Bob Potemski

Bob Potemski was born in New Jersey, grew up in New York, and now lives in Kansas, where he enjoys a semi-retired life with his girlfriend Polly and their dog, Damon. An avid concert aficionado, Bob has attended over 1000 live music performances in his life, including working behind the scenes at hundreds of shows as a venue manager. Bob also enjoys volunteering, movies (especially quirky ones and music documentaries) and working with animals. You can follow him on Twitter, if you like.

Apr 242020
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

I Shall Be Released covers

In accepting his Nobel Prize for Literature, Bob Dylan spoke of how a single song, “Cottonfields” by Leadbelly, changed his life and transported him into a world he had never known. He likened that transformation to a sudden illumination after a long walk in darkness.

At the time of this writing, the world is in the midst of COVID-19, a viral pandemic that has both literally and figuratively changed the way we live our lives, transporting us into a world we’ve never known. Our transformation, however, has been the opposite of Dylan’s: we’ve been plunged from light into darkness. The severity of the illness and its extreme communicability has led to the imposition and enforcement of mandated quarantine and physical distancing. Common themes expressed through news reports, social media, and even entertainment is confinement and isolation, even to the degree of people feeling imprisoned in their homes. How appropriate is it, then, to turn to our Nobel Laureate for hope?

Written by Bob Dylan in 1967, “I Shall Be Released” made its first official appearance on record courtesy of The Band’s seminal debut LP, Music from Big Pink. The version Dylan recorded with these same musicians made an initial appearance on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 some 24 years later. (Alternate Dylan versions exist as well.) With its themes of pending physical, emotional and spiritual freedom, the song speaks equally well literally, as a narrative for a long-term inmate in an actual prison, and metaphorically, for those of us in the “lonely crowd,” imprisoned figuratively by circumstance. May we all find some degree of comfort in Dylan’s words as we listen to them in five different interpretations, and begin to believe in our hearts that, any day now, any day now, we shall be released.
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Apr 032020
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Joan Jett

At the time of this writing, the world is dealing with COVID-19, a viral pandemic that has brought about sweeping changes to how we live, work, play, and even interact with each other. Contracting the virus can be fatal and, sadly, it has proven to be so for Alan Merrill, bassist and lead singer for London-based band The Arrows. Merrill (born Alan Sachs), the writer of the Arrows’ best-known, most successful song, “I Love Rock ‘n Roll,” passed away from the effects of COVID-19 on March 29, 2020. In his honor, Cover Me will look at this garage-rock classic elevated to anthem status by the legendary Joan Jett.
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Mar 032020
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

Midnight Rider covers

In today’s musical environment, which more often than not comprises manufactured stars singing over-produced, Autotuned, formulaic pop tunes, it’s easy to forget that for many classic artists, fame came neither quickly nor easily. It’s almost a cliché to think about rock and rollers struggling through the most challenging and meager of circumstances, waiting for that elusive big break. For some artists, adversity is destructive; for Macon, Georgia’s Allman Brothers Band, it was formative. The band’s hardships drove them closer together, cementing their commitments to each other and to success. Their persistence paid off. They were awarded multiple gold and platinum albums, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and ranked #52 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

If you’re looking for a signature song that represents the legacy of these elder statesmen of Southern Rock, “Midnight Rider” is, arguably, the best choice. It was a concert mainstay since it was first recorded in 1970 and, according to Secondhand Songs, has been covered nearly twice as many times as “Whipping Post,” and over three times more often than “Ramblin’ Man.”

While many great versions of “Midnight Rider” are out there, many of them sound overly similar to each other. Dozens of solo acoustic covers and numerous country versions exist; far fewer take the song in a different direction. We’ve selected three of those departures here. Three distinct versions, each one adding its own little bit to the legacy of the Allman Brothers Band. Of these three outstanding versions…
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Feb 142020
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

What I Like About You covers

Happy Valentine’s Day!

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

In the 1962 John Ford western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, newspaperman Maxwell Scott finds out that the actual facts about the storied career of senator Ransom Stoddard (played by Jimmy Stewart) weren’t quite as colorful and exciting as tradition had made them. Realizing that reporting the truth would not be in his best interest (because the better story would sell more papers), he tears up his notes and delivers the line above. There’s a bit of that story in the history of The Romantics; we’ll see it in a moment.

The Romantics hail from Detroit, Michigan, and were influenced both by local musicians such as the MC5, Mitch Ryder, and the Stooges, and by the raucous, hard-driving sound of British punk. In both cases, it was the energy and spontaneity of the music they were listening to that captured their imagination. They steered away from the negativity inherent in some of the lyrics and ethos of the time, choosing instead to keep making music as much fun as possible. Shunning the “new wave” label, they chose instead to describe their music as “English pop with an American energy.”

They played their first gig as a band on Valentine’s Day 1977, and here’s where much of the rock press has decided to “print the legend.” The legend is that the band took its name from the holiday spirit surrounding that first gig. When asked, though, the band will tell you that the real inspiration for the name came from a Creem magazine about another artist they admired: Bryan Ferry. Ferry was describing Roxy Music’s current project, and used the term “romantic” a number of times, which clicked with them, and the name was forged. So there’s the truth, not quite as catchy as the legend.
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Feb 032020
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

come on let's go covers

A long, long time ago — well, sixty-one years ago, anyway – the direction and course of music was altered forever when Charles Hardin Holley, Jiles Perry Richardson, and Richard Steven Valenzuela were killed in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa, in the early morning hours of February 3rd. Better known as Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens, these early rock and rollers were taken before they reached levels of success that most people projected for them. How significant was this loss? Well, there’s a reason February 3, 1959 is called The Day the Music Died. The music, though, lives on. What really died that day was the opportunity for these artists to influence the direction of the music they loved, going forward.

Perhaps the most acute loss that day was that of Ritchie Valens. At the time of his death, Valens was a mere 17 years of age, had been performing for less than a year, and had only a couple of hits. But he was a true pioneer, and is widely considered the first musician of Mexican descent to achieve crossover success in mainstream popular music. Despite his tragically truncated output, his influence in the field of Latino-based rock can be felt through the years, in Hispanic artist like Selena and Los Lobos; even Jimi Hendrix cited him as an influence.

One of Valens’s best-known songs is the oft-covered “Come On Let’s Go.” The question here is, which of these covers comes out on top? There are many from which to choose, some by bigger names (editor’s note: Paley Brothers & Ramones for me!), but the three selected for inclusion here all have something interesting to offer.
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Jan 152020
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

In 1982, talented multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield was looking for a change. It had been nearly nine years since Virgin Records had released his debut Tubular Bells, with a title track that had gone on to be featured as the theme to The Exorcist. His follow-up releases had followed much the same format (minus the somewhat creepy distinction): long form, avant-garde, eclectic orchestral pieces, with names like Hergest Ridge and Incantations. While his records were critically praised, commercial success was proving to be elusive.

In 1979, Oldfield started writing songs that were shorter and more commercially viable, in addition to some longer pieces. 1982’s Five Miles Out featured five songs: the nearly 25-minute “Taurus II” and four shorter songs, including the breakout hit “Family Man.” Oldfield wrote all the music to that song; five other writers are credited with the lyrics. This synth- and echo-heavy tune featured Scottish vocalist Maggie Reilly (one of the credited lyric writers; she would remain a regular collaborator) on vocals, ostensibly telling the story of a prostitute attempting to pick up a man in a bar. The man continually turns down her propositions, protesting that he’s a “family man.” The intensity increases with each verse, reflecting the female’s growing frustration with his repeated rejection. Neither the single nor the album charted in the US, although the single did reach #29 in Canada.

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