Ten years ago today, I had a whim.
I was studying abroad one semester and found myself with a lot of free time – school work was light, and a college student’s budget limited my international explorations – so I decided to start a blog. A second blog actually, since for several years I had run a personal blog of concert reviews and bootleg downloads called Dylan, Etc (it had more “Dylan” than it did “Etc”). I’d fallen in love with the cover song after hearing Bob Dylan (who else) play a revelatory cover of “Summertime” on his short-lived radio show. I’d already hosted a Cover Me college radio show, and decided to expand us to the World Wide Web.
These were the days of the so-called “MP3 blog,” which included a vibrant subgenre of cover-songs blogs. That’s right, I’d like to claim credit for inventing the category, but I didn’t – not even close. RIP to Copy Right?, Cover Freak, Fong Songs, and the rest of the pioneers – and shoutout to our fellow survivors from that era, Coverville, which was releasing podcasts before most people knew what that word meant, and the folk blog Cover Lay Down, which began around the same time as us.
A lot has changed over the past decade. We’ve published 3,564 posts as of this one. Oh, and did you notice the pronoun change there? Cover Me is no longer an “I” – it’s a “we”, with over 60 writers contributing over the years. We’ve grown from an ugly Blogspot to our spiffy own domain (which is overdue for a redesign itself, frankly). And in case the large banner ads all over the site weren’t clue enough, I just released a book also called Cover Me, which – back-patting alert – Variety called “one of the best multi-subject music books to come down the pike in years.”
We wanted to do something special to celebrate our tenth birthday. And we wanted to celebrate not just ourselves, but celebrate the cover song itself. So we put together this little album Cover Me Turns 10: A Covers Tribute to Covers as a gift to our readers. We contacted several dozen of our musician friends and asked them to cover a cover. That is, to honor the many great songs we might not even know without an iconic cover – Aretha Franklin reinventing Otis Redding’s “Respect,” Quiet Riot amplifying Slade’s call to feel the noize, Prince learning that nothing compares 2 Sinéad O’Connor.
We’re honored that so many of our favorite musicians contributed, and frankly speechless at how great a job they did. So speechless, in fact, that we asked them all to introduce their own work with a few sentences. A million thanks to all of them, and also to Cover Me writer and art whiz Sean Balkwill for designing the lovely – ahem – cover. The whole thing is free to download at Bandcamp until downloads run out [update: they did, you can download the set at MediaFire until Bandcamp releases more November 21], and free to stream forever.
Enough chatter from me. For ten years this blog has been all about celebrating the music and we’re not going to stop now. Thanks for taking this journey with us.
– Ray Padgett
Cover Me Founder
Cover Me Turns 10: A Covers Tribute to Covers
1. The Majorleans – Black Magic Woman (Santana / Fleetwood Mac cover)
“Peter Green has been a favorite of The Majorleans for a long time. The original Fleetwood Mac’s music is very under-appreciated. Santana’s famous version of Black Magic Woman is what 90% or more of people are aware of. It’s great- but so is the original. We tried to re-interpret the source through some different lenses- we worked out a grooving back beat and guitar atmosphere that brought to mind a modern My Morning Jacket song, and then approached the vocal like JJ Cale or Al Green to give it an understated menace. Props to lead guitar Chris Buckle for a scorching solo!”
2. The PepTides – Money Changes Everything (Cyndi Lauper / The Brains cover)
“It’s truly fascinating to watch Cyndi’s live version where she bites into the song’s message in savage abandonment. Being that money is part of every human’s survival and how it affects relationships, it was crucial for our cover to underline the gravitas by creating a mood of both the sadness and drama behind the lyrics.”
3. Land of Leland – Got My Mind Set on You (George Harrison / James Ray cover)
“I just listened to the original James Ray recording (it’s excellent!) of this long enough to get the melody in my head. Then I put my own weird chords on it, which were calling out to me for a surfy groove. The lyrics are a rare combination of tender and silly. James Ray sounds more earnest, and George Harrison sounds more jokey. I think I kind of vacillate between the two. What a tune!”
4. Man About a Horse – Last Kiss (Pearl Jam / J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers / Wayne Cochran cover)
“My girlfriend is a huge Pearl Jam fan and we thought it would be fun to do this one for her. We recorded this live to try and capture some of the energy from our live shows, where this song is always a big hit. Everybody sings along, whether they’re remembering the Cavaliers version or the Pearl Jam version. Nobody thinks of the original Wayne Cochran version, which is a shame because it’s great too.” – bass player Matt Thomas
5. Frances Cone – All for the Best (Thom Yorke / Miracle Legion cover)
“We went to see Andy’s cousin, Mark Mulcahy, play at Bowery Ballroom earlier this year and this song hit me in the gut. We researched a little and found a version Thom Yorke recorded so our take is a little bit of both. Mark is an artist we all admire so much and feel so lucky to know. He dedicated this song to his family and we want to dedicate it right back to him.”
