Jul 312009

Cover Commissions is a monthly series in which a featured artist produces a special cover for this blog. The song to be covered is usually chosen by blog readers via a poll or suggestions form. Any artists interested in participating in a future installment, please email me at the address on the right.

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from May’s Cover Commissions’ artist Dan Eaton, but he’s been away in his cover lair watching Duran Duran music videos, playing his 8-bit Nintendo and perfecting his “Walk Like an Egyptian” dance. It’s 1986, people, and he’s gotta get in the Wang Chung mood.

Because great covers take time, and this one was worth the wait. It’s Wang Chung’s maybe-about-masturbation hit “Everybody Have Fun Tonight”! It ranked third in Blender’s list of most “awesomely bad” songs ever, but Dan’s version might make them start a list of most awesomely awesome songs ever.

Dan keeps the ‘80s vibe, but comes at it from the freakier side of the decade, spazzing out over a wall of synths and an insistent drum machine. Here’s his description:

I ran into some interesting places when trying to “re-produce” or “rework” Wang Chung’s most famous single, “Everybody Have Fun Tonight.” This was a song that was written well before my birth (April 1986) and released right around then, so I had to dig it out of the ‘80s pop cemetery. Growing up on Rolling Stones, Traveling Wilburys and Ozark Mountain Daredevils, this was never a hit in either of my parents’ LP collections, but a song I, and anyone else my age, have heard several times before. When I approached it I wanted to keep the electronic-ity involved, using MIDI keys and pads but I was also intent on my own re-invention of the song itself, no matter how out of left field it may seem. When I was creating my representation I could only playback the original through a YouTube video, and had been listening heavily to some more modern electronic artists Dan Deacon as well as Australian pop groups Empire of the Sun and Cut Copy (credit robinson source). So some of that may come out, but like my Jesus and Mary Chain cover, I also used my few resources to keep it on the lo-fi side of things, creating a track that strives to be almost as fun as the original.

And so we are proud to present…

Dan Eaton – Everybody Have Fun Tonight (Wang Chung)
A Cover Me Exclusive

Put that on a cassette with last week’s new Duran Duran cover and have yourself an ‘80s covers weekend! Then come back next week for your chance to vote for the next Cover Commissions!

These mp3s may be freely shared with the artist’s blessing. Post them on your blog, send them to your friends, burn them for your office mates. When you do share this however, please include a link to this site. Cover Commissions is a monthly occurrence here, and the more traffic this project draws the more exciting we can make future installments.

Jul 282009

Jack White is best known as the frontman for the White Stripes, but these days he’s making waves in plenty of other ways. Whether it’s his newest project The Dead Weather, his new record label, his vinyl-fetishist record store, or his appearance in guitar god documentary It Might Get Loud, White’s a hard man to avoid. It’s hard to keep track of all his musical projects, but here’s an attempt at an overview. In chronological order, here’s a look at the other (ie. Meg-free) side of Jack White.

Goober and the Peas – Snoopy’s Christmas (The Royal Guardsmen)
Those who were shocked by Jack’s debut as the Dead Weather’s drummer hadn’t heard this band, in which Jack briefly played drums as “Doc.” His first release with them was the three-song Christmas record A Christmas Eve Get-Together With… A cover of one of my favorite holiday songs kicks it off. [Buy]

Two Star Tabernacle – Sixteen Tons (Merle Travis)
The briefly-lived Tabernacle never released a record (though their two tunes backing Andrew Williams, available here, are phenomenal). There are two live bootlegs floating around though, with Jack rocking the guitar. More importantly, he takes on a few vocal duties from this ’98 track, his nasal holler already very recognizable. [Buy]

The Hentchmen – Some Other Guy (Richie Barrett)
Jack switched between bass and guitar duties for the Hentchmen, appearing on their excellent garage-rock release Hentch-Forth.Five. It kicks off with a couple covers: “Psycho Daisies” by the Yardbirds (White would later back Jeff Beck live) and this classic rock’n’roll jammer that the Beatles recorded too. [Buy]

