Sep 172021
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
The Scientist
“The Scientist” is the one song that even the most ardent Coldplay phobes can grudgingly admit to, if not actually liking, agreeing that it’s a good song, with nine out of ten subconsciously singing along with it, sotto voce, should it ever appear of the radio. Which it does really quite often. Despite the near impossibility of recreating Chris Martin’s falsetto, you just can’t stop yourself from trying, hating yourself as you then have to.

No, that’s unfair, but the band do present an easy target, being so damn successful and so damn ubiquitous. In the time old time old of an unreconstructed music snob, I like to prefer their old stuff, always finding a tall poppy anathema to my enjoyment. From their second album, 2002’s A Rush of Blood to the Head, “The Scientist” is the insanely catchy standout ballad in a record chock-full of earworm melodies. Catnip both to the lovelorn and those in love, it has become a favorite of slow dancers, although quite who or what the scientist was or is remains enigmatic. He sounds genuinely sorry enough.
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Aug 242021
 

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

The Japanese punk band the Blue Hearts were together for the decade 1985 to 1995. Spurred on by a healthy dose of inspiration from U.S. and U.K. punk rock pioneers such as the Ramones and the Clash, the band injected the genre with a spirit and style all their own. They became one of the country’s biggest bands, routinely filling arenas and topping the charts.

For a brief moment in the early 1990s, they attempted to conquer the U.S. market.

The group conducted a brief U.S. tour and released a greatest-hits EP, which received rave reviews from the indie and college presses. “The Blue Hearts are the coolest cultural export from Japan since Godzilla or Speed Racer,” the Boston College student newspaper The Heights wrote in 1990. “Though an accurate description would be tough to come up with, the best idea of what the band is like can come from imagining the Ramones, with surf guitars, singing in Japanese. Their self-titled, six-song EP (their first American release) is a slab of vinyl, filled to the top with goofy, fast-paced, good-time music.”

They even got the MTV News treatment with a featurette from the channel’s rock journalists John Norris and Kurt Loder. “The Blue Hearts powerhouse performance style seems to translate completely,” Loder said. In the clip, vocalist Hiroto Kōmoto told them: “The language barrier might be our biggest problem, but we grew up listening to bands like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles who all sang in English and we couldn’t understand them either, so we think it could work.”

Alas, mainstream success in the U.S. was not meant to be. No matter. Even today, the band is still considered to be one of the greatest Japanese rock n’ roll bands of all time.

The band’s best-known track is their 1987 hit “Linda Linda.” Though mostly sung in Japanese, the love song’s infinitely catchy English-language chorus of “Linda, Linda… Linda, Linda, Linda” has shattered language barriers. Like all great punk rock tunes, it will make you want to pick up a guitar, slam out some power chords and scream “Linda Linda” at the top of your lungs.

In the decades since its release, the song has garnered countless covers, served as the inspiration for a movie and is now the name of a contemporary Los Angeles-based teen punk band. Here’s a rundown of some of the best and most-well known covers of “Linda Linda.” It’s never too late for a crossover hit.
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Jul 232021
 

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

The Middle covers

You’re world weary. One too many people have hurt you, let you down, robbed you of your earnestness (it’s an important trait, after all). But then, as if to snap you out of your downward spiral…. Hey! Don’t write yourself off yet. “The Middle” is a collection of affirmations that everyone needs to hear at some point in their life. Do I sometimes worry that I’ll dim the song’s magic by overplaying it? Yes, but hey, when you need it, you need it.

If you can believe it, Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American, renamed Jimmy Eat World after the September 11th attacks made the album title a little too real, turns twenty this month. For every hater of the album, there is a love letter written in defense. After all… It’s only in your head, you feel left out or looked down on.

Yes, you can jump right to track three, but I recommend the following self-care routine: start at the beginning, rock out your angst to the title track (head banging optional) and then get in the introspective mood with “A Praise Chorus” (cover-esque in its borrowing of other songs’ lines to make up the chorus) before hearing the blood-pressure reducing opening lines of “The Middle.” After that, continue on for more balms to the soul. (For example, just ask any 2003 NHL video game player and they’ll likely reminisce how “Sweetness” provided the perfect soundtrack to their virtual victories.)

For twenty years, “The Middle” has been by our side, coaching us through life’s ups and downs. We’ve blasted it through our headphones when drowning out the world’s nonsense. We’ve belted it out in front of strangers at a karaoke bar. And we’ve crossed our fingers every time we spot a cover artist with a track called “The Middle,” hoping for this gem and not the Maren Morris song by the same name. (Maybe that last one is just me.) And no offense to Morris, but I just want my anthem of the downtrodden please! I can guarantee the covers that follow are of just that.

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Jul 142021
 

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

How Long

Having a band more successful than your own court your bass player and attempt to entice him with money so he will join their ranks is not a universal human experience.

You know what is?

Being cheated on.

Welcome to the most beautifully ambiguous, arguably homoerotic slab of pub-soul ever to rise to the top of the pop charts: Ace’s infectious evergreen 1974 megahit “How Long.” The song was written by lead singer and keyboardist Paul Carrack, best known for his impressively productive stints in Squeeze and Mike & the Mechanics (as well as for his supremely soulful voice). He’s explained endlessly that “How Long” is about the attempted recruitment of Ace bassist Terry “Tex” Comer by a more successful band. But the song’s lyrics about parting ways are juuust the right amount of vague to allow for lots of romantic projection. Which is to say, to Carrack the song may be about Tex, but to the rest of us it mostly sounds like the heartbroken and bitter lament of a jealous, duped, and about-to-be-dumped lover.
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May 282021
 

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

Roxanne covers

More red lights have been put on (or off, to be fair to the lyric) by “Roxanne” than you might imagine, and in as many shades you can imagine, varying from a lightly tinted rosé to a deep oaky claret. One of the most instantly recognizable songs of the Police canon, surprisingly few of the well over a hundred “Roxanne” covers listed on Secondhand Songs recreate the reggae-lite of the original. Whilst that might seem surprising, it shouldn’t be, as the song, stripped of the staccato chops of Andy Summers’ guitar, has a solid construction that translates well across many styles. Continue reading »

May 182021
 

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

like a rolling stone covers

You might think “Like a Rolling Stone” would be the most-covered Dylan song. It was, after all, rated by Rolling Stone as the best song of all time. But it’s not. It’s not the second or third most-covered either. Or fourth. SecondHandSongs lists it at #7. That’s even behind “Make You Feel My Love,” which has had three fewer decades to collect new versions. Continue reading »