6. The Land Below – Hooked on a Feeling (Blue Swede / B.J. Thomas cover)
“Taken out of its ‘ooga-chakka’ context, these lyrics really give me the creeps. As with many love songs, once the general vibe of the track is changed towards a darker side, one is left with an uneasy feeling and it’s clear the lyrics portray an unhealthy obsession. ‘I’m high on believing you’re in love with me’ doesn’t sound like a love that runs both ways.”
7. Mr. Russia – Crazy (Patsy Cline / Willie Nelson cover)
“The day Willie Nelson dies is the day I finally burn down an Applebee’s. We got to stretch our legs a bit and try something unorthodox. The acoustic bass was an interesting touch and allowed us to get that acoustic vibe without breaking MR RUSSIA’s pledge to never ever ever use a guitar on a MR RUSSIA song. The song is deceptively simple. The lyrics are every man/woman. You can see why it is one of the most popular jukebox song of all time.”
8. John Dissed (featuring Myra Washington) – Mony Mony (Billy Idol / Tommy James and the Shondells cover)
“When Cover Me offered me the opportunity to do a cover of a cover, this one sprang to mind. Any excuse to work with my friend Myra, because she is the most talented human alive. My other good friends, drummer Jeff Moscone and bassist Michael Wallace (The Longing) are also featured. I don’t know if this is anything beyond a novelty that anyone will ever listen to more than once, but it was fun and I kind of fell in love with the song during the process of recording it.”
9. BoomBoxRepairKit – I Fought The Law (The Clash / The Crickets cover)
“We picked it because we’re Clash fans and knew it would translate well. Really loved diggin’ into the original. I replaced the lyric ‘best girl’ with ‘bacana’ which means ‘very cool female’ in Dominican & Colombian slang. Also, replaced ‘baby’ with ‘heva’ the 2nd time it comes around. It’s old Dominican slang for girlfriend / wife / baby / sweetheart. Our intro is a sample taken from the Clash version. I took their (drum roll) intro, sped it up to our tempo and it’s what brings us into our version.”
10. Hula Hi-Fi – Hurt (Johnny Cash / Nine Inch Nails cover)
“This song is such sacred ground. The original version has always been one of our favorites in the NIN catalog. Gut-wrenchingly beautiful. Cash made it his own and is now revered as one of his classic recordings.
“How on earth could we do this justice? All we can hope for is that our offering of sirens crooning, reversed ukuleles, and Hawaiian lap steel will take you to another place with this incredible tune.”
11. Alyson Greenfield – What A Man (Salt-N-Pepa / Linda Lyndell cover)
“I grew up listening to Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Whatta Man,’ which I have always loved, but for this cover I decided to go back to the song’s original roots and do a version that was inspired by Linda Lyndell’s groovy, soulful ‘What A Man.’ I wanted to tap in to the song’s core by focusing on the voice and lyrics, dropping the tempo, and giving it a stripped down/folk feel with just acoustic guitar and banjo. I didn’t include the sample that is the familiar groove from both Lyndell and Salt-N-Pepa’s versions, but I think the fun with covers is always making them your own!”
12. Anthony D’Amato – Eve of Destruction (Barry McGuire / The Turtles cover)
“I’m sure that every generation has the sneaking suspicion that the end is near, but these days it really does feel like we’re just one wrong tweet away from total annihilation. I updated a few of the lyrics to better reflect the current state of affairs, but the terrifying thing was just how few words needed to be changed. We seem to be hell-bent on making the same mistakes over and over again. I guess that’s why songs like this endure and continue to be covered through the years.”
13. David Gans – Me and Bobby McGee (Janis Joplin / Kris Kristofferson cover)
“I learned this song when I was a baby singer-songwriter in San Jose, California in 1970 or 1971. Many of the musicians I admired in our scene had already adopted it, many of them from a Gordon Lightfoot album. It was already firmly and permanently in my repertoire when I heard Janis Joplin’s hit single, which I expect is the best-selling and most widely-heard of countless cover recordings.
“After I became a Deadhead in 1972, I heard ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ on the double album Grateful Dead (aka Skull & Roses) – soulful and American in a whole ‘nother way.
“For my recording, I chose a simple presentation because this is how I first performed the song nearly five decades ago. I’ve played it in bands, duos, and solo sets, on stages and in living rooms and around campfires. I love ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ just as much today as I did when I first learned it.”
