“White Kross” (sometimes spelled as “White Cross”) is the final track from Sonic Youth’s critically acclaimed fourth album Sister, released in 1987. The song’s ferocious, oddly tuned guitars and Thurston Moore’s speak-singing suggest metal or industrial or another extreme genre. Yet the song’s attitude is clearly “punk,” and the sound is clearly Sonic Youth’s own, that it took more than 30 years for someone to give it the true extreme-music treatment.
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Madonna was back in the news recently, as her latest release Madame X got the music press dishing out the full “return to form” treatment. No surprise, really – that’s the de rigueur clarion call to anyone of her vintage releasing, well, almost anything. To be fair, it has its moments, but nothing can beat The Immaculate Collection, the collection of Madge’s early singles that charts her journey from odd-voiced popstrel to soft-porn audio-provocateur.
Talking Heads only ever recorded one cover, and when I talked to David Byrne about it for my book, he seemed to have mixed feelings on the subject. “There’s always a little bit of resistance to recording a cover like that because it’s kind of a crowd pleaser,” he told me. “I’d seen it happen before, where radio DJs who pick what they’re going to play will often pick a cover song… So then a band gets known for covering somebody else’s song as opposed to writing their own material. They have to go through a struggle for years to get identified with their own songs.”
Talking Heads recorded “Take Me to the River,” it became their biggest hit up to that point, and Byrne said: That’s it. No more covers. The band never followed it up with a second.
He’s relaxed the rules a bit more in his solo career, most recently covering Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout” on tour (he says he’s bringing the cover to Broadway, too). And clearly he’s been listening to covers. For his DB Radio show on his website, he just compiled a wonderfully eclectic mix of his favorite covers. The theme, he says, is artists doing the unexpected, from Sonic Youth covering The Carpenters to Miley Cyrus covering Nine Inch Nails. And when the song choice itself may not be surprising – Patti Smith covering the Rolling Stones, say – the arrangements are. Here’s what he wrote on his website:
‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.
Neil Young released his self-titled debut solo album on January 22, 1969. Well, technically he re-released it that day. It had initially landed without much fanfare the previous November, only for Young to quickly pull it from shelves due to what he deemed a subpar mix. Even in his professional infancy, decades before Pono and the Neil Young Archives, he was a stickler for quality control.
We hope this list would pass muster with him. At 50 songs, it’s our longest to date (tied only with The Rolling Stones) and still barely scratches the surface. We could have quite easily listed the best 50 covers of “Heart of Gold” or “Like a Hurricane” alone. He gets covered about as much as any songwriter alive, and about as well too.
Neil hasn’t slowed down in his own age, and neither has the flow of new covers. Some of the covers below came out near 50 years ago themselves. Others only landed in the last year or two. No doubt another contender will arrive tomorrow. Neil never stops, and, thankfully, neither do covers of his songs.
Others can offer more on Anthony Bourdain’s massive impact on the worlds of food, or travel, or recovery, or just living life to the fullest. But anyone who followed his work closely knew in additional to all that, he was a music superfan. He adored 1970s punk from his early days working in New York kitchens in particular; he wrote a must-read essay on that thirty years later for SPIN.
So we’re going to pay tribute the only way we know how: With covers of Bourdain’s favorite songs. Which we know from playlists he made over the years for Rolling Stone and KCRW. We hope he would have liked these covers of the soundtrack to his life.
Last year I did a roundup of the Best Cover Songs of 1996. It was a fun project to retroactively compile one of our year-end lists for a year before Cover Me was born. I wanted to do it again this year, but continuing the twentieth-anniversary theme with 1997 seemed a little boring. Turns out 1997 also featured a bunch of Afghan Whigs covers.
So to mix it up, I decided to go a decade further back and look at 1987. Needless to say, the landscape looked very different for covers. For one, far more of that year’s biggest hits were covers than we saw for 1996. The year had #1 cover hits in Heart’s “Alone,” the Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter,” Los Lobos’ “La Bamba,” Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” Club Nouveau’s “Lean on Me,” and Kim Wilde’s “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” Plus ubiquitous hits that didn’t quite top the charts, but remain staples of the songs-you-didn’t-know-were-covers lists, Buster Poindexter’s “Hot Hot Hot” and George Harrison’s “Got My Mind Set On You.”