Sep 172019
 
cover songs 1969

This marks the fourth year I’ve done a big anniversary countdown (after 1996, 1987, and 1978). It also proved to be the most challenging. There were a lot of covers released in 1969. In fact, according to covers-and-samples database WhoSampled, there were more than in any of the other years we’ve done. Their database lists 3,110 covers, which is surely still a small fraction.

The reason for the cover song’s proliferation seems clear to me after going through them all: Popular bands released a lot more music back then. Aretha Franklin released two albums in 1969. So did The Byrds, Elvis Presley, Joe Cocker, Johnny Cash, Johnny Winter, and Nina Simone. Creedence Clearwater Revival and Merle Haggard released three albums apiece. James Brown topped them all with four. To get that kind of output, artists would pad their albums with covers. Every 1969 album by every artist I just mentioned includes at least one cover. Many include several. A few are all covers. It adds up.

Impressively, many of those covers reinterpreted songs that had come out within the previous year. This entire list could easily have been “Hey Jude” covers. “Wichita Lineman” and “Light My Fire” came up constantly too (the latter song slightly older, but it had hit the charts again in 1968). Even songs from 1968’s soundtrack to Hair got covered endlessly in 1969.

Even beyond “Hey Jude,” Beatles covers dominated the year. I’m not going to go back through the entire 3,110 covers and count, but if you told me Beatles covers made up a full half of those, I wouldn’t be shocked. Add Bob Dylan covers to that side of the scale and it’s probably true. Beatles songs got covered in every conceivable genre for every conceivable audience. Jazz and swing and folk and proto-metal Beatles covers everywhere the eye can see. Plenty of people cover the Beatles these days, sure, but trust me: It’s nothing like it was in 1969.

So wheedling all those down to the top 50 proved incredibly difficult. But it means this is maybe the top-to-bottom strongest set thus far, and it killed me to leave some off (that’s why our Patreon supporters will get a set of 69 bonus tracks – so join now).

One note: I left off Woodstock performances. For one, we counted down the 50 best covers performed there last month. But more importantly, most people did not actually hear those covers until the movie and soundtrack came out in 1970. Jimi Hendrix performed his iconic Star-Spangled Banner – pretty much everyone’s top cover of the weekend – to a nearly empty field. Most of the audience had left before he punched in at 9 AM that Monday morning. That said, several of the classic covers performed at Woodstock were released as singles or on albums the same year – including Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help from My Friends” – and those studio versions make this list.

Now, let the sunshine in with the 50 best covers of 1969.

The countdown begins on page 2…

May 012018
 

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

hey joe

If great songs are romantic flings—seizing you by the ears and locking you in a passionate, three-minute embrace before they leave you breathless and aching for more—there’s precious few that compare with the record-buying public’s three-year infatuation with the song “Hey, Joe.”

Hundreds of renditions have been recorded, several making the charts. But none proved more lasting than a version committed to wax in late 1966, the debut 7” by a young guitarist you may have heard of. We’ll get to his story in a moment, but first the phenomenon of multiple concurrent covers demands a little exploration. Continue reading »

Sep 022015
 

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 a cover that made a significant, annoying, and/or unforgivable change to the original lyrics?
Continue reading »

Jul 182011
 

When Clarence Clemons passed away last month, the Boss (and Clemons’ actual boss) Bruce Springsteen posted a moving eulogy on his website. Since then he’s remained out of sight, grieving for his old friend. Last night, though, Springsteen came roaring back with a 45-minute covers set in – where else – Asbury Park, NJ. Continue reading »

Mar 282011
 

This March, we pit 64 Beatles covers against each other in what we call Moptop Madness.

Yesterday’s winners: Jake Shimabukuro, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and Neil Young, “A Day in the Life”

Four more from our Sweet 16 match up today. First, two statesmen go head to head as Johnny Cash’s “In My Life” challenges Wilson Pickett’s “Hey Jude.” Then, old-school indie favorites Elliott Smith and the Breeders face off with “Because” and “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.”

Listen to each pairing below, then vote for your favorite. For added sway, try to convince others to vote your way in the comments. Voting closes in 24 hours. Continue reading »

Mar 232011
 

This March, we pit 64 Beatles covers against each other in what we call Moptop Madness.

Yesterday’s winners: Johnny Cash, “In My Life” and The Breeders, “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”

The winners of some of Round One’s hardest-fought battles go head-to-head today. First, Siouxsie and the Banshees’ gothic “Helter Skelter” faces Wilson Pickett’s soulful “Hey Jude.” Then, it’s all acoustic when Tenacious D’s “Abbey Road Medley” challenges Elliott Smith’s “Because.”

Listen to each pairing below, then vote for your favorite. For added sway, try to convince others to vote your way in the comments. Voting closes in 24 hours. Continue reading »