Oct 312009

Cover News is a weekly feature keeping you up to date on the goings-on in the world of cover tunes, tribute albums, etc. Plus, at the bottom we post our array of cover tunes we’ve been sent in the past week. Have you recorded a cool cover? Send an mp3 to the email address on the right!

This Week’s News

Halloween is here and that means Phish’s full-album set is tonight! What’ll it be? Betting-odds favorite Thriller is out! The website choices are down to: MGMT, Rolling Stones, King Crimson, Radiohead, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Genesis, Prince, and David Bowie. Cover Me’s guess: Hendrix. [Phish]

October’s Cover Commission’s is in! John Dissed’s “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” can be downloaded this-away. [Cover Me]

Peter Gabriel is working on a covers album with tunes by Radiohead, Bon Iver, Magnetic Fields, and Arcade Fire. Better yet, it seems he’s included several of the original musicians for each one! [Ateaseweb]

La Roux is guilt-free dance music. Lou Barlow is not. That didn’t stop Lou from covering Roux at SPIN though. [SPIN]

Rolling Stone went a little more country with their recent cover session. Country legend Kris Kristofferson’s “A Moment of Forever” gets its due from up-and-comer Jamey Johnson. [Rolling Stone]

The new Snow Patrol-curate LateNight tales mix contains a new SP cover of INXS’s “New Sensation.” [LateNight Tales]

Joensuu’s incredible electro-dirge version of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” will change the way you hear the song forever. [You Ain’t No Picasso]

Superchunk’s Matt takes on Spoon, the Magnetic Fields, and books! [SPIN]

New covers mixtape over at the Cap’t! [Captain Obvious]

Coldplay’s “Fight for Your Right to Party” was a highlight of our summer here at Cover Me. Now Chris Martin is back with a cover of Springsteen’s “My Love Will Not Let You Down” from the recent Bridge Benefit! [YouTube]

Tom Waits turned Jack Kerouac’s “Home I’ll Never Be” into a killer bone-gutter stomp. The Low Anthem brilliantly covered the tune last year. Now the frontmen of Death Cab for Cutie and Son Volt are doing the same things with lots of the Beat’s poems. [SPIN]

Daytrotter sessions can always be relied on for good cover. In the latest installment, Magnolia Electric Co. performs Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns and Money.” [Daytrotter]

This Week’s Submissions

835 – I Remember Nothing (Joy Division) [more]

Norman Palm – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper) [more]

Axel Wolph – Johnny & Mary (Robert Palmer) [more]

Oct 302009

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.

Just last week we held a last-minute run-off to pick the winner of October’s Cover Commissions ( it came down to Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round” vs. T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong (Get It On)”). Well T. Rex took the prize and, in record Cover Me turn-around, we’ve already got the tune!

It shouldn’t be a surprise that John Dissed turned this around so fast though. After all, this guy’s a cover expert. The price of an email address at his site gets you access to the dozens of free covers he’s recorded. His cover of “Bang a Gong,” though, you can only get here. But first let’s hear a bit about it.

I have never been a fan of this song, but listening to it after realizing that it had a good chance of winning the most votes, I began to recognize its brilliance. I always knew it was a catchy song, but it has a classic Stonesy type of feel that could have only happened in the early ‘70s. I consider ‘70s rock n’ roll to be the height of recorded music and this song is up there with the best of that era.

I also listened to Ministry’s cover of the song which contributed a bit to the way I muted the guitars. Aside from that, I tried to keep the vibe of the original, but with acoustic guitars. I played the acoustic parts to the track, then overdubbed the vocals, bass and electric guitar. I noticed after I recorded the vocals that I had changed the melody slightly, but kept it that way since it was my natural memory of the part. The bass and lead parts are similar to the original as well, except for the horn melody before the final chorus, which I played on electric.

I like to use a single voice for lead vocals, but this time I went for a doubling effect that seemed appropriate. This effect is the biggest departure in sound from my other acoustic music.

That tells you all you might want to know about recording this cover, but it doesn’t hint at this bad-ass performance. Words wouldn’t do it justice anyway. This will:


This mp3 may be freely shared with the artist’s blessing. Post it on your blog, send it to your friends, tweet it for the world. When you do share this however, please include a link to this site. Cover Commissions is a monthly occurrence here, and the more attention this project draws the more exciting we can make future installments.

