At the end of every year, we work for weeks curating our annual Best of the Year list (here’s last year’s). We’re monitoring what comes out all year though, so this month I thought: why wait? Here’s a more impulsive and spontaneous list, some songs we’ve written about already and others we didn’t get to. Just some great covers that stood out as the month comes to a close.
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.”
Over the past few months, we’ve been hard at work making our list of The Best Cover Songs of 2016. Narrowing it down to 50 caused some excruciating choices, that’s how many great covers there were this year.
We’ll be posting the full list next week (and “Best Cover Albums” this Thursday), but as a little appetizer, here are our Honorable Mentions, covers we loved and still wanted to spotlight as among the best 2016 had to offer.
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
There is very little that can be considered “new” in the world of popular music — everything builds on something that came before, and influences get combined in different ways. So the idea that you can declare the inventor of a musical genre is ridiculous. Uncle Tupelo didn’t invent alt-country, a mix of country, rock and punk (check out, say, Jason and the Scorchers, the Long Ryders, Rank and File, X, or the Blasters, for example, for proof that these strains were already well mixed when Uncle Tupelo emerged). But it cannot be denied that Uncle Tupelo’s debut album No Depression, which gave its name to the influential message board and magazine that spearheaded the movement, helped to kickstart the genre’s popularity and became one of its cornerstones.
And it all started with a bunch of high school kids.
Recently, Detroit band Promartyr paid tribute to their fellow citymen and garage punk legends The Stooges as part of the AV Club series. This was possibly due to Iggy’s 67th(!) birthday falling around the same date, but more likely as a mark of respect for the recently departed Scott “Rock Action” Asheton.
The Michigan four-piece power through “Down on the Street,” an aggressive highlight from Fun House. Frontman Joe Casey initially appears quite juxtaposed to the band as he nonchalantly, hand in pocket, makes his way through each verse, but he becomes monstrously alive for each increasingly antagonistic chorus, leading to a blistering, feedback-heavy finale.
Back in 2010, Anna Rose performed the Stooges “Gimme Danger” for the “Jam for Ron Asheton” honoring the recently-deceased Stooge with current band members Scott Asheton, Mike Watt and Steve Mackay. As these things generally are, the tribute night was somewhat of a karaoke-esq affair. In the subsequent years though, she stuck with the song, re-arranging it and fiddling with it to arrive at the version you hear below. She delivers the song like nightclub singer with a spaghetti western bent, like if Blue Velvet was set near the Alamo.