Patrick Robbins

Patrick Robbins lives in Maine, where he moves through life with the secure knowledge that, as Penn Jillette said, "In all of art, it's the singer, not the song," On Wednesdays he goes shopping, and has buttered scones for tea. He is the author of the novel To Make Others Happy.

Feb 232021
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday  celebrates an artist’s special day with covers of his or her songs. Let someone else do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Howard Jones

A happy birthday to Howard Jones, who turns 66 today, 59 years after he learned how to play the piano. He got his start on radio in college, taking care of the night shift on Piccadilly Radio. According to his website, “Every 20 minutes between Midnight and 6am he would play a selection of his own music, on a synthesizer. The sessions were supposed to be purely instrumental, but on occasions Howard could not resist singing, and as a result had several phone calls… to complain!!!”

Those complaints weren’t the last Jones would hear about his music, but it doesn’t seem to have affected him. In a 2006 interview he said, “I wasn’t fashionable. I never got good reviews. But I’m proud of the fact that I wasn’t liked by the media… Pop music is so reactionary and bigoted. And I found that what’s ‘cool’ is often very shallow and transient.”

“Uncool” Jones had hits worldwide, and they get attention from cover artists to this day. Let’s take a listen to some great covers from one of the key figures of ’80s synth-pop.

Continue reading »

Feb 192021
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday  celebrates an artist’s special day with covers of his or her songs. Let someone else do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

birthday

Hi, I’m Patrick Robbins, the features editor here at Cover Me, and today’s my birthday. Please forgive the self-indulgence of a one-year-older guy for putting up a post that’s about me.

2021 is kind of a big year for me. Not only am I having one of those milestone birthdays – you know, one of those ones that ends in a zero – I’m also having a milestone anniversary. This year marks ten years since I joined the Cover Me staff. In all that time, I’ve gotten off a few good lines here and there (my favorite: a song had “more hooks than Moulty’s closet”), but far more importantly, I’ve found some great covers that I never would have discovered if I hadn’t been looking for them to share and talk about here.

So, as a little birthday present from me to you, I thought I’d pick out some of my favorite discoveries I’ve made over the years. What follows are some of my all-time favorite covers that I found specifically for Cover Me posts (as opposed to covers I already knew about), and links to the pieces in which I originally wrote about them. There’s a lot of songs here, but they’re only about one percent of the songs I’ve written about. So think of these as the cream of my cover crop.

Thanks to all of you for reading Cover Me – without you, this post wouldn’t exist – and here’s to many more birthdays and anniversaries to come.

Continue reading »

Jan 062021
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Shaye Zadravec

It’s a tradition as old as Cover Me. We put together our posts for the year’s best covers, and not 48 hours after our post is finalized, a cover crosses our radar that absolutely would have made the list had we only heard it just a few days earlier. It’s frustrating, but at least we’re in a position where we can still spread the word.

For me, 2020’s woulda-coulda-shoulda song was “Skyway” by Shaye Zadravec, from her cover album Now and Then. She’s a new name to me, but in Calgary she’s been performing for almost a decade, getting the attention and mentorship of Ian Tyson (“Four Strong Winds”) and Chip Taylor (“Wild Thing,” “Angel of the Morning”) in the process. Catch her here while her star is still ascending.

Continue reading »

Oct 162020
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty-odd years.

Don't You Forget About Me covers

Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff wrote “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” while scoring The Breakfast Club. They sent it to Simple Minds, a favorite group of theirs. Simple Minds turned it down, preferring to do songs they themselves had written. Bryan Ferry turned it down. Billy Idol turned it down. Eurythmics turned it down. Cy Curnin of the Fixx turned it down. The record company suggested Corey Hart; Forsey turned them down. Chrissie Hynde loved it, but was pregnant and didn’t want to do the accompanying video, so she badgered her husband to try it. Her husband was Jim Kerr, of (wait for it) Simple Minds.

Once the band came around, they followed Forsey & Schiff’s demo pretty closely, with Kerr throwing in the “Hey, hey, hey, hey” and a few “la la la”s toward the end. After its release, while grateful for the doors it opened, the band sometimes sounded like they wished they’d stuck to their guns and kept turning it down. “(The lyrics) sound pretty inane to me,” Kerr later said. “Sometimes I play it and I just puke.”

It seems like the only people who ever loved the song were the target audience. They took the song to number one and permanently lodged it in the collective conscious of the class of ’85. When Simple Minds performed it at Live Aid (at Bob Geldof’s insistence), the Philadelphia crowd went crazy, and the band realized what they had on their hands was more than just another hit. Thirty-five years later, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” can bring the era back like few other songs.

Such a song becomes an easy target for artists wanting to cover it. In Spin‘s definitive oral history of the song, Forsey says, “For me, the song only goes one way, and what we did when we did it was the way.” That’s as may be, but that didn’t stop many others from taking it their way. As Schiff says in the same article, “The song has really gone off on its own and has become that thing for other people, and that comes across when somebody else does it. You know, walking by bars in New Orleans, at a karaoke bar and it’s there. It’s sort of fun where it can pop up.”

Seven of them pop up below. Enjoy!

Continue reading »

Feb 072020
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

You Light Up My Life

It’s very likely that you never knew Debby Boone’s smash hit “You Light Up My Life” was a cover song. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not a very happy reason. This is a story about two women and the man who did so wrong by them, even as he saw them to stardom.
Continue reading »

Jan 242020
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with covers of his or her songs. Let someone else do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Today Neil Diamond reaches his three score and nineteen. Parkinson’s disease has taken him away from touring, but he assured fans that “I plan to remain active in writing, recording and other projects for a long time to come.” These projects include a Broadway musical and an upcoming Las Vegas benefit show. If that wasn’t enough, his songs continue to resonate with listeners today – “Sweet Caroline” was just chosen by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry.

And if THAT wasn’t enough, his songs remain popular cover material, no matter who’s doing it or how. We’ve found five covers that take the words and music of the Jewish Elvis to their own personal Gracelands.
Continue reading »