Jul 162019
 

In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”

Pat Boone

Reasons abound for maligning Pat Boone’s career in popular music. The catalyst for his career was a string of covers of R&B tunes by black artists for whom the legacy of segregation never afforded the same amount of wealth. White artists made substantially more than their counterpart artists of color. Major record labels had larger distribution chains, promotional budgets, and stronger connections to radio and television networks to advantage their artists. By contrast, black musicians on “race records” benefited from none of these privileges. While artists like Little Richard, Big Joe Turner, and Fats Domino have enjoyed staying power and wide acclaim for being architects of rock music, in the early decades of that genre, white covers were commercially more successful. Added to this was the exploitative nature of covers on larger labels that made more money than the originals while paying out no royalties to the black originators. Boone was unapologetic that his career benefited from this exploitation.

It is also noteworthy that Boone’s performance and lyricism of some of rock’s first generation of are a case study in the sanitized tastes of the burgeoning white middle class in the 1950s. His smooth vocal delivery was reminiscent of crooners rather than the raspy, full-throated yowl of Little Richard. And the lyrical changes on “Tutti Frutti” were a nod to teenage infatuation stripped of any of the sexuality in Little Richard’s original.

Despite Boone representing the residuals of white privilege while Jim Crow reigned supreme, there is a note of appreciation to be made for Boone and contemporaries Elvis Presley and Bill Haley in helping to extend the reach of rock music to new audiences at a critical juncture in that genre’s history.
Continue reading »

Jul 092019
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Ice Cream Man

Summer is upon us. The sweltering heat of July has arrived, and we yearn for a reprieve. And many neighborhoods still get visits from an ice cream truck to deliver treats for the kids, and the kids at heart. Thus, it is no surprise that Van Halen’s “Ice Cream Man” makes regular and routine airplay on classic rock stations at this time of the year.

Nearly all rock music fans—and most casual listeners—know that Van Halen’s debut album features the cover of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” after the explosive statement that is Eddie’s “Eruption.” However, that is not the only cover. “Ice Cream Man” is the other cover song on the album, one that reinterprets the blues for a post-punk and Sunset Strip style of heavy metal.
Continue reading »

Jun 282019
 

Check out the best covers of past months here.

best cover songs of june
Ashley O [Miley Cyrus] – Right Where I Belong (Nine Inch Nails cover)

The second-most-bonkers cover of the month (just wait ’til we get to “Spicy”) comes from – who else – Miley Cyrus. On a new episode of Black Mirror, she covers/parodies angsty Nine Inch Nails songs as the most insipid of pop jams. Trent Reznor, for one, says he is very much on board (given the lyric changes, these covers required his legal approval). Miley’s songs in character as Ashley O are outrageous and borderline offensive, which is kind of the point. “On a Roll” (FKA “Head Like a Hole”) has gotten most of the attention, but “Right Where I Belong” is more listenable. Marginally. Continue reading »

Jun 242019
 
bird bee cover van halen

If you missed it the first time around, immediately go check out The Bird and The Bee’s truly wonderful Hall & Oates tribute from 2010. We’ve included songs from it on our Hall & Oates lists before, but start to finish it’s a great listen that has held up well.  When the duo of Greg Kurstin and Inara George first released a Van Halen cover in March, we thought the long-awaited Volume 2 may be on the way. Now it’s confirmed with another track from the album: “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love”. Continue reading »

Apr 012019
 
best cover songs march
Amaara – House of Cards (Radiohead cover)

We just posted the 45 best Radiohead covers ever, but there’s already a 46th. Unsurprising, really, considering how much this band gets covered. The musical project of actor Kaelen Amara Ohm, Amaara took on the In Rainbows gem “House of Cards.” Her cover carries echoes of the haunting original, but with a smoother electro-ambient sheen.

Chris Anderson – Eh-Hee / Digging in the Dirt (Dave Matthews / Peter Gabriel cover)

Composer Chris Anderson draws from some pretty deep wells of music knowledge on his new Song Cycle. He covers Laurie Anderson and John Cage and Tom Waits – twice. He covers Peter Gabriel twice too, on a beautiful “Mercy Street” and more subtly here, working bits of “Digging in the Dirt” into – of all things – a gospel Dave Matthews cover. “The addition of a choir was important to me to create the feeling of a ground-swell of support,” he writes in an email. “The fact that the song is about ‘knocking the devil to his knees’ made the gospel choir a natural choice.” Continue reading »

Mar 082019
 
the bird and the bee covers

In 2010, LA indie-pop duo The Bird and the Bee released the terrific Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates. Sadly, a Volume 2 never arrived. But perhaps their very unexpected new Van Halen cover could point the way forward. The pair turn “Panama” from a huge ’80s rocker into a cute dance-pop song that somehow recalls both Michael Jackson and Imogen Heap. Continue reading »