Apr 072017
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

Phil Spector had co-written a smash, and now that he was about to produce it, he had to get the right singer. Someone whose voice could blast through the thickest Wall of Sound he ever constructed. Fortunately, he had just the voice – he’d signed Ike and Tina Turner for the express purpose of having Tina record this one song.

While Ike was paid twenty thousand dollars to stay away from the studio, Tina worked. She was singing a non-R&B song for the first time in her professional life, and where Ike was always asking her to scream, Phil told her to stick to the melody. The sessions were grueling, causing Tina literal pain; after trying and trying to get it right, her blouse soaked with sweat, she said, “Okay, Phil, one more time,” then ripped off her blouse and let out an incendiary vocal that floored everybody. “It was like the whole room exploded,” her manager said.
Continue reading »

Feb 102017
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

Long after the image of Britney Spears as a spy disguised as the world’s randiest stewardess – excuse me: flight attendant – has faded from millennial memories, the song “Toxic” will remain just as powerful as it was on first release. Still the sole Grammy winner of Britney’s career (Best Dance Recording of 2004), “Toxic” found music critics in the unusual position of falling all over themselves praising one of her songs. Some dealt with that conundrum by saying it could have been just as irresistible in another singer’s hands. In fact, it very nearly was – it was offered to Kylie Minogue first, but she turned it down. Still, the fact is, Britney delivered the goods here in every respect, and it’s little wonder that she’s since said it’s her favorite of her songs.
Continue reading »

Sep 092016
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

Sting was drunk, staggering around his hotel room in Munich, singing “Walking ’round the room.” The following morning, a more sober Sting remembered what he’d done and developed that alcohol-induced ditty into a full song. “But ‘Walking Round the Room’ was a stupid title,” he said later, “so I thought of something even more stupid.” That’s how “Walking on the Moon” got its start, and over a third of a century later it’s still going strong.

Continue reading »

Jul 152016
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

Because I decided to fight for what was rightfully and legally mine, a full album that I recorded was never released. I’m not being paid, nor have I ever been paid, as an artist for “Sea of Love.” I never received justice and to this day have not received justice. – Phil Phillips

The author of “Sea of Love,” John Phillip Batiste (he Anglicized it for the benefit of non-French-speaking DJs), got more pain than joy from his big hit. Written to woo a girl he didn’t wind up with, co-credited to a record store owner who Phillips claims had no hand in writing it, the original “Sea of Love” went to number one in 1959, but only earned its author $6800. His album was permanently shelved after the label got in a dispute with the record store owner, and Phillips was unable to get out from under his five-year contract; by 1964, Beatlemania had hit and Phillips’ time in the spotlight was over.

“Sea of Love,” on the other hand, was just beginning to shine.
Continue reading »

Mar 302016
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

Guns-N-Roses

Guns N’ Roses’s “November Rain” is a huge song. Its size doesn’t just come from its length (it’s almost nine minutes long, making it the longest single ever in the Billboard Top 10). It’s not its long gestational period, either (Tracii Guns says that Axl Rose already had a working version of it in 1983, back when he was still with the L.A. Guns). Nor is it only the cryptic video (Axl lost somebody, for sure, but otherwise who knows was was going on exactly?). “November Rain” is an epic because in addition to all these elements, it takes the listener on a journey, and it’s one we’ve all been on before.

When the song begins, we’re dropped into a relationship on the edge. It’s been on-again, off-again, and both parties are unsure of where they stand. Slash’s first two solos during this part of the song soar, making you feel like¬†everything is going to work out for these two. The last verse reinforces this feeling. When Axl sings “Never mind the darkness, we still can find a way. And nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain”, we feel like this couple has turned the corner and is on the right path.

And then comes the apocalyptic coda. Instead of tenderness, we get intensity. Between the thunder of the piano and the snarl of the third guitar solo, it’s clear that we ended up getting two songs for the price of one. This is the story of a relationship on the rocks, surviving through its ups and downs; and then the bloody aftermath, when nothing is left but loneliness and the need to rage.

Because of all the territory the original spans, any cover of “November Rain” has fertile ground for interpretation. An artist could focus on any part of the myriad emotions crammed into the original and explore further. Here are three covers that did a particularly good job with this power ballad.
Continue reading »

Mar 152016
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

Chris-Isaak

Chris Isaak‘s “Wicked Game” is one of those songs that seems to exist on their own plane of music. Released as a single in 1990, the track floated on its own hazy eddy, separate from the currents of both the ’80s that preceded it and the grunge sound of the early ’90s that came soon after. The song seemed more like a dream than anything else; a fevered hallucination, showing up unbidden in Isaak’s mind as some love he had no business having in the first place circles around and around.

The song was originally not all that popular as a single. It took two separate events to cement it as a classic: It was included in David Lynch‘s film Wild at Heart, and a second video (the first was directed by David Lynch for the Wild at Heart soundtrack) featuring the now-legendary black-and-white image of Helena Christensen rolling topless in the sands of Hawaii. An entire generation was captivated by the sexiness of the both the image and the song itself. The bleak look back at this relationship has an almost Gothic feel to it. The lyrics are steeped in a dark romanticism and the reverb and delay of the guitar make the listener feel unmoored from reality. It’s no wonder, then, that so many artists have felt the desire to cover it. There have been dozens of attempts, many of which have already been written about on Cover Me. This, then, is a look at some that haven’t examined yet.

Continue reading »