Apr 192021
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Tom Dooley

Yes, “Tom Dooley” is a cover song. Should this even be a surprise, given its age? But even the oldest version you can think of is unlikely to be the original. Were you to ask me, a stripling of a lad, the version I presume to be the original is always going to be the Kingston Trio 1958 chartbuster. As I was 1 at the time, I have this knowledge only on the good authority of my ex, who sang it to me whilst courting, it having been sung to her by her mother as she lay in her cot. Indeed, whenever the song was prompted to her by her daughter, my mother in law was, and probably still is, capable of piping up into a few verses.

Younger readers have maybe had to make do with more recent renditions, Mr. Dooley surprisingly still having wings, popping up all over, and not always where and from whom you would expect. I say this as it is, let’s be fair, pretty limp fare. Cutting edge, perhaps, in 1958, but maybe not the trigger to awake the inspiration of the icons of the ’60s folk explosion, you know, Bob Dylan and that sort of artist. Well, we’ll see….
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Apr 092021
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Holding Back the Years

UK band Simply Red have a fine line in soulful covers that owe a profound debt to singer Mick Hucknall’s powerful and committed vocal performances. There’s the brilliant “Money’s Too Tight (To Mention),” for starters, a gritty and relevant 1985 take on the Valentine Brothers’ 1982 original, imbibed with Hucknall’s righteous indignation not only of Reaganomics (“cut-backs!”), but also the Thatcherite policies behind the snake-like dole queues of ’80s Britain. There’s “It’s Only Love,” originally by Barry White, and “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes fame. Then there’s “Holding Back The Years,” a deeply moving lament on a broken family and neglected childhood, first released by a punk band called the Frantic Elevators in 1982.

Yes, that’s right. Punk band. Frantic Elevators. 1982.
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Mar 292021
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Captain Tennille

If asked to pick a song that best encapsulates the swinging ’70s in all its shag-carpeted, Pet Rock’d, earth-shoed glory, you’d be hard pressed to find a better specimen than the Captain & Tennille’s 1975 #1 hit “Love Will Keep Us Together.” Infectious, bouncy, and supremely sticky, sounding like both a commercial jingle and the kind of thing a Disney World in-house performing arts ensemble would include in the love-themed portion of their act (see the legendarily tacky incredible-ness of “Up With People,” or even better, The Simpsons‘ reimagined take “Hooray For Everything“), it was POP with a capitol P and Proud of it. “Love Will Keep Us Together” was the musical embodiment of everything the Captain & Tennille seemed to be about, a mission statement if you will, a song so aligned with their whole persona, so custom fit to their sugary weirdness, that even 45+ years later it’s still hard to believe it was a freakin’ cover.
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Mar 032021
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down

At the dawn of the ’80s, Elvis Costello was the guy you’d least expect to release a cover version as a single. He was one of the most successful songwriters of the “New Wave,” fresh from a run of six self-penned top-30 hits in the UK (five with the Attractions) that stretched from “Watching The Detectives” in 1977 to “Accidents Will Happen” in 1979. He was at the top of his game as a composer and lyricist, who drew from a seemingly infinite pool of anger, cynicism, and bitterness. He might easily be supposed, therefore, to have written “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down,” a UK #4 for him in March 1980. Two reasons: (1) because the original was so little known, and (2) because he injected it with his own compelling brand of nerdy desperation and punk-rock intensity.

Costello, in fact, reinterpreted a Sam & Dave B-side as the sixth consecutive single with his breathtaking backing band, the Attractions. Yet few knew he’d plucked the song from the illustrious catalog of Stax Records in Memphis, in an effort to incorporate some deep Southern soul into his punk-fueled sound. Few knew he’d adopted it to stimulate his first major shift into a new genre as a songwriter and arranger. Few, indeed, knew he’d covered the song to serve as the advance single for an album, Get Happy!!, that was packed with an incredible 18 Costello-penned tracks embodying ’60s R&B/soul and ska, an act which proved to be more than a little bit political.
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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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Aug 312020
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Bette Davis, like many of her powerhouse characters, was breaking glass ceilings all over the place throughout her acting career. She was the first woman to win the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute and be the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She was also no stranger to scandal. Her first husband made much less than her in a week (he didn’t love that), and she sued Warner Brothers for putting her in sub-par movies. She’s been quite the inspiration, and throughout the years many close-ups feature those distinctive eyes that have been immortalized in song.

Kim Carnes won Record and Song of the Year at the Grammys for “Bette Davis Eyes.” It held the peak Billboard Hot 100 spot for nine weeks and ended up being the best-selling single of 1981. The song has been featured in many movies and television shows (anyone hear it first in Austenland? No? Just me?). But guess what–it isn’t even the original!

Jackie DeShannon released “Bette Davis Eyes” in 1975, six years earlier. DeShannon c0-wrote it with Donna Weiss, who actually ended up as a backup vocalist on a couple of Carnes’ albums. You may know DeShannon from her big hits “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”

Even though DeShannon’s and Carnes’s versions are pretty different from one another, they both got Bette Davis’s stamp of approval. In her book This ‘n’ That, she wrote, “When I heard the lyrics – ‘She’ll expose you when she snows you / Off your feet with the crumbs that she throws you’ – I dashed off a note saying, ‘How did you know so much about me?'” She appreciated that the song kept her relevant to the youths, and thanked Carnes, DeShannon, and Weiss for making her “a part of modern history.”

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