Cover Commissions is a monthly series in which a featured artist covers a reader-selected song for this blog. Any artists interested in participating, email me.
Once upon a time, not so long ago…
A song covered as often as “Livin’ on a Prayer” presents a challenge to any artist. When big haired Bon Jovi narrowly beat littler haired Arcade Fire in last month’s Cover Commissions poll though, Coconut and the Duke accepted that challenge. The people had spoken, but could the Wisconsin duo ring any more life from the song that spawned a million fist-pumps?
They delivered in spades. It’s folk, it’s jazz; it’s ironic, it’s sincere; it’s Mark Knopfler, it’s Dean Martin. It’s hard to describe. I’ll turn it over to them.
I talked to a former record store owner from Minneapolis (Roadrunner and Aardvark) who said he’d never heard Bon Jovi’s song ‘Living on a Prayer’. That impressed me. He said he “probably sold a lot of their records, but he didn’t see any reason to play their music”. This song had to be one of the most popular of the 80’s. If you didn’t listen to it, eventually, you were forced to hear it. I thought this song would make a good cover mainly because I am interested in the final days of the record store music industry. Where people went in and talked to an employee or other audiophile about who is making interesting music. My reason for singing it is more nostalgia for an era than for a particular song. Now more than ever, artists are ‘Living on a Prayer’ .
The Duke writes:
When ‘Living On A Prayer’ was voted in by your readers, my first thoughts were: Let’s do it a la Frank Sinatra (another great New Jersey export). But then I realized, to pull off Old Blue Eyes, we would need that Big Band sound. A challenge to say the least. I wanted to stick to a jazz style, as jazz is a big part of our Invasive Folk sound. Joe and I bounced around some chord changes and different jazz styles, ultimately going with one of our favorite tunes. After laying down some basic tracks, it took Coconut and I a few takes to “find” the song. First there was too many instruments. Then, the vocals needed developing. After filling the song with loads of instruments and vocal overdubs, we realized less was more. ’80s hair bands were known for excess. We wanted our version to stray from BJ’s, using ukulele, electric guitar, mandolin, bass and simple vocals.
“Stray from BJ’s” it certainly does. You ain’t never heard “Livin’ on a Prayer” like this!
Coconut and the Duke – Livin’ on a Prayer (Bon Jovi)
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