Third Man Records, Jack White’s record label, has picked up some unexpected talent in its short existence. There was that choir of public transit employees. There was Carl Sagan. Now there’s Wanda Jackson. The “Queen of Rockabilly” first began recording in the ‘50s, but, as her upcoming album proclaims, The Party Ain’t Over. Jack White produced the album, and now we have our first taste. Surprise: It features crazy guitar from you-know-who!
Download This! scours the web’s dark corners for cool cover freebies. View past installments.
Formed in 1991 at the University of Vermont, Strangefolk has released five studio albums, a few live ones, and hosted their own annual music festival. Their music falls in the realm of rock, blues, folk, and bluegrass…okay, fine, they’re a jam band. They have a strong and loyal following that has spawned the charitable organization Strangers Helping Strangers, which collects non-perishable food items at their concerts and donates them to local food banks. For over 10 years, the volunteer-run organization has been aiding communities and their work has extended beyond Strangefolk gigs, partnering with dozens of other bands to achieve their goals. Busy guys.
At their own Garden of Eden festival in 2006, Strangefolk first performed a full set of Led Zeppelin covers under the moniker The Tells. The Tells have popped up a few times since to perform all-cover sets of Zeppelin (again), The Raconteurs (with a couple bonus covers of The White Stripes), and the Grateful Dead. Even under their own name, Strangefolk have no qualms about pulling out a cover or two during their live sets.
If you’ve ever attended a music festival, you need to know Consequence of Sound. If you ever plan on attending a music festival, you need to know Consequence of Sound. If you have no interest in music festivals whatsoever, you need to wise up…and then you need to know Consequence of Sound. In addition to the site’s regular music news and features, their Festival Outlook has established itself as the premiere source for festival info. From lineup info (which they always seem to know before anyone else) to reviews, their coverage spans ‘em all, from the big boys (Bonnaroo, Coachella) to the underdogs (Ghoulsfest?).
Suffice to say: These guys know their festivals. So as fest season winds down, we checked in with some CoS writers (of whom – full disclosure – I am one) to hear the best festival covers they’ve ever witnessed. Here’s what they offered. Each has a review and a video so you can vicariously experience the insanity.
After you finish here, hop over to CoS’ Friday Mixtape! The covers were chosen by yours truly.
The first post of the month always features covers of every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
The thing most surprising about the music on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is its accessibility. Just imagine someone hearing the concept behind this album for the first time. “So it’s about a transsexual alien who tells the world it only has five years to survive. This news makes the transsexual alien sad, so he writes some songs and forms a hit band. Then he becomes Jesus for awhile, until other aliens come along and rip him into little bits to absorb his essence.” Good God, the person would think, what could music about that possibly sound like? Well, it turns out it sounds like good old-fashioned rock and roll with a sprinkle of glam. No one (including Bowie) really understands the plotline, but everyone can get on board with the incredible music.
Arcade Fire – Five Years
In 2005 Wynn Butler and the Arcade Fire crew performed this with Bowie himself at a iTunes-released Fashion Rocks concert (great video here). This comes from around that time, a Bowie-less concert performance that features all the bombast we’ve come to expect from the Fire. [Buy]
Tim Reynolds – Soul Love
Longtime Dave Matthews sideman Tim Reynolds may be one of the best acoustic guitar players around today. He’s got dozens of concerts available for free download at archive.org, most featuring a wide selection of instrumental covers like this one. [Buy]
L.A. Guns – Moonage Daydream
One of the best opening couplets in rock: “I’m an alligator / I’m a mama-papa coming for you!” The Whites Stripes do a raw version of this live (video), but stay tuned for some more polished Jack White. [Buy]
Nena – Starman
You probably know Nena from her hit “99 Luftballoons,” unless you live in Germany where she’s a legitimate artist with an actual career and everything. Wherever you’re from, her album Cover Me (dumb name, huh) is worth snagging, if only for the phenomenal two-sentence Wikipedia description: “Cover Me is a cover album by German pop star Nena, released in 2007. It contains songs that she likes.” Apparently one song she likes is a German-language version of “Heroes.” [Buy]
The Raconteurs – It Ain’t Easy (Ron Davies)
I used to exclude albums with non-original songs from Full Albums consideration until the irony of excluding artists who did covers from a cover songs blog became too great. Plus, we know Jack White’s a fan of the album (see above), so his shrieking guitar work is surely tribute to original Ziggy player Mick Ronson. [Buy]
Seu Jorge – Lady Stardust
Wes Anderson is a weird director. There’s no other explanation to explain why he scored his The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou with singer/actor Jorge’s Portugese-language versions of Bowie classics. Anderson even put videos of Jorge performing the songs in the movie! Here’s the clip for “Lady Stardust.” [Buy]
Techno Cowboy – Star
One fine day singer-songwriter Brad Stubbs decided to strap in some weird 80s instruments under pseudonym Techno Cowboy and record The Ziggy Stardust Omnichord Album. The world was never the same. [Buy]
Shesus – Hang On To Yourself
Good band name, badass band. [Buy]
derpferdheissthorst – Ziggy Stardust
This one was recorded for one of our earliest Cover Commissions series, narrowly beating “The Safety Dance” and “You Spin Me Around.” If you like what you hear (and you will), these German gents have a few more covers available at their spiffy new website. [Buy]
Golden Delicious – Suffragette City
David Bowie loved Mott the Hoople so much he offered them this song if they agreed not to break up. They declined, so Bowie came back with a second offer: “All the Young Dudes.” They recorded it, had a massive hit…then broke up anyway. [Buy]
Black Box Recorder – Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide
The original plays while “the infinites” tear a washed-up old Ziggy to bits onstage. This cover would be better suited to soundtrack the last dance at prom. Until the unexpected ending. [Buy]
Jack White is best known as the frontman for the White Stripes, but these days he’s making waves in plenty of other ways. Whether it’s his newest project The Dead Weather, his new record label, his vinyl-fetishist record store, or his appearance in guitar god documentary It Might Get Loud, White’s a hard man to avoid. It’s hard to keep track of all his musical projects, but here’s an attempt at an overview. In chronological order, here’s a look at the other (ie. Meg-free) side of Jack White.