Jack White and The Bricks – Ooh! My Soul (Little Richard)
A hint of things to come in this live jam session with Brendan Benson, later of the Racs, Ben Blackwell (Dirtbombs) and Kevin Peyok (The Waxwings). It’s mostly White Stripes tunes (we’re at ’99 already), but they close with an roaring take on this Little Richard (and others) tune that hears Jack attempt Richie’s falsetto holler. It sounds unrehearsed and the recording quality isn’t great. Something tells me Jack would approve. [Buy]

The Upholsterers – Ain’t Superstitious (Willie Dixon)
Before Jack was a Raconteur, before he was a White Stripe, he was an upholsterer. Yes, that’s lower-case for a reason: Jack actually ran Third Man Upholstery, and was apparently pretty good at it. Here he teams up with his boss in the biz Brenan Muldoon for a three-song record where you can hear the assertive, guitar-wailing White coming into his own. [Buy]

Jack White – Fragile Girl (The Waxwings)
Recorded exactly one month before the Stripes’ breakthrough White Blood Cells came out, this solo concert finds Jack and his guitar at local Detroit venue the Gold Dollar playing tribute to heroes like Blind Willie McTell (“Dyin’ Crapshooter’s Blues”) and Beck (“Cold Brains”). Here he remembers some local boys, some of whom he’d played with (see The Bricks above). [Buy]

Jack White and Beck – Last Fair Deal Gone Down (Robert Johnson)
Jack and Beck have a history of turning up at each other’s gigs, as happened at this Michigan Beck show where the pair jammed out on a few tunes. It’s no secret Jack loves the blues, so this delta classic proved a perfect choice. [Buy]

Jack White – Wayfaring Stranger (Trad.)
I’ve never seen the film, but I can say with confidence that Cold Mountain has one of the greatest soundtracks ever. That’s due in no small part to Jack’s participation. He does six solo recordings that evoke Appalachian country with mandolin, fiddle, and banjo. More than anything though it’s his voice that stands out, showing the singer underneath the shouting. [Buy]

The Raconteurs – Teenage Kicks (The Undertones)
And…we’re back to shouting. When you hear the furious rendition of this one-hit-wonder you’ll be glad for the volume. [Buy]

The Raconteurs – Keep It Clean (Charley Jordan)
The Racs’ second album Consolers of the Lonely contained a cover of “Rich Kid’s Blues.” This live track is in a similar vein, but better, Jack White singing about coca-cola who, as you’ll remember, he wrote a song for himself. This come from a soundboard recording from Bonnaroo ’08 and is one you’ll want to put on repeat. [Buy]

Jack White and Bob Dylan – Meet Me In the Morning (Bob Dylan)
This one stretches definition of cover, I know. Jack’s covered Dylan on many occasions, but here he’s covering Dylan with Dylan standing right behind him. I consider it a cover though ‘cause old Bob doesn’t do a lot, standing back and letting Jack rip at this ’07 concert. It’s a cover Jack hasn’t done anywhere else, chosen presumably for its local Nashville reference. The next night, Jack rejoined Bob’s band for more familiar quasi-covers “One More Cup of Coffee” and “Outlaw Blues.” [Buy]

The Dead Weather – You Just Can’t Win (Them)
I saw the Dead Weather last week (what inspired this post) and since they’ve only got one record out, they padded their set with a few covers. Bob Dylan’s “New Pony” (from the record), Pentagram’s “Forever My Queen,” West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band’s (who?) “Child of a Few Hours Is Burning To Death” (what?), and this. We first heard this one as the b-side to their “Treat Me Like Your Mother” single, and that’s where this come from. It doesn’t like Van Morrison, but it does sound bad-ass as hell. [Buy]

Dexter Romweber Duo – Last Kind Word Blues (Geechie Wiley)
I mentioned Jack’s record label in the introduction. Well this is one of his first releases from earlier this year, a 7” by the Dex Romweber Duo. Jack joins in on both sides of the record, which (sell-out!) can also be purchased from iTunes. It doesn’t get much more obscure than Geechie (or Geeshie) Wiley, but then again Jack does obscure better than most. [Buy]

Jul 262009

This Week’s News

First up, if you haven’t heard Jordan Galland’s new covers of Pulp’s “Bad Cover Version” and Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf,” check them out now!! They earned him a shout-out on RollingStone.com, so you know he’s done something right.

