Nov 032023
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

kate bush covers

In June of 2022, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” was used to soundtrack the Netflix series Stranger Things. Upon exposure to the 37-year-old tune, a shockingly huge portion of the world’s teenage population, who seemingly hadn’t known of Bush’s existence prior to this, went absolutely, uncontrollably berserk. Their sudden, overwhelmingly intense lust for “RUTH” (let’s just call it) propelled the song to the top of the pop charts the whole world over and led to the track being streamed over a billion times (and counting). A billion! And just like that, Kate Bush, one of pop’s most popular cult artists, became a global phenomenon.

This was a mixed blessing for the hardcore Kate Bush fanbase. On the one hand, they were happy for their girl Kate (who herself was thrilled that teenagers were hyperventilating over “Running Up That Hill”). But at the same time, as evidenced by multitudes of posts on social media, they also felt a sense of proprietary “ownership” over the Bush legacy and didn’t care for this flaky, flighty fandom and how it came to be.

The “old fan vs new fan”/ “we were here first” argument is silly and petty…but with Kate Bush, it was also oddly understandable. Part of what made her special was that some people didn’t get it, that regular folk found her songs a little too eccentric and “out there” and thought her voice was weird. Those previously existing Kate fans didn’t quite know how to take this newfound popularity. Because to them, Kate Bush was not merely one song; she was a magnificently mad, beautiful, all-consuming pop religion. Trip-hop hero and unabashed Kate fan, Tricky, alluded to this feeling in an interview with MOJO magazine back in 2003:

“Some of the greatest singers in the world…you can spot their influences. But Kate Bush has no mother or father. I’d be an average musician, like everyone else if it wasn’t for her. I don’t believe in God, but if I did, her music would be my bible. Her music sounds religious to me. She should be treasured more than The Beatles”.

Kate Bush made adventurous, beautiful, funny, weird, and heartbreaking music that sounded like no one else’s, all while delivering a hard kick to the nuts of musical convention. She celebrated her most personal, idiosyncratic obsessions and shared them proudly and loudly with everyone. From shockingly illicit kisses to sensuous snowmen. From rain-making machines to being lost at sea. From washing machines to Joan of Arc. She didn’t chase airplay, she just followed her cast of muses wherever they led and surrounded their stories with a staggering sense of melody.

We have arrived at a point where a pretty fine “30 Best RUTH Covers Ever” feature could be assembled. The story of its unlikely, incredible ascent has become a truly iconic, modern-day pop tale and will be recounted for years to come. And as cynical as it seems, it’s clear that the “RUTH” phenomenon was a deciding factor when it came to Kate Bush’s induction this weekend into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But Kate Bush the artist was not born in June of 2022. Her career has spanned six decades during which she’s released ten studio albums that house multitudes of wondrous tunes. (By the way, if you wanna read a completely deranged breakdown of Kate’s LPs, I wrote one here.)

Within our list of “The Best Kate Covers Ever” you will not only discover several head-turning, heart-squeezing “Running Up That Hill” covers (of course), but a plethora of equally fabulous deep cuts, b-sides, and cult classics. “It’s in the trees! It’s coming!”

—Hope Silverman

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Oct 272023
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

Velvet Underground and Nico

On October 27, 2013, ten years ago today, Lou Reed died. I happened to be in New York City at the time, and his passing was a lead story on the 11 o’clock news. It was as though a part of the city itself had died. Which, inescapably, it had. Reed embodied NYC, from its seedy back rooms to its secret heart, in a way few other people, let alone musicians, ever did.

While Reed’s solo career is highly and deservingly accoladed, it still got overshadowed by the Velvet Underground. Reed’s first band featured Welsh musician John Cale, guitarist Sterling Morrison, and drummer Maureen Tucker, with Nico singing on the first album and Doug Yule replacing Cale in 1968. The band’s four studio albums started ripples that turned into tsunamis; they went from secret-handshake status to Hall of Fame giants, their influence right up there with the Beatles.

We’re honoring Lou and Company with this collection of covers. Some covers couldn’t hold a candle to the original (you’ll find no “Heroin” here), but many of the originals were receptive to another artist’s distinctive stamp. Whether you prefer the first or what followed, you’ll hear the sound of immortality as it opens yet another path of discovery.

