Curtis Zimmermann

Curtis Zimmermann works as an advertising sales executive for an academic publisher in Philadelphia. He’s been a music critic, news reporter, financial fraud investigator and spent many years in corporate sales, all the while maintaining a healthy obsession with music history. He first became intrigued with genre-bending covers in college when he stumbled across a used copy of Ray Charles’ box set “The Complete Country & Western Recordings 1959 - 1986.”

Jul 062022
 
young costello

Whether formed in the first, second or third wave, ska bands throughout the ages have been renowned for their ability to perform cross-genre covers. In the ‘90s, I remember it being a badge of honor for ska bands to take an ‘80s pop hit and shove it into the punk ska mold.

Building on this tradition in 2022 is Young Costello. The Texas-based, seven-piece ska band recently released a cover of Eddie Murphy’s hit “Party All the Time.” The track was included on a multi-band compilation by Ska Punk International entitled Songs For Moms Vol. 2, from which we’ve also featured unlikely takes on Bob Dylan and Imagine Dragons. The cover is a fun listen for all parents old enough to remember Murphy’s heyday, or perhaps kids who’ve never heard of him at all – at least in his musical guise.

Murphy first unleashed “Party All the Time” at the height of his fame in 1985, shortly after Beverly Hills Cop catapulted him to superstardom. The synth-heavy R&B flavored single went to number two on the Billboard charts. The song has remained popular well into the streaming era, with 46 million listens on Spotify and 75 million views on YouTube.

Young Costello’s lead singer and guitarist John Mike told Cover Me the band was inspired to first perform the cover when they played a reggae festival headlined by the Wailers. “Our music has a tendency to be a bit on the heavier side so we thought it would be a nice way to sort of punctuate the heaviness of our set with something fun and familiar,” he said in an email.

Originally, the band had no intention of recording it but had a change of heart after getting a strong reaction from live audiences. “The more we played it, the more of a demand there was for it,” John Mike said. “The reaction is normally a bit puzzled until the crowd realizes what song we’re covering and then they start to lose it.”

The band revamped the track into a horn-powered jilted lovers’ lament, emphasizing the bluesy elements of the verse. “Girl, I can’t understand it/Why you want to hurt me/After all the things I’ve done for you.” John Mike said the hardest part about developing the cover was revamping the synth part from the original, since they don’t have a keyboard player. “Our sax player, Leo (Téllez), is a real badass with arrangements and he managed to put together a horn arrangement of the synth parts that worked perfectly with the traditional ska style.” When done right, ska covers still work phenomenally well.

Mar 302022
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

On April 7, 1972, the Grateful Dead hit the stage at Wembley Empire Pool in London, kicking off a multi-city European tour. The 22-date outing would eventually be immortalized in the three-LP live album it spawned: Europe ‘72.

The tour has been chronicled heavily in band members’ memoirs, remembered for both its great musical output as well as its levels of unbridled debauchery, excessive even by the standards of the Dead. For the band at the time, the tour felt like a monumental undertaking that included both scores of people and mountains of gear. In A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead, Dennis McNally cataloged everything that came along for the journey, which included: “seven musicians, ten crew, five staff, seventeen assorted friends, wives, girlfriends and children … They brought themselves and fifteen tons of instruments, a sound system, and a sixteen-track recording system which they would install in a truck as a mobile studio. There was also lighting gear and their first traveling lighting designer.”

That spring, the band’s lineup was in a state of evolution. It was their last tour to include founding member Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, who would pass away in 1973. The husband and wife duo, pianist Keith Godchaux and vocalist Donna, were firmly entrenched in the band. Mickey Hart was on hiatus after his father had stolen money from the band, leaving Bill Kreutzmann as the band’s lone drummer. Given both this blend of musicians and the high quality of the recording equipment, the shows have a unique sound that differs from other eras of the band’s music.

While many bands use live albums as an easy way of fulfilling their contract or rehashing their greatest hits, Europe ‘72 is very much a complete work in its own right. The 17-track, three record set contained practically a full album’s worth of new material mixed in with older tracks. There are six new songs that were never even included on any studio records, three previously unreleased covers and two instrumental jams. Given the album and tour’s popularity among Deadheads, in 2011 the band released a more exhaustive collection, Europe ‘72: The Complete Recordings, a 73-CD box set.

