Nov 102017
 
best covers 1987

Last year I did a roundup of the Best Cover Songs of 1996. It was a fun project to retroactively compile one of our year-end lists for a year before Cover Me was born. I wanted to do it again this year, but continuing the twentieth-anniversary theme with 1997 seemed a little boring. Turns out 1997 also featured a bunch of Afghan Whigs covers.

So to mix it up, I decided to go a decade further back and look at 1987. Needless to say, the landscape looked very different for covers. For one, far more of that year’s biggest hits were covers than we saw for 1996. The year had #1 cover hits in Heart’s “Alone,” the Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter,” Los Lobos’ “La Bamba,” Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” Club Nouveau’s “Lean on Me,” and Kim Wilde’s “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” Plus ubiquitous hits that didn’t quite top the charts, but remain staples of the songs-you-didn’t-know-were-covers lists, Buster Poindexter’s “Hot Hot Hot” and George Harrison’s “Got My Mind Set On You.” Continue reading »

Nov 082017
 

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: What’s your favorite cover of a Bob Dylan song?
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Nov 062017
 

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.

The Yardbirds’ write-up in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame begins with an immediate reminder that the group started off as a blues cover band. Little did Keith Relf, Jim McCarty, Paul Samwell-Smith, and (probably) Jeff Beck know when they wrote their first band-written, non-cover hit in 1966, “Shapes of Things” would eventually be included in the Hall’s permanent exhibit of “Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.” Much has been written about its recording, composition, arrangement, and socially conscious lyrics. (A check of Wikipedia or SongFacts will suffice.) Cover Me readers might enjoy hearing the jazz bass line from Dave Brubeck’s “Pick Up Sticks” that influenced Samwell-Smith. Legions of rock guitarists have paid their respects to Jeff Beck’s groundbreaking, feedback-laden lead guitar work on the song. Like The Godfather film, the ingredients combined to become a commercially popular and artistically appealing hit; the song reached #11 in the US, #7 in Canada, and #3 in the UK.

When we looked at over 40 verified covers of the song, we could see they pretty much fell into three categories: versions by the original members of the band (“All In The Family”); versions by numerous guitar gods (“The Shredders”); and other rock versions that don’t fit in either of the two previous categories (“Rock of Ages”). So for this special edition of Good, Better, Best, we’ll take a look at the top three for each category…

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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 »

Oct 272017
 

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!

The paths of songwriter Graham Gouldman and all-time greats The Yardbirds are forever linked in rock and roll history, but not inextricably. In 1965, a nineteen-year-old Gouldman had the good fortune to begin his career by penning the iconic Yardbirds hits “For Your Love,” “Heart Full of Soul,” and “Evil Hearted You.” The songs helped establish the now-legendary group as they transitioned from one eventual rock guitar god (Eric Clapton) to another (Jeff Beck), but the hits wouldn’t define Gouldman’s career.

Gouldman, a musician in his own right, neither performed with the band (that we’re aware), nor wrote any further hits for them. However, his career was just getting started. The ‘60s saw him writing additional hits for The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, and the aforementioned Jeff Beck, along with songs recorded by Cher, Wayne Fontana, and Ohio Express. The ‘70s brought hits with his own band 10cc. Additionally, Joe Cocker, Paul Carrack, Gary Wright, and Kirsty MacColl all recorded Gouldman tracks over the ensuing decades.

Today, the 71-year-old consummate troubadour is still at it; he just finished up his appropriately-named “Heart Full of Songs” tour in the UK before he rolls back out to Europe with 10cc in November. Let’s take a look at some standout covers of songs written by Gouldman from the major eras of a career that’s now spanned over fifty years…

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Oct 262017
 
free covers album

Ten years ago today, I had a whim.

I was studying abroad one semester and found myself with a lot of free time – school work was light, and a college student’s budget limited my international explorations – so I decided to start a blog. A second blog actually, since for several years I had run a personal blog of concert reviews and bootleg downloads called Dylan, Etc (it had more “Dylan” than it did “Etc”). I’d fallen in love with the cover song after hearing Bob Dylan (who else) play a revelatory cover of “Summertime” on his short-lived radio show. I’d already hosted a Cover Me college radio show, and decided to expand us to the World Wide Web.

These were the days of the so-called “MP3 blog,” which included a vibrant subgenre of cover-songs blogs. That’s right, I’d like to claim credit for inventing the category, but I didn’t – not even close. RIP to Copy Right?, Cover Freak, Fong Songs, and the rest of the pioneers – and shoutout to our fellow survivors from that era, Coverville, which was releasing podcasts before most people knew what that word meant, and the folk blog Cover Lay Down, which began around the same time as us.

A lot has changed over the past decade. We’ve published 3,564 posts as of this one. Oh, and did you notice the pronoun change there? Cover Me is no longer an “I” – it’s a “we”, with over 60 writers contributing over the years. We’ve grown from an ugly Blogspot to our spiffy own domain (which is overdue for a redesign itself, frankly). And in case the large banner ads all over the site weren’t clue enough, I just released a book also called Cover Me, which – back-patting alert – Variety called “one of the best multi-subject music books to come down the pike in years.”

We wanted to do something special to celebrate our tenth birthday. And we wanted to celebrate not just ourselves, but celebrate the cover song itself. So we put together this little album Cover Me Turns 10: A Covers Tribute to Covers as a gift to our readers. We contacted several dozen of our musician friends and asked them to cover a cover. That is, to honor the many great songs we might not even know without an iconic cover – Aretha Franklin reinventing Otis Redding’s “Respect,” Quiet Riot amplifying Slade’s call to feel the noize, Prince learning that nothing compares 2 Sinéad O’Connor.

We’re honored that so many of our favorite musicians contributed, and frankly speechless at how great a job they did. So speechless, in fact, that we asked them all to introduce their own work with a few sentences. A million thanks to all of them, and also to Cover Me writer and art whiz Sean Balkwill for designing the lovely – ahem – cover. The whole thing is free to download at Bandcamp until downloads run out, and free to stream forever.

Enough chatter from me. For ten years this blog has been all about celebrating the music and we’re not going to stop now. Thanks for taking this journey with us.

– Ray Padgett
Cover Me Founder Continue reading »