When I was 11, my dad took me to the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles for a John Fogerty “revisited” show. As usual, I was the only child in attendance, but proud of it. The theater was strangely half empty. About halfway through the concert, we both admitted that John didn’t sound or look like himself. We tried not to judge, but we were a little sad. What was next for him? Would he appear on QVC selling turquoise necklaces?
Overhearing our perplexity, someone leaned over to us and said: “You know that isn’t John Fogerty, right? It’s a John Fogerty impersonator who won a contest to play this show.”
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
In 1970, with the Beatles broken up, Creedence Clearwater Revival was poised to take their place on the top of the musical world. But within the band, tension was coming to a head; John Fogerty had too tight a hold on the reins, as far as the others were concerned, and John’s brother Tom decided to leave the band and pursue a solo career. John’s response was to write “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” a song that obliquely addressed Tom’s departure (“the rain coming down”) at the group’s commercial apex (“on a sunny day”). Of course, you didn’t have to know the back story to love the song, and CCR found themselves with another top ten hit and FM radio staple.Continue reading »
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Come September, John Fogerty will be touring in Canada and performing Creedence Clearwater Revival albums in their entirety. It’s a long way from the days when he vowed he’d never play CCR songs again, but in the end his songs proved just as irresistible to him as they are to his listeners. The album that’s arguably gotten the least resistance, and one that Fogerty and his little traveling band will be presenting on alternate nights this fall, is 1970’s Cosmo’s Factory.Continue reading »
Soul legend/certified American treasure Mavis Staples has a long history of work with rootsy musicians. Staples has recorded with the best of the country-rock tradition, from The Band to Bob Dylan (from whom she once turned down a marriage proposal!).
Seen in that light, her current partnership with Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy is only natural. Tweedy produced her upcoming album You Are Not Alone, which includes covers of Randy Newman (“Losing You”), Allen Toussaint (“Last Train”), and Creedence Clearwater Revival. The CCR song of choice is “Wrote a Song for Everyone,” from the seminal album Green River. Tweedy and Staples performed an acoustic version for Mojo. As you might expect, the two destroy it. Check out the video below.Continue reading »
Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.
When is a cover not a cover? If a song is written but never committed to any released format, what counts as the original version? Both questions that might raise askance of this set, a set that I believe can, and indeed should, pass muster for these august pages. After all, if it’s good enough for Woody Guthrie…
Jeffrey Lee Pierce is a name known more by association, I guess, than in his own right, popping up in the alongside others plowing the same vein. Literally. Whilst his lifetime recorded output, predominantly under the Gun Club soubriquet, may have been prodigious, he left enough unfinished and discarded songs to provide the bulk of the material in these three (so far) recordings. Continue reading »
Typically, the world of cover songs does not change that much year-to-year. You can point to big shifts across decades, sure, but the difference between cover songs in 2018 and 2019, broadly speaking? Negligible. But 2020 was – in this as in everything else – very different.
As concerts ground to a sudden halt, musicians turned to live-from-quarantine home performances, first on their social media, then, once some kind of business model got built up, on various paid platforms. And cover songs were a big part of that. Some musicians did themed covers nights, like Ben Gibbard on YouTube early on or Lucinda Williams’ more produced Lu’s Jukebox series more recently. Others just felt the freedom in such an intimate environment to try things out, spontaneously covering influences, inspirations, or even songs they only half knew. We collected dozens of those early home covers in our Quarantine Covers series, and still only hit a small fraction.
Musicians eventually settled in, and productions got a little more elaborate than the staring-at-your-iPhone-camera look. Witness the heavy metal comedy series Two Minutes to Late Night, which transitioned from a long-running live show in New York City to a series of YouTube covers with dozens of metal-scene ringers covering songs from their couches, corpse paint and all. Witness Miley Cyrus’s endless series of killer cover locales, from a fire pit to an empty Whisky a Go Go. Or witness long-running radio covers series like BBC’s Live Lounge or Triple J’s Like a Version – often the source of a song or two on these lists. First they had musicians tape special covers from home, then, in the BBC’s case, they moved to a giant warehouse studio for suitable social distancing. (Triple J’s pretty much back to post-coronavirus business as usual – sure, Australia, rub it in.)
There’s one other major way covers reflected 2020, and it’s almost too painful to think about, so I’ll just list their names. John Prine. Adam Schlesinger. Hal Willner. Charley Pride. So many musicians taken by this virus, many reflected in some of these covers (Pride’s death happened after our list was finalized, but tributes are already rolling in). In a year filled with tragedies, covers offered one place for musicians and fans to find solace.
Many of the songs on our year-end list reflect this terrible year in one way or another. But you know what? Many don’t. Because covers can also offer a fun respite from all the stress. Doom metal Doobie Brothers? Post Malone on mandolin? A viral TikTok hit by a guy who calls himself Ritt Momney? Those have nothing to do with anything! But they’re what we live for.