Oct 292021
 

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

The Go Go's "Beauty and the Beat"

The Go-Go’s are the first LA punk group to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You might be saying “Huh? Aren’t the Go-Go’s pretty mainstream pop?” Sure, but they weren’t always. The recent documentary about the Go-Go’s uncovers the band’s punk roots. The band members themselves have talked about their early days, finding their groove in the LA punk rock scene, and emphasizing the role women played in that scene. To experience a little bit of that early sound, there is a collection of early recordings and demos here.

The Go-Go’s eventual transition towards pop came with some bumps, including initial resistance to the production on Beauty and the Beat as well as a change in the bass lineup from Margot Olavarria to Kathy Valentine, at least in part due to pressure to leave some of the most hardcore punkiness behind. The bass spot turned over often in the history of the Go-Go’s (for any Harry Potter/Go-Go’s cross over fans, the bass spot in the band is like the Hogwarts Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher position).

During the band’s first break-up, Valentine took Jane Wiedlin’s spot as rhythm guitarist and Paula Jean Brown became the band’s bassist. When the band reunited, Valentine went back to bass, but then later during tours in the 2010s, Abby Travis had to tap in when Valentine was injured. In 2013, Valentine left the group and sued the band. Despite this tension, Valentine returned in 2016. Otherwise the band make-up has stayed pretty stable aside from the change of drummer from Ellisa Bello to Gina Schock, who also happened to sue the group at one point, early on in the band’s career. Some of the lore about Bello and Olavarria can be found here.

The Go-Go’s have inspired many women musicians to be fearless and unapologetic about their sound. They have been cited as influences for riot grrrls and Spice Girls alike; they were girl-power even before the term “girl-power” was coined and popularized. Their debut album, Beauty and the Beat, was the first album written, sung, and played entirely by women to hit #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Actually, that hasn’t happened ever again. Girl power indeed! 

To celebrate their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Beauty and the Beat‘s undefeated status, we aim to find punk-esque covers of this full album.

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Oct 292021
 

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

learn to fly covers

I sometimes wonder if I’ve heard “Learn to Fly” more times than any other song. This isn’t because it’s my favorite song ever or anything. It’s a quirk of technology.

In the early file sharing days, the days when it was high-speed if your 128kbps MP3 took “only” 20 minutes to download, Winamp was the digital music player of choice. When you added a song to Winamp, it simply appeared at the bottom of a single long playlist. And when you opened Winamp, it would start playing that playlist right from the top. For whatever reason, the first MP3 I ever downloaded was “Learn to Fly,” so every time I opened Winamp, the “Learn to Fly” riff would kick right in. That happened probably once or twice a day. For several years. Hard to think of any other song that can compete for that level of play. Continue reading »

Oct 272021
 

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

Todd Rundgren

Despite his being one of the honorees, Todd Rundgren will not be attending the 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland. He already has plans that evening–namely, playing his own headlining show a few hours away in Cincinnati. But that isn’t the only reason he won’t be there. Truth be told, Todd doesn’t think too highly of the Hall, telling Ultimate Classic Rock that it is “an industry invention” and that “true halls of fame are for retirees and dead people, because your legacy has been established. I’m too busy working to worry about my legacy — and plan to continue working until whenever.”

But he is well aware that Hall inductions are a meaningful thing to the majority of artists who get the nod, going on to say that he’d “striven since the nomination to just not say anything. Because I don’t want to rain on anybody else’s parade. A lot of artists take this seriously. Just because I don’t, doesn’t mean I should try and spoil it for them. I would just like it to elapse without any kind of bad vibes or anything being a result of it. I’d just like it to happen and be over with.”

The fact that Todd doesn’t care about his induction doesn’t change the fact that he is a melodic wizard genius. A spectacularly soulful weirdo. An eloquently empathetic pop poet who wants to keep pushing forward for as long as he is able. It’s okay if he’s not into basking in his legacy or in need of official validation of his achievements right now. He’s still got work to do.
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Oct 272021
 

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

Carole King tribute

For a time in the 1970s, Tapestry was the album to have under your arm, especially if you wanted, or needed, to show off some serious and sensitive right-on dude vibes with, um, the ladies. In those far off and distant days, as well as being, for real, a stellar album, transforming the shy Brill Building hit song machine into a credible songwriter of some rather more finesse than had been earlier appreciated, Carole King became, in an instant, a feminist icon, appealing across the range of an increasingly politicized gender awareness. While this may have neither been her aim or intention, the timing was perfect, the world ready and aching for singer-songwriters able to intelligently bare their emotions over some gentle laid back Laurel Canyon arrangements.

