Jun 202015
 

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!

It’s a good time to be Brian Wilson. Earlier this spring, he released No Pier Pressure, his first album of new material in seven years. He is currently touring with Rodriguez, of Searching for Sugar Man (finally-)fame. Love & Mercy, the biopic featuring Paul Dano and John Cusack as different-era Brians, has been getting rave reviews. He’s not Mike Love. And today is his birthday.
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Jun 122015
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Reginald Maurice Ball was born 74 years ago today. Two and a half decades later, he took the stage name of Reg Presley. He may not have been the most famous person to take his identity from the King (right, Mr. Costello?), but he and his band, the Troggs, had as great an impact on rock and roll as anybody, thanks to the lewd, crude attitude of “Wild Thing.”

But while the Troggs were masters of expressing primal urges, they were awfully good with gentle, melodic pop as well. Presley can take credit for this, as he wrote most of the band’s material (“Wild Thing” being a notable exception). Result: the band has a far richer back catalog than the general public realizes, and if today’s artists were to plunder its caves, they would make some valuable finds.
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Jun 102015
 

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

Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).

Today’s question, from Cover Me staffer Raphael Camara: What’s a song that’s been covered too many times?
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Jun 092015
 

keepcalmI have long held it to be a covers truism that people who love covers are most compelled by musicians who can re-imagine a song in order to create something new. The whole point – I’ve said and written – of covering a song is to merge the acts of making and enjoying music in order to say something through song while also saying something about the song itself. Good covers discover or reveal. Good covers surprise.

The expectation that a cover should make something new, however, starts to feel unfair when one is attempting to evaluate covers of songs that have been covered as often as the sixteen Beatles songs on Keep Calm & Salute the Beatles. Covering the Beatles is a bit like taking a picture of THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA, an act that Don DeLillo describes not as capturing an image but maintaining one. What is there left to say, discover, or reveal about these songs beyond the tautological notion that they are good enough to be covered again and again?
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Jun 052015
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

bobmarley

His voice was an omnipresent cry in our electronic world. His sharp features, majestic looks, and prancing style a vivid etching on the landscape of our minds. Bob Marley was never seen. He was an experience which left an indelible imprint with each encounter. Such a man cannot be erased from the mind. He is part of the collective consciousness of the nation. – Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga, in his eulogy to Bob Marley

Maybe it’s a cheat to include a greatest hits album in the Full Album Covers category, but when the suggestion of Legend was put forward, I was intrigued. Only as I started searching did I perhaps discover why this best-of was the album suggested, instead of Catch a Fire, say, or Natty Dread. One of Bob Marley’s “normal” studio, or even live, albums might have been, well, a much duller choice, actually. If not dull, then uninnovative and samey, because anyone can do karaoke, and by golly, there are a lot of copycat Marley covers out there! By focusing on Legend, at least there is  opportunity to steer a little clearer of identikit versions.
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Jun 022015
 

ahistoryOriginally a one-off offshoot of 80s/90s indie stalwarts the Wedding Present, the Ukrainians bizarrely continue to exist, plowing their singular farrow, long after their parent band have become a distant nostalgic tear in the eye. With a mission statement of mingling western rock with eastern folk, and never straying far from that, the band has a history of liberally including the odd quirky cover in their repertoire, notably of the Smiths and the Sex Pistols. Now, the five grizzled individuals in the current lineup have decided to devote an entire album to cover versions. This was a project capable of falling flat or becoming parody; however, I am delighted to inform that, both on record and (especially) live, such is their fervor and dedication to their craft that A History of Rock Music in Ukrainian is a delight.
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May 292015
 

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!

elliottsmith-01

Someday you idiots will shut up and listen to him. — Lou Barlow

Elliott Smith was an outlier. He stuck out on his label, Kill Rock Stars, home of Sleater-Kinney and The Raincoats. He stuck out at the Oscars, wearing a white suit while performing “Miss Misery,” a polar bear stranded on a floating iceberg that failed to sink the Academy’s love of all things Titanic. And he stuck out in defiance to America’s ignorance of his music by continuing to do things his own way, against the advice of those who supposedly had his best interests in mind. Unfortunately, he sometimes didn’t have his own, either.
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May 222015
 

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

dreambabydream

When Bruce Springsteen was touring behind his 2005 album Devils and Dust, he closed his shows with a cover of the song “Dream Baby Dream” by the protopunk band Suicide. Most fans of the Boss were unfamiliar with it, and didn’t know how to take the moody mantra, sung over the drone of a pump organ and an offstage synth – “Glory Days” it ain’t. It turned out Bruce had been a fan of Suicide’s since meeting them in a studio in the ’70s, and had claimed in one interview that “You know, if Elvis came back from the dead I think he would sound like Alan Vega.” As for Vega, once he’d heard Springsteen’s interpretation, he said, “Now I can die…. He interpreted my song, he did it his way, and such a great way that I’m going to have to sing it that way, or not sing it at all anymore…. On my death bed, that’s the last thing I’m going to listen to. I’ll play it at my funeral.” So it’s safe to say he liked it.
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