Patrick Robbins lives in Maine, where he moves through life with the secure knowledge that, as Penn Jillette said, "In all of art, it's the singer, not the song," On Wednesdays he goes shopping, and has buttered scones for tea. He is the author of the novel To Make Others Happy.
They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
What’s a scruff like me doing with this lot? – Ringo Starr
Richard Starkey, MBE, has always been undervalued by the world, and even by himself. Seen as a happy-go-lucky guy who was himself lucky to fall in with three geniuses to form the most influential rock band of all time, Ringo has been disparaged for everything from his playing (SO undeserved) to his looks. The fact is, Ringo Starr was perfect for the Beatles, the Earth of their four-elements dynamic, and the fact that John, Paul, and George all continued to love him even as they slagged off on each other, in the band’s dying days and long after, shows that the only three people whose opinion of Ringo mattered knew how valuable he truly was.
Back in 1974, anybody hearing those syllables for the first time stopped dead in their tracks. “What the hell is that?” tended to be the first thought, closely followed by nodding or singing along. Of course, it was the opening seconds of “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede, a song that went to number one on Billboard‘s charts and has resonated through the decades, with its inclusion on the soundtracks of Reservoir Dogs and Guardians of the Galaxy, not to mention its use in the dancing-baby-hallucination episode of Ally McBeal and the deliberately-bizarre-but-so-what cover by David Hasselhoff. Wired called it “a song that refuses to die, popping up again and again in the zeitgeist when you least expect it. It’s the Highlander of pop music.”
Here’s the thing – many of 1974’s listeners were among the 1969 listeners who put the original version of “Hooked on a Feeling” in the top five in America. How quickly we forget, eh? Well, no – it’s more like, how quickly we adjust to a new reality. Continue reading »
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Back in 1988, the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa got a few nice reviews, but didn’t even make the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll; today, it’s recognized as a highly influential classic. “Where Is My Mind?” gets most of the attention, but save some big big love for “Gigantic,” the album’s sole single, featuring co-writer Kim Deal on a rare (for the Pixies) lead vocal. It’s a song about the joys of sex, which instantly makes it edgier than any love song of the day (but not so edgy that it didn’t wind up in an iPhone commercial), and the exhilaration of the lyrics is matched by the quiet-loud performance that would inspire Kurt Cobain and a grungy cast of thousands.
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!
Say the words “jazz flute” to a casual music fan, and two people are likely to come to mind: Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson and Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy. There’s one man they really need to add to that small category – or, to be more accurate, one Mann… Continue reading »
That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.
Our story begins with R&B singer Limmie Snell, who in March 1965, under the name Lemme B. Good, released “Good Lovin’.” Only a month later, another version was released. This one kept the basic melody, the title, and the “yeah, yeah yeah, yeah yeah” hook, but all the other lyrics were changed – author Rudy Clark wasn’t happy with what he heard, and got Artie Resnick (who also co-wrote “Under the Boardwalk” and “Yummy Yummy Yummy”) to give him a hand with fixing the words. What emerged was a whole new song – no longer about a man who gets good lovin’ from his new girl (even though she’s ugly and can’t sing), now it’s about a man who needs good lovin’, a diagnosis obtained after consulting a physician.Continue reading »