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 092017
 
american girl covers

On Friday, we rounded up the best Tom Petty covers to come since his passing. And today, we begin to dig deeper into the archives for a series of Petty tributes featuring older covers.

Petty tended to write songs more crisp and economical than many of his peers – no Dylanesque word salad or proggy flights of weird instrumentation – which lent themselves to abundant covers. You could play any number of Petty songs within a few months of picking up a guitar (being able to solo like Mike Campbell – well, that might take a little longer).

There are many amazing Petty deep cuts to mine. Why, just in the past year we’ve heard two fantastic covers of songs from his obscure 2006 solo album Highway Companion (by Jane Kramer and The National). But we figured we’d start with a classic, a song so obvious I was frankly surprised to dig through the archives and discover we hadn’t given it the Five Good Covers treatment years ago. Well, better late than never. Rest in peace, Tom. Continue reading »

Sep 292017
 

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

for your love

“For Your Love” was where English teen Graham Gouldman’s songwriting trilogy for the Yardbirds began. The band’s pivot away from their R&B roots to a more “experimental-yet-accessible” sound kicked off in 1965 when they picked up three Gouldman-penned tunes. “For Your Love,” the first single to be released, became an immediate hit in the UK (#1 on NME) and reached #6 in the US and #1 in Canada. It’s become known as one of the great classics of the British Invasion and paved the way for the similar success achieved by Gouldman’s other contributions, “Heart Full of Soul” and “Evil Hearted You.”

The band made a concerted effort to create a unique arrangement for the song. Gouldman and rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja are both on the record citing the song’s “weirdness” due to elements like the (accidental) addition of the now-signature minor chord harpsichord introduction, bongos, and a bowed bass. The end product sounded like two songs fused together; one with an ancient or middle eastern feel, the other, an R&B standard. Legendary guitarist Eric Clapton can be heard playing on the bridge, his final recorded notes with the Yardbirds before leaving the group after the song’s release (to be replaced by Jeff Beck).

We’ve identified over 60 verified covers of the song. Gouldman fans can find the first recording of his own song in our covers review of The Yardbirds’ Greatest Hits. For this global hit, we’ve selected five additional favorites and a bushel of bonus tracks for you to enjoy…
Continue reading »

Sep 222017
 

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

In early 1965, nineteen-year-old Graham Gouldman – then playing guitar and singing with his Manchester, England band mates in the Mockingbirds – fortuitously connected with another fowl-named rock band. The London-based Yardbirds, barely two years formed, decided to record three of Gouldman’s compositions. By year’s end, “For Your Love,” “Heart Full of Soul,” and “Evil Hearted You,” had all become smash hits and contributed immensely to the bands’ early success.

Our featured song, the second single released by the burgeoning supergroup, was the first with Jeff Beck on lead guitar. Beck, who replaced Eric Clapton over creative and other differences, was credited with introducing Indian/Eastern stylings to rock music with his sitar-inspired lead guitar work on the track. His fuzzbox sound on the signature melody line would become a Beck trademark and helped usher in the psychedelic rock sound of the ‘60s. These key ingredients, combined with Gouldman’s arrangement and lyrics, made “Heart Full of Soul” a top 10 hit for the Yardbirds on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching as high as number 2 in the UK.

The song has inspired over 50 verified covers, including a version the multi-talented Gouldman included on his second solo album, which we featured in our review of The Yardbirds’ Greatest Hits.

Here’s a look at five more varieties along with some additional notables…

Continue reading »

Sep 152017
 

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

enola gay

A discussion about a 1980 synth-pop song that references the atomic bombing of Hiroshima may run the risk of being, unintentionally, too close to current world events. But the popular new wave band who recorded the original version happens to be in the news themselves because of a brand-new studio album, their thirteenth, that dropped on September 1st. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, also known as OMD, formed in 1978 in northwest England. Founding members Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey saw their first significant UK and US dance chart success with the release of “Enola Gay.” Named for the plane that dropped the first A-bomb ever dropped on a city, the McCluskey-penned antiwar dance track was the only single from their second album Organisation, and predated the success the band would experience in the late-‘80s with Top 20 hits like “If You Leave,” “Dreaming,” and “(Forever) Live and Die.”

“Enola Gay” has been ranked as one of the greatest songs of the ’80s by NME, and MusicRadar says that “its almost naive arrangement… includes some of the biggest synth hooks of all time.” But it turns out a good cover of “Enola Gay” doesn’t need a synthesizer. As you’ll see, the song has inspired a variety of cross-genre covers well worth sharing…

Continue reading »

Aug 112017
 

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

wreckless eric

A few weeks ago, Cage The Elephant released a cover of Wreckless Eric‘s “Whole Wide World,” and a fine cover it is. Hearing it sparked a memory back to the late 1970s when the song was released by the fledgling Stiff Records (where Nick Lowe was the house producer) and became an unlikely “punk” classic. On the one hand, the song has given Eric Goulden a degree of lasting fame, and hopefully years of royalties, but on the other hand, it sadly has overshadowed Eric’s many other wonderful songs, written and performed as a solo artist, as a member of bands, and most recently with his wife, Amy Rigby, a great singer/songwriter in her own right.

According to Goulden, the genesis of the song was, as he wrote in the opening lines:

When I was a young boy
My mama said to me
“There’s only one girl in the world for you
And she probably lives in Tahiti…”

Continue reading »