Jordan Becker

Jordan lives in Tarrytown, NY and enjoys writing about music in his spare time. He has enjoyed discussing music since his first experiences with radio at sleep away camp in the 1970's. A stint as a D.J. and program director at WPRB-FM in the 1980's solidified his love of opining about music, and he has recently begun contributing to music blogs. Some of Jordan's friends think that he has an unhealthy interest in cover songs, so writing for this blog will only confirm this sickness.

Nov 032017
 

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

that's entertainment covers

There are many reasons to love Paul Weller, the primary songwriter and singer for The Jam, but here’s a reason to hate him: he claims to have written 1981’s great “That’s Entertainment,” in ten minutes, while drunk. I suspect that most of us couldn’t write a song as good as “That’s Entertainment” if we spent our entire life trying, whether or not we were under the influence of any substance.

The Jam rose to fame, at least in England, on the back of songs that were mostly angry, fast and loud. As time went on, though, they began to include softer songs, without diluting their powerful political and social point of view. What makes “That’s Entertainment” so potent is the sense of barely contained rage in its mostly acoustic, relatively quiet arrangement. The lyrics are a stream of consciousness collage of scenes from ordinary life in Margaret Thatcher’s England, a country that Weller felt was tilting strongly toward the wealthy and privileged and away from the needs of ordinary people.  According to Weller, these vignettes were all visible from the bus he was on the night he wrote the song, and as a whole, they paint a picture of sadness and hopelessness.

So, Weller sings about “paint splattered walls and the cry of a tomcat,” “a freezing cold flat and damp on the walls,” and “opening the windows and breathing in petrol,” each verse followed by the sarcastic refrain “That’s entertainment, that’s entertainment.” (The song was, in part, inspired by a poem, “Entertainment,” by Paul Drew, and I wonder if there is also a backhanded reference to the glossy musicals compiled by MGM in their films from the mid-1970s with the same title). Continue reading »

Aug 112017
 

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

wreckless eric

A few weeks ago, Cage The Elephant released a cover of Wreckless Eric‘s “Whole Wide World,” and a fine cover it is. Hearing it sparked a memory back to the late 1970s when the song was released by the fledgling Stiff Records (where Nick Lowe was the house producer) and became an unlikely “punk” classic. On the one hand, the song has given Eric Goulden a degree of lasting fame, and hopefully years of royalties, but on the other hand, it sadly has overshadowed Eric’s many other wonderful songs, written and performed as a solo artist, as a member of bands, and most recently with his wife, Amy Rigby, a great singer/songwriter in her own right.

According to Goulden, the genesis of the song was, as he wrote in the opening lines:

When I was a young boy
My mama said to me
“There’s only one girl in the world for you
And she probably lives in Tahiti…”

Continue reading »

Jun 302017
 

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

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

Wow,  that sounds naïve in today’s world, doesn’t it? Watch the news or go on social media and all we see are people screaming at each other, dividing each other and hating each other. Not to mention, why only smile on your brother? What about sisters? And the gender binary should be rejected anyway, right?

In any case, the Youngbloods‘ “Get Together” has become an easy soundtrack shorthand when referring to the optimism of the 1960s (much as Buffalo Springfield‘s “For What It’s Worth” or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young‘s “Ohio” is used to illustrate the disillusionment and violence of that decade). You just have to hear the opening notes, and you are transported to a world of flower-festooned long hair, tie-dye, fringed vests and pot smoke. Thus, the song’s ubiquity in films, TV and advertising. 

Continue reading »

Mar 312017
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

mavericks

Read any article about the Mavericks and you are almost guaranteed to see the word “eclectic.” And that is fair. Their music is a cocktail of country, rock, blues, folk, Cuban, Tex-Mex, swing, and probably other genres, that somehow all works together. It is surely a testament to the strong writing, tight playing, and maybe most of all, the rich vocals and riveting stage presence of singer Raul Malo, that the band is able to meld these influences into a coherent body of work.

Also, they are an amazing live act, which doesn’t hurt.
Continue reading »

Feb 212017
 

Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.

jordan

Jordan Becker lives in Tarrytown, New York, a suburb of NYC where the Tappan Zee Bridge crosses the Hudson (until the new bridge is finished and they knock it down). He’s been writing for Cover Me since 2013, debuting with an essay about Mermaid Avenue by Billy Bragg and Wilco (see below). Of all his Cover Me pieces, he’s “kind of proud” of spotlighting the Grateful Dead and defending Dexys Midnight Runners.
Continue reading »

Aug 262016
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

hem

Writing an “Under the Radar” piece inevitably forces the writer to address the elephant in the room: Why is an artist you like enough to spend time researching and crafting a piece about considered to be “Under the Radar” by the vast majority of people? Hem, a band that formed in 2002 and sporadically released music until last year, would seem to have had so many advantages – intelligent songwriting, fine musicianship, a distinctive sound and, maybe most importantly, a lead vocalist with a scarily gorgeous voice. Seven of their songs were used in national commercials for Liberty Mutual Insurance, a classic Christmas cover was used in an ad for Tiffany’s, and other songs have appeared in television shows. They created music, which was well received by The New York Times, for a production of Twelfth Night for New York’s legendary Shakespeare In The Park program, featuring Anne Hathaway, Audra McDonald and Hamish Linklater. They were touted by outlets as diverse as NPR and Entertainment Weekly. Yet it appears that radar just doesn’t pick them up.
Continue reading »