Sep 072020
 

Lou Reed’s 1972 hit “Walk on the Wild Side” feels a bit like a risqué movie. Though these days the plot would barely raise a plucked eyebrow, in the waning months of the Nixon administration it explored all kinds of cultural taboos. Reed tells the stories of several crossdressing young lads as they turn tricks, take Valium, and give head.

Suzanne Vega released a cover of “Walk on the Wild Side” on her new album An Evening of New York Songs and Stories. The live album features Vega singing songs about the Big Apple. It seems like an ideal topic for Vega, given that she helped put the Upper West Side eatery “Tom’s Diner” on the map years before the Seinfeld gang made it their locale of choice.

Performing in New York’s Café Carlyle in 2019, Vega gives the song the feel of a spoken word performance. She starts out slow, mainly backed by the guitar then adds in bits of piano and other instruments as the tune progresses. About two-thirds of the way through, guitarist Gerry Leonard throws in a bluesy solo. A solid take on a classic, even if the subject manner is not nearly as edgy as it once was.

Click here to listen to more Lou Reed covers.

Apr 282020
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Deadicated

Deadicated is so much more than a great covers album; it’s a great album, period. But more, it also heralded the era for covers albums to be more than a leg up for aspiring musicians to get a grip on the slippery pole, by riding on the laurels of another more established act. This was one of the first tribute albums where the great and the good lined up to salute their peers.

But I’ll get back to that. My reasons for it attaining classic status stemming a whole lot more than from the fearsome reputation of the Dead. As a… well, whatever I was, I loved the idea of the Grateful Dead. But over here in Britain, there was no Deadhead culture as such. They came over, what, once? (Yup, Bickershaw Festival, 1972, as at least one contributor to the album knew only too well.) As an avid reader of New Musical Express and Melody Maker, the UK “inkies”, the musical press within whose hallowed pages they were ensured good copy, to me they were just the coolest dudes ever. I’d also read Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and was smitten.

But where to start? In truth, I was daunted, happier to wear the T-shirt than buy the music. I didn’t want it spoilt by any risk of finding the idea to be less than the reality of the dream.

Luckily a trip to Orlando, circa 1987, solved that conundrum, around about the time of In the Dark. Of course, the big hit single helped, even if there were more filler tracks than killer tracks on the album. Clearly I hadn’t quite got that the Dead were more a live experience than a studio band. Still haven’t, really; to this day, listening to live records has never been a great immersive for me. But, praise be, I loved the studio records, snapping up the back catalog.

When Deadicated dropped in 1991, I bought it, unheard. The roster of artists included an impossible array of my favorites: Elvis Costello, Los Lobos, Suzanne Vega, Dr. John, Indigo Girls, Cowboy Junkies and more. Catnip and heaven combined. (Deadicated also served as a benefit for Rainforest Action Network, active to this day, a charity dedicated to the preservation of these vital once macro-climates, shrinking by the day through the scourge of deforestation.)
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May 012015
 
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Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” has likely popped into your head many times since the late 80s’, when it was first released. With a simple melody, a visual storyline for lyrics, and recurring “da-da DA-da, da-da DA-da da-da DA-da, da-da DA-da”, it’s a song to which possibly a tiny baby could help sing along. Like one of Suzanne’s contemporaries, The Terminator, this song has had multiple lives. Originally released in 1987 as an acapella piece, it was re-released as a bootleg with a dance beat by DNA in 1990, and there have been multiple versions since. Thankfully, Suzanne has had the grace to see these copyright infringements as creative pursuits and has not filed any lawsuits to limit versioning. Continue reading »

May 222012
 

Australian born and recent LA transplant DJ Anna Lunoe is a staple at many of the big festivals down under and in the States. Featuring appearances at Big Day Out, Splendour in the Grass, Parklife, Field Day, and Falls Festival, Anna steadily moves up the bill each year.  Wordlife is a project of Sydney based DJs/Kato and Adam Bozzetto, producing “forward thinking club music”. The two forces have combined to transform the a cappella 80s hit, “Tom’s Diner” into a house dance track. Continue reading »