Mar 122018

Cover Classics takes a look at great covers albums of the past, their genesis and their legacies.

never mind the bollocks tribute

Conspicuously absent from our recent Full Album deep dive into The Sex Pistols’ classic Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols were any of the artists who covered the album in its entirety. Which a number of very different acts have, tackling all twelve tracks themselves. Because it required an extra level of commitment, we thought it only fair to highlight their work separately. These are the best full-length tributes to Never Mind the Bollocks by a single artist.

I. The Bollock Brothers – ‘Never Mind The Bollocks 1983’

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Mar 122018
led zeppelin tribute concert

Last Wednesday night, City Winery and Knitting Factory founder Michael Dorf staged his 14th “Music Of” charity tribute show at Manhattan’s venerable Carnegie Hall. After similar tributes to everyone from Bruce Springsteen to R.E.M., this time the honoree was Led Zeppelin. Dorf’s formula involves bringing in a killer house band and complementing them with a mix of moderately-to-well known artists who are typically passionate about the honoree. The sold out show survived a nor’easter and it doesn’t get much better than sitting on the plush seats of the acoustically perfect hall listening to twenty great renditions from the Mighty Zep catalog.

Most of the performances have found their way to YouTube (in varying sound quality). Here’s a look at some of the highlights: Continue reading »

Mar 082018

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

dizzy tommy roe

Today we are inaugurating a new occasional series called “Covering the Hits.” It was inspired by Stereogum’s great new series “Number Ones” reviewing every single #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in order. Than in turn was inspired by the “Popular” series in the UK. The occasion for all this number-one nostalgia? 2018 marks the 60th anniversary of the Hot 100’s advent.

Needless to say, though, our focus is a little different: covers. We’re not writing about the hits themselves; we’re writing about subsequent covers of those hits. Some have been covered hundreds of times; others only a few (surprising but true for many songs that topped the charts). Whatever the case, we’re going to investigate and tell each hit’s cover story, long or short.

Unlike those other series, we’re not going in order. There are over 1,000 #1 hits since 1958. If we went chronologically, we’d never even make it to the Beatles. Instead, we’re using a random-number generator (the digital equivalent of drawing from a hat). And, for the first one, our generator-hat delivered: Tommy Roe’s 1969 hit “Dizzy.” Continue reading »

Mar 062018

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

frank turner cover songs

We launched our new series “Pick Five” last week with Emel Mathlouthi, and today the great singer-songwriter Frank Turner tells us about his five favorite cover songs.

Dubbed “the people’s prince of punk poetry,” Turner has broadened his sound on upcoming seventh studio album Be More Kind (out May 4th), the follow-up to his acclaimed 2015 release Positive Songs For Negative People. He told NME that he incorporated sounds fans might not associate with the guitar-basher, like keyboard synths and sampled loops. For a taste of this lusher production, listen to the latest single:

Such eclectic influences can also be seen in the five covers he picked for us. He mixes in the guitar-strummers and punk-blasters fans might expect (Johnny Cash and NOFX, respectively) with artists like Joe Cocker and Tori Amos. He also illustrates the depth of his musical knowledge; as he notes, few people even realize the Blondie song he picks is a cover. So let’s turn it over to him. Continue reading »

Mar 052018

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

never mind the bollocks covers

Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols is generally regarded as one of the greatest rock albums of all time. In one fell 38-minute swoop, The Sex Pistols (more or less) burst on the scene, birthed punk rock, and bit the dust soon after. That last fall marked the 40th anniversary of its release is nearly as jarring as its opening track.

Like the band itself, pretty much everything leading up to and following the album’s release was controversial. From manager/impresario Malcolm McLaren’s publicity stunts – he famously arranged for the band to perform “God Save The Queen” on a boat on the Thames near Parliament during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee (ending in his arrest) – to hardcore dealings with music labels, to “moving target” album release dates. Of the band members – Paul Cook/Steve Jones/Johnny Rotten/Glen Matlock/Sid Vicious – determining exactly who was responsible for each track is even subject to debate. [Matlock, a founding member ousted and replaced by Vicious prior to the album’s release, is listed as co-writer on 10 of the 12 tracks. Although inarguably critical, his actual influence relative to the other band members has been challenged by Jones.]

But as writer Steve Huey pointed out in his review on AllMusic:

…underneath the shock tactics and theatrical negativity were social critiques carefully designed for maximum impact. Never Mind the Bollocks perfectly articulated the frustration, rage, and dissatisfaction of the British working class with the establishment, a spirit quick to translate itself to strictly rock & roll terms.

The album debuted at number #1 in the UK in 1977. At the time, it didn’t sell nearly as well in in US – taking 10 years to reach gold status – but its impact and ultimate legacy on both sides of the Atlantic was undeniable. In a wide-ranging Yahoo Music/Backspin interview from early last year, guitarist Steve Jones called it “the main album for kids to have if you were part of the new revolution.” And further, “We only did one album and that one album has kept the whole ball rolling ever since… but maybe if we had done another album, it would have sucked.”

Today kicks off a short series celebrating Bollocks. The seminal work has been covered extensively, so let’s march right in…

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Mar 022018

Cover Classics takes a look at great covers albums of the past, their genesis and their legacies.

tower of song songs of leonard cohen

Last week, I wrote about the hugely influential 1991 tribute album I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen. How influential? Without it, the world – and Jeff Buckley – might never have heard “Hallelujah.”

The 1995 tribute album Tower of Song is not remotely influential. None of its covers have become classics, nor did they introduce any Cohen deep cuts to the popular cannon. Where I’m Your Fan picked the hippest artists of the time, the Tower of Song curators seem to have gone out of their way to pick the least hip. Billy Joel. Elton John. Don freakin’ Henley. Continue reading »