But let’s not forget quite how impressive the King legacy had been, prior to Tapestry. She wrote, or co-wrote, often with first husband, Gerry Goffin, 118 Billboard hits, making her the prime successful female songwriter of the latter half of the 20th century. Songs that have become standards, songs with a longevity that have you remembering the words immediately, after decades, prompted by a single note. Songs like “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Goin’ Back,” and many many more, with versions aplenty in any genre you might wish to pick, if usually prime pop fodder in their initial iterations, with King herself far from the spotlight. (OK, she had also had a crack at performing, in 1962, with her gauche and affecting “It Might As Well Rain Until September,” which was a hit, but the world then preferred her songs performed by sassy girl groups and tight-shirted medallion men crooners.)

Divorcing Goffin in 1968, and wearying of the world of processing chart hits for others, King moved to L.A., to Laurel Canyon, arriving much the same time as a bevy of like-minded individuals, Her goal: to revive her own career as a performer, having put it on hold earlier thanks to the undoubted success of being a go-to writer. With neighbors like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, this was to be a fertile breeding ground for King. With an earlier album disappointing the charts, in cahoots with Taylor and much of his backing band, Tapestry slowly came together, coming out in 1971, with one of its songs already a massive hit. James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” was huge, and Taylor made sure all knew who had written it, many perhaps surprised that it was the same writer of all those 60s chart-toppers. The fact that King chose also to include a couple of those early songs, reworked and reenvisioned, amongst the newer material gave the ideal crossover between her old audience and a massive new audience. Tapestry stormed to the number one slot of the album charts, staying there for upward of three, nearly four, months. The two lead singles each hit the top of their respective chart. Acclaimed by all, and grabbing four Grammys in 1972, it has notched up 25 million sales and counting, remaining on the chart for an astonishing 313 weeks, a record only surpassed by Pink Floyds’s Dark Side of the Moon.

So, then, what of Tapestry Revisited? Coming nearly a quarter of a century later, in 1995, the idea was to recreate Tapestry with a roster of the great and good of the day. However, rather than remembering the idea and the ambience of the original, with its mood of getting it together in the country, here it was if the older and earlier King was being celebrated, as the artists chosen came, largely, from the pool of pop royalty rather than from singer-songwriters plowing any similar farrow at that time. So we get the Bee Gees, Celine Dion, and Rod Stewart, he then at the peak of his satin and sashes ridiculousness. But, fair play, if the job required was to draw a new attention to the songs and their writer, this it would certainly be capable of doing.

Although Tapestry Revisited went gold, it peaked at #53 and few would put it above the original. But it has its moments.
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Oct 262021
 
99 Problems covers

Jay-Z  announced the first rappers to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, during the induction ceremony. Now he comes full circle, being inducted himself this year. However, Jay-Z’s induction is not without controversy. Even though other rappers have been inducted since 2007, like Run-DMC, N.W.A, Tupac Shakur, and the Notorious B.I.G. last year, there are some who still question whether rap artists “belong” in the hall of fame dedicated to “rock and roll.” Others think the hall of fame should just get a rebranding.

Something I hope we can all agree on is the fact that “99 Problems” is one of Jay-Z’s masterpieces, managing to be both flippant with a hook and serious while recounting his experiences of driving while black. The song has stuck around long after its debut in 2004. Jay-Z has updated the lyrics in two election cycles to be political: in 2009, he had 99 problems but a Bush wasn’t one and in 2012 a Mitt wasn’t one. He has used the song to cross over into other fan bases, jamming to this song with Phish and Pearl Jam.

The song has inspired covers and mashups that genre-bend, and here we’ll find other covers in the same spirit of those innovative covers.

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Oct 252021
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Tina Turner covers

Tina Turner’s place in rock ‘n’ roll history has long been assured. In fact, those words could have been spoken forty years ago, thanks to her Hall of Fame-worthy career with Ike Turner. But it’s what she’s done since then that really puts her over the top. She overcame a textbook case of a hellish marriage, turning tragedy into triumph. Her solo work has become her signature work, something no Beatle or Supreme could ever say. And for the past twenty years, she’s been in the Guinness Book of Records for selling more concert tickets than any solo artist before or since. Make no mistake: her second trip into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is even more deserving than her first.
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