Feb 252022
 

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

The Cars Covers

There’s plenty of good reasons that the Cars and their songs have retained their power long past the expiration date of most new wave bands. For one, though their cool-geek look was a part of their appeal, they never relied on it the way other bands had to rely on their appearance. For another, they brought together multiple influences – rock, pop, synth, punk – and created a sound with deep roots that was both edgy and fresh – no mean feat, that.

Most importantly, the songs that (mostly) Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr wrote for the band were strong and memorable, loaded with hooks and containing lyrics that take on more meaning the more you look at them – is “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” a positive or negative? What does it mean if you “needed someone to bleed”?

Their self-titled debut album is their strongest, and Heartbeat City may be their biggest, but the Cars are primarily known as a singles band, with over a dozen of them reaching the top 40. So it seems appropriate that a list of the best Cars covers should echo that. Here are the top forty cover songs of a band whose best songs won’t be tied down to any one era, preferring instead to resonate to all the generations that followed.

clap clap clapclapclap clapclapclapclap Let’s go!

– Patrick Robbins, Features Editor

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Feb 142022
 

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

Blue Monday covers

“Blue Monday” is feels too darn recent to be almost 40 years old. That may be due to the number of times it has been re-released, each time never outstaying the welcome the immediately discernible intro offers. Which is one of the problems, but we’ll get to that.

New Order, having emerged phoenix-like from the ashes of Joy Division and the suicide of frontman Ian Curtis, appeared to have hit the ground running with the iconic “Blue Monday.” But it was actually a year or two into their formation, 1983, earlier recordings having been more akin to the maudlin gloomcore of their earlier incarnation. Only after a wider exposure to techno and house music, along with the absorption of synthesist Gillian Gilbert into the band, did they have the conviction to fully embrace and add such textures to their existing sound.

“Blue Monday” epitomized where guitars and dance music might meet, making for a new breed of visceral electronica, with some organic frailty heightening the robotic artifice. The biggest selling 12″ single ever made, it remains a perpetual in the live repertoire on the still functioning band, who, according to setlist.fm, have played it 448 times in their 41 year history.

There are more covers of this song than you might expect. Broadly, they fall into two categories: the copycat, identifiable in seconds from the staccato drums, and the ambient acoustic deconstruction. They make up, between them, well over half the field available. The former seems sort of pointless and the latter, well… Much as I love that style, they are all a bit samey and a bit, given they are mostly Gallic in origin, vieux chapeau, which made the decision for me that they would not be included here. (Except, in passing, the one by Nouvelle Vague.)

No, I like my Blue Mondays to stand out. Like these five here…
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Jun 252021
 

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

Eurythmics Greatest Hits

Yes, we are back in Greatest Hits territory again, probably the only way to sufficiently scour out the coverland of this undeniably extremely successful band, largely better known for singles rather than albums. Some may question my choosing to take this challenge, given a prior opinion or two of mine around the fragrant Ms. Lennox. But let me stake my claim: the initial output of Eurythmics sounds just sublime to these ears and was seldom bettered amongst the bevy of synthesizer duos of the day. Sure, ubiquity can conspire against how well critical reception actually was at the time, but, for a while, wow, how ubiquitous were they? With 75 mill records seemingly sold, either you or someone you know must have at least something by them. I know I have.

I remember well my first sight of Eurythmics, on that venerable UK serious rock show, The Old Grey Whistle Test. It aired late at night on a minority channel for nascent music nerds, all pretending to be asleep for their parents downstairs. I was already familiar with the duo of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, from their earlier work in The Tourists. And I confess, I was as much taken that Whistle Test concentrated more on the dual facts that they were at Conny Plank’s German studio, the home of Can, and that Blondie sticksman, Clem Burke was thumping their tubs, as well as Can bassist, Holger Czukay, turning up on French horn. But they failed to set the cash tills ringing; a revision and revamp required and delivered, just in time for the peak of MTV, their videos ideal for the format. I was transfixed.

