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

Interpreting song lyrics can be a dicey endeavor. Many songwriters seem to aspire to something poetic, obscure or obtuse. While it may not be hard to deduce the meaning of lyrics like, say, “I wanna rock and roll all nite, and party every day,” so many songs defy easy understanding, either because the lyrics are vague, or hard to hear, or even utter gibberish. R.E.M.’s early songs were filled with random words that made little obvious sense, and yet along with the music, they somehow created a mood. In 2008, Michael Stipe participated in a Q&A with fans, and he said about his early songs:

those songs were mostly written to be sung live. The pa systems were so crap that no one could ever really hear the singer anyway, including the singer. We just never intended to make records, and then suddenly we were making records and the songs were in my head like that, so we just blurred the vocal and turned it way down. The songs that do have words don’t really make any or much sense, it was about creating a feeling and emotion in the room in the moment. As it turns out the records turned out pretty great too, just inscrutable. I had to learn pretty fast how to write a good or great lyric after that. Please don’t analyze them, there’s nothing but feeling there. Sing along and make it up, that’s what I still do.
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

George Harrison was still struggling to get his voice heard when the Beatles recorded “It’s All Too Much.” They did so during the week that Sgt. Pepper was released (an album with only one of George’s songs); originally planned to appear on Magical Mystery Tour, it was delayed for the Yellow Submarine soundtrack, which came out more than half a year after the movie premiered. For a song that seemed determined to be an afterthought, “It’s All Too Much” has gone on to become best known as being perhaps the most underrated Beatles song. East meets West while tripping on acid, and hand in hand they sail into the mystic, taking the time to quote a line from the Merseys song “Sorrow” (which would have to wait for an immortalizing full-length cover until David Bowie came along).
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Before it was a depressing award-winning movie… before it was the name of a one-hit-wonder band… “Boys Don’t Cry” was the title of the Cure’s angstastic second single. The story of a boy with an aching heart who refuses to appear vulnerable under any circumstances has a dry spareness to it, but the guitar has as catchy a hook as you’ll find on the band’s later, lusher work.
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Bob Dylan recorded “Simple Twist of Fate” for one of his most popular albums, 1975′s Blood On the Tracks. Overanalyzed by critics and Bob fans everywhere, Tracks was dismissed by Dylan for having been influenced by the drama of a failing marriage, but there’s no denying how much pain comes through on the album’s songs, particularly this one.
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Once upon a time, there was a kind of music that was too dangerous to be sung on the radio, on TV commercials, at sporting events. But a band could spend sixty-four hundred dollars to make an album filled with this music, and watch the people’s reactions change over the decades from fear to fascination to full-on embrace. That’s what happened with the debut album by the Ramones, which opened with “Blitzkrieg Bop,” arguably the most influential song in the history of punk rock.
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Little Willie John made a splash with “Fever.” It’s an ominous song that slinks along in a minor key. A hit in 1956, it certainly stood out amongst the rest of the R&B hits of the day, burning briefly but brightly. Two years later, Peggy Lee caught “Fever,” slowed it to a simmer, and added some heated lyrics. Once again, it became a hit – a process that would be repeated a couple years later, thanks to Elvis Presley. And there’s been no lack of covers since (an epidemic?). Seems few are immune, with two of the (single-named) queens of pop music, Madonna and Beyonce, having given it a go. But “Fever” has spread to many genres, and the best of the best bring something unique to the hot (and catchy) tune.
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

“Come Back Jonee” may not be the most memorable song from Devo’s 1978 debut album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, but even on an album with no weak cuts, it’s a standout track, headlong and hummable, and deservedly got released as a single. Sort of a new generation’s “Johnny B. Goode” crossed with JFK, it tells the tragic tale of a musician who died too young, but if Johnny’s life passed him by like a warm summer’s day in Bad Company’s “Shooting Star,” Jonee’s life passed him by like an out-of-control roller coaster.
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

In honor of Eric Idle’s 71st birthday tomorrow, let’s pay tribute to his most famous song, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Idle, of course, is best known as a comic actor and writer and a member of the Python troupe and not as a songwriter. However, this surprisingly happy tune, with deceptively dark lyrics, sung by Idle and a group of fellow crucifixion victims at the end of the film, has become remarkably popular. It was a parody of the peppy songs often featured in Disney movies, but over time its ironic underpinnings have been ignored in favor of its upbeat chorus and jaunty whistling (suggested by Neil Innes, who wrote most of the music associated with the Pythons).
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