As a songwriter, Stephin Merritt doesn’t need any testaments to his prolificness or originality – the sheer scope of his sweeping, three-disc Magnetic Fields album, “69 Love Songs,” on top of the rest of his discography, is testament enough. And yet, other artists continuously remind us of the enormous scope and degree of his influence with covers from throughout his oeuvre. Recently, Bully and FIDLAR demonstrated this with a cheery take on “Absolutely Cuckoo,” the opener to the aforementioned triple-album.
We’ve said it before here at Cover Me, and we’re likely to say it again: Stephin Merritt has put a serious dent in creating a new American songbook without even really seeming to try that hard. The man throws pure poetry at listeners like candy from a firetruck at a fourth-of-July parade.
Last year to celebrate Halloween, Amanda Palmer held a Dresden Dolls reunion show in New York City. This year she hit the other coast, appearing on a taping of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. She brought along Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields, Moby, and husband Neil Gaiman for a cover of Rocky Horror’s “Science Fiction/Double Feature.”
Twelve years ago today, the Magnetic Fields released 69 Love Songs. Initially conceived as a theatrical revue performed by drag queens, 69 Love Songs took a different status entirely as a beloved pillar of indie pop. Though hardly a best-seller then or now, it retains a certain mystique as an album one could devote years to (witness this book or this project documenting each song in graphic form). Everything Stephin Merritt had been building with the Magnetic Fields over the previous six albums came to fruition here and then some.
Sprawling even by Merritt’s standards, 69 Love Songs covers a mind-boggling array of genres. So, in honor of its anniversary, we’ve selected a set of 12 covers that do the same. Some songs will make you dance; others will make you weep. It’s a barely-coherent smorgasbord of sounds, sources, and interpretations. Given the source material, that seems appropriate.
Download This scours the web’s dark corners for cool cover freebies. View past installments.
Here at Cover Me, we tend to see a lot of artists pop up over and over. Some, like Stephin Merritt, are covered all the time for the sheer versatility of their songwriting. Others, like James Eric, have the ear and the talent for releasing a near-constant stream of quality covers. Eric, in fact, has been even more of a staple on this blog than Merritt or his band the Magnetic Fields and was the first artist featured in our Cover Commissions series.
Now we’re featuring Eric not as cover artist, but as cover curator. 21 Love Songs: A Tribute To The Magnetic Fields isn’t the first of his compilations we’ve come across – we featured his Broadway collection last June – but it is his first and, by his own admission, his best. Despite the album 69 Love Songs-recalling title, we’re treated to covers of a vast swathe of the Fields catalog, going so far as to include “Plant White Roses” from Merge Records’ fifth anniversary compilation.