Nov 032022
 
Here Comes the Rain Again covers

The Mayflower Hotel was located at Central Park West between 61st and 62nd street in New York City. It was constructed in 1926 and stood for over seven decades before being demolished in 2004. It was not a fancy place (the New York Times called it “drab and brown”) and its sad, singular claim to fame was that Pat Sullivan, producer of the Felix the Cat cartoon lived there in the ’30s.

Even though it stood for nearly 80 years, the only acknowledgment of the hotel’s existence is a tiny plaque on a nearby bench on Broadway featuring this clinical and decidedly unromantic inscription:

The funding for these benches was provided in 1996 by The Mayflower Hotel

Whatever New York City office was responsible for the text on that plaque blew it. They opted for cold acknowledgment when they could have imbued that bench with magical, magnetic pop power forever. Here is what the plaque should have said:

In 1983, Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox, the musicians collectively known as “Eurythmics” composed “Here Comes The Rain Again” during a stay at The Mayflower Hotel.” Continue reading »

Nov 022022
 

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

all night long covers

“All Night Long (All Night)” is the fifth of seven chart-topping singles in Lionel Richie’s career, two with the Commodores (“Three Times a Lady,” “Still”) followed by five under its own name. The extremely goofy parenthetical in the title clearly did not impact the song’s journey towards the top. Nor its legacy either; some of these chart-toppers we look at in Covering the Hits did not, in fact, get covered much. “All Night Long (All Night)” – that’s the last time I’m writing that parenthetical – still gets covered constantly. I mean, have you ever been to a wedding?

But below we’ll dig a little deeper into the most notable and most interesting covers, from the ‘80s through just last month. Continue reading »

Nov 012022
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song. In this post we present one cover for each of Eminem’s five diamond singles.

eminem covers

In Adam Bradley’s Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop he provides some background on why covers by and of rappers are so hard to come by:

“The likely explanation for the dearth of covers in rap is that rap’s audience and rappers themselves wish to propagate the belief– and sometimes the illusion– that a rapper is delivering his or her own words, that we are hearing directly from the mind behind the voice. This is a fundamental tenet of rap authenticity, partly the product of acculturated belief and partly the product of the fact that rapping, as a means of vocalization that’s close to speech, carries with it the same presumption as speech: that speakers speak for themselves.”

Despite this, we have talked about Eminem on this blog before, from banjo to mashup cover, from an old-school T-Swift interpretation to a take on the controversial “Kim”, and many more. Perhaps this is because he inspires others to speak period, if not for themselves per se. In this same book that interprets rap lyrics as literature, Bradley gives some context about what makes Eminem’s approach to rap so novel:

“It’s easy to spot rap’s true lyrical innovators because not only will they likely be rapping about different things from everyone else, they’ll be using different words to do it. Eminem, for instance, had to conceive a bunch of new rhyming words to describe the experiences of a working-class white kid from a trailer park in Detroit who rises to superstardom. Who else would think to rhyme “public housing systems” with “victim of Munchausen syndrome”?

Rappers have slowly made their way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (if rappers are poets, why not also be rockers). Jay-Z’s turn came last year, and The Notorious B.I.G.’s turn came the year before. This year Eminem takes his place among legends. This time around we try to find covers that haven’t previously been showcased on this blog, and in honor of Eminem’s induction, we find covers of each of his five diamond-level singles.

Continue reading »

Nov 012022
 

In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”

Duran Duran Thank You

With Duran Duran about to be indicted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, what better time to re-examine Thank You, their eighth full-length offering, released in 1995 to a blaze of apathy. To be fair, it didn’t actually fare that badly in the charts, reaching the top 20 in both the UK and the US. The singles did less well, failing to make any stateside impression and only one of them bruising, just, their homeland top 20. The critics gave Thank You a fairly uniform hammering, with the legacy casting a long shadow over the rest of their career: Q magazine, in 2006, called it the worst record of all time, having had 11 years to make that considered opinion. At the time Rolling Stone described many of the selections as “stunningly wrong headed.” Ouch.

Today we’re thinking it about time this much derided potpourri of styles and statements had a good seeing to, via the retrospectroscope. I fully confess I had never listened to Thank You until researching this piece. So I got me a copy sent through, all of £3 plus p&p, which currently equates to about $3. Money well spent? Well, you know, actually, yes, it isn’t half as bad as I had been led to believe, and some of the tracks are really rather good. Of course, it is dated, but, by imagining myself back all those 27 years, I find myself heartily disagreeing with those snarky scribes from Q.

Continue reading »

Oct 312022
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

You're So Vain covers

If a horse could sing in a monotone, the horse would sound like Carly Simon, only a horse wouldn’t rhyme “yacht,” “apricot,” and “gavotte.” – Robert Christgau

It’s definitely not about James [Taylor]… but he had the unfortunate experience of taking a jet up to Nova Scotia after I’d written the song. He was saved by the fact that it wasn’t a Lear. – Carly Simon

Rolling Stone: A musical question. As per legend: “You’re So Vain” — did you think the song was about you?
Warren Beatty: [Laughs, 15-second pause] Who wrote that?

Continue reading »

Oct 312022
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

For someone who exuded so much snarl and toughness (“Hit Me with Your Best Shot”), you’d think Pat Benatar’s model was Joan Jett, say, or Suzi Quatro. Actually, it was hearing Liza Minnelli that inspired Benatar to give up her day job and give the music business her best shot. And a pretty impressive shot it was: Benatar enters the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this week.

Her timing was as striking as her voice. The singer’s rise coincided perfectly with the era of MTV. In fact, Benatar’s “You Better Run” was the first video by a solo artist that the channel ever played. True, she was well on her way to fame and fortune with her pre-MTV releases–she was already a radio star, in other words. But Benatar had the physicality, the charisma, and the work ethic to take full advantage of the new format.

We are looking at “Love is a Battlefield,” one of the singer’s best sellers. Unlike “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” her very best seller, Benatar is still willing to sing “Battlefield” today. The song also represents a pivot away from her early hard rock sound towards softer and more atmospheric material. In the ’90s she would shift gears again, to a blues and R’n’B focus.

While Benatar wrote some of her own hits, “Battlefield” wasn’t one of them. Holly Knight and Mike Chapman get the writing credit. Knight wrote another of Benatar’s hits, “Invincible,” as well as great material for Tina Turner, Bonnie Tyler, and others. Chapman, for his part, is famous mostly as a producer, most notably on the “Chinnichap” recordings of the ’70s and the breakthrough Blondie records. He also produced Benatar’s first album and at least one of her later recordings.

“Battlefield” may not be Benatar’s most popular song, but it’s by far the most covered song in her catalog. We found a few versions that standout from the field. Of these…
Continue reading »