Jan 202023
 

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

Roches Hammond Song covers

In 1975, after an apprenticeship with Paul Simon and two years of grueling touring on the college circuit, Maggie and Terre Roche released their debut album, Seductive Reasoning, which featured songs written by Maggie. The album was not a success, and the sisters became disillusioned by the process and the music business. Telling their label that they were no longer going to promote the album, Maggie and Terre retreated to Hammond, Louisiana, where they slept in a friend’s kung fu studio and worked as waitresses.

In 1976, they returned to New York, where they tended bar at Folk City. With younger sister Suzzy, who was studying acting, they busked on street corners singing Christmas carols. The trio performed at clubs throughout the Village, creating a buzz about the sister act with the quirky harmonies and great songs, and they signed with Warner Brothers Records.

In 1978, the sisters went into the studio to record their first album as a trio. In what seemed an odd pairing, the producer was Robert Fripp, whose philosophy of simply recording what they sounded like (he called it “audio vérité”) was appealing, especially after Maggie and Terre’s experience with the more traditional process of using studio musicians. The self-titled debut album was a critical success–it was The New York Times’ album of the year, and finished at #11 in The Village Voice’s prestigious Pazz & Jop poll.

One of the album’s standout tracks, “Hammond Song,” was written by Maggie about her experiences in Hammond, Louisiana, but like many great songs, it is really about more. It’s about independence and making your own decisions—but it also includes the other side of the argument. And it features the incredible harmonies that the Roches are known for–Terre taking the high part, Suzzy holding down the middle, and Maggie anchoring the bottom. It also sees Fripp taking a guitar solo that’s one of The Roches‘ highlights. The notoriously finicky Pitchfork named it the 170th best song of the 1970s.
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Dec 022022
 

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

Editor’s Note: Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac died on Wednesday after a brief illness. She was 79. In her honor, we’re resurrecting a post from a decade ago, lightly reworked for the sad circumstances.

Christine McVie was the Mona Lisa of ’70s rock music. She always seemed one cool remove away from the maelstrom of Fleetwood Mac, but there was a lot going on behind that sardonic gaze, and she let it out in her songs, where she specialized in first-person accounts of romances that could be right even when they felt so wrong – and, of course, vice versa. Today we’re celebrating McVie with five covers that give a whole different meaning to the phrase “one cool remove away.”
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Sep 092022
 

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

Otis Redding

This year, a lot of musical artists turn 81 years old. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, Aaron Neville, Paul Simon, David Crosby–the list goes on. But it’s one shorter than it should be. Otis Redding would be 81 today if he hadn’t died in a plane crash almost 55 years ago. Thinking of how much potential we never got to see fulfilled is a fool’s errand, so let’s focus on what Redding did give us in his 26 years and change.

Redding brought a voice full of emotion, an electric stage presence, and sheer drive to the sweet soul music of the ’60s. His work ethic got him to the top; his talent kept him there, long after he passed away. He’s one of those singers who’s always ripe for discovery; for an encouraging look at our future, search “first time hearing Otis Redding” on YouTube to find the next generation doing just that.

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Feb 282022
 

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

Mark Lanegan

It doesn’t seem five minutes since this, less than two years ago, with the publication of his memoir Sing Backwards and Weep seeming a good time to celebrate his apparent immunity to death. Even in a world becoming nervously aware of the pandemic, he seemed then a figure above such inconvenience, a latter-day Keith Richards made flesh, even in recovery. Little then did we know what his second volume would reveal, Devil In a Coma ripping apart that semblance, the Devil possibly in that very coma at the time of that article’s writing. I guess the assumption was that he had fully recovered from that further near-death, making last week’s news all the more astonishing and upsetting. At the time of this writing the cause of his death remains unknown. I hope he went in peace.

Not the place to regale and remind of his derring-do; others have done that better and by more right elsewhere. Here we celebrate, again, his winning way with the songs of others, his uncanny instinct to possess and inhabit the writings of other artists, as if the words had been written solely for his sepulchral tones. I don’t like the Devil comparison, however many coming up against him in their own lives might, preferring the image that he had the voice of God, with no need of any article, indefinite or otherwise. Sure, an older God, a vengeance-is-mine God, where forgiveness has to be earnt, much as he too tried to atone for his past behaviors, a forbidding God not to be taken in vain.

Hyperbole? Why not? Enjoy these ten further covers and sink one in his memory.
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Feb 072022
 

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

In the Still of the Night

Stationed at an Army barracks in Philadelphia, Fred Parris found himself longing for his fiancée. It was the mid-50s, and Parris was the lead singer for a doowop group called the Five Satins, so he wrote a song about their time together. Later, while on leave, he and the group holed up in the basement of St. Bernadette Church in New Haven to record “In the Still of the Night.”

The track, sometimes stylized as “In the Still of the Nite” or “(I’ll Remember) In the Still of the Nite,” was a modest hit for the group, reaching number 24 on the Billboard chart in 1956. Parris, who died in January at the age of 85, never became a household name, and he never married that girl. But this song has endured as one the defining tracks of the ‘50s, earning him accolades from around the music world upon his passing.

Parris’ ballad of youthful longing, love, and nostalgia has been a staple of oldies format radio for decades, often topping New York station WCBS-FM’s list of the greatest songs of all time. As both a love song and a remembrance of things past, it presents an idealized version of how people like to remember the ‘50s.
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Aug 272021
 

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

Charlie Watts

“Charlie’s good tonight, inn’ee?”

That classic line from Mick Jagger, as heard and lifted from the early Rolling Stones live opus Get Yer Ya-Yas Out!, is a phrase that has always lasted and lingered, not least because it was unmistakably so true. Charlie was always good tonight, his sense of swing a failsafe metronome over the fifty-plus years of the band. A jazz man by preference, his kit dwarfed by the kits of most of his contemporaries, he was forever the lynchpin at the back, always making sure his band was the greatest rock and roll band in the world.
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