Jan 262021
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

I'm Not In Love covers

In 1974, after kicking out two albums worth of infectious, absurdist and wonderfully weird pop music, Graham Gouldman, Eric Stewart, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley, a.k.a. 10cc, sat down and decided they’d try something new. As Gouldman later described it, “we’d been discussing writing a love song.” And so began the saga of the most heavenly and eccentric ballad to ever grace the AM radio airwaves and sneakily embed itself into innocent Valentine’s Day playlists, “I’m Not In Love.”

The song was famously inspired by a complaint issued to Stewart by his wife Gloria after they’d been married for a few years, specifically “you don’t say ‘I love you’ much any more.” His defense was that if he said it too often the words would lose their impact and sound both cavalier and insincere. As Stewart explained to The Guardian in 2018:

I started wondering how I could say it without using those actual words. So “I’m not in love” became a rhetorical conversation with myself – and then a song. I wrote the lyrics in a couple of days.

The song’s famously incongruous lyrical line, “I keep your picture upon the wall, it hides a nasty stain that’s lying there” was not in fact a joke, but an actual real life remembrance. Stewart did indeed utilize a photograph of Gloria to cover a crack in his bedroom wall at his parents house in Manchester.

Still, it took some time for the song to morph into the evergreen behemoth we know and love today. Stewart felt the tune needed some refining and engaged Gouldman to assist him. They both loved “The Girl From Ipanema” and so decided to set “I’m Not In Love” to a bossa nova beat. They recorded it with bandmates Godley and Creme the old-fashioned way with guitar, bass and drums… but Godley in particular was unimpressed with the result, cuttingly declaring the song to be “crap.” And with that, the band decided to abandon the song and began working on other tracks.

Yet “I’m Not In Love” refused to go away quietly. Seems its insidious melodic charm had infected the studio staff, resulting in their regularly humming it around the office. This was duly noted by Stewart and led to his convincing the band to give “I’m Not In Love” another chance. Begrudging brainstorming sessions ensued and ironically it was Godley who came up with the most ingenious idea to better the song, suggesting that it be constructed using only voices; “the biggest choir you can imagine.” Lol Creme took the baton from there, mentioning that the grand choral sound could be created most efficiently by using tape loops. For 3 weeks the band sang and recorded vocal parts, adding layer upon layer with the cumulative total landing at somewhere around 624 voices. Combine that with fleshed out instrumentation, some Fender Rhodes, guitar, bass and Moog synthesizer, a toy music box, and an unspeakably gorgeous lead vocal from Stewart and “I’m Not In Love”…was still not finished. The famous (and sometimes polarizing) final touch involved persuading studio receptionist Kathy Redfern to fill in the bridge by whispering the words “big boys don’t cry.”

With that, voila: a classic was born. The song enjoyed massive success in the most prestigious pop charts, hitting #1 in the UK pop charts and #2 in the U.S in 1975.
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Jan 262021
 

Pete YornPete Yorn is one of those names you know, if not always realizing or recognizing why. His debut album made him a Rolling Stone One To Watch for 2001, going gold to boot, thanks partly to the single “Life On A Chain.” (Aah, that Pete Yorn!) A further six albums have followed, as well as various other live albums and collaborations. He’s been the musical muscle behind some of Scarlett Johansson’s excursions into music, they making one LP and an EP together, another possibly on the way. He is also a regular on soundtracks and tributes, performing the songs of others as varied as The Ramones, Bruce Springsteen and New Order. We have featured him often.

Now comes album number seven, Pete Yorn Sings the Classics. Quite where the parallel galaxy is that considers this quirky set of songs classics, I don’t know, but it’s somewhere I could happily live. OK, many you will know, and some are fitting of that title, with others maybe vaguer memories, perhaps from childhood. But don’t dismiss this, the love here seeps thickly through the grooves and makes this just one great big grin of a project.
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Jan 222021
 

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

Let It Bleed covers

There are so many good reasons for returning yet again to the Rolling Stones discography for another Full Album offering, the foremost being that they have written and performed so many damn good songs and have had so many of these covered so broadly and widely, encompassing all genres. The choice, thus, is immense. I was actually surprised we hadn’t done Let It Bleed before, given it contains so many songs indelibly etched on my consciousness. OK, as a an older white male, that isn’t surprising, but most of these songs will be known to all generations, either through knowledge of the band, or from soundtracks and, even, if briefly, from advertising. I think the album’s one of their best, and an infinite number of online polls show I’m not alone.

Hailing from an astonishing 1969, Let It Bleed saw the Stones at a turning point. They were gradually easing the increasingly addled Brian Jones out of the band, and were continuing down the row Beggar’s Banquet first hoed. They eschewed the sophisticated pop-rock tropes of their mid-to-late 60s run of singles in favor of the simpler and bluesier sound that had originally inspired them. Jones appears, in the backing instrumentation, on a couple of tracks; his replacement Mick Taylor, who joined after the original sessions were complete, showed up on a couple more tracks, thanks to post-production afterdubs.

So it is essentially a four-piece band, the bulk of guitar parts courtesy Keith Richards, augmented by the keyboard playing of regular sidemen Ian Stewart (the true sixth Stone) and, on most of the tracks, Nicky Hopkins. Cameo appearances come from other notables such as Al Kooper, Leon Russell, Ry Cooder, and Byron Berline. Bobby Keys, swiftly to ensconce himself as Richards’ main partner in narcotic hijinks, makes his debut on saxes, and producer Jimmy Miller gets himself well into the percussion.

Released in December, it must have been a delight for the Stones to see Let It Bleed topple the Beatles’ Abbey Road from the top of the UK chart, if only temporarily. Across the pond it peaked at number three. Whilst it didn’t contain many singles, many of the songs have remained concert staples to this day. Of course, if you consider “Country Honk” to be, essentially, the same song as “Honky Tonk Women,” it included their biggest and best-known song ever (save perhaps “Satisfaction”), if in a somewhat different setting. Touted as amongst their best, Let It Bleed has inestimable legs and lasts as the legacy that enabled them to assume the title of the Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band in the World. Continue reading »

Jan 182021
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Hot Chocolate's "You Sexy Thing"

Hot Chocolate’s career actually started with a cover. They covered John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” in a reggae style, but had to go through Lennon himself to get approval. Although Hot Chocolate then went on to have a stable career of hits in the UK in the ’70s, “You Sexy Thing” is the standout. The song has helped sell products from the Double Whopper to cameras and cars, and it’s been featured in many movies and TV shows. It’s become iconic.

However, this song was originally a B-side track when it was released in 1975. Big mistake, huge! Once re-released as a remix, it took off. It was even headed for the top spot in the UK, but an obscure song beat them there. Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” ever heard of it? How did they know this song would “be the one” to stand the test of time? It ended up being the only song to stay in the UK top ten across the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s.

Whether you believe in miracles or not these days, let’s hear five different takes on this unabashed tune.
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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 »

Jan 102021
 

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 we celebrate the 73rd birthday of a man who has been writing songs about growing old for nearly half a century, Donald Fagen. Fagen is one half of the songwriting duo that calls itself Steely Dan, and he is the band’s reluctant frontman. (The other half of the partnership, Walter Becker, passed away in 2017.)
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