Aug 132020
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

While “House of the Rising Sun” may conjure up the sound of Eric Burdon’s deep powerful howls over a haunting interplay of guitar and organ, The Animals did not write the hit that made them major players during the British Invasion of the ‘60s – and arguably the first band to score a “folk-rock hit,” according to music critic Dave Marsh.

The origins of “House of the Rising Sun” are a mystery and even the subject of a book called Chasing the Rising Sun: The Journey of an American Song by Ted Anthony. The earliest known publication of the song’s lyrics are from a 1925 column called, “Old Songs That Men Have Sung,” in Adventure magazine. The earliest recorded version – titled “Rising Sun Blues” – is from 1933 by Clarence “Tom” Ashley and Gwen Foster – Ashley had said he learned the song from his grandfather, Enoch Ashley.

Another often contested mystery is the house at the center of the song. Some believe it’s an old women’s prison on the outskirts of New Orleans (where the words “rising sun” were etched in stone above the entrance), others believe it’s an all men’s hotel in the French Quarter that burned down in 1822 at 535-537 Conti St. (there is some evidence of a hotel called Rising Sun existing at this address), and some believe it’s an old brothel. Then there are theories of it actually originating in England or France. Of course it’s possible this house never actually existed at all.

Every recorded version of the song is a cover. But to include The Animals version in a list of covers seems a little too obvious. Their version inspired Bob Dylan to go electric, ranked number 122 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll,” and received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999. The Animals have gotten their due.

Now on to five (other) good covers of “House of the Rising Sun.”
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Aug 132020
 
swimwear department

Like 3-D movies, 360-degree YouTube videos briefly seemed like a revolution before quickly fading. But on their new cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ timely “I Think We’re Alone Now,” Houston quartet Swimwear Department put the format to good use.

If you don’t realize it’s a 360-degree video, you just watch frontman Matt Graham going stir-crazy in his kitchen. He’s entertaining enough that you could just stick there. But zoom around, via the left-right arrows up top, and you’ll find more cartoon houses with more band members. Each, true to the title, more or less alone (give or take a baby). Continue reading »

Aug 122020
 
i'm your fan

Hi! Ray Padgett here, founder of Cover Me. Excuse the self-promotional interruption from our usual flow of content, but I imagine it’s a self-promotional interruption that anyone reading a site about covers might actually be interested in.

Some of you may have read my first book, Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time. This new one is a successor of sorts. Not a sequel, exactly. More like a distant blood relative you only see on holidays.

It’s about tribute albums.

It’s part of the 33 1/3 series of short books on classic albums. I used one tribute album, 1991’s I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen, as an entry point to talk about the strange history of tribute albums more broadly.

Why pick I’m Your Fan out of all the possible tribute albums? Well, for one, you wouldn’t know the song “Hallelujah” without it. It’s one of only a couple tribute albums that has had that concrete an effect on music history (here’s the very brief overview). The entire album has a fascinating story, too: Two French fanzine editors with zero industry connections somehow convinced R.E.M., Pixies, John Cale, and more to record Leonard Cohen songs at a time when Leonard was at his most uncool. In doing so, they resuscitated a fading legend’s career.

I’m Your Fan also serves as a perfect example of the tribute album phenomenon more broadly. If you have a favorite tribute album, chances are it comes up in this book. If you have a least favorite, it probably does too. I interviewed the artists and creators of dozens of tributes, including the late, great Hal Willner, who basically invented the format single-handedly. (His first words when I called him up: “Is it all my fault?”)

The book comes out September 3. If it sounds of interest, pre-ordering it would really help, especially because no one’s going to be stumbling across it on bookstore shelves next month. Here are some links:

PRE-ORDER ‘I’M YOUR FAN’: 
Bloomsbury 
 Amazon 
 IndieBound 
 Barnes and Noble 
 Bookshop

A bonus for Cover Me readers: if you pre-order the book and email me some sort of proof, I will send you a private mixtape I made of my favorite other cover of every Cohen song on I’m Your Fan, all newer versions that came out after this album. Think of it like a bonus track to the book. Or, in this case, many bonus tracks.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for our Best Leonard Cohen Covers Ever countdown coming in a few weeks.

Aug 102020
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Barry Manilow

Scene, mid-’70s, elementary school cafeteria, group of six girls at one table.

Girl 1, excitedly : Oh my God, did you see The Smothers Brothers last night (fyi-’70s variety show)???

Entire table gasps in joyful recognition…all except one girl aka me.

Girl 2: Barry Manilow is gorgeous!

Girl 3: Oh my God, I was kissing the TV!

All at table agree, he is gorgeous…except one girl who remains silent (me again).

Rapturous Barry conversation continues until lunch ends. I am befuddled and say nothing.

Oh, I’d seen the show, but I thought Barry was schmaltzy and goofy, the antithesis of a rock star. Paul McCartney was so much cooler. What were they seeing that I wasn’t?
Continue reading »

Aug 072020
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Satisfied Mind

I never understood why the Walkabouts were never huge. A consummate Americana noir sound, two terrific vocalists in Chris Eckman and Carla Torgerson, an arthouse European ambiance… how did it not happen? Their history and geography ought really have defined a career in grunge, and their Seattle base and the Sub Pop label often had them sometimes lumped in with that movement. But they were always, even at the start, a step apart and a dust bowl away. Continue reading »

Aug 072020
 
anohni covers

There’s no mistaking an ANOHNI cover. Since back when she was performing as Antony and the Johnsons, her imitable voice was instantly recognizable whether covering Beyoncé or the Velvet Underground. She hasn’t done as many covers since adopting the name ANOHNI – the most memorable, “Black Peter,” appeared on the sprawling Grateful Dead tribute Day of the Dead. But she begins to expand her covers repertoire with a new 7″ of Bob Dylan and Nina Simone covers. Continue reading »