Mar 232021
 

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

Erma Franklin

You would think there would be a ton of good and/or quirky covers of “Piece of My Heart,” it being such an icon of overwrought emoting. But surprisingly (and not a little disappointingly), whilst there are many of them, most are known nearly as well known as the first cover, many making waves in the charts of their particular day. So, fewer hidden nuggets to unearth, but more fond reminders of times mislaid to be gained by revisiting.

“Piece of My Heart” was written by Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns, both jobbing songwriters with a slew of hits to their credit, individually and collectively. Ragovoy also had a hand in “Stay With Me, Baby,” arguably the other song of a heart breaking in explosive slo-mo. Berns was responsible for, amongst other things, our first glimpse of Van Morrison, performing the early singles of Them, “Here Comes the Night” and “Baby, Please Don’t Go.”

It was Aretha’s little sister, Erma Franklin, who first tried out “Piece of My Heart,” in 1967. (Berns had, unsuccessfully, first offered it to Van, which could have been intriguing.) Her rendition was good, very good even, hitting a credible #62 in the chart. That may well have been that, had it not caught the ears of a certain band beginning to make waves in the Bay Area.
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Aug 082019
 
david byrne cover songs

Talking Heads only ever recorded one cover, and when I talked to David Byrne about it for my book, he seemed to have mixed feelings on the subject. “There’s always a little bit of resistance to recording a cover like that because it’s kind of a crowd pleaser,” he told me. “I’d seen it happen before, where radio DJs who pick what they’re going to play will often pick a cover song… So then a band gets known for covering somebody else’s song as opposed to writing their own material. They have to go through a struggle for years to get identified with their own songs.”

Talking Heads recorded “Take Me to the River,” it became their biggest hit up to that point, and Byrne said: That’s it. No more covers. The band never followed it up with a second.

He’s relaxed the rules a bit more in his solo career, most recently covering Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout” on tour (he says he’s bringing the cover to Broadway, too). And clearly he’s been listening to covers. For his DB Radio show on his website, he just compiled a wonderfully eclectic mix of his favorite covers. The theme, he says, is artists doing the unexpected, from Sonic Youth covering The Carpenters to Miley Cyrus covering Nine Inch Nails. And when the song choice itself may not be surprising – Patti Smith covering the Rolling Stones, say – the arrangements are. Here’s what he wrote on his website: Continue reading »

Mar 252019
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Roxy Music

I know, I know, cheating with a compilation album, but believe me, I tried, hell, I tried. I wanted to cover the 1972 debut, Roxy Music/Roxy Music, not least as it is “their best,” but also to celebrate this year’s inauguration of the band (or brand) into the R&R Hall of Fame. But let’s face it — however good (most of) the songs are, the cover versions, give or take, are decidedly not. And so few anyway, most being limp copies and ersatz imitations. (And I’m talking about you, Velvet Goldmine, with your Thom Yorke and your faux recreations.) Indeed, it seems, as I researched, that the only person regularly covering Roxy was Bryan Ferry himself, either in solo mode or, now and gloriously, in a jazz age great Gatsby style, both ruled out automatically by default. But they are good….. So I have had to resort to this 2nd best, even if it misses out the sole reason I wanted to take this on in the first place, the superb Tin Machine/Bowie take on “If There is Something,” my favorite-ever Roxy track.

I loved the Roxy, being just the right age as they emerged, in my mid-teens, looking for the hit of new to fertilize my hungry ears. I recall listening to the debut in a Brighton record shop. There was a wiring disconnect in the headphones, giving a buzz in the left ear. I didn’t realize this wasn’t part of the sound for some time (years, actually), thinking it part of the process, and it added to the band’s mystique. The succession of records continued to enthrall, arguably better put together songs as more of the experimental gradually fell by the wayside, not that I could allow myself to admit it. As Eno and every bassist in turn left, so the musicianship upped, the Eddie Jobson years an especial highlight. A few years silence and back they bounced, now a smoother beast altogether, a trio of Ferry, Mackay and Manzanera with the pick of sessiondom’s finest, still great, if mellower. Did they ever really officially fold? There was always the promise of some new undertaking, inevitably subsumed into more Ferry solo projects, his live shows increasingly and ever more Roxy-based. I don’t suppose it will ever happen now, but maybe the memories are stronger.

Have some hits…
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Jan 252019
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

This is the year Roxy Music finally gets into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Babies have been born since they were first eligible who are now old enough to legally drink. Would that they were also being introduced to the stylings of Bryan Ferry and company, who married prog and glam and were New Romantic before New Romantic existed. How is it possible that a band had to get rid of Brian Eno because he was holding them back?

Eno was more than gracious about that – he’s declared Stranded, the first Roxy Music album without him, to be his favorite. His taste proves impeccable once again – Stranded has a (UK) hit single in “Street Life,” a perfect ode to heartbreak in “A Song for Europe,” and one of the greatest centerpieces of all ’70s rock albums, “Mother of Pearl.”
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Jun 292018
 

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

beyonce covers

We all know the reason everyone’s talking about Beyoncé this month: It’s the fifteenth anniversary of her debut solo album Dangerously in Love!

Okay, maybe that’s not the only Beyoncé news setting the internet aflutter these days – but it is the reason we initially decided to do this list. So it was extra nice of her to drop a surprise album with her husband, what’s-his-name, to give us something else to tie this into. In tribute, we’re writing this entire post from the Louvre.

There aren’t any Everything Is Love songs covered here, but we can’t imagine the first great “Apeshit” cover is far off. And every other facet of her career is represented, from the Destiny’s Child radio hits to her early solo pop jams to the more recent political tracks from Lemonade and beyond. Appropriately enough, the artists doing the covering represent an equally wide spectrum. I challenge you to find another list on the internet containing both serpentwithfeet and Reba McEntire.

So let’s start the countdown (heh) of the best B covers ever. All hail the Queen! Continue reading »

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 »