A couple cool covers up at SPIN from backstage at Bonnaroo. We’ve got Alberta Cross doing a John Lennon diss and Everest tackling a Crazy Horse obscurity. And be sure to read the finely-written descriptions…

I posted about the upcoming Marc Mulcahy tribute album a few weeks back, but the tracks have started coming out. The most-anticipated is clearly Thom Yorke’s contribution, and you can hear the Radiohead main man take on “All For the Best” here! Even better in my book is The National’s version of Polaris’ “Ashamed of the Story I Told.”

That National tune can also be got in Captain Obvious’ new covers mixtape. Always a good day when one of these comes out – thanks Cap’t!

Hot Chip fans and folk-pop fans can gather together to enjoy this “Ready for the Floor” cover from Lissy Trullie.

Beck continues to be a cover maniac, getting halfway through The Velvet Underground & Nico thus far at his website. Nice! Then you can get pumped for another upcoming album, Skip Spence’s Oar featuring Jeff Tweedy! Still wish he’d managed that Ace of Base disc though.

I love Springsteen covers almost as much as I love the originals, so a new 38-track tribute album by up-and-coming indie acts? Sign me up! It’s available here, with loads of free samples!

Ryan’s Smashing Life has uncovered a top-notch dance-funk “This Must Be the Place” cover which, paired with remade scenes from American Psycho is both fascinating and disturbing. A must-watch.

This Week’s Submissions

A Cappella – You Rock My World (Michael Jackson)

The Broken Chimneys – Ain’t Gonna Go to Hell for Anybody (Bob Dylan)

The Broken Chimneys – Changing of the Guards (Bob Dylan)

The Broken Chimneys – Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight (Bob Dylan)

The Broken Chimneys – She’s Your Lover Now (Bob Dylan)

M. Pyrees and the Moonwalkers – I’ll Be There (Jackson 5)

David Potts-Dupre – Ingrid Bergman (Woody Guthrie/Wilco/Billy Bragg)

Jul 242009

Cover Commissions is a monthly series in which a featured artist produces a special cover for this blog. The song to be covered is usually chosen by blog readers via a poll or suggestions form. Any artists interested in participating in a future installment, please email me at the address on the right. We’re still looking for an August artist!

Jordan Galland’s Cover Commissions poll a few weeks ago got a record number of votes. The Pulp fans fought the Duran Duran crew to the bitter end, but Jarvis Cocker finally got the edge over Simon Le Bon. “Bad Cover Version” it is (but “Hungry Like the Wolf” fans, don’t despair — scroll down for a surprise.)

I have to admit though, I feel like Jordan missed an opportunity on this one. That’s what I can’t figure. See, the song’s called “Bad Cover Version,” but he turned in a good cover version. Hell, he turned in an excellent cover version. Such a waste.

All jokes aside, Jordan did a phenomenal job with this We Love Life nugget. I’ll let him introduce it.

First off, the title just calls out for someone to cover this song. Even at the risk of someone saying “it’s a bad cover version of Bad Cover Version.”

The other day I “stumbled” upon a couple kids rapping over an Eminem song, their own lyrics in his style, about the trashy remakes and sequels Hollywood is spitting out. “Would the real Transformers please stand up?”

It had occurred to me before, but now it was obvious – a lot of people feel this way, and I thought back to Jarvis singing “A bad cover version of love is not the real thing” and realized what he was singing about is only getting worse.

It was far from my favorite Pulp song, but the chorus melody is classic, and the sentiment of the song is at the heart of what the band has always been trying to communicate. Yes, our lives are like movies, sometimes depressing movies, sometimes sexy movies, whatever – but let’s not make them bad remakes of movies.

The recording they did is epic and ballady, so I felt like tightening it, and speeding it up. I also instantly knew I wanted to try and get those Little Shop of Horrors ‘50s style backing vocals on the chorus.

When I cover a song, I like to do a version that occupies a completely different space than the original. For that reason, I usually try to cover songs from female artists, because a guy’s voice instantly makes it different.

It was a challenge figuring out how the main riff, played on a twangy vibrato guitar in the original, could be played on piano without it just seeming like single notes.

