Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.
1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High is, without a doubt, one of the greatest teen movies ever to exist. Both insanely funny and powerfully poignant, it bestowed the world of pop culture with gifts beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Jeff Spicoli “learnin’ about Cuba and havin’ some food.” Damone’s 5-Point Plan of guaranteed seduction (Point # 3: “Act like wherever you are, that’s the place to be”). Terrifying taskmaster Mr. Hand. The well-deserved tribute to the intoxicating scent of dittos (ask your parents). It’s a movie that has transcended time in unimaginable ways.
It also drove home that when you are a teenager who can’t express your true feelings, rock ‘n’ roll can help you out. The Fast Times soundtrack is as crucial a part of the movie as the unforgettable characters within it. Case in point: Friday night at the shopping mall is packed with as much excited anticipation as New Year’s Eve in Times Square, thanks to the Go-Go’s’ “We Got the Beat” scoring the scene.
Yet as great as that moment is, no song captures the spirit of the film better than its de facto theme tune, Jackson Browne’s sublime “Somebody’s Baby.” Sweet, anxious, and consumed with infatuation, it was the biggest hit of Browne‘s career, hitting the pop Top 10 in the summer of 1982.
And one more thing, in case you didn’t see the sign : No Shirt, No Shoes, No Dice.
Have Mercy – Somebody’s Baby (Jackson Browne cover)
Full of fat riffing and glorious sludge, Have Mercy turn the volume up to 11 here and still manage to retain the melodic wonderfulness of the original. This version sounds as if it’s being screamed at a bathroom mirror, staring into its own eyes and trying to convince itself that it can totally shine tonight… and prospects look good.
Phantom Planet – Somebody’s Baby (Jackson Browne cover)
Recorded for the soundtrack of 2001’s Not Another Teen Movie, LA alt-rockers Phantom Planet added a nice little pop-punk edge and swagger to their version. Singer Alex Greenwald conveys the perfect amount of overconfidence and youthful desperation: he actually sounds like a horny 17-year-old.
Stories featuring Jennah Bell – Somebody’s Baby (Jackson Browne cover)
Plaintive, pleading, and exuding none of the false confidence accentuated in the other versions, Stories (along with guest vocalist Jennah Bell) transform this song into an absolute tearjerker. Over gentle and spare instrumentation, Bell serves up a vocal brimming with both longing and hope, and the end result is absolutely stunning.