Hocus Pocus

 Posted by at 2:22 pm  1 Response »
Oct 272009

These days, even Transylvanians are sick of vampires, particularly those of the brooding, sexy variety. So we’re gonna throw it back to the days of Sabrina the Teenage Witch with a post on all things black cat and pointed hat.

Omnia – Wytches’ Brew (William Shakespeare)
“Double, double, toil and trouble.” The three witches who open Macbeth enjoy one of the most famous speeches in history, brewing their mischief both figuratively and literally. Putting those lyrics to music seems natural – they may well have had a tune in Shakespeare’s time. We can be sure it didn’t come from the “pagan folk” genre though. [Buy]

Lou Rawls – Season of the Witch (Donovan)
In all honesty, it’s a little silly to think that Donovan was once thought of as serious competition to Bob Dylan in the lyrics department. “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is”? Thankfully, this one holds up better than some of his others. [Buy]

Aimee Allen – Santeria (Sublime)
Santería merges the African Yoruba religion with Roman Catholicism and Native American traditions. In the 2000 Census it claimed 22,000 adherents in the United States. As Brad Nowell makes clear, the Sublime trio are not in that number. [Buy]

Devo – Witch Doctor (David Seville)
This song first hit the charts in 1958 as sung by “David Seville,” a pseudonym of its author Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., who two years later had another hit with it using his group Alvin and the Chipmunks. Devo turned the lyrics Jungle Book-esq for the primate-friendly cover from the Rugrats Movie soundtrack. [Buy]

Yat-Kha – Black Magic Woman (Fleetwood Mac)
If you think Tom Waits is the voice of Halloween, wait ‘til you hear Tuvan throat-singing. These Siberians can sing two notes at once (hear it on this one starting at 2:22). With their low-pitched growl, creating a heavy metal band must have seemed only natural. [Buy]

Marilyn Manson – I Put a Spell On You (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins)
The mad musician of Halloween, ol’ Mari “Giggles” Manson is the perfect shock-rockers to take on this creepy Hawkins classic. For similarly Halloween-themed Manson, check out his take on the Nightmare Before Christmas favorite “This Is Halloween.” [Buy]

Steeleye Span – Allison Gross (Trad.)
This traditional Scottish tune comes from the 305-song “Child Ballad” collection. It tells tells the tale of “the ugliest witch in the north country” trying to enslave the narrator. The Steeleye version grew out of a production they did of Robert Louis Stephenson’ Kidnapped. [Buy]

The Gresham Flyers – Magic (Bruce Springsteen)
The title track off of Springsteen’s 2007 hit album, this “Magic” comes not from the cauldron but from the government. Somehow, that’s even more spooky. [Buy]

Lost Sounds – You Must Be a Witch (The Lollipop Shoppe)
This one originally appeared on the Lenny Kaye-curated Nuggets compilation, later turning up in Lollipop Shoppe member Fred Cole’s new band Dead Moon. The Sounds updated this in the late ‘90s without losing that early punk feel. [Buy]

Juliana Hatfield – Witches’ Song (Marianne Faithfull)
Marianne Faithfull is quite the cover girl herself (for most recent evidence of this, see last year’s Easy Come, Easy Go), so it’s nice to see her own tunes getting some love. The original comes off Faithfull’s ’79 LP Broken English, which itself contains a phenomenal version of Shel Silverstein’s “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan.” [Buy]

Oct 252009

Cover News is a weekly feature keeping you up to date on the goings-on in the world of cover tunes, tribute albums, etc. Plus, at the bottom we post our array of cover tunes we’ve been sent in the past week. Have you recorded a cool cover? Send an mp3 to the email address on the right!

This Week’s News

Candidate for Best Cover of 2009: Kings of Convenience taking on Leslie Gore’s “It’s My Party” for SPIN. Head there to check out the video, then come back here to download the mp3. [SPIN]

The video for Fever Ray’s cover of Nick Cave’s “Stranger Than Kindness” may be the creepiest thing since…everything else Fever Ray has ever done. [Music Video Daily]

We mentioned last week that the Flaming Lips were talking about a full-album Dark Side of the Moon cover set. Well the first taste of said set comes with “Eclipse.” [Stereogum]

Phish is still killing off the albums they won’t be covering this Halloween. With only one week to go it’s getting down to the wire, but Prince, Frank Zappa and Michael “This Is It” Jackson are hanging in there. [Phish]

Patti Smith recently debuted many brand-new covers to celebrate the work of photographer Robert Frank. [Dylan, Etc.]