Without further ado…

Jordan Galland – Bad Cover Version (Pulp)
A Cover Me Exclusive

But wait, there’s more! Jordan’s a warm-hearted guy and he felt bad for you ‘80s fans. So once again, heeeeeeeere’s Jordan!

I felt like “Hungry Like the Wolf” was a decade too late. While the original recording is clearly from the ’80s, the chords and the sentiment seem to sit better on a couch next to Jim Morrison. The trumpets, played by Sam Oatts, hopefully give it that feel.

On both songs, I was working completely alone, so another challenge was trying to make it feel like a band.

Jordan Galland – Hungry Like the Wolf (Duran Duran)
A Cover Me Exclusive

These mp3s may be freely shared with the artist’s blessing. Post them on your blog, send them to your friends, burn them for your office mates. When you do share this however, please include a link to this site. Cover Commissions is a monthly occurrence here, and the more traffic this project draws the more exciting we can make future installments.

The Moon

 Posted by at 1:54 am  No Responses »
Jul 232009

The fortieth anniversary of our moon landing has generated a good deal of buzz (pun intended). Much of it is bemoaning the current state of N.A.S.A. which, without the Soviets around the keep them on their toes, hasn’t done a lot of late. They’re currently saying by 2020 we can get somebody to the moon. Again. Umm…yay? I understand that with the current economic and political climate we’ve got larger priorities, but with the current climate climate we can’t forget about the rest of space entirely. Earth’s only got so long.

Shout Out Loud – Man on the Moon (R.E.M.)
There’s no doubt this is a great song, but if you’re like me you’ve heard it just one too many times. It’s starting to get a grocery-store vibe, which is a shame. Add a little world-techno backbeat, some gospel harmonies and it’s rejuvenated. [Buy]

Keller Williams – Moondance (Van Morrison)
Keller’s an interesting cat. He’s a staple of the jam band scene on one hand (generally a negative in my book), but he does all sorts of interesting things with loops, creating songs with layer upon layer, all by himself. Here’s a live trick of that sort, a ten-minute long acoustic-jazz frolic. [Buy]

The Pale – Walking on the Moon (The Police)
The moon, being smaller than the earth, has a weaker field of gravity. Sting seems to get that on one hand, noting that “giant steps are what you take.” But then he confusingly follows that with “I hope my legs don’t break.” With so little gravity, why exactly is he worried about his legs breaking? Perhaps this should have gone in last week’s bad lyric post. [Buy]

The White Stripes – Moonage Daydream (David Bowie)
I can’t quite figure out why Jack White seems to be hacking an English accent in the intro here, but trying to second-guess Jack never ends well. Regardless, he’s clearly a big Ziggy Stardust fan; in 2006 “It Ain’t Easy” became a Raconteurs set staple. [Buy]

Rasputina – Bad Mood Rising (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
When I saw her play this live Melora Craeger mentioned that she loved the song, but thought the original was way too peppy for the lyrical content. Transpose into a minor key, play on a cello, and her goth-swamp take creates a song both haunting and haunted. [Buy]

Clinker – I’ll Shoot the Moon (Tom Waits)
Tom Waits has a lot of moon tunes. “Grapefruit Moon.” “Drunk on the Moon.” Etc. This one gets a little white-boy Latino touch, bouncing along with cocky swagger and background singers who seem to accept the offer. [Buy]

Bob Dylan – Moon River (Mercer/Mancini)
Bob’s only played this one once, at an Indiana show in August of 1990. He dedicated it to “Stevie Souls” or something of that nature, but I can’t figure out who that is. This here’s an audience recording and it ain’t pristine, but it’s more than listenable. [Buy]

Sheila E. and Pete Escovedo – The Ballad of the Sun & Moon (Alejandro Escovedo)
Escovedo Sr. got some big names to pitch in for his Por Vida tribute when he struggled with Hepatitus C. Here Sheila E., of Prince entourage fame, backs up Escovedo Jr. who – surprise! – sounds a lot like his dad. [Buy]

Maria Muldaur – Moonlight (Bob Dylan)
This is exactly the sort of cover I normally hate. Smooth jazz by a woman who thinks she’s the second coming of Billy Holiday. Blech. Muldaur is pure class and, with the right song choice — this is one of Dylan’s jazziest — pulls it off beautifully. [Buy]

The Flaming Lips – Moonlight Mile (The Rolling Stones)
In their marathon Bonnaroo ’07 show, they played their regular set (complete with spaceship), then busted out a series of obscurities and covers for those few still remaining at three a.m. Here’s one of them, slowly welcoming the early morning hours. [Buy]

Jul 142009

Some songwriters should just stick to writing instrumentals. These lyrical duds are in turn hilarious, embarrassing, and painful in their inanity. Did no one proofread?

