Jun 082018
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Fred Neil just wanted to go home. The cantankerous folkie hated being in the studio, and pulling his third album together was like pulling teeth. It was almost finished, but it had to have one more tune to fill it out.

“We needed another song, and he said he might have one more,” said his manager, Herb Cohen. “Matter of fact, I think he completed it in the toilet of the Capitol Records studio. As you can tell by the lyric, all he wanted to do was finish the album and go to Florida.”

Singing in a gruff, weary voice, Neil finished his yearning to breathe free in one take and got out of the studio as fast as he could. The album, Fred Neil, didn’t sell well, which probably suited Neil just fine – the less publicity he had to do, the better. Little did he know that he had just come up with the key that would unlock the door to his freedom.
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May 012018
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

hey joe

If great songs are romantic flings—seizing you by the ears and locking you in a passionate, three-minute embrace before they leave you breathless and aching for more—there’s precious few that compare with the record-buying public’s three-year infatuation with the song “Hey, Joe.”

Hundreds of renditions have been recorded, several making the charts. But none proved more lasting than a version committed to wax in late 1966, the debut 7” by a young guitarist you may have heard of. We’ll get to his story in a moment, but first the phenomenon of multiple concurrent covers demands a little exploration. Continue reading »

Apr 102018
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

dont let me be misunderstood covers

Nina Simone will be posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this weekend. To anyone counting, that is 24 years after the Animals were inducted. And they wouldn’t have had one of their most enduring hits without her.

Though Animals frontman Eric Burdon is a fine songwriter in his own right, he didn’t write the majority of the band’s biggest 1960s hits. “We Gotta Get out of This Place” was written by the iconic Brill Building duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and originally intended for the Righteous Brothers. “It’s My Life” also came out of the Brill stables, written for the band by lesser-known duo of Roger Atkins and Carl D’Errico. And “House of the Rising Sun” was a traditional cover Burdon learned off of Bob Dylan’s first record. Continue reading »

Apr 062018
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

blondie hanging on the telephone

If you’re a fan of power pop – roughly speaking, the place where early rock n’ roll, ‘60s bubblegum, and the British Invasion converge – then Blondie probably ranks high on your list of faves. Refracting modern rock through multiple lenses – ’50s pop, ’60s girl groups and ’70s punk, to name a few – the band sucked you in with clever, poppy melodies while maintaining a distance sharpened by dark, ironic humor.

If it doesn’t quite represent their commercial peak, the band’s 1978 album Parallel Lines is without much doubt their finest work, crashing out of the gate with “Hanging on the Telephone,” a near-perfect snapshot of illicit romance and sexual frustration, come and gone in 2 minutes 17 seconds. Continue reading »

Apr 052018
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

laura branigan gloria cover

I played a tiny part in unleashing Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” on the world in 1982. Fresh out of college, I landed a paid summer job working in the Atlantic Records promotions department. I spent the summer doing things like going to record stores and hanging up posters. It was a fascinating and fun summer, but it also confirmed that I didn’t want to spend my career trying to figure out what kind of music teenagers would buy. Mostly because it seemed like the senior execs were unhappy, divorced men who smoked and drank too much. Instead, I ended up in law school while another guy my age there became a very major record executive.

Like any good former college radio program director at that time, I had strong opinions about what was “good” music, and what “sucked.” And clearly, disco/dance music sucked. That summer, a number of albums I liked were being promoted to some degree by my department, including Adrian Belew’s Lone Rhino, Genesis’ Three Sides Live, Steve Winwood’s Talking Back To The Night, Jon Anderson’s Animation, and CSN’s Daylight Again. But there were offices filled with men and women promoting these rock releases, and only one guy, Rafael, promoting the dance music. As a result, I ended up working with him a lot, despite my lack of knowledge about – and general contempt for – dance music. I even tried to convince Rafael to remix one of Adrian Belew’s songs for the dance floor, which he briefly considered before thinking better of it. Continue reading »

Apr 012018
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Bob Dylan Friday

In 2011, Rebecca Black released “Friday” and put up the video on YouTube. A month later the Tosh.0 blog, then at the height of its influential powers, discovered it and posted it under the headline “Songwriting Isn’t For Everyone.” Result: the internet lost its hive mind. The video racked up millions of downturned thumbs. People attacked Black for her heavily auto-tuned voice, her poor dancing skills, and lyrics so inane even Justin Bieber couldn’t believe them.

But Black had supporters. Lady Gaga called her a genius. Simon Cowell of American Idol declared himself a fan, nothing that “the fact that it’s making people so angry is brilliant.” He went on to add, “Anyone who can create this much controversy within a week, I want to meet. I love people like that.”

Cowell certainly would love the author of “Friday,” and the Tosh.0 people certainly need to rethink their snarky headline. For, even as the Friday Fenomenon steamrolled America, word began trickling out that the man who wrote the song was far more than just another pretty voice. That’s right: Rebecca Black didn’t write “Friday.” Bob Dylan, the man behind the best song of all time according to Rolling Stone, crafted the lines about which seat on the school bus to select.
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