As Deadhead nation marks the album and tour’s 50th anniversary, we decided to put together our own form of celebration. Here’s a breakdown of live covers of every single track on the album.
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Feb 072022
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

In the Still of the Night

Stationed at an Army barracks in Philadelphia, Fred Parris found himself longing for his fiancée. It was the mid-50s, and Parris was the lead singer for a doowop group called the Five Satins, so he wrote a song about their time together. Later, while on leave, he and the group holed up in the basement of St. Bernadette Church in New Haven to record “In the Still of the Night.”

The track, sometimes stylized as “In the Still of the Nite” or “(I’ll Remember) In the Still of the Nite,” was a modest hit for the group, reaching number 24 on the Billboard chart in 1956. Parris, who died in January at the age of 85, never became a household name, and he never married that girl. But this song has endured as one the defining tracks of the ‘50s, earning him accolades from around the music world upon his passing.

Parris’ ballad of youthful longing, love, and nostalgia has been a staple of oldies format radio for decades, often topping New York station WCBS-FM’s list of the greatest songs of all time. As both a love song and a remembrance of things past, it presents an idealized version of how people like to remember the ‘50s.
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Jan 112022
 
yoko ono tribute album

The release of the new Beatles documentary Get Back has revived one of the greatest musical debates of all time. Just why did the Beatles break up? One thing that seemed clear (at least to me) when watching the mammoth film is that the fault does not lie with John Lennon’s soon-to-be spouse Yoko Ono. While she was there for the majority of the Let It Be sessions, she mostly appeared to be hanging out. A constant presence for sure, but hardly a distraction for Paul, George and Ringo.

Given this new documentary evidence, I was excited to learn about the upcoming tribute album Ocean Child: Songs Of Yoko Ono. If the public is reevaluating Ono’s role in the Beatles’ demise, then certainly it is time to take another look her musical output as well. Ono was an accomplished musician before she ever met Lennon, a classically trained vocalist and pianist who had collaborated with John Cage and LaMonte Young. In the decades since her husband’s murder, she has continued to record and release music at a steady pace. Continue reading »

Nov 292021
 
willie nelson all things must pass

“All Things Must Pass” is one of George Harrison’s signature solo songs, but by all rights, it should have been a Beatles tune. In the new documentary The Beatles: Get Back, there are scenes of the group working on the track in rehearsal. After the Fab Four opted not to record it, Billie Preston released a version on his 1970 album Encouraging Words. The song was later immortalized as the title track to Harrison’s 1972 solo album. Now, fifty years later, it almost seems like an understatement to call “All Things Must Pass” a classic. The track is both timeless and timely, a secular hymn, meditating on the brevity of beauty, love and time itself.

Willie Nelson knows a thing or two about the passage of time. The country music legend released his first album in 1962, several months before the Beatles dropped their debut Please Please Me. Nelson has continued putting out records at a furious pace over the last few decades. For his latest, The Willie Nelson Family, he enlisted the talents of his children. The album has the feel and consistency of many of Nelson’s recent offers, not exactly breaking new ground but still compelling enough to warrant a listen. The album features multiple gospel recordings including takes on Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light” and “Keep It On the Sunny Side,” a hymn made famous by the Carter Family.

Wedged in between the many tracks about Jesus is a cover of Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass.” Willie’s son Lukas Nelson takes on the lead vocal duties, with Willie providing backup. The two deliver a quiet, passionate rendition of Harrison’s masterwork that feels like it’s been part of their family repertoire for decades.

Click here to listen to more covers by and of Willie Nelson.

Oct 082021
 

I was obsessed with the thrash metal band Anthrax in the late ‘80s. After repeatedly seeing their videos on MTV, I purchased several of their albums and even saw them headline the Headbangers Ball Tour in 1989.

Around that time, I remember having a heated dinner-time discussion with my brother about Anthrax’s long-term musical prospects. “They won’t be around in five years,” my brother declared. I was more confident in the band’s sustainability, but even I couldn’t have predicted that thirty-two years later the group would be celebrating its 40th anniversary. I doubt even they could have imagined such longevity. Metal still rules, apparently.

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