The only other band that immediately come to mind when I was thinking of covers of this Buddy Holly original was by some small one-hit wonder band from Liverpool called The Beatles (apologies if you haven’t heard of them, I don’t think they broke out of the local scene). So, not much to live up to then.
In high school, a friend and I drove two hours to a blues festival in rural Maine one Saturday. When we got to the gate we found tickets to be well outside of our meager budget, but there was only one artist we’d wanted to see anyway: Johnny Winter. So we found a low fence we could peer over, and sat, and waited.
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!
Matthew Sweet’s career is a textbook example of what happens if you are exceedingly good at something that is not considered to be cool. In this case, that thing is the musical genre of “power pop.” Sweet is almost universally considered to be a master of the genre (usually defined as being a cross between hard rock and pop, with serious Beatles influences), and his best album, 1991′s Girlfriend, is generally considered to be a masterpiece, even by people who generally look down their noses at “power pop.”
As a result, Sweet is a cult hero to some critics and fans who appreciate the tight, hook-filled yet intelligent songwriting that typifies the genre, while remaining unknown to the masses who may – may - have heard one of the two or three Sweet songs that occasionally sneak into a radio or streaming playlist. Of course, the music geeks who write for Cover Me are Sweet fans; we’ve featured his cover work repeatedly, even giving him a birthday tribute featuring covers of his songs by other artists. But never before has he received the sort of career-affirming fawning adulation that can only be found in an “In the Spotlight” feature.
Pat Benatar‘s “Love is a Battlefield” is indelibly linked to the ’80s, both because anyone who grew up in that era couldn’t escape its broad reach and because of the decade’s stereotypical flourishes found throughout the song: synths, reverb, and melodrama. Despite the fact that it hasn’t aged particularly well, Benatar’s powerful and emotive voice is enough to make it worth keeping on your iPod, even if you only listen sparingly. It’s the sound of young love and desperation. Although the new version by Wrongchilde is very different in sound, that essence of desperation remains.
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.
“Baby Don’t You Do It” was written by the premier Motown songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. As with other Motown songs, it got passed around the stable a bit; originally meant for the Supremes, it wound up going to Marvin Gaye, who had a minor hit with it, and Stevie Wonder and the Isley Brothers recorded it as well. It also got a toehold across the pond, showing up in setlists of the Small Faces and the Who, among others. And let’s not forget other forgotten versions, like those by the Wailers and Barbara Randolph (well worth an exploratory visit to YouTube). In other words, for a song that’s not often mentioned as one of Motown’s greatest hits, it’s made a deep, deep impression.
A musical group that has been described as a sort of “warm and fuzzy” emo band may not immediately sound like the type of group to cover a Robyn song. Chicago-based Kittyhawk, however, has not only managed to cover Robyn’s highly danceable hit, but has done so in an adorable and charming manner for Space Jam Sessions.
Covers albums are commonly filled with songs that have special meaning to the band and often had an impact on the members. “Break-Up album” usually refers to a collection of songs dedicated to the end of a recent, often painful, relationship. Brooklyn band Quiet Loudly missed both of those memos. Their album is filled with songs chosen at the whim of a few fans who pledged a certain amount on the previous album’s Kickstarter, and the “Break Up” referred to is the band itself.