Indie rocksters The Walkmen have a couple choice Leonard Cohen cuts (and best of all, neither of them is “Hallelujah”!). [Aquarium Drunkard]

The Raconteurs are on hiatus while Jack White records a second album with the Dead Weather, so Brendan Benson’s got a lot of time on his hands. We saw him perform on a Manhattan roof a few months ago, and now he’s back covering Superdrag. [Daytrotter]

Guided By Voices got their start in Rio de Janeiro, so it’s only natural for an all-Brazilian tribute album to turn up. Wait, they’re from Dayton? Oh. [Transfusão Noise Records]

Echo and the Bunnymen don’t put on the most enthralling live show, but the did bust out tunes by the Doors, John Lennon, Lou Reed and more at a recent NYC gig. [Rolling Stone]

Finnish songwriter Jaakko Teppo is the subject of a new tribute album, featuring Nightwish. [Braveworlds]

This Week’s Submissions

Nicky Francis – Proud Mary (Creedence Clearwater Revival) [more]

Nicky Francis – Still Feelin’ Blue (Gram Parsons) [more]

Gangbang Gordon – It Ain’t Gonna Save Me (Jay Reatard) [more]

Love Songs – Dragstrip Riot (The New Bomb Turks) [more]

Neil Nathan – Do Ya (Electric Light Orchestra) [more]

Neil Nathan – Darling Friend (Für Elise) (Beethoven) [more]

Random Maxx – Under Pressure (Queen & David Bowie) [more]

Sonos – I Want You Back (Robin Danar Mix) (The Jackson 5) [more]

Your Mother – Fun Zone (“Weird Al” Yankovic) [more]

Oct 202009

Brooklyn’s Elizabeth & The Catapult exploded into indie-pop consciousness this spring with their debut release Taller Children. A high point of the record, what Rolling Stone called “the album’s finest moment,” is a funky stomp through Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” (available for download below). Cover Me caught up with the trio backstage before a sold-out Manhattan concert. We chatted with singer Elizabeth Ziman, guitarist Pete Lalish and drummer Dan Molad about the Cohen tune, the sonic potential of a foosball table, and why they should send their songs to Kylie Minogue.

Is one of you the Leonard Cohen fan of the group?

Pete: Elizabeth came to us with the song. Leonard Cohen’s someone where you’re scared of how much they’re able to offer with their mind.

Elizabeth: I came to it because it’s such a universal song, I felt like everybody can relate to it. It’s kind of timeless. I was a little nervous to record it because I love it and I wanted to do it justice but I think that we definitely came up with a sweet arrangement and it sounds pretty epic.

It’s interesting because the CD is titled Taller Children and a lot of the songs are very innocent, very childlike. But “Everybody Knows” has these mature themes of drugs and sex.

Elizabeth: “Taller Children” has the seemingly fun, innocent theme, but it’s really about the same idea. It’s about being an adult and actually facing your responsibilities. More of a chiding song. It’s about a mortgage banker who has a crisis.

There’s almost a Bo Diddley beat at the beginning with just the drums and your voice and then it builds with strings and stuff. How’d you guys come up with that arrangement?

Elizabeth: We wanted something primitive.

Dan: A lot of times Elizabeth will come to me and she’ll be like, “I hear this feel,” and she beat-boxes this thing [Dan beat boxes.] It’s kind of ambiguous and I just interpret what I think she’s trying to get at and it usually evolves from there.

Pete: We all knew that it needed some sort of percussive thing that was dramatic but not overly dramatic. You don’t want to make the song sound like it’s turning into a musical or anything. The studio that we were at had timpanis and this huge room with all these big sounds. We were like, this percussion resembles a march or something with a lot of power behind it. What we ended up finding to finish that sound that’s in the beginning was actually a foosball table. Elizabeth and I were doing that rhythm at the same time.

Like pulling the control bars into the side?

Pete: Yeah, slamming the foosball players into the wall. That’s actually predominantly part of that noise.

I was trying to listen through that wall of strings – are there guitar or bass or any rock instruments in the mix?

Dan: It has that classic Bo Diddley or doo-wop thing and we were thinking, “What are some of those records around that era?” And then of course, Phil Spector, his whole wall of sound thing. So we actually kind of tried to emulate it. Underneath this whole thing is an ominous wall of electric guitar, acoustic guitar, three basses – electric, acoustic, and another electric bass – there’s foosball, there’s a lot of clapping.

How long did it take to record all this?

Elizabeth: Three days.