Mama Goose and Diamond Chest – The Thong Song (Sisqo)
Ok, obviously this is a stupid song. “I like it when the beat goes du-nuh, du-nuh / Baby, make your booty go du-nuh, du-nuh.” I don’t know what “du-nuh” is exactly, so it just sounds like ol’ Sisqo forgot to finish writing the lyrics. Here this San Francisco twosome performs a ukulele duet that sounds like it was as fun to record as it is to hear. They’ve got covers of other inane pop songs at their myspace. [Buy]

Kicksville – Invisible Sun (The Police)
Sting gets a lot of crap for his lyrics. Some of them I actually think are quite good (see “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”). This is not one of them. First of all, he never tells us why there “has to be” this invisible sun. That conclusion doesn’t seem obvious at all to me. And “it’s dark all day and it glows all night”? Dude, are you sure you’re not thinking of the moon? Plus, if it’s invisible, how is it glowing? [Buy]

Orba Squara – Poker Face (Lady GaGa)
I’m not exactly sure what “I’m bluffin’ with my muffin” means, but I think I should be grossed out. Daughtry and Weezer have both covered the tune, but the winner goes to the folk-thump of Orba Squara, complete with bells. Never heard them? I’ll bet you have… [Buy]

Mundy – Wherever Whenever (Shakira)
When a Shakira cover begins with harmonica, you know you’re into something good. This one includes my favorite line of the bunch in terms of sheer inanity. “Lucky that my breasts are small and humble / So you don’t confuse them with mountains.” A common problem for well-endowed women apparently. [Buy]

Gruppo Sportivo – Horse With No Name (America)
Another one truly shocking in its inanity. Amazingly, it combines the nonsensical (“The ocean is a desert with its life underground”) with the painfully obvious (“The heat was hot”). Gruppo gives it the Latin funk treatment. [Buy]

GOD – Undone (The Sweater Song) (Weezer)
True story: I can’t hear this song without thinking “Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothing to fuck with!” The reason for that bizarre association is a remix I heard of the two tunes long before I heard either original. Regardless, this song is self-consciously silly, a quality Weezer doesn’t get enough credit for (I wanted to include a cover of “Everybody Get Dangerous,” a truly horrendous piece of work, but artists have understandably steered clear of that disaster. Edit: Holy crap, an a cappella group did cover it! No way.). [Buy]

Max Raabe & Palast Orchester – Blue (Da Ba Dee) (Eiffel 65)
On Superhits, Raabe takes on a whole slew of bad pop songs, from “Oops…I Did It Again” to “Mambo No. 5.” Each gets his trademark big band treatment, and each works surprisingly well in its new guise. The German accent really sells it. [Buy]

Taylor Bacon – Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread (Bob Dylan)
Ironic choice given the post title, ain’t it? To Bob’s credit, this comes out of the basement tapes jam sessions. Meaning, he wasn’t trying to make sense (for more evidence, see “Million Dollar Bash.”) The funny thing is, Bob’s actually really good at writing nonsensical lines. Like, better than someone less talented would be. “Slap the drummer with a pie that smells”? Brilliant. [Buy]

Jump the Flight – E.I. (Nelly)
Nelly’s never been known for their insightful lyrics, but the bit where he compares himself to a grocery store is priceless. These guys’ don’t take themselves too seriously behind the punk rock bravado. The best part is the guy whose only job it is is apparently to yell “niggah!” [Buy]

Goober & the Peas – MacArthur Park (Richard Harris)
Years ago I read (and loved) Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs, and this tune took the top spot. It’s one of the few songs whose bad lyrics hit you every single time you hear it. They’re that bad. I mean, these are really bad. So bad I don’t even want to type them. If you don’t know them, listen close. [Buy]