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

David Bowie’s appearance on Top of the Pops in 1972 electrified a nation. “I had to phone someone, so I picked on you,” he sang, pointing directly into the camera with the slyest of smiles, and within 24 hours young Britons were answering that call, draping their arms over their friends’ shoulders and buying The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in droves. (Many of them would be part of the New Romantic movement a decade later and would cite that show as the moment their world shifted.)

It didn’t hurt that Bowie had sung “Starman,” a track with more hooks than Moulty’s closet. It was added to Ziggy at the last minute, in the belief that it was just the hit single the album needed – a belief that turned out to be very well founded indeed. Both the singer and the song have enraptured listeners ever since.
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Some articles are written because of a great love for the subject. Some are written because they are timely. Some are written because there is a need. This article is being written because of fate. When you write about music, sometimes the world conspires to suggest a topic. “Ooh La La,” by the Faces, is one of those songs in the classic rock canon that pretty much anyone of a certain age knows. Its bouncy, wistful chorus makes it memorable and recognizable, even if it might be hard to immediately place the unfamiliar voice or recall the actual title. And when, in the period of a week, the song appears first on the radio, then on satellite radio, then on TV, and finally on a list of potential article topics circulated by the Cover Me editorial staff, it was clearly time for me to take a look at this song, through its covers.
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

In 1988, Rolling Stone named “Stayin’ Alive” one of the 100 top singles of the last 25 years, and they asked the Bee Gees to comment; how did they feel about the song? The terse response: “We’d like to dress it up in a white suit and gold chains and set it on fire.” It’s an understandable reaction – for all the wealth and fame the song brought them, it also swept aside their estimable back catalog and pigeonholed them as Disco with a capital Dis, so much so that when the genre died, the Bee Gees’ commercial success in the U.S. died with it.

But for all the venom directed “Stayin’ Alive”‘s way, for all its use as a punchline from Airplane! to Ted, people can’t get away from how good a song it is. “Look at great huge Maurice Gibb, singing like Donald Duck on ‘Stayin’ Alive,’” Roger Daltrey of the Who carped in 1978, then instantly added, “And that’s a great song. Bruce Springsteen could sing that lyric.”
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

The oft-covered Chuck Berry gem “Memphis, Tennessee” was never meant for stardom, taking a back seat to Berry’s “Back In The U.S.A,” which was the A to “Memphis”’s B on the 1959 single they shared. Chart success would eventually happen in England, where it was released as a double A-side with “Let It Rock” and climbed to #6 on the UK charts. With this history, it’s no surprise that a who’s-who of the British invasion has covered it – the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, the Dave Clark Five, and The Hollies have all taken a stab, turning the trip through “Memphis” into a rite of passage.
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Between Superfriends and Scooby-Do, Schoolhouse Rock taught ’70s children their parts of speech, times tables, historical events, and more. Those lessons were set to catchy tunes that stuck like flypaper in a honey jar, still well known today to people who saw them forty years ago. The most memorable of the word-based songs was probably “Conjunction Junction,” while “I’m Just a Bill” takes the prize for the history set. When it comes to numbers, it’s hard to debate that any Schoolhouse Rock song has had a more lasting influence than “Three Is A Magic Number.”
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

It was twenty-eight years ago this month that Phil Lynott, bassist/vocalist for Thin Lizzy, passed away far too young. At least he left behind a legacy – a quality back catalog, a memorable description from Henry Rollins as “my guardo camino… the man that gets me through the high times, the low times and all the times in between,” and a song that rivals “Jersey Girl” as the best Bruce Springsteen song that Springsteen never wrote – “The Boys Are Back In Town,” from 1976′s Jailbreak.
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Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

By now it’s hard to find a little-known Rolling Stones song that deserves to be better known, but “Back Street Girl” absolutely qualifies. Originally on their 1967 album Between the Buttons, it was stripped from that release in the U.S. and slapped onto the odds ‘n’ ends collection Flowers. It’s a showcase for Mick Jagger to be even more unpleasant about a woman than he is in “Under My Thumb,” as he’s dismissing a girl to her face, calling her “rather common and coarse,” but still wanting her at his beck and call when nobody’s looking. All this is done in waltz time, with a truly pretty melody; put them together and you have a song that’s a prime candidate for the next Wes Anderson soundtrack.
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