Jun 152018
 
best cover songs 1978

Welcome to the third installment in our Best Cover Songs of Yesteryear countdown, where we act like we were compiling our usual year-end list from a year before we – or the internet – existed. Compared to the first two, this one has significantly less grunge than 1996 and less post-punk than 1987. It’s hard to have post-punk, after all, before you have punk, a new genre starting to hit its peak in 1978. And don’t forget the other big late-’70s sound: disco. Both genres were relatively new, and super divisive among music fans. Lucky for us, both genres were also big on covers.

Disco, in particular, generated some hilariously ill-advised cover songs. We won’t list them all here – this is the Best 1978 covers, not the Most 1978 covers. If you want a taste (and think carefully about whether you really do), this bonkers take on a Yardbirds classic serves as a perfect example of what a good portion of the year’s cover songs looked and sounded like: Continue reading »

Apr 192018
 

In Pick Five, great artists tell us about five cover songs that matter to them.

gang of four covers

When post-punk pioneers Gang of Four first reunited in 2005, they told the New York Times they weren’t planning on writing any new songs. They have clearly changed their tune since then, following a couple recent albums with a new EP out this week. Way back in 1980, David Fricke called them “probably the best politically motivated band in rock & roll,” and they’re still at it: that new EP features a photo of Ivanka Trump on the cover. And its title? Complicit. (As if that wasn’t pointed enough, there’s also a Russian translation.) Continue reading »

Apr 122018
 

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

juliana hatfield covers

Juliana Hatfield is an old hat at making an unlikely song her own. Earlier this year, she made both our Best Cover Songs of January and March roundups. A couple years before that, her version of “Needle in the Hay” was a high point of a Wes Anderson tribute album. A couple years before that, she released a terrific self-titled covers album of her own. I mean, how far back do we want to go here? Hell, she even made our Best Cover Songs of 1996 list! Suffice to say, she knows how to crush a great cover.

That’s why we were so excited to hear about Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John, which comes out tomorrow. It more than lives up to our high expectations. Hatfield takes on hits like “Physical” alongside plenty of deep cuts that prove this is not some gimmick; she’s a genuine fan. Continue reading »

Jan 232018
 

review dr demento covered in punkLet’s be blunt: No one needs novelty songs.

Loosely defined as “a satirical or comedic parody of popular music,” most people instinctively leave the room – or the house – at the first whiff.

Or do they? What, then, explains the enduring popularity of Dr. Demento, querulous-voiced prankster and legitimate, if puzzling, cultural icon? A rock ’n roll writer, label A&R man, and sometime roadie, he began broadcasting a rock and oldies show at Pasadena station KPPC in 1970. He quickly found that the novelty songs he slipped in – notably Nervous Norvus’ “Transfusion,” a truly demented tale about reckless driving, and a precursor to the Cramps’ psychobilly – were what his listeners really wanted to hear.

Now 76, Dr. Demento – a.k.a. Barret Eugene Hansen – ceased terrestrial radio broadcast in 2010, though his program persists online. And now we’re treated to Dr. Demento Covered in Punk, by some counts his 15th official album release. If you’re already hooked on the good doctor’s offbeat charms, you’re likely not in need of encouragement to purchase this collection of supposedly “punk” covers (more on that later) interspersed with the Doctor’s commentary. But can we rightfully recommend this 2+ hour compilation to the rest of the record-buying public? The answer, surprisingly, is: “Yes!” Sort of.

Continue reading »

Oct 032017
 
cover me playlist

Today is the day! At long last, Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time is in stores and online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, Powell’s, and many other places (including, hopefully, your local independent bookstore!).

A lot has happened since I first announced the book back in May. The New Yorker published an excerpt about Devo’s meeting with Mick Jagger. I was interviewed on SiriusXM about the Hendrix, Cash, Aretha, Pet Shop Boys, Elvis, and Creedence Clearwater Revival chapters. And most importantly for you reading this, I put together an exclusive bonus mix that blog fans can get when they buy the book (it says “pre-order,” but we’ll say “week-of-release order” counts too).

And I wanted to share one more thing, another blog exclusive: An audio companion to the book. Continue reading »

Aug 282017
 
cover me book

—November update: The book is now out, but if you review it on Amazon or elsewhere, the mixtape can still be yours! Just send proof of review to the email below.—

Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Songs Of All Time comes out October 3. It dives deep into twenty iconic covers, from Elvis’s “Hound Dog” through Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love.” I interviewed artists like David Byrne and Roger Daltrey to get the untold stories behind their greatest covers. You can read all about it here.

Now we’ve got a special bonus for anyone who preorders: a free digital album of other covers of those same songs.

What’s the greatest “Take Me to the River” that’s not by Al Green or the Talking Heads? My favorite “Hurt” untouched by either of those men in black? An “I Will Always Love You” that sounds like the artist has never heard either Dolly Parton or Whitney Houston’s versions? This mix answers all those questions. Continue reading »