The first post of the month features covers of every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
London Calling entered into the world in December 1979, but didn’t make its stateside debut for another month. That makes 2010 the album’s 30th anniversary on this side of the pond. It’s aged well. While many classic albums sound very much of their time — that’s not to say dated — London Calling sounds like something that could have been made yesterday. With the cover image and the cover songs, the politics and the pop, the ambitious two-disc package set a bar that no double album has since matched. So, all together now: “And I…live by the river!”
Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Dave Grohl and Little Steven Van Zandt – London Calling
Many artists cross genres with “London Calling,” ranging from bossa nova (Bruce Lash) to surf instrumental (The Pyronauts). Somehow though, kicking this set off with anything besides a balls-to-the-wall rocker seemed wrong. This all-star performance comes from a Grammy tribute to Joe Strummer. [Buy]
The Brian Setzer Orchestra – Brand New Cadillac (Vince Taylor)
The Clash wasted no time getting to the rockabilly, turning Vince Taylor’s 1958 twelve-bar b-side into a full throttled rave-up. Setzer and his orchestra jump, jive and wail through their unique brand of big band punk, adding in a touch of the Theme from Peter Gunn. [Buy]
Skarabazoo – Jimmy Jazz
You may never have noticed the subdued whistle in the intro to this one, but Skarabazoo pushes it front and center. The Italian accent adds a suitably sinister touch. [Buy]
No Doubt – Hateful
Before all the B-A-N-A-N-A-S nonsense, Gwen Stefani could pull off some real punk swagger. [Buy]
The Cocktail Preachers – Rudie Can’t Fail
The Charlie Does Surf tribute album settles comfortably into the über-niche genre of instrumental surf-rock. The Cocktail Preachers buck the trend though, shouting out “Rudie can’t fail” one whole time! Such rebels. [Buy]
Brady Harris – Spanish Bombs
Brady’s fantastic Cover Charge album polishes everyone from Motörhead to the Killers with a country-folk gloss. Check out the “Heart of Glass” cover he recorded for Cover Me back in February. [Buy]
Southern Arts Society – The Right Profile
In 1956, screen star Montgomery Clift was driving home from a party at Elizabeth Taylor’s. Having had one too many, he smashed his car into a tree, destroying his famous good looks with one crunch of glass and metal. His next ten years have been described as the “longest suicide in Hollywood history.” The Clash wrote this song about it. [Buy]
Petty Booka – Lost in the Supermarket
Joe Strummer wrote this song imagining the childhood of guitarist Mick Jones (who sang lead on the track). Japanese ukulele player Booka adds a dose of cute without losing the sad. [Buy]
The National – Clampdown
In music history, 2010 may be remembered as the Year of the National. Everyone from Rolling Stone to NPR is stumbling over themselves praising High Violet, the most anticipated album of the spring. The stream over at the New York Times indicates it might live up to the hype. [Buy]
Calexico – The Guns of Brixton
Fun trivia fact: Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong named his son Brixton after this song. Must be cheery growing up as an homage to police repression. [Buy]
Buck-O-Nine – Wrong ‘Em Boyo (The Rulers)
The classic death-ballad tale of Stagger Lee, a southern pimp convicting of murdering William “Billy” Lyons on Christmas Eve 1885, gets twisted around. In the Rulers’ version, Stagger Lee is the hero of the tale. St. Louis’ Riverfront Times hosts a telling. [Buy]
Social Distortion – Death or Glory
Following a few years behind the Clash, Social Distortion gave punk anger a West coast spin. They didn’t get around to covering the Clash until 2005 though, on the soundtrack to the skateboard film Lord of Dogtown. [Buy]<
La Furia – Koka Kola
La Furia are a Clash cover band with a twist: every song gets translated into Spanish. [Buy]
James Dean Bradfield – The Card Cheat
The Manic Street Preachers singer busted out this relative obscurity at a 2006 festival appearance. This underrated narrative describes the rise and fall (mostly fall) of a dishonest gambler. [Buy]
Mauri – Lover’s Rock
If one had to name London Calling’s Achilles heel, this song might be it. It aims for insight into the tension between love and sex, but quickly devolves into blowjob puns. [Buy]
Creation Rockers – Four Horsemen
The Clash roiled punk purists by incorporating outside styles like reggae. Shatter the Hotel: A Dub Inspired Tribute to Joe Strummer pays it back. [Buy]
Thea Gilmore – I’m Not Down
Gilmore popped up here last week, beautifying Dylan’s “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine.” Now she’s back with an anthem for society’s trampled on. [Buy]
Los Fabulosos Cadillacs – Revolution Rock (Jackie Edwards & Danny Ray)
And we’re back to Spanish, on a track from these prolific Argentineans’ 1994 album Vasoc Vacíos (Empty Glasses). [Buy]
Dwight Yoakam – Train in Vain
Johnny Cash once called Yoakam his favorite country singer, which is about as much endorsement as anyone should need. [Buy]
Last month’s album: So, by Peter Gabriel.
Your blog is amazing! What a novel concept! And your song facts are awesome as well! Keep up the great work!
Ryan The Robot
Thanks for these covers. Appreciated
Thanks for putting this together – wonderful.
major props for gathering all of these together. A single album is a lot of work; finding covers for every track on a double album? I would have been pulling my hair out before I finished disk one.
Yeah, aikin, now you know why I've avoided "Songs in the Key of Life" for so long.
This is just perfect, many thanks for sharing!!!