Sep 172019
 
cover songs 1969

This marks the fourth year I’ve done a big anniversary countdown (after 1996, 1987, and 1978). It also proved to be the most challenging. There were a lot of covers released in 1969. In fact, according to covers-and-samples database WhoSampled, there were more than in any of the other years we’ve done. Their database lists 3,110 covers, which is surely still a small fraction.

The reason for the cover song’s proliferation seems clear to me after going through them all: Popular bands released a lot more music back then. Aretha Franklin released two albums in 1969. So did The Byrds, Elvis Presley, Joe Cocker, Johnny Cash, Johnny Winter, and Nina Simone. Creedence Clearwater Revival and Merle Haggard released three albums apiece. James Brown topped them all with four. To get that kind of output, artists would pad their albums with covers. Every 1969 album by every artist I just mentioned includes at least one cover. Many include several. A few are all covers. It adds up.

Impressively, many of those covers reinterpreted songs that had come out within the previous year. This entire list could easily have been “Hey Jude” covers. “Wichita Lineman” and “Light My Fire” came up constantly too (the latter song slightly older, but it had hit the charts again in 1968). Even songs from 1968’s soundtrack to Hair got covered endlessly in 1969.

Even beyond “Hey Jude,” Beatles covers dominated the year. I’m not going to go back through the entire 3,110 covers and count, but if you told me Beatles covers made up a full half of those, I wouldn’t be shocked. Add Bob Dylan covers to that side of the scale and it’s probably true. Beatles songs got covered in every conceivable genre for every conceivable audience. Jazz and swing and folk and proto-metal Beatles covers everywhere the eye can see. Plenty of people cover the Beatles these days, sure, but trust me: It’s nothing like it was in 1969.

So wheedling all those down to the top 50 proved incredibly difficult. But it means this is maybe the top-to-bottom strongest set thus far, and it killed me to leave some off (that’s why our Patreon supporters will get a set of 69 bonus tracks – so join now).

One note: I left off Woodstock performances. For one, we counted down the 50 best covers performed there last month. But more importantly, most people did not actually hear those covers until the movie and soundtrack came out in 1970. Jimi Hendrix performed his iconic Star-Spangled Banner – pretty much everyone’s top cover of the weekend – to a nearly empty field. Most of the audience had left before he punched in at 9 AM that Monday morning. That said, several of the classic covers performed at Woodstock were released as singles or on albums the same year – including Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help from My Friends” – and those studio versions make this list.

Now, let the sunshine in with the 50 best covers of 1969.

The countdown begins on page 2…

Sep 032019
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

sleater-kinney covers

When Sleater-Kinney reunited for the first time in 2015, they commented on the riot grrrl movement for an interview with The Cut.

For [guitarist Corin] Tucker, riot grrrl isn’t a dirty word. “I was definitely part of riot grrrl in Olympia,” she said. “For me, that was about having this really supportive group of women that wanted to do art — that was fanzines, that was music, it was spoken word, it was visual art — and that we would support each other and make a larger space for women’s voices in the world.

Tucker said, “For us, the lyrics are really tied to our beliefs and our desire to change things – that’s really the scene that we came from, is all about sincerely being angry and wanting to use music to change the world, basically,”

 

Now, as they prepare to release a new album, I’m hopeful that a change in this world is on the horizon. There is a riot grrrl in all of us, and now is the time to be heard. 

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Aug 152019
 
Woodstock Covers

You know the story – on August 15, 1969, an estimated 400,000 people coalesced on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in upstate Bethel, New York, for “3 days of Peace & Music” at a music and art fair that ultimately defined a generation. Today marks the golden fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock, and to celebrate the occasion, the staff at Cover Me are going “back to the garden” to wrap you in the Top 50 covers performed by the legendary artists who graced the stage during that long weekend.

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Aug 062019
 
low bad moon rising

As sales of recorded music have plummeted – and streaming royalties failed to make up the difference – many professional musicians’ income streams come increasingly from so-called “syncs”: their music being licensed to commercials, movies, TV shows, etc. One popular sub-genre in the sync world is cover songs, often hit pop songs made slow and/or spooky for a trailer or show (see The New Yorker‘s recent article on the phenomenon). We’ve already posted two cover-song syncs just this week: Sharon Van Etten covering “Suspicious Minds” for a coconut water ad and the HBO show Big Little Lies licensing an old Fleetwood Mac cover by POP ETC. Continue reading »

Dec 072018
 

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

Black Friday may have gone, but here’s a twofer bargain.

Cat Power, aka Chan Marshall, has produced two near-full album cover classics in her career (so far), which doesn’t even begin to fully address her never-more-quirky approach to the songs of others. Not that she is lost for any words of her own! She’s got a back catalogue stretching across many styles and many genres, from raw scratchy indie through slinky southern soul, a touch of electronica and back again, yet always unmistakably herself. Her career has seen her seemingly beset by internal demons; many had written her off until her triumphant return this fall with Wanderer, containing ten of her own songs, and one contender for our Cover Songs of the Year post.

But it is back to 2000 we first go, to The Covers Record. Allegedly a disappointment to her record company, who had appreciated this was an artiste worth their investment, but even with lackluster promotion it became a slow burning triumph. Praise and plaudits accumulated over the years, not least as box set dramas required ever more diverse musical accompaniments.
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Sep 262018
 
jason isbell wrote a song

When I was 11, my dad took me to the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles for a John Fogerty “revisited” show. As usual, I was the only child in attendance, but proud of it. The theater was strangely half empty. About halfway through the concert, we both admitted that John didn’t sound or look like himself. We tried not to judge, but we were a little sad. What was next for him? Would he appear on QVC selling turquoise necklaces?

Overhearing our perplexity, someone leaned over to us and said: “You know that isn’t John Fogerty, right? It’s a John Fogerty impersonator who won a contest to play this show.”

Moral of the story: read the fine print on the tickets. Continue reading »