Mar 242016
 

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!

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Nick Lowe, who turns 67 today, has one of the most secure spots in the ’70s rock pantheon. He started the decade with pub-rock founders Brinsley Schwarz and ended it with “Cruel to be Kind,” a song that made it to number 12 on charts in the UK, the US, Canada, and New Zealand (a more impressive feat than reaching #1 in all four countries, to my mind). He also produced the first five Elvis Costello albums and the Pretenders’ debut single “Stop Your Sobbing,” among others, and his “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding” will never die as long as there’s a karaoke bar.
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Jul 172015
 

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

elvis_nick

Let’s start with a given — the best version of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” is a cover. It would be hard to dispute that Elvis Costello’s version is the standard to which all others fall short, including the original. I’ll pause here to allow those readers unaware that Elvis wasn’t the first to record the song to go on the Internet and confirm this. (Don’t feel bad, by the way—we self-proclaimed cover experts don’t know everything, either.) That’s right, the song was written by Nick Lowe and originally recorded by his pub-rock band Brinsley Schwarz and released on the band’s 1974 album The New Favourites of… Brinsley Schwarz. Although Lowe had written the bulk of the songs on the band’s prior five albums, he has claimed that it was the first truly original song that he ever wrote. However, he has admitted to having stolen a lick from Judee Sill’s “Jesus Was a Cross Maker.” (See if you agree.)

Brinsley Schwarz’s version is a Byrds-esque bit of nostalgic folk rock. Lowe wrote it in 1973, when the hippie era of peace and love was being supplanted by harder edges, harder drugs, alcohol and cynicism. As Lowe has said, “this song was supposed to be an old hippie, laughed at by the new thinking, saying to these new smarty-pants types, ‘Look, you think you got it all going on. You can laugh at me, but all I’m saying is ‘What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding?’” It is, in that version, a perfectly fine song. But it took a fan of the Brinsleys, who would one day rename himself Elvis Costello, to turn the song into something more. Lowe acknowledged that Costello “brought it to the world, so to speak. Because when he recorded it, he gave it that anthemic quality which everyone reacted really well to.”
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Feb 042014
 

Fifty years after The Beatles led the British Invasion, taking over American radios, TVs and the minds of our teenagers, we still cannot defend ourselves from catchy, concise, three-chord rock and roll songs arriving from foreign shores. Armed with the right combination of image, talent and charisma, The Strypes, hailing from Ireland, are currently touring the States in support of their new EP, Blue Collar Jane, which includes a cover of Nick Lowe’s “Heart of the City.” Continue reading »

Aug 192013
 

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

If Doug Fieger hadn’t died of cancer in February 2010, today would be his 61st birthday. By most standards, Fieger had a successful musical career. He was the lead singer for the Knack, whose debut album Get the Knack sold more than two million copies and was the number 1 album on the Billboard album chart for five weeks. The first single, the ubiquitous “My Sharona,” was the biggest song of 1979; the second, “Good Girls Don’t,” hit #11 in the US. The follow-up album went gold and spawned another Top 40 single. Thereafter, the band continued to record and tour until breaking up in 1982, then re-formed in the late 1980s, recording and touring through the early 2000s. Fieger also worked as a guest vocalist for Was (Not Was) (a band co-led by his childhood friend Don Was) and released a solo album. Most musicians — and many wannabes — would take that career in a minute.
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Apr 242013
 

Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.

Today marks the debut of a new feature at Cover Me, called Cover Me Q&A. We’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).

For our first Cover Me Q&A question, we thought we’d pick one both basic and complex, too easy and too hard, that anyone who regularly visits this site has more than likely contemplated: What’s your favorite cover song? Here are our answers; we welcome yours in the comments section below… Continue reading »

Jan 092012
 

Last month, Wilco invited friend of the band/Jeff Tweedy collaborator Mavis Staples and opening act Nick Lowe onstage for a Chicago show for a rousing cover of “The Weight.” Some shaky cell footage emerged, but now we have something better: a video of the impromptu supergroup rehearsing the cover backstage at the Civic Opera House. Continue reading »