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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Jan 292018
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

mark e smith covers

When it comes to musical taste, there’s a million shortcuts to figuring out which side of the tracks you stand on. Here’s one of the fastest: Do you like The Fall?

If the answer is “no,” you’re in good company. Of course, there’s no definitive way to tell how many people aren’t Fall fans, but statistically speaking, almost nobody likes the band’s clattering, repetitive, willfully out-of-tune, misanthropic, oblique and downright perplexing music.

But if the answer is “yes,” you’re in even better company. The Fall may represent the apex of the cult band, an aggressively obtuse art project spinning out over 40 years and a stunning number of ex-band members, mainly disgruntled ones at that. The only constant was the dark, twisted figure at its center: Mark E. Smith, who died January 24th, at the age of 60. Continue reading »

Oct 092016
 

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

john-lennon-rock-n-roll

By the time he recorded Rock ‘n’ Roll, John Lennon had been through quite a lot. From the dissolution of the Beatles to the fracturing of his marriage to the ever-present threat of deportation, he clearly had a great deal weighing on him. It was during this same time that he embarked on his legendary “lost weekend” in Los Angeles while estranged from Yoko Ono. Tearing through the city with drinking pal Harry Nilsson, Lennon seemed to fully embrace his chaotic path of self-destruction. While he would eventually come around enough to bring himself out of his increasingly fraught downward spiral, there was a clear spiritual line of demarcation between what came before and what was cut tragically short just a few years later.

It is within this self-reflective/post-self-destructive climate that Lennon embarked on the sessions that would produce Rock ‘n’ Roll. Not only would it represent a return to the music that inspired him in the first place, it also served as a swan song/love letter to fans, as he would, for all intents and purposes, retire from music and the public eye for the next half decade to concentrate on being a father to his son Sean. Because of this, there’s a heavy air of nostalgia at play. From the cover image (John in 1961 Hamburg, with a blurred Paul, George, and Stu Sutcliffe walking past him) down to the track listing, Rock ‘n’ Roll represents something of a mid-life reanalysis of self for the erstwhile Beatle. By returning to his roots, he was able to reassess his own position within and feelings toward the world of pop music.
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Feb 032011
 

Our White Stripes tribute continues today with a massive live collection. The Stripes were known for their concert presence as much as anything and, with the freedom that only a two-person band can bring, they frequently performed covers both expected (delta blues) and not (Mazzy Star). Some songs appeared frequently over the years, others popped up for one night only. Sometimes they were planned performances, other times Jack White just started singing some lyrics.

Below, we give you a collection of cover songs the band performed on their 2005 Get Behind Me Satan tour. The set was originally compiled by a user over at the Little Room forum and his/her efforts amaze us to this day. Thirty-three songs, all available as MP3 downloads below. The audio quality ranges from pretty-good to fantastic. Download them individually or as a full set. Continue reading »