Eurythmics’ first (OK, second really) record was a masterpiece fit for its times, with a slew of singles all gaining attention and acclaim. Over the next (was it only) six years, they took over the charts, with a run of 21 singles, between two and five each year, most going top twenty if not top ten. After quitting at the top of their game, they made a brief return in 1999 and had a further brace of hits. The sound changed radically over those years, from synthesizer duo to stadium rock extravaganzas, but always with the searing knife through butter vocal of Lennox to the fore. Lennox then reverted to her solo career, Stewart to a lot of plans and promises, if little much of real merit to show for it. Bar a solitary appearance at a Beatles tribute show in 2014, that was it, they were done. (OK, seeing as that was a cover……)

A confession before kick-off: this piece was originally based about Ultimate Collection, the second and slightly larger of Eurythmics’ hit compilations, mainly as I liked so much the two singles that came from Peace, their 1999 reprise. Frustratingly, I had to ditch that idea, due to the shortage of cover versions. Which isn’t saying this set was necessarily easy. But it was a shame, there being more than a couple of covers I liked, songs that had been hits for the band, but had inexplicably failed the cut for that first collection. So, having done the work, may I sneak in an odd bonus track?

So, let’s see who was listening to Eurythmics…
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Nov 192019
 

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

livin on a prayer covers

“Once upon a time, not so long ago,” Bon Jovi followed up their first Billboard Hot 100 single, the #1 smash “You Give Love a Bad Name,” with another number one hit: “Livin’ On a Prayer.” The second single off of Slippery When Wet , Bon Jovi’s breakthrough third album, “Prayer” is number one in many people’s hearts, including voters for VH1’s 2006 list of the Greatest Songs of the ’80s and readers of this blog.

Bon Jovi has evolved over time, continuing to produce music consistently since the ’80s and unafraid to tour through different genres, even going country and teaming up with Jennifer Nettles and LeAnn Rimes (though, to be fair, Jon Bon Jovi has been a cowboy from early on). The band just doesn’t quit; they even released a thank-you song to veterans earlier this month.

But “Livin’ On A Prayer” remains a classic. You’ve belted it at karaoke; you’ve pumped your fist to it at a wedding reception. The song speaks to the masses, and we need the song’s message just as much now as we did when it was released in 1986. A good cover of this song will channel the original’s spirited perseverance, hope in the face of adversity, and faith in the power of love to overcome all. It’s a tall order, but these five artists “give it a shot.”

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Apr 122018
 

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.

holidays in the sun covers

Two weeks ahead of their much-hyped, one and only studio album in 1977, the Sex Pistols – for the last time as a complete unit – first chummed the water with the release of their fourth and final UK single following “Anarchy in the UK,” “God Save the Queen,” and “Pretty Vacant.” The iconic sound of marching boots from the introduction of “Holidays In The Sun” marked the beginning of the single and also the first track on Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols.

Lyrically, the song can be best described as John (Johnny Rotten) Lydon’s sarcastic observations about the band’s getaway from London and as a critique of consumer culture. To escape its pressures, an ill-fated trip to the Channel Islands (“They threw us out.” said Lydon.) gave way to a two-week blowout in Berlin. He likened it to the exchange of one “prison camp environment” for another. Musically, the song lifted its chord progression from the Jam’s “In The City” and the riff subsequently went on to become recognized as one of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time. It was also the first Sex Pistols single to give a co-writing credit to John Simon Beverly – also known as – Sid Vicious. It’s not clear who came up with the repeating chant of “Reason! Reason! Reason!”

A deep look at the countless covers available turned up the widest variety of genres for any Sex Pistol single (nearly a dozen) but only a relatively small group of standouts. No “cheap holiday” here – so join us as we go over the Berlin Wall! Continue reading »

Apr 102018
 
the cars covers

Whatever your feelings about the music of the Cars, they were impossible to ignore. In the late-‘70s sea of muted earth-tones, the band’s retro-techno-geek look was a revelation. And in an era when the charts were dominated by soft rock, disco and 1950s nostalgia – the Bee Gees, Andy Gibb, the Grease soundtrack – the Cars’ spiky, New Wave-inflected guitar pop signaled a coming sea change in popular music.

Of course popular taste didn’t change overnight and, in retrospect, it may not even have changed a great deal. If the wildfires of punk and art-rock had blazed through the underground music scene and left behind a very altered landscape, in the larger arena of the Billboard Top 100 it was a different story. In America at least, punk wasn’t quite ready for primetime (nor, it should be noted, were the Cars in any sense a punk band). Continue reading »