Last month, we presented covers of one-hit wonders of the 1950s and the 1960s. And we’re back to do it again!
This month, we’ll tackle huge hits by not-so-huge bands from the ’70s and, next week, the ’80s. Today, covers of classics like “Spirit in the Sky,” “Black Betty,” “Why Can’t We Live Together,” and “Video Killed The Radio Star” (I would have thought that one was ’80s given the famous MTV connection, but it came out November 1979). Then next week we’ll dive into perhaps the greatest decade for one-hit wonders cover.Continue reading »
When Elvis Costello first appeared on the scene, the press fell over themselves not only to praise him, but to pigeonhole him. He was a punk. He was a new waver. He was a nerd, what with his glasses and gawky suits (Dave Marsh memorably said that “Elvis Costello looks like Buddy Holly after drinking a can of STP Oil Treatment”). Most commonly, he was lumped in with Graham Parker, Joe Jackson, Billy Joel, and others as an Angry Young Man. “I’m not angry,” Costello protested on My Aim Is True, and everyone nodded and smiled and patted his head.
Costello wasn’t interested in living on that particular cul-de-sac. He began expanding his musical palette, making more complex songs with more complex rhymes. He delved into other genres, starting with country & western (to the dismay of both Costello fans and C&W fans, and to the pleasant surprise of music fans) and moving on to blues, jazz, orchestral, classical pop, and more. As he became a greater student, he became a greater teacher, giving credit in word and action to his influences, penning a well-received autobiography, and hosting the talk/music show Spectacle, where he interviewed and played with his peers. He continues to record – his most recent album, The Boy Named If, was released earlier this year – and has settled into the role of elder statesman that his talent earned him long ago.
Costello turns one year elder today, his 68th birthday. We’re celebrating with a collection of the fifty best Elvis Costello covers we could get our hands on. They reflect his wide range of styles, revel in his literacy, plumb his depths. Most of all, they reveal his heart, showing over and over again how his love of song can lift, wrench, open up the people who listen to him and to his music. We hope you find this list as worthy of celebration as Elvis Costello is.
Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.
Regular readers might not all be aware of erstwhile UK teatime favorites, the TV duo of Sooty and Sweep. Whilst the show limps on in several formats, time has not always been kind to Sweep, a roan cocker spaniel who first made his performing debut, astonishingly, as far back as 1957, and he has had to learn to adjust to the changing demands of a fickle audience. In the last year or so he has discovered a powerful and emotive singing voice: previously able only to vocalize in a fashion understandable to his close colleagues and family, he has learnt how to sing. Whilst this is not fully understood, this is perhaps akin to a stroke victim retaining or recouping the power of song ahead of the return of speech. and, although he can now speak, this famously first taking place on air in 2014, song still remains easier.
Sweep, always a keen musician anyway, through his longstanding membership of the Sooty Braden Showband between the late ’60s and early ’70s, has produced, to date, 186 videos, encompassing all genres and styles. These are usually solo acapella performances, he proving himself adept at maintaining rhythm with clapped hands and vocal beatbox effects, much in the style of Bobby McFerrin, with polyphony and multiphony. Continue reading »
In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.
If Doug Fieger hadn’t died of cancer in February 2010, today would be his 61st birthday. By most standards, Fieger had a successful musical career. He was the lead singer for the Knack, whose debut album Get the Knack sold more than two million copies and was the number 1 album on the Billboard album chart for five weeks. The first single, the ubiquitous “My Sharona,” was the biggest song of 1979; the second, “Good Girls Don’t,” hit #11 in the US. The follow-up album went gold and spawned another Top 40 single. Thereafter, the band continued to record and tour until breaking up in 1982, then re-formed in the late 1980s, recording and touring through the early 2000s. Fieger also worked as a guest vocalist for Was (Not Was) (a band co-led by his childhood friend Don Was) and released a solo album. Most musicians — and many wannabes — would take that career in a minute. Continue reading »