Sep 242021
 

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

Sailing

Christopher Cross’s soft rock classic “Sailing” isn’t quite what it seems to be on its shimmery surface. For one thing, though it was technically related to actual sojourns on the water Cross took in his younger days, it wasn’t strictly about sailing. Back in 1995, in the midst of a manic (understatement) interview on The Howard Stern Show, of all places, he broke it down.

Cross said his standard explanation of the song’s inspiration ’til then was that it was about the transportive power of art. The song’s most famous line,”the canvas can do miracles” referred not to a boat sail, but to an actual painting (I admit that for years I thought he meant a freakin’ sail, don’t tell anyone). But when he thought about it later, he realized it was about combination of escaping a stressful home situation (his father’s alcoholism and subsequent emotional distance) as well as his gratefulness to a particular friend who would take him out sailing and as a result became something of a surrogate dad to Cross.

And so “Sailing” is not just for sailors but is in fact for all of us wistful humans, eloquently expressing musical thanks to everyone’s blessed escape hatches and guardian angels. “Sailing” is in fact a state of mind. I spent a fair amount of time with this thing as well as the album it came from, titled, uh, Christopher Cross, in my sad teenage bedroom back in the day. so I was warmed to hear Cross’s latter-day analysis. And surely I’m not the only living being who has succumbed to its mellow, melancholic charm and still voluntarily listens to it on a semi-regular basis forty-odd years later (yeah, okay, work with me here people).
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Sep 012021
 

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

the reflex covers

“The Reflex” was Duran Duran’s first single to top the American charts, in 1984, and remains one of their most-streamed tracks on Spotify. Despite all that, though, it hasn’t generated as many covers as you’d think. Covers database SecondHandSongs lists almost three times as many covers of “Hungry Like the Wolf.” And “Ordinary World.” And “A View to a Kill.” Continue reading »

May 112021
 

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

rush rush paula abdul covers

Despite topping the charts in 1991 – for five weeks, no less – Paula Abdul’s “Rush Rush” was not a song with legs. I myself had never even heard of it, being a couple years too young to be paying even peripheral attention to popular music at the time. It was named by music journalist Alfred Soto to his list of the “Worst Songs Ever,” but I’d say it’s less aggressively terrible than supremely unmemorable. Well, the song that is. The video, featuring floppy-haired Keanu Reeves, is something: Continue reading »

Feb 162021
 

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

sunflower covers

Last time the “Covering the Hits” dice-roll landed me one of the earliest chart-toppers ever – Ernie K-Doe’s sassy New Orleans classic “Mother in Law” – and today it lands me one of the most recent: Post Malone and Swae Lee’s contribution to that animated Spider Man movie, “Sunflower,” which went to number in 2019.

Post Malone gets covered a lot. In fact, we had a bluegrass version of “Circles” on our year-end list two months ago. “Sunflower” didn’t quite hit “Circles”-level covers ubiquity, maybe because it sounds pretty hard to sing, but it’s been tackled plenty (once by a very prominent band). (And let’s not forget Posty himself knows his way around a cover; I saw multiple people call his Nirvana set one of the best livestreams of 2020.) Continue reading »

Jan 152021
 

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

mother in law covers

Few embraced their one-hit wonder status as enthusiastically as New Orleans R&B singer Ernie K-Doe. “Mother in Law” went to number one in 1961 – the first ever chart-topper out of New Orleans – and he never again came close. Eventually, he stopped trying, and leaned into it. With the help of his wife, he founded the live music venue Mother-in-Law Lounge in New Orleans. He would perform there regularly – and if people wanted to hear “Mother in Law” a whole bunch of times during one set, he’d play it a whole bunch of times during one set!

Back in 1961, the song became a standard almost immediately upon release. That didn’t help Ernie all that much, though; he didn’t write it. The great Allen Toussaint did, but he considered it a throwaway – so much so that he literally threw it away, before a backing singer rescued it from the trashcan and handed to K-Doe. Here’s a video of K-Doe performing with the song’s writer on piano in the ’90s (starts at the ten-minute mark):

“Mother in Law” has been covered hundreds of times (maybe thousands if you count cheeky wedding bands). Here are some of the high points… Continue reading »

Nov 032020
 

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

mo money mo problems covers

The three most prominent “Mo Money Mo Problems” covers aren’t really covers at all. But they’re at least cover-adjacent, so we’ll start there.
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