Sep 172019
 
cover songs 1969

This marks the fourth year I’ve done a big anniversary countdown (after 1996, 1987, and 1978). It also proved to be the most challenging. There were a lot of covers released in 1969. In fact, according to covers-and-samples database WhoSampled, there were more than in any of the other years we’ve done. Their database lists 3,110 covers, which is surely still a small fraction.

The reason for the cover song’s proliferation seems clear to me after going through them all: Popular bands released a lot more music back then. Aretha Franklin released two albums in 1969. So did The Byrds, Elvis Presley, Joe Cocker, Johnny Cash, Johnny Winter, and Nina Simone. Creedence Clearwater Revival and Merle Haggard released three albums apiece. James Brown topped them all with four. To get that kind of output, artists would pad their albums with covers. Every 1969 album by every artist I just mentioned includes at least one cover. Many include several. A few are all covers. It adds up.

Impressively, many of those covers reinterpreted songs that had come out within the previous year. This entire list could easily have been “Hey Jude” covers. “Wichita Lineman” and “Light My Fire” came up constantly too (the latter song slightly older, but it had hit the charts again in 1968). Even songs from 1968’s soundtrack to Hair got covered endlessly in 1969.

Even beyond “Hey Jude,” Beatles covers dominated the year. I’m not going to go back through the entire 3,110 covers and count, but if you told me Beatles covers made up a full half of those, I wouldn’t be shocked. Add Bob Dylan covers to that side of the scale and it’s probably true. Beatles songs got covered in every conceivable genre for every conceivable audience. Jazz and swing and folk and proto-metal Beatles covers everywhere the eye can see. Plenty of people cover the Beatles these days, sure, but trust me: It’s nothing like it was in 1969.

So wheedling all those down to the top 50 proved incredibly difficult. But it means this is maybe the top-to-bottom strongest set thus far, and it killed me to leave some off (that’s why our Patreon supporters will get a set of 69 bonus tracks – so join now).

One note: I left off Woodstock performances. For one, we counted down the 50 best covers performed there last month. But more importantly, most people did not actually hear those covers until the movie and soundtrack came out in 1970. Jimi Hendrix performed his iconic Star-Spangled Banner – pretty much everyone’s top cover of the weekend – to a nearly empty field. Most of the audience had left before he punched in at 9 AM that Monday morning. That said, several of the classic covers performed at Woodstock were released as singles or on albums the same year – including Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help from My Friends” – and those studio versions make this list.

Now, let the sunshine in with the 50 best covers of 1969.

The countdown begins on page 2…

Sep 162019
 
daniel johnston youve got a friend

In the wake of Daniel Johnston’s tragic passing, a powerful new recording has just surfaced on Twitter: an experimental seven-minute cover of Carole King’s classic “You’ve Got a Friend,” recorded with a full band in Austin in 1996. The song was intended for an album called If that never got released after Johnston’s label dropped him. As Vulture reported earlier this year, the album’s producer Brian Beattie continues to fight two decades later to let it see the light of day. Johnston apparently considered it the first part of a Beattie trilogy, which also included 2001’s Rejected Unknown and 2006’s Lost and Found, which Beattie culled from the same mid-’90s sessions. Continue reading »

Sep 162019
 
fooled around and fell in love cover

It’s hard not to feel cynical about the current onslaught of collaborations in the musical universe these days. The trend seems less about popular artists creating something great together and more about leveraging multiple fanbases to jack up stream counts. Enter Miranda Lambert to turn this trend on its ear on her new all-star cover of “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.” Continue reading »

Sep 132019
 

.Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Oh Mercy

Oh Mercy characteristically pops up in lists of later Dylan records deemed decent. Sure, everything he produces is briefly heralded as a return to form – if, that is, he has written any of the songs, which takes away anything really recent – but a couple of listens and most are back down in the crate alongside Shot of Love and Planet Waves. But Oh Mercy has stuck, at least with me, arguably hindered no little by the typically crickets and crayfish production of Daniel Lanois. So, then, guess, how old is it? Ten, fifteen years? Nope. Thirty years. As in, THIRTY YEARS!!! How can that be, it’s half a life, well half mine, but, there you have it, it is.
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Sep 092019
 

Valve Bone WoeThe temptation to dismiss Chrissie Hynde’s new album Valve Bone Woe as aging rockstar populist folly might be tempting. But I would beseech you not to, at least not yet, no matter how the rocky (rockers?) road to hell may be littered with many a late career jazz diversion of dubious content, however lucrative. (As in, please don’t sing it again, Rod.) This is more in the territory of a respectful nod to another genre, rather than any bandwagoneering, and is perhaps a brave choice for Hynde, if certainly unexpected. Plus, this album comes at a time when her day job is far from faltering, the Pretenders currently riding a prolonged late summer of renewed acclaim. So what has she got to prove?
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Sep 062019
 
Revolution Girl Style Now

This post brings our week of riot grrrl to a close. Although not everyone featured in these posts may even explicitly identify with the riot grrrl movement, and certainly not everyone who does identify with the movement could be featured, I hope that these posts have given a brief overview of the era and given enough additional references to allow interested readers to further explore on their own.

Although I missed the original riot grrrl movement, I felt it was important to learn its lessons myself through the writing of these posts and embark on my own year of the riot grrrl. Maybe, dear reader, you will feel called to do the same. The riot grrrl movement remains relevant today, not just politically, but musically. The often brutally honest lyrics and the powerful instrumentals have inspired another wave of musicians. It’s no wonder that riot grrrl anthems have been revitalized through covers. Did I miss a cover of a riot grrrl song that really speaks to you? Share in a comment!

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