Aug 242016
 

Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.

Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).

Today’s question, from Cover Me staffer Jordan Becker: What’s your favorite foreign-language cover song?
Continue reading »

Oct 162013
 

As usual with We Are Scientists, they explain things better than we ever could. Here’s the statement they gave…

“The path to covering Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” was for We Are Scientists a long and twisted one, spanning at least two generations.

“We had Top Gun on VHS when I was a kid — we’d watch it three or four times a week. My dad would always play tasteful pedal steel whenever Kelly McGillis was on-screen. That’s kind of where the idea for it started,” says Chris.

Keith continues: “Chris and I first watched Top Gun together on the tour bus a few years ago, and I remember Chris kept singing these really lovely ambling pedal steel parts under his breath when Kelly McGillis was on-screen — well, I thought he was doing a trumpet at the time.”

Later, in the spring of 2013, the band decided to record a cover along with several other tracks that would ultimately land on the forthcoming Business Casual EP (Oct. 14). Chris volunteered that he had always wanted to do a version of “Wonderful Tonight,” by Eric Clapton.

“Man, that song’s a total piece of shit,” Keith told him.

“Ha. I guess you’re right,” said Chris. Then, as was his habit during moments of tension, he began quietly humming an improvised pedal steel part for “Take My Breath Away.”

“Wait, you realize that’s pretty much the same chord structure as Wonderful Tonight, right?” Keith said.

“I… huh?”

“That Top Gun sex song — it’s pretty much just Wonderful Tonight without awful Eric Clapton. Let’s just cover that.”

They had found a solution that would let everybody win except Eric Clapton. The next day, they brought in multi-instrumentalist and occasional Scientist Max Hart, whose extemporized pedal steel part — both lilting and playfully reminiscent of Top Gun’s brazen sensuality — outdid even Chris’s gilded memory of those childhood recitals. When Andy Burrows’s pounding drums drop into the mix, the evocation of blasting jet engines and throbbing adult desire is unmistakeable and timeless.

“Everybody wins except Eric Clapton,” says Keith, “which of course is what everybody except Eric Clapton wanted.”

“Take My Breath Away” comes off the band’s new ‘Business Casual’ EP.

Aug 192011
 

Robert Manning, who has been struggling with Multiple Sclerosis for roughly seven years, came up with an idea to raise money for charities that research the disease. According to Manning’s website, the project is “To get artists I love to record a cover of my song “Washington Parks” all for raising money and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis (the disease) and the MS Society (the charity.)” Continue reading »

Feb 042011
 

There’s no shame in enjoying a dingy college bar with your buddy’s band rambling through a set of well-known covers over a fuzzy sound system. You just don’t expect that sort-of-rehearsed cover band to be We Are Scientists playing in Williamsburg. Wednesday night – supported by Dev Hynes of Lightspeed Champion and Blood Orange, and (when not awkwardly facing the corner) Aaron Pfenning of Rewards – the Brooklyn-based duo loosely bumbled through all ten songs off Weezer’s 2001 The Green Album, before closing with their “two favorite Weezer songs.”

The evening was rife with sheepish grins between lead singer Keith Murray and Hynes – who supported on lead guitar – as the two dropped chords and lyrics. Whatever missteps were made along the way didn’t deter the enthusiastic crowd, which was small enough that when Pfenning offered to buy a drink for whomever could predict the two encore songs, you could easily hear someone yell, “Aaron, you don’t have any money.” No one else ventured a response. Continue reading »

Feb 112010
 

Five Good Covers is an occasional series in which we look at a song that has supplied a variety of cross-genre cover versions. One mark of a well-written song is versatility, so we celebrate such songs with five totally different interpretations.


Time for a new semi-regular feature: Five Good Covers. Lots of websites showcase exhaustive lists of every version the writer could find of a certain song, which is great if you want 35 covers of “Umbrella,” not so helpful if you only want the best few. Here we whittle it down, presenting only five covers of any one song. Fewer songs than you might think can support five varying but valid interpretations.

