Oct 232020
 

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

Spencer Davis Group

Before this past Monday, we could have categorized this as a Five Good Covers post, or a That’s a Cover post. Alas, circumstances beyond our control have seen to it that it could only be an In Memoriam.

Spencer Davis, of the eponymous band, has died.

To commemorate this most shadowy of front men, whose band is now famous more for who else was in it besides him, let’s revisit Davis’s life and see why he is worthy of recognition in his own right. We’ll also be drilling down into “Keep on Running,” the first Spencer Davis Group number one.
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Oct 202020
 

My Darling ClementineForgive the sense of deja vu. We have indeed been here before, at different stages of fruition; this being the 3rd and final chapter of Country Darkness, hitherto a work in progress.

For those not up to speed, here we have the UK’s answer to George’n’Tammy, the married country torch singers Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish. Otherwise known as my Darling Clementine, they’re both big fans of Elvis Costello, and they have been spending their 2020 putting together a collection of Costello covers. To add icing to that cake, they’ve done this in conjunction with no less than Steve Nieve, right hand man and keyboard pilot for Costello since near the beginning. Released in three helpings (earlier volumes reviewed here and here), this final set is again four songs. Over the course of the year, the question has changed from whether it will be worth hearing (’twas ever thus) to whether they can keep up the momentum.

My answer: a muted yes.
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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!

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Oct 122020
 

Off the Beaten Path looks at covers of songs from a less popular era in an artist’s career.

Blue Nile

It takes a certain amount of bravery to give yourself over to The Blue Nile. Listening to their songs of wistful rainswept regret and longing, outside the confines of home or a solitary space, suggests that you are 100% okay with crying in public. That you are fine with subjecting yourself to sounds that may cause you to seek temporary solitary shelter in a random doorway or bathroom stall, or slide down the wall of an elevator until you can pull yourself together. But as the bands devoted fanbase will tell you, it’s absolutely worth it.

The fact is, within the history of pop, there are very few bands capable of holding your hand as tightly and accompanying you down, down, down with as much beautiful empathy as The Blue Nile. I saw the band play at The Bottom Line in NYC in 1990 and have a vivid memory of crying as the band were performing their solemn ballad “Let’s Go Out Tonight.” It was silly and slightly embarrassing, but mostly, it was magical.
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Oct 092020
 

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

John Lennon (of the Beatles, the Quarrymen, the Dirty Mac, and the Plastic Ono Band, among others) was born on this day. He shares the birthday, oddly enough, with his youngest son, Sean. (Happy 45th, Sean!)

One way to celebrate the day is to sing the Beatles’ “Birthday” song (keeping in mind that Lennon considered the song, which he co-wrote, “a piece of garbage”). Another is to listen to his music with renewed appreciation. If we do that, we’re gonna have a good time, just like the song says.

John would be turning 80 today, an auspicious number: He lived for 40 years, and has been gone for 40 years (as of December). Forty years here, forty years gone: those are Biblical numbers. And how funny that this 40/40 business should happen in the year 2020.

John loved numbers and numerology, so it’s ok to fixate on this stuff for a minute. The number nine in particular held Lennon’s interest, the day of the month he was born on. Some of his song titles allude to the obsession: “One After 909,” “Revolution 9,” “#9 Dream” (which reached #9 on the charts). So guess how many covers we’ve lined up today?
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Oct 052020
 
best tribute albums

Over our time tracking cover songs (13 years this month!), we’ve written about hundreds of new tribute albums, across reviews, news stories, and, when they’re good enough, our best-of-the-year lists. We also have looked back on plenty of great tribute albums from the past in our Cover Classics series. But we’ve never pulled it all together – until now. Continue reading »