Sep 022019
 

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

Bikini Kill

2019 marks the return of the riot grrrl. Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, L7, and Team Dresch, all formative riot grrrl bands, have reunited in 2019 to play tours and (in some cases) even release new music. In the era of the #MeToo movement, increasing abortion restrictions, and the struggles of the LGBTQ community to find acceptance, riot grrrls sense that they are needed, and they’re coming back. The riot grrrl movement was a punk musical movement, but it was also a political movement; lyrics took on weighty topics, promoted feminism, and unabashedly commented on politics. This week we celebrate riot grrls, and thank them for speaking up and pushing for equality through their music. 

It only seems right to kick off a week of riot grrrl posts with Bikini Kill, often considered the founding band of the movement. Founded in Olympia, Washington, home to the early riot grrrl scene, in 1990, the band is made up of singer Kathleen Hanna, drummer Toby Vail, guitarist Billy Karren, and bassist Kathi Wilcox. Before disbanding in 1997, Bikini Kill recorded five albums, demanding “girls to the front” at their shows. Afterwards, the members went on to other musical projects. Most notably, Hanna became part of Le Tigre, the rock band known for its liberal political statements. Ironically, Hillary Clinton’s campaign tried to use “Rebel Girl” in a campaign video, but Vail requested that it be removed.

In 2006, when Rolling Stone picked the best songs of each year since 1967, Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” was deemed the best of 1993. But this song is not just a song for the ’90s (not to mention a refreshing break from heteronormative lyrics), it’s an emblem, an anthem for everyone fighting injustice in this world. 

When she talks, I hear the revolution
In her hips, there’s revolution
When she walks, the revolution’s coming
In her kiss, I taste the revolution


These covers span the spectrum from screaming to singing, and they choose a variety of tempos marked by a steady metronomic drum beat. 

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Aug 012019
 

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

A Day in the Life

Editor’s Note: This is the four thousandth post in the long and storied history of Cover Me. To mark the occasion, we went looking for a musical reference to the number 4,000. Thanks the all those rather small holes in Blackburn, Lancashire, we found a beauty. Now that we know how many Cover Me posts it takes to fill the Albert Hall, we hope you’ll enjoy this one just as much as all the ones before and beyond (and consider supporting our new Patreon to ensure we get to 4,000 more).

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the album that sums up 1967 better than any other. It was experimental, confident, naive, challenging. It also had the greatest album closer of… the Beatles? the sixties? the 20th century? “A Day in the Life” has had all those applied to it, and is accepted as the pinnacle of the Beatles’ achievements.
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Jul 192019
 

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

beds are burning covers

Midnight Oil had many huge hits in their native Australia, but only one song made an appearance on the U.S. Top 40: the 1987 classic “Beds Are Burning.” In a way, it’s surprising this song was their international breakthrough, given how specific the lyrics are to their native land – a protest song advocating for giving Australian lands back to Aboriginal group the Pintupi. Not subject matter guaranteed to register internationally when you take into account all the desert oak and cockatoo references (how many non-Australians can even pronounce “Yuendemu”?).

In another way, though, it’s no surprise at all this song connected wildly. I mean, ignore the lyrics (as no doubt many listeners did) and just listen to it:

The song has not been covered an enormous amount, but a few dozen versions exist. Many Australian bands have covers in their back pockets. In other cases, big touring bands like Pearl Jam and Imagine Dragons might prepare a version when touring down under. Continue reading »

Jun 112019
 

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

Dr John

Having watched the glorious images of New Orleans saying goodbye to their very own Dr. John, Mac Rebennack, it was daunting for me to try to do justice to his legacy with a piece on “I Walk on Gilded Splinters,” arguably the best known of his songs. Scarcely the most representative, it was the highlight, I guess, of his 1968 debut Gris Gris, owing more to the voodoo priest persona that gave him his break than to his latter-day body of work. It’s the song that casual fans, upon hearing the news of his death, might have known best through cover versions (by Humble Pie or by Paul Weller, depending on their age) as they asked who he was. (“The guy from Treme might actually be a commoner answer………)

But is it any good? Well, yes, of course it’s good, nothing quite like it having made the charts previously, and it was a hit – just not for its writer.
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Jun 072019
 

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

Don't You Want Me Covers

The Human League created many hits throughout the ’80s and ’90s in the UK, but “Don’t You Want Me” is the one that most successfully gained popularity across the pond. Philip Oakey first recorded this song by himself, but he promoted backup vocalist, Susan Ann Sulley, to the role of co-lead, creating the duet we know and love.

To those less familiar with The Human League’s full discography, this song might be considered a one-hit wonder. However, the song has a wide influence, uniting music fans across genres and demographics. We have the ladies of The Human League to thank for inspiring Posh Spice to “wannabe” in a musical group. The song’s synthesizer pop style is so catchy, even Pitbull sampled it. Sports fans rally behind this song too; “Don’t You Want Me” enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in 2014 when fans of the Aberdeen Football Club made a push to get the song back on the UK Singles Chart.

It’s surprisingly hard to find covers that don’t start with the same intro synth beat as the original, but these five covers break from the mold.

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Jun 042019
 

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

sugar sugar covers

I used to work in the music department of a chain bookstore. One day a customer came in and asked, “Do you have a copy of the song ‘Sugar, Sugar’?” We did, of course; I took him to the Various Artists section and handed him a copy of Billboard Top Rock ‘n’ Roll Hits: 1969.

“Thanks,” he said. “I have to learn this song for a lip-sync for work.” He grimaced.

“Wait,” I said. “If it doesn’t matter what version you lip-sync to…”

In a twinkling he was holding a Very Best of Wilson Pickett CD, containing Pickett’s classic “Sugar, Sugar” cover. “Yes!” he said, eyes alight. “This has songs on it I’ll actually want to listen to more than once!”

The Wicked Pickett’s version is indeed eternally worthy of relistening, but I don’t want to slight the Archies song. Sung by Ron Dante and backed up by Toni Wine (who turns 72 today!), it’s the perfect AM rock song, the #1 song of 1969, one that Lou Reed once admitted he wished he’d written. It’s been remade for Archie-related live-action TV shows, not once but twice. And it’s raked up a lot of covers – including some by artists you never would have guessed…

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