The original theme for this post was Motown, but I was more interested in the sound than who was officially on the Motown label, so to avoid controversy…girl groups, whatever label they were on. In great song lists, these often get overlooked as being to simple or syrupy, but these are high-quality (if not to lyrically stimulating) songs. The production on the originals, often courtesy of Phil Spector, was superb, but these covers stand on their own without all that orchestrated sound.
We Are Scientists – Be My Baby (The Ronettes)
Some fuzzy distortion that rocks out the original but, in the end, stays just faithful enough.
Grizzly Bear – He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss) (The Crystals)
This one’s been making the blog rounds for the last year or so, but it lives up the the hype. One of the most disturbing girl group songs, Grizzly Bear’s slow and languid performance brings out the uncomfortable domestic abuse of the lyrics. Creepy.
The Afghan Whigs – Come See About Me (The Supremes)
Indie-rock freakout on this live recording from the Cincinnati quartet, starting slow and ending in frenetic drum facemelt.
Smith – Baby It’s You (The Shirelles)
A big hit in its own right, the Death Proof soundtrack revived this soul gem with organ trills and a singer who jumps from loud to soft and back smoothly and keeps the song lively.
Ruby Rats – Heatwave (Martha and the Vandellas)
Organ-drenched cover from the 60’s by the ultra-obscure Ruby Rats. Couldn’t find much information on them online, except nothing they’ve done has ever been issued on CD, so excuse the fuzziness of this vinyl transfer.
Bob Dylan and George Harrison – Da Doo Ron Ron (The Crystals)
From a jam session in ’69, neither one really knows the words, or realizes that this recording will ever leak into the bootleg world. So it’s loose and fun, enjoyable to listen to if not stunning.
Paris Bennett – My Boyfriend’s Back (The Angels)
I can’t believe I’m putting a song by an American Idol contestant up here, but it’s a nice reworking that replaces the handclaps with computerized beats. What the song would sound like if it were a new release today…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Also funny “street” lyric changes about how “it’s me that he’s reppin’ / So you better be steppin’.”
Jane Olivor – He’s So Fine (The Chifons)
A slowed-down operatic version, with some Spanish guitar and smooth sax. The novelty feel quickly disappears as you forget the bounce of the original and the song works just as well this way too.
Twisted Sister – Leader of the Pack (The Shangri-Las)
Amazing how the transsexual hair-metal crew can use their sound to give pretty much the same feel as the original. Dee Snyder hits basically the same notes as the original singer, but the backing vocals are what keep it interesting in a Summer Loving vein.
Broadzilla – Love Child (The Supremes)
All-female punk rock like a more aggressive Blondie, the angry nasal whine over the distortion gives a very different feel over the original. Certainly suits the lyrics, which are very less warm and fuzzy than Diana Ross and co. would have you believe.