Mark Kozelek is no stranger to finding the gourmet meal in what others might consider fast food. A prolific songwriter whose own tunes have gotten progressively less melodic and lyrics have gotten more and more literal, Kozelek has not lost his touch in turning rock songs into acoustic vignettes. Here, he takes the Huey Lewis and the News 1985 pop rock song “The Power of Love” and, with the help of singer/violinist Petra Haden, he finds the beauty at its core.
Wrapping up a 2018 that saw him release the critically acclaimed album Tell It To The Judge and open for Spoon at Nashville’s iconic Ryman Auditorium, Austin singer-songwriter Walker Lukens recently played a concert for local radio station KUTX. Before the show, the station polled their listeners on what song Walker and The Side Arms should cover. The Huey Lewis and the News hit “I Want a New Drug” was the clear audience favorite, winning over Fiona Apple’s “Sleep to Dream,” “Cinnamon Girl,” “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” and “Crazy in Love.”
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!
Dave Edmunds plays rock and roll in a particular style. It’s the version of rock and roll that existed in the late ’50s and early ’60s. And he’s been very true to it. But don’t be too quick to label him “retro” – he just continues to mine a vein of rock and roll that most musicians abandoned throughout the last third of the century. Those few others who have stuck with that early rock and roll blueprint (Brinsley Schwarz, Flamin’ Groovies, Ducks Deluxe) have probably worked with Edmunds. His sound is consistent, and being a good singer, guitarist and producer, that’s a fine thing to be. But he doesn’t discriminate when picking covers – he’s as likely to do something classic as he is something contemporary.
When looking at a career that is full of covers, it can be tough to figure out which ones best represent the artist. Many of Edmunds’ early singles are very precise covers of classic R&B. Maybe too precise. But once he shed a bit of his perfectionist tendencies (and started working with Nick Lowe), he provided the covers room to breathe and made many an old song into something fresh.
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Huey Lewis and the News followed the “ka-” of 1982’s Picture This with the “BOOM” of 1983’s Sports. Patrick Bateman was right; it was the album where they really come into their own, commercially and artistically. If any of the album’s nine songs (five of them Top Twenty) were to be its signature song, it would have to be “I Want a New Drug.” Subtitled “(Called Love)” – this was the Just Say No era, after all – this crazy little thing was the band’s best-selling single, inspiring Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters” (according to a settled lawsuit) and Weird Al Yankovic’s “I Want a New Duck” (“Not a swan or a goose / Just a drake I can dress real cute / Think I’m gonna name him Bruce”).
Given their relative proximity to the A.V. Club’s Chicago offices, the Hold Steady always seemed like a perfect choice for A.V. Undercover. Believe it or not, though, they were only the fallback choice for this song. Marnie Stern originally covered Huey Lewis and the News’ “The Power of Love,” but technical difficulties apparently ruined the recording. So in steps the Hold Steady to save the day with another cover.
Quickies rounds up new can’t-miss covers. Download ‘em below.
• Unsubtle band name notwithstanding, L.A. duo Well Hung Heart show a surprising delicacy on their Huey Lewis and the News cover. Recorded for Syffal’s Pop Cultures Collide series, it reinvents the Back to the Future smash.
MP3: Well Hung Heart – The Power of Love (Huey Lewis and the News cover)