Oct 262018
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

Ben

It says something about Michael Jackson, and I’m not sure what, that his first solo number-one record being a love song to a rat is one of the less strange things about him. Just fourteen years old, Michael was recording solo work at the behest of Motown Records, who wanted to have Jackson 5-related product to sell without necessarily having all five Jacksons. Meanwhile, a movie was coming out that featured young Lee Montgomery performing a sweet song, but the producers wanted a bigger name to rerecord the song for the movie’s theme, and Donny Osmond, the original choice, was on tour with his brothers. That’s how “Ben,” the title track to the sequel to Willard, found its way into Jackson’s hands and onto the airwaves in 1972.

Ben was the tale of an ailing young boy who befriended a rat colony that had been trained to kill in the previous film, led by the dashing young varmint Ben. The critics weren’t kind – Roger Ebert called it “a geek movie” back in the day when that couldn’t be anything but an insult – but the theme song, a gentle oasis amidst the horror that surrounded it, caught the public’s fancy, and they flocked to it like a rat to cheese. “Ben” wound up selling 1.7 million copies in the US alone.
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May 042018
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

despacito covers

The idea behind this new series is that the random-number generator will pull up one random Billboard Hot 100 number-one from 1958 through 2018, the chart’s 60th birthday. For whatever reason, though, so far said generator is only delivering me either super old hits – my last was 1963’s regrettable “Hey Paula” – or very current – a late-period Britney Spears hit. And the trend continues today when we look at covers of one of the most recent hits out there, 2017’s #1 hit “Despacito.”

And not just one of the most recent hits, but one of the biggest. Ever. Last year, “Despacito” last year tied Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” for the most weeks atop the Hot 100 in history. This wasn’t just a number-one hit. This is objectively one of the biggest hits of all time.

So there must be a million covers, right? Not really. Despite being so massive, “Despacito” never caught that wave of semi-ironic indie rock covers that so many pop smashes do. Continue reading »

Apr 202018
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

hey paula covers

“Hey Paula” is the sort of song that cries out for a good cover. It’s a tight, catchy slice of bubblegum pop, but one almost unlistenable today in its original 1963 recording by Paul & Paula (though it was clearly very listenable then – it wouldn’t be in this feature if it hadn’t topped the charts). More power to anyone nostalgic to the original release, but I have a hard time imagining this inspiring any new Paul & Paula fans today. I have a stronger tolerance for treacle than some, but this is well over my limit: Continue reading »

Mar 282018
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

hold it against me covers

This fourth installment of “Covering the Hits” marks a first: the first time one of these was a hit during Cover Me’s lifetime. Britney Spears’ “Hold It Against Me” topped the charts in 2011, well within this blog’s ten-year history. In fact, we wrote a feature on the song when it first came out. This is hardly a cut we’re dusting off from the archives of music history. Continue reading »

Mar 222018
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

connie francis my heart has a mind

Our grandparents like to tell us how much simpler things were in 1960: A world without an internet or mobile phones to navigate, steady 9-to-5 jobs, and a soundtrack of wholesome, reassuring music. Listen to “El Paso” by Marty Robbins or Brian Hyland’s deathless “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” and you may feel like you’re stuck in a soft-focus time warp. (Of course, you may find that to be a pleasant feeling; no judgements here.)

But some songs from that era exhibit real staying power, whether through repeated airplay or, more often, subsequent artists’ cover versions. One of these is Connie Francis’ “My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own,” which gave the New Jersey-born singer her second #1 hit on the Billboard Top 100 on September 26, 1960. Continue reading »

Mar 152018
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

Rich Girl covers

In 1960, Victor and Everett Walker opened the first Walker Bros. Original Pancake House in Wilmette, IL. By the end of the decade, Victor retired, having sold his restaurant and the 15 KFC franchises he owned. At age 50, he was fixed for life – as were his three sons. One of them, Victor Jr., dated a woman named Sara Allen for a while in college. She broke up with Victor Jr. (but remained friends) and began going out with Daryl Hall, who would write “Sara Smile” about her and write many other songs with her.

Hall knew the young Vic and later referred to him as a “burnout.” “He came to our apartment, and he was acting sort of strange,” Hall said in an interview. “I said, ‘This guy is out of his mind, but he doesn’t have to worry about it because his father’s gonna bail him out of any problems he gets in.'” That thought led to a song. “But you can’t write, ‘You’re a rich boy’ in a song,” Hall said, “so I changed it to a girl.” Continue reading »