Anyone who was paying attention to cover songs a decade ago will remember The A.V. Club’s “Undercover” series. In the vein of the BBC Live Lounge and Triple J Like a Version, the entertainment web site would bring bands into their Chicago offices to cover a song. The concept, though, was the site started with a masters list of songs and the band had to pick one. The later they came in, the fewer song choices remained. It went on for years and the covers were ubiquitous (we must have posted a million of ’em). Practically every indie band of the era stopped by (many several times), and they often delivered something great.
Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.
Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).
Today’s question, suggested by staffer Curtis Zimmerman: What’s your favorite cover of a fictional song?
In Pick Five, great artists tell us about five cover songs that matter to them.
Speedy Ortiz’s third album Twerp Verse doesn’t come out until tomorrow, but it’s already making noise. NPR Music calls it “both musically expansive and [frontwoman Sadie] Dupuis’ most accessible work yet, a blend of catchy pop hooks and dexterous guitar playing,” while the New York Times praises the band’s “signature acerbic wit.” And it almost didn’t exist.
In late 2016, the band – that’s Dupuis plus guitarist Andy Molholt, bassist Darl Ferm, and drummer Mike Falcone – planned to record a new album full of peppy love songs. Then November 8th happened, and all of a sudden a bunch of chipper “lovey-dovey” tunes didn’t feel appropriate. That batch of songs “just didn’t mean anything to me anymore,” Dupuis wrote in the press release. “Social politics and protest have been a part of our music from day one, and I didn’t want to stop doing that on this album.”
Husband and wife team Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, better known as Shovels & Rope, know their way around a good cover song. We’ve shared a handful of their covers here at the site over the years, including a couple of cuts from their 2015 collection of covers, Busted Jukebox, Volume 1. From that title, it’s almost as if they knew they’d be releasing more covers at some point. Well, surprise! This week sees the release of Busted Jukebox, Volume 2, following the same format of Volume 1: a wide-range of source material reimagined with the help of some musician friends.
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!
Steven Tyler has had one of the most remarkable careers in rock ‘n’ roll history. With his band Aerosmith, he was big in the ’70s and huge in the ’90s, and his hard-earned sobriety allowed him to enjoy the second peak even more. His willingness to change with the times, moving from hard rock to rapping with Run-D.M.C. to pop-tinged rock to power ballads, kept the band relevant for multiple generations. He and the band haven’t forgotten the small towns, either – they’ve appeared on Aurora, IL cable access TV with Wayne & Garth, and they’ve enjoyed a Flaming Moe in Springfield.
He’s shown some skill apart from Aerosmith as well. Tyler has performed guest vocals with Alice Cooper and Carlos Santana. He famously judged on American Idol for two years, putting his flamboyant and playfully filthy personality on display. Now he has a solo country album in the works, proving that even a now-68-year-old dog can learn new tricks.
For many, Courtney Barnett seems to be the heir apparent to Kim Deal as the coolest woman in rock. It’s fair to say the ‘intelligent slacker’ look and sound of Kim and the scene she came from has certainly informed Barnett as a writer and a performer.