Mar 182018

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

anarchy in the uk covers

With the release of over 70 SecondHandSongs-verified versions of the Sex Pistols’ debut single since 1976 (and many more informal covers), “Anarchy In The U.K.” takes the punk prize for being their most-covered song. The harsh rallying cry for Britain’s disaffected youth has generated over 10 million views on one YouTube post alone. As noted in our track-by-track covers review of Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols, “Anarchy” kicked-off a cultural phenomenon and has garnered accolades from establishment icons like Rolling Stone magazine and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which, at the time, the band would have stood systematically against.

The original appeared as a single nearly a year before it was featured on the band’s one and only studio album. It opens with the crashing of guitars, drums and John Lydon’s shout of “Rrrright! Now!” followed by laughter. The sonic assault breaks for a fake belch before Lydon resumes his screeching diatribe that includes a laundry list of politically themed abbreviations (IRA, UDA, MPLA) and the recently-discontinued British music newsweekly NME.

Music writer Tim Sommer in The Observer had this to say in a great article about the song on its 40th anniversary:

But for a staggering, shattering few moments, “Anarchy in the U.K.” and the Sex Pistols shocked the world as no other artist ever has or ever will. We can never recreate that moment, the instant when a rock band from the wrong side of the socio-economic spectrum made a loud noise and shouted “Match!” while sitting on a pile of dynamite, but here’s hoping it can happen again.

We’ve rounded up a variety of styles of the iconic track worth sharing. John Lydon marked his final live performance as Johnny Rotten with the question, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” It’s safe to say that none of these covers will leave you feeling that way!

Continue reading »

Mar 092018

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

It is somewhat ironic that most people know only one song by The Only Ones— “Another Girl, Another Planet.”  Originally released in 1978, it received minimal airplay and attention, but its reputation has grown exponentially over the years.  The Allmusic review of the song asserts that it is “arguably, the greatest rock single ever recorded.”  Of course, people will “argue” about anything, and choosing “Another Girl” as the greatest rock single ever is a bit of a reach, but you have to give the reviewer his due for taking a stand.  It is a great song, and it is fitting that it ultimately received the acclaim that it deserved.

The Only Ones formed in London in 1976, led by distinctively anguished vocalist and songwriter Peter Perrett joined by guitarist/keyboard player John Perry, Alan Mair on bass, and drummer Mike Kellie.  Featuring strong songwriting by Perrett and surprisingly (for punks of the era) competent playing by the band, they self-released a single, “Lovers of Today.” It sold well enough that a bidding war broke out among major labels looking for the next big thing. Continue reading »

Jan 192018

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

killing me softly covers

The Fugees’ massive hit “Killing Me Softly” is not an original. It’s actually a cover, of a Roberta Flack hit twenty years prior (we named the Fugees remake the Best Cover of 1996).

But you probably knew that. Pat yourself on the back, then try this bonus question: Did you know Roberta Flack’s hit was a cover too?

The original version was performed and co-written (though she didn’t get credit) by Lori Lieberman, who I interviewed for my recent book on cover songs. She said her experience at a Don McLean concert inspired the song. After he left the stage, she scribbled a poem with many of the lyrics on a cocktail napkin. Professional songwriters Charles Fox (music) and Norman Gimbel (lyrics) then fleshed out her words into a proper song. Continue reading »

Dec 012017

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

Today we conclude our series of posts about The Yardbirds.

But wait!” you exclaim. “The headline says ‘Led Zeppelin‘. Aren’t we talking about the folk-rock ballad that originally appeared in 1970 on the softer acoustic second side of Led Zeppelin III?”

Indeed we are, and “Tangerine” has been mentioned once or twice before on these pages. But a recent re-release, widely anticipated by fans of Rock & Roll Hall of Famers, The Yardbirds, has re-opened the discussion about the songs’ origins. Is “Tangerine” really a Led Zeppelin song?

When it comes to songwriting credits, things aren’t always cut and dried with Jimmy Page. As it were, this particular instance follows suit. Around the time of last year’s “Stairway to Heaven” plagiarism lawsuit – won by Led Zeppelin – Rolling Stone cited 10 other Zep tunes with cloudy origins. The article mentioned “Dazed And Confused” – a song with ties to Page’s stint in The Yardbirds – but made no mention of “Tangerine” a song sharing similar ties. Both songs were the only two non-instrumental Led Zeppelin tracks to carry a songwriting credit attributed solely to Jimmy Page. The writing credit on “Dazed” was later amended in 2012 (singer-songwriter Jake Holmes was added as Page’s inspiration), but a cloud continues to hang over “Tangerine.”

Why the fuss? Cover Me readers might be interested in some of the forensics. Two years prior to the release of Led Zeppelin III, The Yardbirds, with Page as a member, recorded a demo for a song titled “Knowing That I’m Losing You” which was never officially released. Thirty-two years later, “Knowing” was scheduled to be included on The Yardbirds’ 2000 album Cumular Limit with other live and unreleased material, but the track was pulled. Seventeen years after that, Page, as producer, included an authorized re-mastered instrumental version, with the modified title “Knowing That I’m Losing You (Tangerine)” on the new Yardbirds ’68 compilation. Continue reading »

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 »