Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.
Badfinger combined magic and tragic like no other band in rock history. They were one of the few bands signed to the Beatles’ Apple label who made an impact of their own, but the Fab Four’s blessing carried its own curse of people not taking them as more than clone wannabes. They scored multiple top 20 hits, but saw very little of the revenue they generated, due in no small part to their corrupt manager. Finally, two members of the band, Pete Ham and Tom Evans, were driven to suicide. Today, the sorrow of Badfinger’s fate remains – but so does the music. Some of the strongest power-pop songs came from the band, including “No Matter What” and “Day After Day,” and their song “Without You” became a worldwide smash when covered by Harry Nilsson and (more than twenty years later) Mariah Carey.
The 1995 release of Come and Get It: A Tribute to Badfinger further proved the strength of those songs. The tiny Copper Records label recruited some ’70s power-pop giants (the Knack, the Plimsouls, 20/20) to join some of the ’90s practitioners of the art (plus professional ringer Al Kooper) in paying homage to the beautiful and damned band. Final result: an album that gives a great underrated band better than its due, showcasing both the well-written songs and the very good artists, most of them underrated themselves, putting them across with both power and class. Multiple reviews mention that there’s not a bad track in the bunch, and any one of them could be your favorite – think of the following five as just a representative sample…
Adrian Belew – Come and Get It (Badfinger cover)
Paul McCartney wrote “Come and Get It,” recorded a one-man-band demo (which finally got an official release on 1996’s Anthology 3), then told Badfinger to record it note for note. Good advice, as it turned out – they got a top ten hit out of it. Adrian Belew wasn’t required to stick to the script, but he still kept it pretty close, adding some jet-takeoff sounds and a little bit of a coda without losing the feel of either Badfinger’s or McCartney’s version.
Cotton Mather – Flying (Badfinger cover)
Great as their singles were (and they were), Badfinger’s deep album cuts are also rewarding. Take “Flying,” for instance, which shares a title and a similarly trippy feel with the Beatles song. Cotton Mather, still a year or two from their Kon-Tiki artistic breakthrough, brought their lo-fi ethos to the tune and proved a perfect match.
Aimee Mann – Baby Blue (Badfinger cover)
Aimee Mann’s cover of “Baby Blue” has received more exposure than the rest of the tracks on Come and Get It, due to her slightly higher profile and her releasing the song as a B-side that wound up on her Ultimate Collection album. It also doesn’t hurt that she did a great job with it, stoking the lyrics with even more longing than they already carried – and they already carried a lot of longing.
Circle Sky – Just a Chance (Badfinger cover)
Badfinger’s 1974 album Wish You Were Here is arguably their best, but it was pulled from shelves less than two months after its release due to financial and managerial squabbles. Among the songs that didn’t get the chance they deserved was leadoff track “Just a Chance,” which should be named on more “Best Power Pop Tracks” lists. Here, it gets a faithful cover from Circle Sky, a.k.a. Circus Guy, led by guitarist and Ringling Bros. Clown College graduate Michael Culhane.
The Loud Family – We’re For The Dark (Badfinger cover)
Scott Miller, leader of Game Theory and the Loud Family, was another underrated power-pop grandmaster; like Pete Ham and Tom Evans before him, he died too young by his own hand. His evident gifts, combined with the knowledge of the fate that awaited him, should make his cover of “We’re For the Dark” a tough listen. But it’s not – he takes No Dice‘s closing track, fills it out, and lifts it up. His cover brings to mind the words of Sir Francis Bacon: “In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.”
Come And Get It is out of print, but used copies can be found on Amazon for between ten and one hundred eighty dollars.