This month, Joe Strummer would have turned 70. In a few weeks, Dark Horse Records will release the compilation Joe Strummer 002: The Mescaleros Years. To promote it, director Lance Bangs filmed a video of Eddie Vedder covering the posthumously-released Mescaleros track “Long Shadow.” It’s a simple fireside performance, similar to Vedder buddy Neil Young’s lockdown videos, and hopefully will bring more attention to a lesser known non-Clash track from the Strummer catalog.Continue reading »
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 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.
Perpetual Groove are a jam band that was originally active from about 1997 to 2013 during which they put out five albums of southern-tinged, jammy rock, with hints of indie rock mixed in. They reunited in 2015, mostly touring and putting out live albums, with one more full length release of original material in 2019. This month they’ve released their first all covers EP C’mon. Covers? with songs from Peter Gabriel, The Cars, The Go-Go’s, and Johnny Cash. The two best tracks are the Cars and Go-Go’s covers.Continue reading »
There’s nothing to get you out of the southern hemisphere mid-winter blues than a sunny ska cover. Orange County 7-piece Bite Me Bambi have done just that with a superb cover of The Go-Go’s 80’s hit “Our Lips are Sealed.”Continue reading »
Typically, the world of cover songs does not change that much year-to-year. You can point to big shifts across decades, sure, but the difference between cover songs in 2018 and 2019, broadly speaking? Negligible. But 2020 was – in this as in everything else – very different.
As concerts ground to a sudden halt, musicians turned to live-from-quarantine home performances, first on their social media, then, once some kind of business model got built up, on various paid platforms. And cover songs were a big part of that. Some musicians did themed covers nights, like Ben Gibbard on YouTube early on or Lucinda Williams’ more produced Lu’s Jukebox series more recently. Others just felt the freedom in such an intimate environment to try things out, spontaneously covering influences, inspirations, or even songs they only half knew. We collected dozens of those early home covers in our Quarantine Covers series, and still only hit a small fraction.
Musicians eventually settled in, and productions got a little more elaborate than the staring-at-your-iPhone-camera look. Witness the heavy metal comedy series Two Minutes to Late Night, which transitioned from a long-running live show in New York City to a series of YouTube covers with dozens of metal-scene ringers covering songs from their couches, corpse paint and all. Witness Miley Cyrus’s endless series of killer cover locales, from a fire pit to an empty Whisky a Go Go. Or witness long-running radio covers series like BBC’s Live Lounge or Triple J’s Like a Version – often the source of a song or two on these lists. First they had musicians tape special covers from home, then, in the BBC’s case, they moved to a giant warehouse studio for suitable social distancing. (Triple J’s pretty much back to post-coronavirus business as usual – sure, Australia, rub it in.)
There’s one other major way covers reflected 2020, and it’s almost too painful to think about, so I’ll just list their names. John Prine. Adam Schlesinger. Hal Willner. Charley Pride. So many musicians taken by this virus, many reflected in some of these covers (Pride’s death happened after our list was finalized, but tributes are already rolling in). In a year filled with tragedies, covers offered one place for musicians and fans to find solace.
Many of the songs on our year-end list reflect this terrible year in one way or another. But you know what? Many don’t. Because covers can also offer a fun respite from all the stress. Doom metal Doobie Brothers? Post Malone on mandolin? A viral TikTok hit by a guy who calls himself Ritt Momney? Those have nothing to do with anything! But they’re what we live for.
Tanya Donelly has a long history, as both singer-songwriter of Belly and solo artist, of interweaving emotionally charged originals with covers similarly forged from despair, heartbreak, and loneliness. The results have frequently been sublime, as when she complemented “Gepetto” with a heartfelt version of Gram Parsons’ “Hot Burrito #1” on the Gepetto EP of 1992, or when she accompanied “New England” and “Days of Grace” with an equally fervent rendition of the Beatles’ “Long, Long, Long” on 2006’s This Hungry Life. The covers have usually taken the backseat as B-sides and deep cuts, or as contributions to tribute albums to the likes of The Smiths or Elliott Smith. Yet now, in this topsy-turvy year of 2020, they are the main event; Donelly has not only released a series of quarantine covers for charity (featuring Labi Siffre’s “Bless the Telephone,” and the Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man”), but has also polished off a covers album in collaboration with the Parkington Sisters, Tanya Donelly and the Parkington Sisters.
It’s Donelly’s first all-covers album, therefore, that stands before us, but it’s clearly no ordinary covers album. The Belly, Breeders, and Throwing Muses star initiated it out of a desire to do something different with the format in the wake of Juliana Hatfield’s recent successes with Sings Olivia Newton-John (2018), and Sings The Police(2019). She might well have followed in the steps of her sometime collaborator and fellow doyen of New England alt-rock by making, effectively, a tribute album to one of her musical heroes: Kate Bush, say, or Echo and the Bunnymen. But instead, Donelly has attempted to bring a sense of unity to nine reinterpretations of songs that have been hugely meaningful to her, by way of the moody string arrangements and somber vocal harmonies that the classically trained, Massachusetts-based Parkington Sisters are known for. Continue reading »