Oct 082021
 

I was obsessed with the thrash metal band Anthrax in the late ‘80s. After repeatedly seeing their videos on MTV, I purchased several of their albums and even saw them headline the Headbangers Ball Tour in 1989.

Around that time, I remember having a heated dinner-time discussion with my brother about Anthrax’s long-term musical prospects. “They won’t be around in five years,” my brother declared. I was more confident in the band’s sustainability, but even I couldn’t have predicted that thirty-two years later the group would be celebrating its 40th anniversary. I doubt even they could have imagined such longevity. Metal still rules, apparently.

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Jul 092021
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Hollywood Vampire's self-titled album

We’ve seen a few different motivations for forming supergroups, but another one is to gather together to pay homage to others. One recent example: the Sylvain Sylvain tribute by Halloween Jack, made up of Gilby Clarke (formally of Guns N’ Roses), Eric Dover (of Jellyfish), Stephen Perkins (of Jane’s Addiction), Dan Shulman (formerly of Garbage), and Steve Stevens (guitarist for Billy Idol)).

Hollywood Vampires is made up of Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp (super in a different way, but showing off his musical skills here), and Joe Perry (of Aerosmith). Although they have since worked on originals, their self-titled first album is (mostly) a cover album where the songs are chosen to pay tribute to rockers who “died from excess” in the 1970s. The irony of this is that the band is named after the drinking club for celebrities formed by Cooper in the ’70s.

Throughout their time playing together, the band has had guest features from other big stars, actors and musicians alike. They have postponed their European Tour twice now due to the pandemic, but hopefully fans will get a chance to rock out when the world settles down a bit more. Continue reading »

Sep 232019
 

Alice Cooper BreadcrumbsThe age of Aquarius was dawning in 1969. But the band Alice Cooper watched the sun set on the California shore as a sign that their time out west was over. They relocated to Pontiac, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, in 1970. There, they shifted their musical and theatrical direction away from the psychedelic experimentation. Instead, they embraced a harder-edged rock mixed with a horror show. The Detroit area had been the boyhood home to frontman Vincent Furnier, and it was here that the band from Phoenix by way of Los Angeles was reborn. They found a more welcoming audience and a scene of similarly raucous bands, whose attitudes were forged in the same foundries as the steel in the Big Three’s automobiles.

During a sludgy performance one night, producer Bob Erzin heard Alice Cooper perform what he thought to be “I’m Gritty.” The title fit the nightclub setting and dirty look of the band. But the song title turned out to be “I’m Eighteen,” which was the breakthrough single for the band.

Now, fifty years later, Furnier—who since 1975 has gone by Alice Cooper—has released a new EP as an homage to the Motor City and the pistons of rock and roll. The Breadcrumbs EP released on Friday, September 13. It packs a punch.

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Jul 162019
 

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

Pat Boone

Reasons abound for maligning Pat Boone’s career in popular music. The catalyst for his career was a string of covers of R&B tunes by black artists for whom the legacy of segregation never afforded the same amount of wealth. White artists made substantially more than their counterpart artists of color. Major record labels had larger distribution chains, promotional budgets, and stronger connections to radio and television networks to advantage their artists. By contrast, black musicians on “race records” benefited from none of these privileges. While artists like Little Richard, Big Joe Turner, and Fats Domino have enjoyed staying power and wide acclaim for being architects of rock music, in the early decades of that genre, white covers were commercially more successful. Added to this was the exploitative nature of covers on larger labels that made more money than the originals while paying out no royalties to the black originators. Boone was unapologetic that his career benefited from this exploitation.

It is also noteworthy that Boone’s performance and lyricism of some of rock’s first generation of are a case study in the sanitized tastes of the burgeoning white middle class in the 1950s. His smooth vocal delivery was reminiscent of crooners rather than the raspy, full-throated yowl of Little Richard. And the lyrical changes on “Tutti Frutti” were a nod to teenage infatuation stripped of any of the sexuality in Little Richard’s original.

Despite Boone representing the residuals of white privilege while Jim Crow reigned supreme, there is a note of appreciation to be made for Boone and contemporaries Elvis Presley and Bill Haley in helping to extend the reach of rock music to new audiences at a critical juncture in that genre’s history.
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Jun 152018
 
best cover songs 1978

Welcome to the third installment in our Best Cover Songs of Yesteryear countdown, where we act like we were compiling our usual year-end list from a year before we – or the internet – existed. Compared to the first two, this one has significantly less grunge than 1996 and less post-punk than 1987. It’s hard to have post-punk, after all, before you have punk, a new genre starting to hit its peak in 1978. And don’t forget the other big late-’70s sound: disco. Both genres were relatively new, and super divisive among music fans. Lucky for us, both genres were also big on covers.

Disco, in particular, generated some hilariously ill-advised cover songs. We won’t list them all here – this is the Best 1978 covers, not the Most 1978 covers. If you want a taste (and think carefully about whether you really do), this bonkers take on a Yardbirds classic serves as a perfect example of what a good portion of the year’s cover songs looked and sounded like: Continue reading »

May 242018
 
shilpa ray alice cooper cover

“Who knew Alice Cooper wrote feminist anthems?”

That’s the question New York goth-punk singer Shilpa Ray wrote on Bandcamp introducing her new cover of Cooper’s “Is It My Body” – and it’s a good one. He actually tried to make that point himself when he was on Marc Maron’s show a few months back, pointing to a song like “Only Women Bleed” (which Etta James, of all people, has covered). A track like that, he argued, was a far cry from the horrorshow makeup and on-stage guillotine. Continue reading »