Jun 102016
 

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!

golden smog

Back in the late 1980s, as the alt-country/No Depression sound began to spread, a group of bands centered in the Minneapolis area often played in the same venues. Sometimes members of these bands would do cover shows for fun. Although even the members of the band remember the band’s fittingly murky origins differently, ultimately, some of these friends began to perform as “Golden Smog” (originally a Flintstones reference), mostly playing covers. The core membership coalesced as Gary Louris and Marc Perlman of the Jayhawks on bass, Dan Murphy and Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum, Kraig Johnson of Run Westy Run (and later the Jayhawks) and Chris Mars of the Replacements (although the drum chair in the band has a near Spinal Tap-level rotating door), often augmented by guest musicians and singers. It was like seeing an incredibly talented bar band.
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Mar 262014
 

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

David Bowie’s appearance on Top of the Pops in 1972 electrified a nation. “I had to phone someone, so I picked on you,” he sang, pointing directly into the camera with the slyest of smiles, and within 24 hours young Britons were answering that call, draping their arms over their friends’ shoulders and buying The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in droves. (Many of them would be part of the New Romantic movement a decade later and would cite that show as the moment their world shifted.)

It didn’t hurt that Bowie had sung “Starman,” a track with more hooks than Moulty’s closet. It was added to Ziggy at the last minute, in the belief that it was just the hit single the album needed – a belief that turned out to be very well founded indeed. Both the singer and the song have enraptured listeners ever since.
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Dec 062013
 

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

By now it’s hard to find a little-known Rolling Stones song that deserves to be better known, but “Back Street Girl” absolutely qualifies. Originally on their 1967 album Between the Buttons, it was stripped from that release in the U.S. and slapped onto the odds ‘n’ ends collection Flowers. It’s a showcase for Mick Jagger to be even more unpleasant about a woman than he is in “Under My Thumb,” as he’s dismissing a girl to her face, calling her “rather common and coarse,” but still wanting her at his beck and call when nobody’s looking. All this is done in waltz time, with a truly pretty melody; put them together and you have a song that’s a prime candidate for the next Wes Anderson soundtrack.
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Jun 202011
 

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!

What is it about artistic geniuses that make them so fragile, so seemingly unable to operate in the real world? Vincent Van Gogh, Sylvia Plath and Alexander McQueen all perished by their own hand. J.D. Salinger became a notorious recluse after the success of The Catcher in the Rye. Brian Wilson, the musical genius behind The Beach Boys, sunk almost as low as these, spending the first half of the ’70s mostly in bed doing drugs and then a number of years under the spell of a “therapist” who controlled his every move. Continue reading »