In high school, a friend and I drove two hours to a blues festival in rural Maine one Saturday. When we got to the gate we found tickets to be well outside of our meager budget, but there was only one artist we’d wanted to see anyway: Johnny Winter. So we found a low fence we could peer over, and sat, and waited.
The Story Behind digs deep into how an iconic cover song came to be.
Brian Jones was in bad shape.
The Rolling Stone had staggered into London’s Olympic Studios, where Jimi Hendrix was trying to record a new Bob Dylan song, “All Along the Watchtower.” Though Jones could barely stand upright, he demanded to play on the track. There had already been many takes and the arrangement was just starting to come together, but Hendrix, ever accommodating to his friends, sat Jones down at a piano. Jones jumped right in, not letting inebriation limit his enthusiasm, and began producing off-beat clunks and clangs that caused Hendrix to stop the take in frustration after only 23 seconds.
What would become known as the greatest cover song ever recorded was quickly falling apart.
In the world of alt-country, Asleep at the Wheel frontman Ray Benson has more cover song credibility than most. In their four decade career, the nine-time Grammy winners have recorded not one but two Bob Wills tribute albums with guests like Willie Nelson and the Dixie Chicks, which were so successful that they turned into a touring musical (which Ray starred in). He’s covered W.C. Handy with Willie Nelson and Red Foley with Brad Paisley. And on his new solo album A Little Piece, out next week, he takes on Randy Newman‘s “Marie”.
Back in 2010, Anna Rose performed the Stooges “Gimme Danger” for the “Jam for Ron Asheton” honoring the recently-deceased Stooge with current band members Scott Asheton, Mike Watt and Steve Mackay. As these things generally are, the tribute night was somewhat of a karaoke-esq affair. In the subsequent years though, she stuck with the song, re-arranging it and fiddling with it to arrive at the version you hear below. She delivers the song like nightclub singer with a spaghetti western bent, like if Blue Velvet was set near the Alamo.
“I will now sing to you the 2013 song of the year,” Patti Smith said at her 67th birthday concert last week in NYC, then launched into a moving – not to mention unexpected – cover of Rihanna‘s “Stay.” Never one to cover a pop song ironically, Smith and pianist Tony Shanahan delivered the lyrics with poise and purpose, even when nerves caused her to forget a few of the words partway through.
Andre Mistier formed The Adversary after a trip to Burning Man, so for their first cover what better artist to choose than the Flaming Lips – basically the Burning Man of bands? Mistier, formerly of alt-rock quartet Ism, chose “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.” The narrative of the song overlaps with the dark post-apocalyptic dreamscape the group explore on their debut EP Chapter 1: The Ruins.
Another year, another long weekend of sweaty clubs and frantic cab sprints across the east river for CMJ. A few of our past picks have broken out a little bit since we wrote about them – Lord Huron, Widowspeak, Houndmouth – so once again, we’d like to give some small boost to our five favorite bands from CMJ, along with a cover from each.
Well, our five favorite bands who had a cover that is. To the rest of our knockout discoveries (like EULA, Reuben and the Dark, GEMS, Pete Bauer) – hurry up and cover something so we can write about you too!