14. Peregrino – One (Three Dog Night / Harry Nilsson cover)
“We chose to cover Harry Nilsson’s ‘One’ because we adore it and wanted to record a song that had a significant impact not only on the music world, but also on the original artist himself, and it’s no secret that the Three Dog Night cover gave his career a huge boost. We adapted it to our style by giving it an acoustic beginning and letting it grow from there. There are a few nods to Harry – the dial tone at the end because he wrote the song while listening to the busy tone on a phone, the mouth trumpet that was pretty signature for him, as well as staying fairly true to the high vocal lines at the end. Nilsson is a great hero and influence of ours and this was some of the most fun we’ve had in the studio and playing around with arrangement/composition.”
15. Unwoman – Nothing Compares 2 U (Sinéad O’Connor / Prince cover)
“I wanted to capture as much of the intimate intensity of Sinead O’Connor’s version as possible, with sad cello and moody synth.”
16. Betty Nugs – Respect (Aretha Franklin / Otis Redding cover)
“I chose ‘Respect’ because it’s bad ass. I made it my own by making it bad ass…again.”
17. 82nd Street – Cum on Feel the Noize (Quiet Riot / Slade cover)
“‘Cum on Feel the Noize’ was the sort of music I knew as a kid, and represented the sort of teenage life I imaged I’d get, with parties like the one in Teen Wolf where you eat jell-o out of people’s shirts. By the late ’90s, though, going to parties like that made you a ‘sell-out.’ Arena rock was really uncool. You couldn’t even like Springsteen for a while there. I really don’t know what we were thinking in the ’90s. ‘Cum On Feel the Noize’ is goofy and just sheer fun (like most of Slade’s best work), and I tried to play up both the silliness and the ‘take back my lost youth’ angle, with Nintendo sounds and pizza grease guitars. Let’s get rich, buy everyone acid wash jeans, and teach them how to dance.”
18. J Hacha de Zola – Girl You Know It’s True (Milli Vanilli / Numarx cover)
“I remember when this song came out as a kid (just dated myself.) Admittedly, I secretly liked a few Milli Vanilli tunes – they were really quite infectious – just couldn’t get them out of your head when you heard them.
“‘Girl You Know It’s True’ was the jam back in the day. The hook is super catchy and brings back a lot of memories for me. I feel for Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus otherwise known as ‘Milli Vanilli’ regarding that whole lip- synching thing. Losing their Grammy and being basically dragged through the mud for doing something that basically every pop star does today. I am sure that all the derision had a huge impact on those two guys. I mean these two dudes were very talented and good-looking. They had it going on and then suddenly they lost everything.
“I honestly didn’t care at the time whether any of their songs were actually sung by them. It’s pop music and they had many huge hits. All their tunes really jammed and as I enjoyed them as a youngster.
“My approach for this cover was take possession of this tune completely. I wanted to take it apart and reformulate it in a way that sounds distinctly like ‘J Hacha.’ I am never interested in replicating what the original artist has done because the fact of the matter simply is that I could never do it as well. The aim here to make it my own. Fashion the song in my own creepy and twisted image which is something I really enjoy doing. The song is fairly unrecognizable until that hook comes along. It is at that point hopefully the listener realizes that this is indeed a cover. ‘Wow, this a Milli Vanilli tune?'”
“I have to say this was a challenging tune to do. The delivery of the verses of the original were ‘rapped’ and very fast. I am no rapper and I’m not much of a singer, I’m more of a crooner, so I had to find a way to make this work. During the session, I asked my drummer Hank to play at the original tempo, and then we slowed them down digitally which yielded this ‘drums under water’ kind of sound. We then used that as the basis upon which to lay everything else on top.
“I had to trim a bit away from the verses – there were just so many words that had to somehow fit – but rather than mashing them all in unceremoniously, I’d decided to distill down the best parts of the verses and have at it.
“I wanted to my own ‘creepy-booze-gazey’ almost ‘David Lynch-ian’ version of this tune. ‘Creepy’ is kinda my thing. I wear and own my ‘creepiness’ thoroughly as a badge.
“I need to take possession of this song – completely own it for a little bit – make it my own thoroughly and deliver it in a way that sounds distinctly like me.
“Again, I have recruited Ralph Carney’s glorious horns for this cover. He contributed tenor and baritone sax for this track. He was really amused in this song choice – he was all about it and you can hear him squeal through his sax with delight throughout the track. I love that guy.
“The track has this Pink Floyd/Prince deliciousness to it I think. The guitar solo sounds distinctly like David Gilmour – and some other guitar noodling and fills sound a lot like the ‘Purple One’ – compliments of big-time, Hoboken guitar slinger, Ty Tuschen.
“It was totally unintended and just came out that way – I really didn’t know how this was going to work out and I am quite pleased and proud of this cover.”
