Oct 312019
 

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

Ghostbusters covers

The movie Ghostbusters has never been without controversy. Dan Aykroyd’s original premise, featuring himself and John Belushi, was seen as financially prohibitive, and was sent back for a re-write. Casting issue abounded. The studio doubted it would make its money back. (Spoiler alert: it did.) The very idea of the 2016 reboot was met with derision, and the reboot itself fell far short of its financial goals. On a somewhat higher profile, the band that director Ivan Reitman wanted to provide songs for key segments, Huey Lewis and the News, turned the job down. Reitman finally tapped Detroit guitarist Ray Parker, Jr., a former session musician who had found commercial success with his band Raydio, to come up with a theme song. That theme, while a massive hit (three weeks at Number One on the Billboard Hot 100), provided further controversy, as Huey Lewis later sued Parker, claiming the Ghostbusters theme was plagiarized from his song “I want a New Drug.”

The case was settled out of court, but the controversy didn’t end there. Several years later, Ray Parker Jr. sued Huey Lewis for violating the original settlement’s non-disclosure agreement by discussing it on VH1’s show Behind the Music.

None of this drama should, nor does, detract from the song itself. The Ghostbusters theme is easily one of the most popular, hook-filled, memorable movie themes of all time, and it’s a Halloween staple at parties and on the radio. Popularity, of course, invites imitation; secondhandsongs.com identifies about 40 cover versions, from artists as disparate as David Essex and Andrew Gold to the Leningrad Cowboys. There are lots of note-for-note recreations, and many that reflect the style of the performer. Here are five of them, in no particular order, each bringing something a little bit different to the party.
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Oct 182019
 

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

rock and roll zeppelin covers

Even if you can’t quite stomach the whole full-on vibe of Led Zeppelin — me, I have to admit to some yawning over the self-reverent mythologizing that can abound whenever one J. Page gets interviewed — you have to admit that “Rock and Roll” is one prime slice of, well, rock’n’roll. Astonishing, even, and one that has me almost believing it all. To be fair, at the time Zeppelin were bigger than huge, bigger than massive, and the sheer impact of side one of IV, on headphones, in a record store in Eastbourne, Sussex, U.K., had this 14-year-old boy smitten. I’d found II too guitarry (!), but this had me on their team immediately. (Side 2 less so, but that’s another story.)

Anyhow, it was in one of these long fawning articles the rock music glossies are so fond of that I discovered the back story of how “Rock and Roll” practically wrote itself in minutes, or at least the melody line. Messing around in the studio, John Bonham suddenly kicked off into an embellished drum intro, “borrowed” from Little Richard’s “Keep a Knockin’.” Jimmy Page instinctively banging in with the riff that basically is the song. With lyrics come from ye olde school rocke thesaurus, Robert Plant’s keening banshee of a vocal somehow imbues a meaningful basis for it all, whilst John Paul Jones’ subterranean bass underpins the whole thing. And, just when you are thinking it all a bit derivative, a final touch of brilliance: single note piano pounding it into the home stretch, courtesy of sixth Stone Ian Stewart.
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Oct 042019
 

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

friends theme song covers

The television show Friends debuted on September 22, 1994. Twenty-five years later, the memorable theme song with its iconic four claps is still an adulting anthem. Could the song be any more catchy?

Friends enjoyed ten seasons of popularity and collected over 60 Emmy nominations throughout the course of its run. Netflix viewers are currently wailing and gnashing teeth, as the show is slated to leave the platform in 2020, bringing to an end its five-year reign as one of Netflix’s most streamed shows. Whether you relate more to Chandler, Joey, Monica, Phoebe, Rachel, or (heaven forbid) Ross, we can all unite in appreciation of the life lessons and hearty laughs that the show has brought us.

The Rembrandts, made up of Danny Wilde and Phil Solem, formed in 1989. Prior to teaming up as The Rembrandts, Wilde had worked on solo albums, and the two of them had collaborated in another group, Great Buildings. Their new band released two albums and had minor success before “I’ll Be There For You” kicked off their third, and Friends brought them into the spotlight. The song started as a minute-long theme, but the duo later re-recorded and expanded it into a full length song.

From mellow to punk, these five covers are here for you “when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year.”
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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 »