If you’re a county band named after aliens, you almost have to cover Billy Lee Riley’s “Flying Saucers Rock ‘n’ Roll,” the high point of the extremely niche alien-country genre. And on their new album Back in the Saddle of a Fever Dream, Vermont’s Western Terrestrials do just that. It’s a high-energy version that retains the spirit of the original but injects a side of punk energy, like a cover Jason and the Scorchers might have done.
Alex Kapranos & Clara Luciani – Summer Wine (Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra cover)
Clara Luciani is Nancy Sinatra and Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos is Lee Hazlewood on this charming cover. Kapranos wrote, “When the lockdown started, we decided to record [‘Summer Wine’] — more for ourselves than anything else. We wanted to create the atmosphere of an imaginary world away from the confinement we were experiencing. Not that we were unhappy, but the imagination is the greatest medium for escape and adventure… After the lockdown eased off, we got together to film the video with our friends Adrien, Leo, Fiona and Hugo. I love the ideas they had, which suit the mood of the song and reflect our… well, our love of karaoke!”
Like 3-D movies, 360-degree YouTube videos briefly seemed like a revolution before quickly fading. But on their new cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ timely “I Think We’re Alone Now,” Houston quartet Swimwear Department put the format to good use.
If you don’t realize it’s a 360-degree video, you just watch frontman Matt Graham going stir-crazy in his kitchen. He’s entertaining enough that you could just stick there. But zoom around, via the left-right arrows up top, and you’ll find more cartoon houses with more band members. Each, true to the title, more or less alone (give or take a baby).
Hi! Ray Padgett here, founder of Cover Me. Excuse the self-promotional interruption from our usual flow of content, but I imagine it’s a self-promotional interruption that anyone reading a site about covers might actually be interested in.
Some of you may have read my first book, Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time. This new one is a successor of sorts. Not a sequel, exactly. More like a distant blood relative you only see on holidays.
It’s about tribute albums.
It’s part of the 33 1/3 series of short books on classic albums. I used one tribute album, 1991’s I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen, as an entry point to talk about the strange history of tribute albums more broadly.
Why pick I’m Your Fan out of all the possible tribute albums? Well, for one, you wouldn’t know the song “Hallelujah” without it. It’s one of only a couple tribute albums that has had that concrete an effect on music history (here’s the very brief overview). The entire album has a fascinating story, too: Two French fanzine editors with zero industry connections somehow convinced R.E.M., Pixies, John Cale, and more to record Leonard Cohen songs at a time when Leonard was at his most uncool. In doing so, they resuscitated a fading legend’s career.
I’m Your Fan also serves as a perfect example of the tribute album phenomenon more broadly. If you have a favorite tribute album, chances are it comes up in this book. If you have a least favorite, it probably does too. I interviewed the artists and creators of dozens of tributes, including the late, great Hal Willner, who basically invented the format single-handedly. (His first words when I called him up: “Is it all my fault?”)
The book comes out September 3. If it sounds of interest, pre-ordering it would really help, especially because no one’s going to be stumbling across it on bookstore shelves next month. Here are some links:
PRE-ORDER ‘I’M YOUR FAN’:
Barnes and Noble
A bonus for Cover Me readers: if you pre-order the book and email me some sort of proof, I will send you a private mixtape I made of my favorite other cover of every Cohen song on I’m Your Fan, all newer versions that came out after this album. Think of it like a bonus track to the book. Or, in this case, many bonus tracks.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for our Best Leonard Cohen Covers Ever countdown coming in a few weeks.
There’s no mistaking an ANOHNI cover. Since back when she was performing as Antony and the Johnsons, her imitable voice was instantly recognizable whether covering Beyoncé or the Velvet Underground. She hasn’t done as many covers since adopting the name ANOHNI – the most memorable, “Black Peter,” appeared on the sprawling Grateful Dead tribute Day of the Dead. But she begins to expand her covers repertoire with a new 7″ of Bob Dylan and Nina Simone covers.
The Band Of Heathens ft. Margo Price – Joy (Lucinda Williams cover)
Promoting her new album That’s How Rumors Get Started, Margo Price has been on a great covers kick. She recently tackled a political country classic at the Grand Ole Opry, Bob Dylan on CBS, and John Lennon from her house. Now she’s teamed up with Band of Heathens to cover a Lucinda Williams classic. To quote Lucinda on Instagram, “Get to Slidell, girl!!”