The era in German history known as the Weimar Republic lasted just a few years from 1918 to 1933, but it’s impact on world history and culture is still felt today. The unstable political situation, combined with rapid inflation, contributed to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Amidst the political chaos, the arts flourished. The period saw the establishment of the Bauhaus and Dada artistic movements. Novelist Christopher Isherwood captured the underground nightlife scene in his famed The Berlin Stories, which would serve as the basis for the Cabaret musical and film. On the theater front, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill penned The Threepenny Opera. The musical introduced the standard “Mack the Knife” as well as “Pirate Jenny,” a song Bob Dylan cited in his memoir as an inspiration for his songwriting.
For their second single, The Sex Pistols followed their call for “Anarchy” with a direct shot at the British monarchy. For publicity-hunting manager Malcolm McLaren, the timing – Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 – couldn’t have been more perfect. There was no denying the inflammatory nature of the song’s lyrics – with the Queen being referred to as a “moron” in a “fascist regime” – and the closing “no future” refrain became a symbol for the angry working class and the punk movement itself.
The song explodes with energy from its opening chords, which build – along with singer Johnny Rotten’s anger – into a brief instrumental break. After Steve Jones’ guitar lick, Rotten comes back for a final verse before launching into the aforementioned refrain. Cover Me readers might be interested to know that original Sex Pistol bassist and co-writer Glen Matlock’s opening riff was admittedly influenced by 60s’ rockers The Move’s song “Fire Brigade” (in the chorus) and Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody.”
The single sold 200,000 copies in the first week and despite being banned by the BBC went on to top the UK charts. [The BBC were famously believed to have suppressed the song at number 2 on their charts as “punishment,” not allowing it to be seen formally at number 1. It reached number 1 on the NME chart.] The iconic song charted again in 2002 and 2007 on its way to becoming one of rocks most legendary hits recognized by Rolling Stone, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and various magazine polls.
There are dozens of generally uninteresting covers of the song that are little more than re-makes. We’ve sifted through the bollocks and found the ones you should know about. If you’ve been following this series, you’ve already heard a few. The unique twists below come from at least five different countries, proving once again that the sun never sets on the British Empire!
When Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister died, hard-rocking cover tributes poured in from the likes of Dave Grohl, Alice Cooper, and Slash. The covers tended to be a lot like Lemmy himself: loud, brash, unapologetic. Now, Brooklyn quartet Heaven’s Jail have paid tribute with a very different sort of cover. Spacey and haunting, their version of “Capricorn” ditches the huge riffs and slows things down – way down.
In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.
Merle Haggard died on April 6th, his 79th birthday. On another April 6th, eleven years earlier, he celebrated his birthday in Chicago, opening the spring run of Bob Dylan’s “Never Ending Tour.”
I don’t know what he did for most of that 66th birthday, but I do know how five minutes or so was spent. He was standing outside his tour bus, listening to a handful of Dylan obsessives sing “Happy Birthday” to him. I was one of them.
It’s hard to think of a band that epitomizes longevity like the Rolling Stones. Mick, Keith and the rest of the band have been rocking out and touring the world (including a tour they did this year) for over 50 years. That’s just insane, and not many bands can compete with that.
Originally a one-off offshoot of 80s/90s indie stalwarts the Wedding Present, the Ukrainians bizarrely continue to exist, plowing their singular farrow, long after their parent band have become a distant nostalgic tear in the eye. With a mission statement of mingling western rock with eastern folk, and never straying far from that, the band has a history of liberally including the odd quirky cover in their repertoire, notably of the Smiths and the Sex Pistols. Now, the five grizzled individuals in the current lineup have decided to devote an entire album to cover versions. This was a project capable of falling flat or becoming parody; however, I am delighted to inform that, both on record and (especially) live, such is their fervor and dedication to their craft that A History of Rock Music in Ukrainian is a delight.