/The jade merchant’s daughter/Mountains of the moon/ Bow and bend to me.” One can imagine Tyrion Lannister dancing to it on Game of Thrones.
“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.
“Hey Paula” is the sort of song that cries out for a good cover. It’s a tight, catchy slice of bubblegum pop, but one almost unlistenable today in its original 1963 recording by Paul & Paula (though it was clearly very listenable then – it wouldn’t be in this feature if it hadn’t topped the charts). More power to anyone nostalgic to the original release, but I have a hard time imagining this inspiring any new Paul & Paula fans today. I have a stronger tolerance for treacle than some, but this is well over my limit:
In Pick Five, great artists tell us about five cover songs that matter to them.
When post-punk pioneers Gang of Four first reunited in 2005, they told the New York Times they weren’t planning on writing any new songs. They have clearly changed their tune since then, following a couple recent albums with a new EP out this week. Way back in 1980, David Fricke called them “probably the best politically motivated band in rock & roll,” and they’re still at it: that new EP features a photo of Ivanka Trump on the cover. And its title? Complicit. (As if that wasn’t pointed enough, there’s also a Russian translation.)
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!
Our casual Sex Pistols stroll down memory lane concludes today with a look at the covers they performed themselves. If you’ve been with us through the series, we’ve presented their one-and-only studio album Never Mind The Bullocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols as a Full Album feature along with several single-artist tributes to the entire album. We’ve also covered the covers spawned from each of their four singles: “Anarchy In the U.K.,” “God Save The Queen,” “Pretty Vacant,” and “Holidays In The Sun.”
Covers performed by the band first started to appear on official commercial releases only after the Rotten/Jones/Cook/Vicious line-up imploded in January of 1978. However, like most new bands with limited original material, covers were part of their live sets from the start. And since the band’s break-up, several poorly recorded versions from those early shows have found their way to market. But the bulk of any discussion about cover versions performed by the punk icons will focus on The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, the early 1979 double soundtrack album from the “mockumentary” film about the band of the same name.
This one is for the guitar nerds as Marcus King and Stephen Campbell of the Marcus King Band stopped by Carter Vintage Guitars in Nashville for a little guitar pull. The Marcus King Band is a blues-rock band in much the Stevie Ray Vaughan / Joe Bonamassa mold with shades of Jimi Hendrix. Here, Marcus King lays into “Swinging Doors” as if he has played it many times before. And he sure has, the song has become a staple in their live shows, so it’s nice to finally get a great video. This bluesy take on the classic honky tonk tune gives the song an entirely different character and somehow makes the song a bit more forlorn than the Mighty Merle Haggard original.
This past weekend’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony featured great performances by Bon Jovi, The Cars, and The Moody Blues. Equally worthy were the phenomenal covers highlighting both musical greats taken from us too soon – Tom Petty and Chris Cornell – and tributes to the two artists inducted posthumously, Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe (inducted as an “Early Influence”).
We rank the three best covers below. That’s judging from the circulation YouTube footage at least; Lauryn Hill’s Nina Simone tribute may come off better when the HBO version airs next month, but the current videos are hard to watch.