Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song
I remember the joy with which I first heard “Golden Brown” by the Stranglers. It sounded nothing quite like anything going on in the charts at the time: a harpsichord and a hypnotic, repetitive melody, played in peculiar and shifting, almost conflicting, time signatures. Then a gentle crooning vocal, singing about… well, what was it about? Continue reading »
Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.
Here at 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).
With their surprise success “Africa,” Weezer delivered easily the biggest cover-song news of 2018. And they similarly seemed poised to dominate this year’s cover-album news when they dropped a full set of similar songs in January (that album’s not on our list, because it is – and I say this as a fan for going on 20 years – terrible).
Thankfully, that album got forgotten about five minutes after its release. A slate of other high-profile cover albums took its place, and delivered more staying power. Angelique Kidjo, Morrissey, and Juliana Hatfield all released covers albums, and a host more stars contributed in one way or other to tribute compilations, from Norah Jones and Margo Price covering Bobbie Gentry to Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile tackling Wilco. Some of the aforementioned made our list and some just missed it, but all are worth investigating.
That’s to say nothing of the many lesser-known artists who came out of nowhere, amazing covers records by bands and singers I’d never heard of before. Covers albums can offer a wonderful entry point for discovery, and I’ve now got a lot of new favorite bands to dig deeper into. Hopefully you’ll find a few here too.
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
The Human League created many hits throughout the ’80s and ’90s in the UK, but “Don’t You Want Me” is the one that most successfully gained popularity across the pond. Philip Oakey first recorded this song by himself, but he promoted backup vocalist, Susan Ann Sulley, to the role of co-lead, creating the duet we know and love.
To those less familiar with The Human League’s full discography, this song might be considered a one-hit wonder. However, the song has a wide influence, uniting music fans across genres and demographics. We have the ladies of The Human League to thank for inspiring Posh Spice to “wannabe” in a musical group. The song’s synthesizer pop style is so catchy, even Pitbull sampled it. Sports fans rally behind this song too; “Don’t You Want Me” enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in 2014 when fans of the Aberdeen Football Club made a push to get the song back on the UK Singles Chart.
It’s surprisingly hard to find covers that don’t start with the same intro synth beat as the original, but these five covers break from the mold.
For a band now in its fourth decade, The Cure has enjoyed a surprisingly big year in 2019. Most notably, after fifteen years of being eligible for but mostly ignored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Cure were finally inducted in April. Then May saw two big anniversaries: The band’s debut album Three Imaginary Boys turned 40 and their most-beloved album Disintegration turned 30. For a band firmly affixed in the classic-rock firmament at this point, they’ve suddenly found themselves back in the spotlight – even if, by all indications, they prefer the dark.
The Cure has never gone out of style in one area though: covers. Whether the band’s in the news or not, every year delivers dozens more versions of “Lovesong,” “Boys Don’t Cry,” and the rest. We whittled them down to the 30 best ever, dramatic reimaginings that veer from gorgeous orchestral ballads to dark post-rock drones. Listen below (and join our new Patreon for MP3 download and playlist versions of the full set).
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!