Bob Dylan has never exactly been a loquacious interviewee. From the ’60s, when he would spend interviews mocking the press, to the ’10s, where he rarely bothers giving interviews at all, comments from Bob on any given subject are usually relatively few and far between. But I was curious, as we prepare to launch our 100 Best Bob Dylan Covers Ever list on Monday, what Dylan covers has the man himself remarked upon?
Belgian electro-pop innovators Telex have unearthed a cover of Sonny & Cher’s “The Beat Goes On.” Though Telex officially called it quits in 2008 following the passing of founder Marc Moulin, the cover — re-titled “The Beat Goes On/Off” — is finally seeing the light of day. “The Beat Goes On/Off” is one of two previously unreleased tracks featured on the group’s This Is Telex, a new compilation of Telex music from the seminal electronic label Mute.
In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.
Frank Sinatra hailed from an era where singers were singers and songwriters were songwriters, and rarely the twain did meet. Great American Songbook standards penned by the likes of Irving Berlin, the Gershwin brothers, and Cole Porter were tailored to Sinatra’s specifications by master arrangers like Nelson Riddle, Gordon Jenkins, and Billy May, and brought to life by Sinatra’s formidable interpretive skill. “I’m a real stickler for perfection, in my work and most other people’s work too,” Sinatra said of his approach in 1956. “I find myself picking whatever I do apart, which I do believe is quite healthy.”
Two things strike me as I scan through our list this year. This first is that many of the highest-ranking covers are tributes to recently-deceased icons. No surprise there, I suppose. But none actually pay tribute to artists that died in 2018. They honor those we’ve been honoring for two or three years now – your Pettys, your Princes, your Bowies. Hundreds of covers of each of these legends appeared in the first days after their deaths, but many of the best posthumous covers took longer to emerge.
Good covers take time. That principle – the cover-song equivalent of the slow food movement, perhaps – holds true throughout the list. Sure, a few here appear to have arisen from sudden moments of brilliance, flash-arranged for some concert or radio promo session. But many more reveal months or even years of painstaking work to nail every element. Making someone else’s song one’s own isn’t easy. These 50 covers took the time to get it right.
– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief
Start the countdown on the next page…
The usual disclaimer: Our monthly “Best Cover Songs” aren’t ranked, and the “Honorable Mentions” aren’t necessarily worse than the others.
Update: Hear me discuss this list, along with our Best Pink Floyd Covers ranking, on SiriusXM Volume:
Angus and Julia Stone – Passionfruit (Drake cover)
Three prominent indie artists covered Drake’s “Passionfruit” this month: Franz Ferdinand, Cornelius, and, the best of the bunch, Angus and Julia Stone. Covering a rap song is easier, I suppose, when there’s no actual rapping. Few political or racial minefields in the lyrics for artists to navigate help too (for a counterexample: this month’s worst cover). For Triple J’s great series “Like a Version,” Angus and Julia Stone brought their beautiful harmonies to a smooth soul bed. It floats like Gram and Emmylou singing a Marvin Gaye song.
Probably because the song evokes such 1960s nostalgia, there have not been a lot of covers delivered with the coolness that “I Got You Babe” deserves. The song was the first single birthed from Sonny and Cher’s 1965 debut record Look at Us, an album that featured then-timely covers of “500 Miles,” “Unchained Melody,” and “Then He Kissed Me.”
UB40 along with Chrissie Hynde delivered probably the most popular – and, for some, the most snooze-inducing – version of “I Got You, Babe.” Other than them, there are versions from the Bennett, Sinatra, Jones crooners, plus the Etta James-led siren version, but most of the covers have fallen woefully short.