Jan 292021
 

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

pixies covers

In a 1994 interview with Rolling Stone, here’s how Kurt Cobain described the genesis of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

“I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band—or at least a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard.”

Surprisingly, the Pixies’ most famous superfan – the man who said he should be in a Pixies cover band – never covered the Pixies. Nirvana were rarely shy about covering their influences, from the Vaselines to the Velvet Underground, but maybe the Pixies were just too obvious. Every Nirvana song, Kurt might have thought, was just a Pixies cover a few degrees removed.

That line of thinking didn’t stop many other artists, though. Pixies covers abound, both from obvious acolytes in the ’90s alt-rock scene to musician fans in other genres who found a way to make Pixies songs sound like bossa nova or doo-wop. We’ve narrowed it down to the best thirty for our list, below. We hope you la la love it.

PS. The artist for this month’s list was selected by our Patreon supporters. To have a say in who we tackle next, sign up for our Patreon here.

The list continues on Page 2.

Nov 022020
 
best cover songs october 2020
Andrew Bird – Andalucia (John Cale cover)

Props to any musician who chooses some non-obvious tunes for their Christmas album. Even Joni Mitchell’s “River” has so often been served as the “surprise” holiday song by now that it feels pretty played out. Andrew Bird covers a few standards on his upcoming Hark! – “Oh Holy Night,” “White Christmas” (though weirdly not the hymn that gave the album its name) – but makes room for some seasonally-appropriate fare John Prine, Handsome Family, and, on the first single, John Cale. Continue reading »

Jul 262018
 

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

rolling stones covers

Mick Jagger turns 75 today, three decades past his famous 1975 benchmark: “I’d rather be dead than sing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m 45.” Mick’s still singing “Satisfaction” today – and so are a lot of other people. So what better way to celebrate his birthday than with a countdown of the best covers of Rolling Stones songs of all time?

It’s not that we haven’t posted plenty before. They’re actually our fifth most-posted band, after Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, and Neil Young (a little surprised about that one, but as of this post, Neil’s only ahead by one). We’ve shared our favorite covers of “Ruby Tuesday,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Wild Horses,” “Paint It Black,” and “Back Street Girl.” We’ve posted covers of every track on Sticky Fingers, Beggars Banquet, and – in case those weren’t long enough – Exile on Main St. And it’s not just covers of the band we adore either; the Stones’ recent album of blues covers ascended to the very short list of albums we’ve awarded five stars.

But we’ve never pulled it all in one place until today. Just as we did for Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Beyoncé, and Talking Heads, we’re counting down the best covers of Rolling Stones songs ever. The length beats Floyd’s forty-song record; we’ve got fifty Stones covers, from A (Albert King) to Z (Zydeco, Buckwheat). The Stones have been covered in all eras, all genres, and by all sorts of people. By the time you read this, the next all-time-great Stones cover might well have landed.

You can’t always get what you want, as the man once said – but if you click on, you just might get what you need.

Jun 132016
 
frankie cosmos liz phair

For a Northside Festival showcase over the weekend, the music book series 33 1/3 hosted a series of all-cover shows dedicated to three albums they’re written about. Deradoorian covered Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, Ava Luna covered Serge Gainsbourg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson, and Frankie Cosmos covered Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. We have videos from all three below. Continue reading »

Apr 172013
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

It’s hard to believe, but in a couple months we’ll be celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the release of Exile in Guyville, the benchmark indie album that revealed Liz Phair to the world at large. She won a reputation for her lyrical candor, never using a euphemism when a dysphemism will do (look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls), and delivering those lyrics in a perfectly imperfect everywoman voice, set to spare but incredibly catchy melodies. Subsequent albums saw her staying true to her voice no matter where it took her, and as songs like “H.W.C.” attested, she never lost her spunk. Continue reading »

Hairy Palms

 Posted by at 4:09 pm  No Responses »
Apr 142009
 

So there are a lot of songs about masturbation. Let’s just leave the introduction at that.

Warren Zevon – Dancing With Myself (Billy Idol)
Why in 1992, eleven years aft er the song’s double popularity as hit singles from Idol’s original group Generation X (shortened to Gen X for this record) and as a solo cut, Zevon decided to bust out his one-man acoustic cover live is beyond me. But I’m glad he did. One can only wonder if he danced while singing it (the literal sort of dancing I mean). For a more unintentionally disturbing version, check out Gonzo singing about it on Muppets Tonight. Yikes. [Buy]

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires – My Ding-a-Ling (Chuck Berry)
The fact that this was Chuck Berry’s only number one hit – in 1972 no less – should be a source of shame to music fans everywhere. Still, the rock legend may have pioneered the musical-instrument-as-penis metaphor that lead to “Bang on the Drum All Day” and the Dylan song below. This horn-fueled reggae take livens it up that you can ignore the inane lyrics. [Buy]

Claw Hammer – Praying Hands (Devo)
This one is basically an instruction manual on technique, proclaiming Devo’s renowned class for the world to hear. Equally tasteful, Claw Hammer breaks it down into loose garage rock when they cover the full album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo. [Buy]

Scala & Kolacny Brothers – I Touch Myself (The Divynals)
Now this song has never been particularly subtle, but somehow when a full female choir sings it together it becomes extra creepy. Like Renee Fleming telling you way more than you wanted to know. [Buy]

David Bowie – Pictures of Lily (The Who)
Townsend claims he wrote this because he wanted to see a song about masturbation become a hit. Well he succeeded, immortalizing British actress Lillie Langtry in a somewhat twisted way. She did indeed die in 1929, as the song says, and one wonders how the “Jersey Lily” would respond to her most famous legacy. [Buy]

Liz Phair – Turning Japanese (The Vapors)
All of these songs are more or less gross, but in 1980 the Vapors took things one step further by adding racial sensitivity to the mix. I won’t go into the details about how turning Japanese relates to masturbation, but it’s gross. Like many masturbatory groups, they deny the charges, saying that “Turning Japanese is all the clichés about angst and youth and turning into something you didn’t expect to.” Well, that’s probably not why Liz Phair, singer of the classics “Blowjob Queen” and “H.W.C.” (look up what it stands for) chose to cover it. [Buy]

Jason and the Scorchers – Absolutely Sweet Marie (Bob Dylan)
Living up to their name, this cowbilly punk crew scorches through this Blonde on Blonde classic. Though this is Bob at his most lyrically inscrutable, some metaphors are clear. “I’m just sitting here beating on my trumpet” = best euphemism ever. [Buy]

Eden Automatic – She Bop (Cyndi Lauper)
Time for the ladies to have a say. Eden Automatic gives a surf-rock swagger to Cyndi’s pleasure-proud hit, precluding Britney Spears’ “Touch of My Hand” by several decades. Bonus: You can download Eden’s full album for free over at Aimestreet. [Buy]

The Raconteurs – Teenage Kicks (The Undertones)
Alright, now here’s where I draw the line. Everyone says this songs about masturbation, but I don’t see it. The Raconteurs do such a kick-ass version though I’ll let you decide for yourself. [Buy]

Paddy Milner – Blister in the Sun (Violent Femmes)
To tide you off before the Femmes-themed post I hope to do soon, here’s a jaunty piano-backed take on their biggest (or only) hit. Milner bounces around the keys with strange cadences and notes, backing his more conventional voice. Very Femme. [Buy]