19. Little Killer – I Think We’re Alone Now (Tiffany / Tommy James and the Shondells cover)
“We’re excited to share our first collaboration together for Cover Me. We chose ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ because we both grew up with the backdrop of Tiffany in ’80s malls, and love the original by Tommy James & The Shondells. Much like us, our version is sleepy, playful and bottom-heavy. It’s also short like our attention spans.
“The vocals, percussion and toy piano were all recorded in an echo chamber which was originally built as a subterranean pool for viewing aquatic themed movies. The rest was recorded above ground on assorted synths.” – Danica Dora & Owen Biddle
20. The March Divide – Dancing With Myself (Billy Idol / Gen X cover)
“I’ve honestly never been one to do covers, nothing at all against people that do them, I dig a good cover as much as the next guy, but I’ve always been so focused on writing, that I never really took the time to learn other people’s songs. I’m a total bore at a camp fire. But recently, I did a sort of ’80s cover series, & really enjoyed it, probably more than I should have. When asked to do the Cover Me 10yr Anniversary project, I was still fresh off my inspiration of the ’80s, & really liked the story of ‘Dancing With Myself.’ Originally recorded by Billy Idol’s band Gen X, as a 7″ single in the UK, but it flopped. Fast forward a couple of years, Billy Idol, as a solo artist, re-released ‘Dancing With Myself’ as a single in the US, & the rest is history. As a song writer, a story like that gives me hope. Maybe somewhere down the road, people might finally give a shit about all these songs I written!”
21. Matthew Crosby – Superstar (The Carpenters / Delaney and Bonnie cover)
“Tommy Boy was my initiation. But with all respect to the Carps (and Farley-Spade) who did it so beautifully, when I really got to know the song it was Rita Coolidge’s version on Mad Dogs and Englishmen, and since then it’s been first and foremost a Leon Russell tune to me. It’s the quintessential torch song but I’ve always felt like there was a darker, more pathological thing in there behind the sentimentality — a kind of delusional quality. You almost wonder if the affair ever happened at all. It’s a very dark song when you dig into it.”
22. Garden on a Trampoline – Without You (Harry Nilsson / Badfinger cover)
“I wanted to approach this Harry Nilsson cover with a delicate touch rather than replicate the original, particularly in terms of the symphonic emotional weight that Nilsson elegantly gave us in the second half. His voice gets really high, and I think I can reach the same octave, but part of me had this idea of turning the song into an homage to another favorite songwriter of mine: Sparklehorse. So I tried to make it far more subdued, though I’ve performed this song live note for note akin to Nilsson’s take. Nilsson was one of my first heroes as a child, alongside The Beach Boys and The Beatles. My dad played him in heavy rotation and I adore his production, as well as his own take on cover songs. This one always brought a tear to my eye, and it was an honor to cover it.” – Jim Laczkowski
23. The Diamond Family Archive – Go Now (The Moody Blues / Bessie Banks cover)
“We all think of this as a Moody Blues song, that amazing early film setting out a formula for music videos to come. It’s not though, it’s a cover, written by Larry Banks and Milton Bennett.
“I was in a band years ago who made some recording with Tony Clarke from the Moody Blues. He lived on a boat and wore sunglasses all the time. We were all really excited as ‘Go Now’ was something we played a joke version of in rehearsals. We had a song with same descending chord pattern. He was from a later era Moody Blues and clearly stated he had nothing to do with ‘Go Now.’ The recordings we made didn’t work out.
“This version was recorded on a day filled with rain. You can hear it on the studio roof. You can also hear a robin whose singing got trapped in the echoplex whilst recording the tambura track.”
24. Bill Scorzari – Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash / Anita Carter cover)
“I felt the lyrics of this song cry out for a slow and sparse arrangement that would allow the intensity of their meaning and the haunting melody to burn through to the front of the music. It is such a great song, it just draws the emotion right out of me every time I have the great pleasure and honor to be able to sing it.”
25. Allison Crowe – (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding (Elvis Costello / Nick Lowe cover)
“This song puts into words a lot of the things I’m feeling in a way that I have a hard time verbalizing clearly. It’s been covered a lot. There’s the Elvis Costello version which to me has a defiant protest like quality to it (as well as a kind of unique coolness that only Elvis can do in his own way) and the original which is deeply felt and how Nick Lowe sings it today is almost pleading. It really says so much. I hope to fall somewhere in the middle.”
Whew! We hope you enjoyed all of those as much as we did. You can also stream and download the entire album for free on Bandcamp [update: free downloads have run out until November 21, so download the MP3s at MediaFire for now]:
Thanks again to all these amazing artists for participating – check them all out on their websites, social medias, and tour dates. And thanks most of all to you, the reader, for supporting us these last ten years.