Over our time tracking cover songs (13 years this month!), we’ve written about hundreds of new tribute albums, across reviews, news stories, and, when they’re good enough, our best-of-the-year lists. We also have looked back on plenty of great tribute albums from the past in our Cover Classics series. But we’ve never pulled it all together – until now.
Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.
To this day, I can still sing along with every single Schoolhouse Rock! song, and I’m sure I’m not alone in knowing that knowledge is power. The series was first aired in the ’70s on Saturday mornings on ABC. It continued until entering a hiatus in 1985. The series then returned in 1993 with new content. After another lull starting in 2000, even more content emerged in 2002 and 2009 including a whole new series, Earth Rock, written to tackle the issue of climate change. The box set of Schoolhouse Rock! was even added to the Library of Congress in 2018, which means it is officially deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States.”
However, even as a super-fan, I was only recently made aware of this tribute album (whose proceeds partially went to the Children’s Defense Fund). Released in 1996, this album covers a variety of classics across the different series. I confess I was disappointed to not have an “Interjections!” cover. However, this album is now so elusive that I wasn’t able to even listen to some of the songs (I’m itching to hear “Verb: That’s What’s Happening” by Moby and “Conjunction Junction” by Better than Ezra).
Let’s listen to one cover each from Grammar, Multiplication, Science, and America Rock and refresh our memories on some educational basics.
They say nostalgia works in 20-year cycles, and this year the music of 1996 has been in the media a lot. And if you believe the music blogs, it turns out 1996 was a truly groundbreaking year for every possible genre. Over at SPIN: “The 96 Best Alternative Rock Songs Of 1996.” Complex: “Best Rap Songs of 1996.” Junkee: “Ten reasons 1996 was a great year for dance music”. Loudwire: “10 Best Metal Albums of 1996.” Red Bull Music: “1996: Why it was a great year for pop”. Suck it, 1995! (Kidding; similar articles were of course written last year too.)
We’ll be honest: 1996 was not some magical, pioneering year for cover songs. It was also not a terrible year. It was just, you know, another year. There’s no overarching theorem of 1996’s cover songs that wasn’t true in ’95 or ’97. But even so, Cover Me wasn’t around in 1996, so we never made a Best Cover Songs of 1996 list (our first year-end list came in 2009, with the Kings of Convenience’s “It’s My Party” topping it, and you can catch up on all the lists here). So we decided, before the year ends and we take our look at the best covers songs this year, why not take a nostalgic rewind and do 1996 just for fun, twenty years too late.