Jul 222016
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

donhenley

My love must be as free/As is the eagle’s wing,/Hovering o’er land and sea/And everything. – Henry David Thoreau

The name “Don Henley” conjures up images of the American West – dust swirling in canyons, expansive desert highways, the smell of colitas rising up through the air – but for me, Don Henley is damp, cold London afternoons spent tucked behind the couch in a small, cozy home. When I played Barbies, my dolls were raven-haired beauties, pretty mamas, and blondes dressed up in lace and lies, and it was Don Henley who sang the stories of their lives.
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Feb 072016
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Garth Brooks was my first musical hero. Looking back now, it feels a little weird saying that. I didn’t have a great love for music as a young kid. The few albums I owned when I was 10 were Beach Boys cassettes. I think I only liked them because they reminded me of being on vacation when I was stuck in a winter fog. So why Garth?

It started slowly. The songs from his self-titled first album were always on the radio. I must have heard “The Dance” a thousand times. Things cranked up a little when No Fences came out in 1990. “Friends in Low Places” was everywhere.  Ropin’ the Wind took things to another level not too long after. All the kids at school in Bean Station, Tennessee were going crazy over Garth. Heck, everybody everywhere was going crazy over Garth. Rolling Stone put him on their cover; he was crossing over into the mainstream. This Is Garth Brooks played on TV, and I watched it with my dad. He was mad that Garth smashed a guitar. I was thrilled that Garth changed the words to “Friends in Low Places” and told some lady she could kiss his ass. I was in.
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Sep 182015
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

 
When all the bien-pensant trendsetters diss the Eagles (and they do, they do), “Boys of Summer,” written post-Eagles 1.0 and pre-hell freezing over by Don Henley, their best singer and their best writer, is the song that leads my opening statement for the defense. I remember the first time I heard it; I’d long before grown weary of the old band, but this song astonished and delighted. The combination of sound and lyric served to kick me into a mythical time remembered, irrespective of impossibility, brown skins shining in what little sun made it into my drab surroundings, lifting me into celebration, looking back, yes, always looking back. (I recall actual Deadheads kicking up over the perceived lyrical put-down, but to me, hell, it was a reminder and a kick-start.)

It’s a difficult song to do well, as the original hits all the bases available. Second Hand Songs tells me at least twenty-three have tried, with YouTube adding several more risible attempts to the list. One was even a successful hit in Eurodisco land, as some may remember. Wanna hear that one again? Tough, it ain’t here tonight. But here are three others, in ascending order of quality.
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Aug 052011
 

Some songs are synonymous with a particular season. Don Henley‘s “The Boys of Summer” was a Top Ten when it was released in 1984, and when it was re-released in 1998 it still hit #12. That’s a song with some longevity. Unlike so many summer songs, Henley’s ode to summer is a real downer, a remembrance of summers past rather than a celebration. Many covers of the song maintain that sense of melancholy, including a version by the Ataris that became a hit in its own right. Earlier this summer, Au Revoir Simone bucked the trend with their dream-pop version, but ultimately it fell a bit short. Papercuts, another band that can be lumped into the dream-pop genre, recently tried their hand at the summer classic. Continue reading »

Jun 292011
 

Sometimes it’s cool to take a classic song and use entirely new instruments to play it. Maybe they’re instruments that don’t necessarily fit together or fit with the original. It works…sometimes.

Using that approach, Au Revoir Simone’s cover of Don Henley‘s “The Boys of Summer” presents an interesting dichotomy. They kick it off with some very cool synth-organs, overlay those with a sweet ’80s electronic drum beat, and throw in a tambourine about halfway through. Disparate as the sounds are from one another, they fit together magically, like some crazy summertime electro Midnight Mass. Continue reading »

Hearts

 Posted by at 3:18 am  No Responses »
May 272009
 

Sorry I have been M.I.A. for the past few weeks. I have actually been in the hospital, since apparently 22 is the new 78. Lots of backlogged posting to get caught up on, so keep an eye here over the next week for some stuff, including the long-awaited debut of derpferdheisshorst’s “Ziggy Stardust” cover.

In honor of my days as the youngest person in the cardiac ward, this week’s theme is hearts. The medical accuracy of some of these songs may be suspect, but the sentiment rarely is.

Amilia K. Spicer – Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Neil Young)
Hey Neil, fun medical fact: plenty of things besides love can break your heart. Myocarditis, for instance. A quick wikipedia search leads me to recomment the following title change: “Only Coronary Heart Disease, Cardiomyopathy, Cardiovascular Disease, Ischaemic Heart Disease, Heart Failure, and Hypertensive, Inflammatory, and Valvular Heart Diseases Can Break Your Heart.” Someone tell Ms. Spicer. [Buy]

The Fray – Heartless (Kanye West)
I’m one of the few defenders Kanye’s recent album has. Sure, the autotune gets annoying eventually, but tracks like this and “Love Lockdown” are classic pop singles. Check out his recent video with Rihanna for more gayfish action. [Buy]

Jesse Malin – Hungry Heart (Bruce Springsteen)
Like many of Bruce’s hits, the deceptive pop hooks of this one covered up the darker lyrics (another example: “Dancing In the Dark”). Fellow Jersey boy Malin’s slower fuzz-acoustic takes no such pains to disguise the sadness. [Buy]

Don Henley – Searching For a Heart (Warren Zevon)
I realize most of you don’t want to hear about my medical history, but given that the theme of this post is entirely self-indulgent to begin with, allow me to point out that at one point that least week the doctors were literally searching for a heart to replace my own. Luckily it didn’t come to that, but that changes the whole song’s meaning for me. [Buy]

Tom Waits – Young at Heart (Frank Sinatra)
With music by Johnny Richards and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, this pop standard is most often associate with Ol’ Blue Eyes. Tom’s deadbeat dog take blends country with gutter, an interesting interpretation from a guy’s who’s always professed to be old at heart. [Buy]

Guy Davis – Sweetheart Like You (Bob Dylan)
A Nod to Bob has to be one of my favorite cover compilations ever, not least because of this accordion-led blues gem of one of Dylan’s lesser-known pieces of misogyny. [Buy]

Novemthree – Un-Break My Heart (Toni Braxton)
The ‘80s always gets flak for being a terrible decade for popular music, but those songs were at least fun! In my book the ‘90s beats it for general awfulness (in other news, Third Eye Blind has a new album). Whether you agree or not, indulge in a little nostalgia with the free Roaring Nineties covers compilation over at CCLCT. [Buy]

We Versus the Shark – Dummy Discards a Heart (Deerhoof)
Spastic and punky, the flailing horns propel this blaring quickie through the root. Murmurmur has loads of rocking covers from these guys, including looks at Radiohead and Ben Folds Five. [Buy]

Lydia Lunch and Nels Cline – Heartattack and Vine (Tom Waits)
Slow grunge-blues backed by pounding drums and pre-Wilco Cline letting loose squalls of guitar shriek whenever he gets the opportunity. [Buy]

Blues Magoos – Heartbreak Hotel (Elvis Presley)
Barelling barroom piano slams throughout this wail of a tune, wringing more emotion out of these simple lyrics than even the King himself. [Buy]