We start off with a Valentine’s Day-appropriate song: “Be My Baby,” by the Ronettes. This song is often described as the crowning accomplishment of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound production, with Brian Wilson calling it the greatest pop record ever made. It works equally well without that million-dollar gloss.

Paranoiacs – Be My Baby


The adorable harmonies of Ronettes have been replaced by a sketchy guy in the corner of the bar assuring you your drink doesn’t taste chalky. [Buy]

Jocelyn Scofield – By My Baby


Soft piano gives a tragic twist to this cover. The singer here is probably destined to remain baby-less. [Buy]

We Are Scientists – Be My Baby


Waves of distortion cannot mask this bouncy chorus. [Buy]

Linda Ronstadt – Be My Baby


Linda veers away from her country-folk roots on this twee little nugget of adoration. [Buy]

Steve Carlson – Be My Baby


What begins as a basic acoustic jam takes on a groovy finish with some reggae-inflected riffing. [Buy]

Got an idea for a future Five Good Covers feature? Leave a comment!

Nov 182008
 

For many bands, rocking you hard isn’t enough. They feel the need to tell you how hard they’re rocking you. So as a tribute to the many groups too insecure to let the music speak for itself…let there be rock.

Ludwig Van 88 – We Will Rock You (Queen)
I don’t know when Ludwig plans on rocking me, but until then I’ll settle for being pleasantly reggaeed. [Buy]

Patti Smith – So You Want to Be (A Rock’n’Roll Star) (The Byrds)
Having established herself as cover artist extraordinaire with “Gloria,” Patti’s fourth album threw in this Byrds tune. It hews a little closer to the original, but Smith’s punk spitting strips aways the polish of the original to show what being a rock star is really about. [Buy]

Roxanne Morgens – Rock’n’Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution (AC/DC)
Half of the AC/DC catalogue could be used here; those boys love to talk about how hard they rock (more evidence here). Morgens rocks a lot more quietly though, proving that sensitive folk music isn’t noise pollution either. [Buy]

We Are Scientists – Bang Bang Rock and Roll (Art Brut)
For a co-headlining tour with Art Brut a few years ago, the pair put out a tour-only EP that featured them covering each others songs. Art Brut tackled “The Great Escape,” but did a far worse job. [Buy]

Bruce Springsteen – Rockin’ All Over the World (John Fogerty)
Though Bruce deals with more original subjects for his own material, his live covers tend to have a theme. Seven Nights to Rock, Good Rockin’ Tonight, I Don’t Want to Hang Up My Rock’n’Roll Shoes, etc. His focus on rocking is justified by the exuberance of the performances. [Buy]

Twisted Sister – It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It) (The Rolling Stones)
Oh Twisted Sister, you can’t possibly take yourselves seriously. They stretch it out for over ten minutes in this live raver that features plenty of aggressive crowd participation. [Buy]

Hayseed Dixie – I Love Rock’n’Roll (The Arrows)
This bluegrass cover band got their start doing AC/DC tunes (hence the name), but have since taken on from The Cars to Spinal Tap. Here they do Joan Jett – wait, I mean The Arrows. That’s right, Joan’s huge hit was in fact a cover, and not a very creative one. I’m sure the royalties have been keeping those Arrows boys in gold-plated diapers for years now. [Buy]

Rasputina – Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin)
Cello goth lends itself to covers far better than one would imagine. Sounds like it’s been a very long time since she’s rocked and rolled – centuries, perhaps. [Buy]

Laptop – It’s Still Rock’n’Roll to Me (Billy Joel)
Billy Joel is criminally under-covered, but this group does it right, turning one of his biggest hits into a weird electronic dirge. [Buy]

The Alarm – Rocking in the Free World (Neil Young)
This cover doesn’t veer very far from the original, but when the original’s so good, does it need to? For a more adventurous take though, check out this post. [Buy]