Apr 162018
 

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

joey ramone covers

Jeffrey Ross Hyman was an odd boy. Disturbingly tall, gangly and gaunt, his facial features -typically hidden under an unruly thatch of hair – seemed disproportionate to his angular head, giving him a distinctly amphibian cast. Crippled by obsessive-compulsive disorder so severe that his mother feared he would spend his life housebound, he instead channeled his anxiety and alienation into music, starting a band with three other self-described “creeps” from the neighborhood, giving himself a new name and in the process changing pop music forever.

Onstage, he was transformed: Long limbs draped casually around an overextended mic stand, left heel pumping to the blistering jackhammer beat of his unstoppable band, it was impossible to take one’s eyes off this otherwise gawky and unsteady-seeming kid.

We’re talking, of course, about Joey Ramone. Continue reading »

Apr 122018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

juliana hatfield covers

Juliana Hatfield is an old hat at making an unlikely song her own. Earlier this year, she made both our Best Cover Songs of January and March roundups. A couple years before that, her version of “Needle in the Hay” was a high point of a Wes Anderson tribute album. A couple years before that, she released a terrific self-titled covers album of her own. I mean, how far back do we want to go here? Hell, she even made our Best Cover Songs of 1996 list! Suffice to say, she knows how to crush a great cover.

That’s why we were so excited to hear about Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John, which comes out tomorrow. It more than lives up to our high expectations. Hatfield takes on hits like “Physical” alongside plenty of deep cuts that prove this is not some gimmick; she’s a genuine fan. Continue reading »

Jan 232018
 

review dr demento covered in punkLet’s be blunt: No one needs novelty songs.

Loosely defined as “a satirical or comedic parody of popular music,” most people instinctively leave the room – or the house – at the first whiff.

Or do they? What, then, explains the enduring popularity of Dr. Demento, querulous-voiced prankster and legitimate, if puzzling, cultural icon? A rock ’n roll writer, label A&R man, and sometime roadie, he began broadcasting a rock and oldies show at Pasadena station KPPC in 1970. He quickly found that the novelty songs he slipped in – notably Nervous Norvus’ “Transfusion,” a truly demented tale about reckless driving, and a precursor to the Cramps’ psychobilly – were what his listeners really wanted to hear.

Now 76, Dr. Demento – a.k.a. Barret Eugene Hansen – ceased terrestrial radio broadcast in 2010, though his program persists online. And now we’re treated to Dr. Demento Covered in Punk, by some counts his 15th official album release. If you’re already hooked on the good doctor’s offbeat charms, you’re likely not in need of encouragement to purchase this collection of supposedly “punk” covers (more on that later) interspersed with the Doctor’s commentary. But can we rightfully recommend this 2+ hour compilation to the rest of the record-buying public? The answer, surprisingly, is: “Yes!” Sort of.

Continue reading »

Dec 042017
 
2017 cover songs

Our official list of the Best Cover Songs of 2017 comes next week. But first, we’re continuing the tradition we started last year by rounding up some of the songs it most killed us to cut in a grab-bag post. No ranking, no writing, just a bunch of knockout covers. Continue reading »

Dec 042017
 
weird al ramones

Master of oddball radio Dr. Demento is largely credited with popularizing “Weird Al” Yankovic by being the first DJ to play his music on the radio. The Weird One recently returned the favor by recording an accordion-driven cover of the the Ramones’ “Beat on the Brat” for Dr. Demento’s upcoming Covered in Punk compilation, the second single from that compilation after William Shatner’s version of the Cramps’ “Garbageman”.

Just to be clear, Al’s “Beat on the Brat” is not a parody. Though to be fair, the refrain to the original is so ridiculous that it might as well be a joke. The same could be said for most of the Ramones’ catalogue. For this version, “Weird Al” is backed by punk-rock supergroup Osaka Popstar, which recorded its own version in 2008. Continue reading »

Nov 072017
 
the national ramones

The National have been covering regionally-appropriate songs on many of their tour stops: New Order in Manchester, Queen in London, etc. When I saw them in Queens last month, they played the Ramones’ “The KKK Took My Baby Away,” joking that Joey Ramone wrote it after his Queens neighbor Donald Trump stole his girlfriend. It was a blast to watch, but the shaky cell phone videos that surfaced didn’t quite live up to the live experience.

Luckily, the National have kept the song in their setlists (complete with the Trump joke). They tagged it onto the end of their recent KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic performance – so now we finally have good video. “This is a true story,” Matt Berninger deadpans. Continue reading »