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.
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.
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.
Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.
Matthew Vadnais lives in Beloit, Wisconsin. He’s been writing for Cover Me since 2015. Of all his Cover Me essays, he especially likes his reviews of the albums paying tribute to Blind Willie Johnson, Uncle Tupelo’s No Depression, and Jason Molina.
On “I Wanna Be Sedated,” the Ramones sound anything but. Mirel Wagner’s new cover though shows what the song would sound like had the band gotten its wish.
Over spare guitar finger-picking, the Finnish singer delicately enunciates each lyric. It’s about as far from the original as you can get, but it works. Gradually strings and other shimmery instruments enter, courtesy of recently Golden Globe-nominated composer and arranger Benjamin Wallfisch, but the speed never gets above 5 M.P.H. on this one. It would have fit well on our full-album covers tribute to the Ramones’ Road to Ruin.
Boom Box Repair Kit say they want to do for traditional Caribbean music what Gogol Bordello does for Balkan folk, and judging from their riotous new Spanish-language cover of The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated,” they’re off to a good start. Hailing from the Dominican Republic (now based in New York), the band keeps all the energy of the original while bringing in elements of bachata music – and translating most of the lyrics. It’s been a big year for Ramones fans forty years after releasing their debut record, and this cover is a worthy addition to the celebration.