–Patrick Robbins, Features Editor

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Sep 112023
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

best covers of 2000s

Following the 1990s last week — and, before that, the 1950s, the 1960s, the 1970s, and the 1980s — our series on covers of great One Hit Wonders concludes today with a look at the 2000s. Meaning, the first decade of the 2000s. At this point, it’d be premature to conclude that an artist who had their first hit in 2022 will be a one hit wonder! (And, again, it’s not us concluding it anyway — it’s Wikipedia). Continue reading »

Sep 082023
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

1990s One Hit Wonders

This month, our ongoing series of One Hit Wonders covers comes to its end. We’ve done the 1950s (think “Earth Angel,” “Tequila”), the 1960s (“96 Tears,” “In A Gadda Da Vida”), the 1970s (“My Sharona,” “Black Betty”), and the 1980s (“You Spin Me Right Round,” “Turning Japanese”). Now we hit the 1990s today and the 2000s next week.

For millennial readers, these will be the songs you remember hearing on the radio and watching on MTV growing up. So many ubiquitous classics of the era like New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give” and 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up,” by artists who only had a brief moment in the sun (you might say someone stole their sunshine…). Also some fun flukes, where the artist’s cultural impact goes way beyond “one hit wonder” — but, according to the fickle US pop charts at the time, they qualify on a technicality: Robyn, Fiona Apple, etc. Plus Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” which has to be in the conversation for the most One Hit Wonder to have ever One Hit Wonder-ed. Continue reading »

Jul 142023
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

best grateful dead covers

I’ve heard it said that one of the curses of having a hit song is that the artist is forced to sing it for the rest of their life the same exact way it was recorded. While that may be true for some artists (certainly for the Eagles), it has not been the case for the Grateful Dead.

Since they released their first album in 1967, the band has never viewed their recordings as sacred texts. Instead they treated their songs as blueprints, starting places to begin the next great jam. Every time they perform a track, it’s like they’re covering themselves.

Take a song like “Fire on the Mountain.” It was originally recorded by Dead percussionist Mickey Hart as an instrumental called “Happiness is Drumming” on his 1976 album Diga. Robert Hunter eventually added lyrics, and the band began performing it on their legendary Spring ‘77 tour. They later recorded a condensed studio version for their 1978 album Shakedown Street, sung by Jerry Garcia. Since his passing, it’s been performed by many Dead offshoot bands and sung by the likes of Bob Weir, Bruce Hornsby, Oteil Burbridge, and, even reggae singer Jimmy Cliff. Each version is so different that I couldn’t tell you what counts as the “original.” One can trace a similar pattern with many of the Dead’s songs through the decades — don’t get me started on “Dark Star.”

Artists covering a Dead song have an invitation to reinvent it, as if at the request of the ghost of Jerry Garcia. Given such freedom, it’s only natural that the Dead’s catalog has inspired countless musicians across genres to put their own spin on the songs. This explains why nearly six decades after the band’s formation, and with the latest incarnation Dead & Company wrapping up this weekend, the onslaught of covers shows no signs of ever, ever stopping. These cover songs guarantee the band’s music will live on long after the last remaining members have passed away.

Here is a list of our favorites…

–Curtis Zimmermann

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Jun 302023
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

1980s one hit wonders

Is the 1980s the best decade ever for one-hit wonders? So many classic songs came out that decade by not-so-classic bands. It was, perhaps, a particularly fickle time to be chasing pop-chart success. Many of the oft-discussed one hit wonder bands have killer catalogs, but, for whatever reason, those catalogs contain only one tune that is widely remembered today. If you like “Take on Me” or “Safety Dance,” check out the respective A-Ha and Men Without Hats albums they came from, both just as good! The same holds true for many other ’80s bands. Dead or Alive, pictured above, has some other killer jams too, but alas, these days they’re best known as the “you spin me right round” band.

So today, we celebrate the big one-off hits in new wave, synth-rock, easy listening, and other very-’80s genres with some knockout covers. From “867-5309/Jenny” (Tommy Tutone) to “Turning Japanese” (The Vapors) to “In a Big Country” (Big Country — maybe hard to follow-up a hit that has your band name in the title). Rock down to Electric Avenue, and let these covers take you higher.
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