Feb 082019
 

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

party doll

“I really don’t remember writing ‘Party Doll,” said Buddy Knox of Happy, Texas. “But I did, out on the farm, behind a haystack.” It was 1948, and Knox was fifteen at the time. Eight years later, he became the first artist of the rock ‘n’ roll era to write his own number one song. It took a lot of people, famous and not, to get it that far.

Knox went to West Texas State University, where he formed a band with two friends, Jimmy Bowen and Don Lanier, and saw both Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison play. They both recommended he take his songs and his friends 90 miles west to Clovis, New Mexico, to record with producer Norman Petty. Knox’s sister and two of her friends sang backup vocals; a more capable bassist replaced Bowen, and since Lanier didn’t have a full kit, he beat on a box stuffed with cotton (a sound that would later appear on the Crickets’ “Not Fade Away”).

The three were content with the acetates of “Party Doll,” but a farmer named Chester Oliver asked to press 1500 copies to sell around town on his own label, Triple-D Records. One copy made it to KZIP in Amarillo, Texas, where DJ Dean Kelley turned it into a regional hit. Lanier’s sister contacted Morris Levy of Roulette Records; he signed them and released the record nationwide. Ed Sullivan had him on his show, exposing “Party Doll” to the whole of the US, and the rest is history.

But the history of “Party Doll” covers was just beginning.

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Apr 092018
 

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

money for nothing covers

Dire Straits got a raw deal. Their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class that should, in all rights, include Radiohead. This was the first year the band was eligible, and they in particular seemed like a shoe-in. No luck. Instead, Dire Straits are getting lined up right next to Bon Jovi and the Moody Blues in yet another slate of honorees inspiring endless articles about how out-of-touch the Hall is.

And I have nothing against Bon Jovi or the Moody Blues, but I hate seeing Dire Straits lumped in with the “classic rock for aging boomers” crowd. I mean, I get it, but Dire Straits are so much more than that to me. (Sidebar: I’d be remiss without nothing that Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe are getting in, though it’s a shame the Rock Hall voters couldn’t find any living women or minorities to celebrate). Continue reading »

Mar 292018
 

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

talking heads covers

Let’s start by defining our terms: This list concerns the best covers of the Talking Heads. Because the best covers by the Talking Heads is a very short list.

Here is that list, in its entirety: Continue reading »

Oct 102014
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Weird Al Yankovic got a lot of attention this summer (and deservedly so) for releasing a new album that made it to number one on the charts, but he’s not the only novelty master from the ’80s to be doing well for himself lately. Big Daddy, the band that sprayed american graffiti all over the hits of the day back in the day, have a new album coming out next week – Smashin’ Songs of Stage & Screen, which Big-Daddifies songs from hit musicals ranging from Wizard of Oz to Saturday Night Fever. Earlier this year, they also put out a collection of their greatest hits of the ’80s and early ’90s, Cruisin’ Through the Rhino Years, that cherry-picks highlights from the four albums they released for the Rhino Records label. If you’ve already got The Best of Big Daddy, their 2000 compilation, you’ll have sixteen of these songs already – but you’ll want to spring for this to get five more.
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Jul 132012
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

In 1992, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was celebrating its silver anniversary. Some claimed the silver had tarnished, that Pepper wasn’t even in the top-five of Beatles albums (but don’t tell Rolling Stone that); however, this was overlooked for the sake of celebration, as musician after musician paid tribute to Messers L, M, H & S. But the greatest tribute may have come from a California novelty act that airbrushed a few thousand more gray hairs into the picture and came up with an album that’s just as fun, just as memorable, and – at the very end – just as emotionally overwhelming. Continue reading »

Nov 112011
 

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

The soundtrack to Purple Rain came out ten thousand days ago today. It feels like forever and that’s a mighty long time, but we’re here to tell you there’s something else…the full album, covered.

Purple Rain won an Oscar and two Grammy Awards, sold more than 20 million copies, and held the number one selling album slot in the US for twenty-four consecutive weeks (despite being released just three weeks after Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A.). The only debate that remains worth having: great Prince album, or greatest Prince album? Dirty Mind and Sign o’ the Times both have their backers, but neither of those albums tapped into the zeitgeist the way Purple Rain did. Continue reading »