In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.
Last year, we said Stars’ version of “This Charming Man” was the best cover of the song ever. You know who agreed with us? Smiths drummer Mike Joyce (he called it the best Smiths cover period). You know who else? Prince.
Stars frontman Torquil Campbell (he’s on the right in that photo) tells the full story below in his Pick Five entry. And he’s a man who knows his covers. In 2016, Stars launched a monthly covers series, tackling everyone from Bob Dylan to a pre-MAGA Kanye West. Not only were the covers great individually, but the disparate source material fit together perfectly under the Canadian collective’s signature indie-pop umbrella. Here are some highlights:Continue reading »
Last year I did a roundup of the Best Cover Songs of 1996. It was a fun project to retroactively compile one of our year-end lists for a year before Cover Me was born. I wanted to do it again this year, but continuing the twentieth-anniversary theme with 1997 seemed a little boring. Turns out 1997 also featured a bunch of Afghan Whigs covers.
So to mix it up, I decided to go a decade further back and look at 1987. Needless to say, the landscape looked very different for covers. For one, far more of that year’s biggest hits were covers than we saw for 1996. The year had #1 cover hits in Heart’s “Alone,” the Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter,” Los Lobos’ “La Bamba,” Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” Club Nouveau’s “Lean on Me,” and Kim Wilde’s “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” Plus ubiquitous hits that didn’t quite top the charts, but remain staples of the songs-you-didn’t-know-were-covers lists, Buster Poindexter’s “Hot Hot Hot” and George Harrison’s “Got My Mind Set On You.”Continue reading »
Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.
In an era when synth-pop was what ruled the British roost, the opening guitar lick to the Smiths’ “This Charming Man” was an invigorating splash of cool, clear water to the face. The band’s second single, written for one of John Peel’s BBC radio sessions, began with Johnny Marr’s ringing introduction and kept up a bright, danceable pace, while Morrissey crooned lyrics (including a line nicked from the Laurence Olivier / Michael Caine movie Sleuth) that were coquettish, poetic, and different from anything on the charts. “Early Elvis would have approved of the music, [Oscar] Wilde of the words,” writes allmusic.com, “an audacious end result by any standard.”
“I wince a bit when I hear it now,” Marr later said. “It only tells the shiny side of the story, it in no way epitomizes what was good about the band in the long term. But God bless it though, it seemed to catch on with a lot of people.” Continue reading »
“Any time I take a cover and wear it on my sleeve, it’s because it had something good to do with my life and still marks a time in my life when I needed that song more than ever.” – Jeff Buckley
You and I is a posthumously released collection of ten songs (eight of which are covers) Jeff Buckley chose as a showcase for Columbia Records in 1993. They have lived in the vaults of Columbia Records for the past twenty-three years. Up until the point of these recordings, Buckley’s career was that of a cover artist, gradually working on his own material, performing often at venues in Lower Manhattan, such as Sin-é. Despite vast interest, Buckley was apprehensive about signing with a record label. Eventually he signed with Columbia and recorded what would be his only studio album, the otherworldly Grace, in 1994. An album David Bowie chose as a desert island album, an album whose release saw Bob Dylan knighting Buckley as “one of the great song writers of this decade,” and an album that convinced Rolling Stone that Buckley was one of the greatest singers of all time.
Follow all our Best of 2014 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.
A few months ago, I read an interesting interview with an artist named Nouela. You probably haven’t heard of her, but you may have heard her music. She’s become a specialist in a weird but growing niche: covers recorded for movie and television trailers. Whether doing a piano “Sound of Silence” to promote a new HBO show or a brooding “Black Hole Sun” to promote Liam Neeson punching people, she’s found a quickly-growing way of getting her covers out there.
It struck me as part of a growing trend we’ve seen. More and more great covers seem to come from unexpected places. Sure, you’ve got still your standby sources, your b-sides, tribute albums, and radio shows. But new avenues for covers have increasingly crept in. This year saw a Sam Smith cover that is only available to hear under Grey’s Anatomy dialog (thankfully he’s recorded a few live versions too) and a whole covers album recorded to plug a Canadian TV show. Brands have fully embraced covers too, most recently My Morning Jacket’s “This Land Is Your Land” recorded for North Face ads, or Charli XCX and Bleachers trading covers for Kia.
We don’t care where they originated when we make our year-end lists, though, and we would up with some of everything. In our top five alone, we’ve got a live radio session, a deluxe-edition bonus track, and a cover hiding in plain sight on one of the most acclaimed country records of the year. You have to keep an eye on more places than ever to spot the best covers these days. Wherever they come from, we’re glad to have ’em.
Click on over to page two to begin our countdown, and thanks for reading.
Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.
When your share your name with a father who’s a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame… when you grew up living next door to George Jones and Tammy Wynette… when you have Shel Silverstein for a mentor… a life in the music business would seem preordained. That’s what Bobby Bare Jr. has made for himself, from duetting with his father in 1973 to selling t-shirts and working lights at concerts to becoming a full-time musician when he was about thirty. It’s been a hard life [the documentary Don’t Follow Me (I’m Lost) follows him and his band down the long road of touring], but it’s paying off. This year alone he stole the show at SXSW’s Lou Reed tribute with his take on “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’,” and he released his very first cover of a song of his father’s, “Shame On Me,” saying that he “figured after 8 of my own albums I can’t be accused of ‘coat tailing’ at this point.” Continue reading »