Dan: I mean, it depends how you look at it. The thing about recording is that you can do something in one breath, but we tend to spread things out, take some time away from them. So, you know, it’s a few hours here, you take a day off, do a few hours again.

Pete: I think it took a span of about a weak and a half but basically it was done within that time.

I’m a big Leonard Cohen fan and this is one of my favorite songs. Were there any lyrics that particularly jumped out at you?

Elizabeth: Yeah, there’s that really powerful racial line: “Old Black Joe’s still picking cotton for your ribbons and your bows.” Each time I’m just like, “Oh my god.” There’s no way I can be thinking about anything else when I’m singing that. Even now, with Obama President, singing that song…

Pete: And we started singing that song when we had a much different President. Now, the importance of it is no different than it ever was. It remains timeless for a reason when you can relate it to so many different situations.

Do you guys do any other covers? Anything live, anything you’re working up?

Dan: Quite a few, actually. It’s kind of our common place, like where we relate ‘cause we find these songs that we all know, then we do our own rendition. Like we like to do a few Beatles songs, we do this Tom Waits tune “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up,” “Carry,” Joni Mitchell. It’s really just show to show. If anything it’s educational, a great way to get back to experiencing where we came from and what influences what we do.

What Beatles songs have you guys done in the past?

Pete: We do – appropriately, ‘cause this is always the song we have to do at shows where we know, the sloppier the better – we play “I’m So Tired.” It’s easy to sing that song when you’re exhausted.

Dan: We have a song that’s kind of like the sister song to it: “Tell Me in the Morning.”

Were covers an early way to relate to audiences back when you were playing Brooklyn?

Pete: You start to realize the importance of a cover for a number of reasons. It can alleviate moments of a set where you’re looking for a break. It allows everyone to regroup and have fun. It allows the audience to feel interactive. I think a lot of it is that we each wanted to show how these covers make the music that we make happen. Like the Tom Waits song. We love Tom Waits, we love people like Leonard Cohen who write beautiful lyrics. We love to have fun with the Beatles and arrange songs that way. We do a Daniel Johnston song. There’s a side of us that wants to show the audience…

Dan: It’s what we feel about the song.

Pete: Right. We want to show our version of it as a little reminder that hey, this is a great song that still feels good to do night after night. For the most part they seem to stick when you find a good cover.

Dan: It’s like playing your iPod around your friends, being like “Check this out!”

Pete: We’ve done a bunch of them and I think maybe three or four have stuck and we’ll probably keep doing them.

“I’m So Tired,” “Everybody Knows,” Tom Waits…

Pete: Yeah, and “Walking the Cow,” Dan Johnston song. Those are our go-to ones that we know will always be there. Then we’re always experimenting to see when we play this song, will it sound like a cover band or will it sound like we’re actually doing something original.

Elizabeth, you started out classically trained. Your transition to popular music was on an Ella Fitzgerald tribute tour. Was it intimidating to be singing these classic songs?

Elizabeth: It was not just that but it was intimidating because I had to be scatting for the first time. I don’t think I’ve ever really scat since. It was a lot improvisation and playing with a lot of really amazing jazz musicians. It was pretty intimidating, but it was fun.

What were some of the songs?

Elizabeth: Umm…well she did all the Cole Porter hits, and a lot of Gershwin hits.

Dan: “Cherokee,” right?

Elizabeth: We did “Cherokee.”

One final question. Now that your profile’s rising you may get requests for covers of your tunes pretty soon. Do you have any dream artists to cover any of your songs?

Dan: Kylie Minogue.

Pete: Kylie Minogue. We were talking about a lot about Kylie Minogue today. If there’s anyone to turn a song into a hit dance song, she’s the best at that.

Which song?

Pete: Probably a really sad ballad.

Elizabeth: I was thinking David Byrne.

— by Ray Padgett

Download the song!
Elizabeth & The Catapult – Everybody Knows (Leonard Cohen)

Taller Children is out now on Verve Forecast. Check out the band’s website for more info.

"Weird Al" Yankovic

 Posted by at 2:00 pm  1 Response »
Oct 192009

“Weird Al” Yankovic is one of the smartest men in music. Think about it. How many other wannabe jokesters have tried to do exactly what he does? And how many have even achieved one-tenth of his success? Everyone feels like they have a hilarious parody up their sleeves – in middle school my friend had a food-themed version of the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” that never failed to kill us – but Al has taken the genre to another level. The guy’s been around for thirty years and he still sells out concerts coast to coast. Pretty good for a funny-haired accordion-player.

