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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Aug 102020
 

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

Barry Manilow

Scene: mid-’70s, elementary school cafeteria, group of six girls at one table.

Girl 1, excitedly : Oh my God, did you see The Smothers Brothers last night (fyi-’70s variety show)???

Entire table gasps in joyful recognition…all except one girl aka me.

Girl 2: Barry Manilow is gorgeous!

Girl 3: Oh my God, I was kissing the TV!

All at table agree, he is gorgeous…except one girl who remains silent (me again).

Rapturous Barry conversation continues until lunch ends. I am befuddled and say nothing.

Oh, I’d seen the show, but I thought Barry was schmaltzy and goofy, the antithesis of a rock star. Paul McCartney was so much cooler. What were they seeing that I wasn’t?
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Jul 132020
 

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

Madonna's "Ray of Light"

Madonna’s seventh album, Ray of Light, marked a turning point in her life and style of music. Ahead of writing this album, Madonna was preparing for her role in Evita, a film adaption of the musical about the life of first lady of Argentina, Eva Perón, and had her first child. She was learning about the Kabbalah school of thought and Hinduism as well as experimenting with different musical styles.

The Ray of Light album includes electronic and dance elements and shows off a wider vocal range (thanks in part to Madonna’s vocal training for Evita). Critics showed it love, calling it “adventurous,” “mature,” and crediting it with bringing electronica to the mainstream. The album cleaned up at the Grammy Awards winning Best Pop Album and Best Recording Package as a whole and Best Dance Recording and Best Short Form Music Video for the title track.

But let’s talk about that title track. It was the second single off of the album and brought Madonna her highest debuting single at that point in her career. But did you know it was a cover?

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Jun 302020
 

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

John Bonham

If Led Zeppelin’s 1971 track “When the Levee Breaks” is widely considered an original, it’s because the sound that Page, Plant, Jones, and Bonham make on that record bears very little relation to its source material: a jauntily played acoustic blues number from 1929. It emanates instead from deep in the heart of the mightiest of English rock bands. It is huge, rumbling, and apocalyptic. And it is totally at one with the song’s all-too-familiar theme of an individual at the mercy of forces way beyond his control.
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Jun 172020
 

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

Who Let The Dogs Out

Every once in a while, something happens in pop culture that seems to capture everybody’s attention. Whether it’s Harlem Shake videos, the ice bucket challenge, or Psy’s “Gangam Style,” these cultural phenomena are usually meteoric: they get popular quickly, show up everywhere, and, mercifully, burn out as quickly as they started. In early 2000, the ubiquitous bit of cultural ephemera clamoring for our attention was the Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out?” You remember it, right?

The song is catchy, bright, and driven by a simple repetitive hook—all the things that make for a hit, the kind that gets played over and over and over and… And that, of course, happened. That translated into worldwide success, with the song reaching the Top 10 in most of Europe. Interestingly, the song didn’t do that well in the US, charting no higher than #40 on the standard Billboard Chart. (It did hit #6 on the US Dance chart, though.)

Its real US success came a year of so later, when “Who Let the Dogs Out?” was picked up as the de facto anthem for sports teams of all types and at all levels, as well as appearing on the soundtrack of a couple of movies. Shortly thereafter, the market was saturated with Baha Men clothing, toys, and lots more. (To this day, you can still buy Who Let the Dogs Out merch on both the primary and secondary markets.)

You might think that this bit of lightning in a bottle was a Baha Men original, but its history actually goes back decades, includes a couple of lawsuits, and is nearly as colorful as the Baha Men’s stage outfits.
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