Covering a parody seems somewhat counter-intuitive. The parody is the evil twin of the cover. A good cover keeps the lyrics but changes the music. A parody does just the opposite. So it’s not surprising that most of the fifteen (!) covers below are of Al’s original songs. I’ve long wanted to compile this post for Cover Me. I believe it’s worth the wait. Oh, and later this week I’ll be posting some covers that didn’t make this post on Twitter, so follow Cover Me now!

Laura Barrett – Smells Like Nirvana

After all that, the first choice here is a parody. A brave choice by Barrett, who surely would have gotten more blog love with a cover of the original. Damn thing features a kalimba, after all! Wikipedia it. [Buy]

Stiff Bristles – Frank’s 2000″ TV

When Al wrote this in ’93, it probably seemed like more of a joke than it does today. With flat screens now all the rage, two-thousand inches may not be far off. [Buy]

James Eric – The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota

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Fact: There is a biggest ball of twin in Minnesota, located in the tiny town of Darwin (population: 276). One Francis Johnson created it in 1950, spending four hours a day wrapping twine. For 23 weeks. Another fact: James Eric was our first Cover Commissions artist. Final fact: October’s Cover Commissions is on now, so go vote! [Buy]

Your Mother – I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead

A dead-on spoof of the entire new-age moment, “I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead” doubles as a pretty good rule to live by. Your Mother put this out on the vinyl-only The Weird Al-Bum tribute disc. Well worth the $8. [Buy]

The PowerChord Men – Amish Paradise

Here’s a famous song in Yanko-lore. Coolio supposedly gave his permission for the parody (Al always asks, and has been granted it from everyone but Prince) but then publicly claimed otherwise. Publicity stunt or genuine miscommunication? The world may never know (or care). Still, I’ll bet neither ever envisioned the song as a minor-key acoustic duet. [Buy]

Lager Rhythms – Since You’ve Been Gone

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A cappella groups are the most reliable source of Weird Al covers. This song was vocal-driven initially anyway, so it’s a perfect match for the Lager Rhythms (get it? har!). [Buy]

The iMAniaC – Hardware Store

Al could give Twista a run for his money as fastest rapper alive. OK, maybe not, but he sure blasts out the shopping list in the bridge. The iMAniaC guys take it a different way. Though turning a Weird Al song into something about Star Trek doesn’t seem like a huge stretch. Also, check out this top-notch fan video. [Buy]

Take Away – Eat It

The final parody cover of the bunch. Weird Al has taken on Madonna in the past; if she ever covered him, it might sound like this. Don’t miss the parody video…of the parody video. [Buy]

Mike Odd & the Oddities – Nature Trail to Hell

With Halloween on the way, this couldn’t be more timely. If this was an actual movie, I know I’d see it. Frankly, I’m surprised it isn’t. You listening, Dreamworld? [Buy]

Double Down – This Is the Life

Weird Al wrote a recession-themed parody of T.I.’s “Whatever You Like” last year. This seems to be the bull-market companion piece. [Buy]

Yoni Gordon – Dare to Be Stupid

Lots of covers of this one (I get a kick out of the synth-dance version over here). But if you’re feeling punk rock, this Yoni’s for you. [Buy]

Yulenog & Nathan Kuruna – Christmas at Ground Zero

“The Night Santa Went Crazy” tends to be the go-to Weird Al Christmas tune, but I think this one’s more clever. “We can dodge debris while we trim the tree underneath the mushroom cloud.” That’s right, internal rhyming. [Buy]

Sudden Death – Happy Birthday

‘Tis the season to be born! Cover Me’s second birthday is on the 30th and my own is on Wednesday. One year maybe I’ll celebrate with broccoli and beer. Not this year though. One other birthday coming up too…oh yeah, Al’s, this Friday! We celebrate the season with this selection from the Prosthetic Lips tribute album (free to download). Oh, and happy birthday Micaela and Chiara Klein! [Download]

Throwing Toasters – Good Enough for Now

The acoustic cover is excellent, but what really gets me is the pre-song intro. The Toasters guy explains why covering Al is tough. Listen and learn. [Buy]

Marc and Jon – Polka #27

On every album Al puts the lyrics of a dozen recent pop hits into a polka medley. In a way, it’s the closest he gets to a traditional cover. The idea of putting Al’s own songs into such a melody seems so obvious once you hear it, but it takes a special kind of genius to blend “Albuquerque,” “Dog Eat Dog,” and “Let Me Be Your Hog.” [Buy]