Goober and the Peas – Snoopy’s Christmas (The Royal Guardsmen)
Those who were shocked by Jack’s debut as the Dead Weather’s drummer hadn’t heard this band, in which Jack briefly played drums as “Doc.” His first release with them was the three-song Christmas record A Christmas Eve Get-Together With… A cover of one of my favorite holiday songs kicks it off. [Buy]
Two Star Tabernacle – Sixteen Tons (Merle Travis)
The briefly-lived Tabernacle never released a record (though their two tunes backing Andrew Williams, available here, are phenomenal). There are two live bootlegs floating around though, with Jack rocking the guitar. More importantly, he takes on a few vocal duties from this ’98 track, his nasal holler already very recognizable. [Buy]
The Hentchmen – Some Other Guy (Richie Barrett)
Jack switched between bass and guitar duties for the Hentchmen, appearing on their excellent garage-rock release Hentch-Forth.Five. It kicks off with a couple covers: “Psycho Daisies” by the Yardbirds (White would later back Jeff Beck live) and this classic rock’n’roll jammer that the Beatles recorded too. [Buy]
Jack White and The Bricks – Ooh! My Soul (Little Richard)
A hint of things to come in this live jam session with Brendan Benson, later of the Racs, Ben Blackwell (Dirtbombs) and Kevin Peyok (The Waxwings). It’s mostly White Stripes tunes (we’re at ’99 already), but they close with an roaring take on this Little Richard (and others) tune that hears Jack attempt Richie’s falsetto holler. It sounds unrehearsed and the recording quality isn’t great. Something tells me Jack would approve. [Buy]
The Upholsterers – Ain’t Superstitious (Willie Dixon)
Before Jack was a Raconteur, before he was a White Stripe, he was an upholsterer. Yes, that’s lower-case for a reason: Jack actually ran Third Man Upholstery, and was apparently pretty good at it. Here he teams up with his boss in the biz Brenan Muldoon for a three-song record where you can hear the assertive, guitar-wailing White coming into his own. [Buy]
Jack White – Fragile Girl (The Waxwings)
Recorded exactly one month before the Stripes’ breakthrough White Blood Cells came out, this solo concert finds Jack and his guitar at local Detroit venue the Gold Dollar playing tribute to heroes like Blind Willie McTell (“Dyin’ Crapshooter’s Blues”) and Beck (“Cold Brains”). Here he remembers some local boys, some of whom he’d played with (see The Bricks above). [Buy]
Jack White and Beck – Last Fair Deal Gone Down (Robert Johnson)
Jack and Beck have a history of turning up at each other’s gigs, as happened at this Michigan Beck show where the pair jammed out on a few tunes. It’s no secret Jack loves the blues, so this delta classic proved a perfect choice. [Buy]
Jack White – Wayfaring Stranger (Trad.)
I’ve never seen the film, but I can say with confidence that Cold Mountain has one of the greatest soundtracks ever. That’s due in no small part to Jack’s participation. He does six solo recordings that evoke Appalachian country with mandolin, fiddle, and banjo. More than anything though it’s his voice that stands out, showing the singer underneath the shouting. [Buy]
The Raconteurs – Teenage Kicks (The Undertones)
And…we’re back to shouting. When you hear the furious rendition of this one-hit-wonder you’ll be glad for the volume. [Buy]
The Raconteurs – Keep It Clean (Charley Jordan)
The Racs’ second album Consolers of the Lonely contained a cover of “Rich Kid’s Blues.” This live track is in a similar vein, but better, Jack White singing about coca-cola who, as you’ll remember, he wrote a song for himself. This come from a soundboard recording from Bonnaroo ’08 and is one you’ll want to put on repeat. [Buy]
Jack White and Bob Dylan – Meet Me In the Morning (Bob Dylan)
This one stretches definition of cover, I know. Jack’s covered Dylan on many occasions, but here he’s covering Dylan with Dylan standing right behind him. I consider it a cover though ‘cause old Bob doesn’t do a lot, standing back and letting Jack rip at this ’07 concert. It’s a cover Jack hasn’t done anywhere else, chosen presumably for its local Nashville reference. The next night, Jack rejoined Bob’s band for more familiar quasi-covers “One More Cup of Coffee” and “Outlaw Blues.” [Buy]
The Dead Weather – You Just Can’t Win (Them)
I saw the Dead Weather last week (what inspired this post) and since they’ve only got one record out, they padded their set with a few covers. Bob Dylan’s “New Pony” (from the record), Pentagram’s “Forever My Queen,” West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band’s (who?) “Child of a Few Hours Is Burning To Death” (what?), and this. We first heard this one as the b-side to their “Treat Me Like Your Mother” single, and that’s where this come from. It doesn’t like Van Morrison, but it does sound bad-ass as hell. [Buy]
Dexter Romweber Duo – Last Kind Word Blues (Geechie Wiley)
I mentioned Jack’s record label in the introduction. Well this is one of his first releases from earlier this year, a 7” by the Dex Romweber Duo. Jack joins in on both sides of the record, which (sell-out!) can also be purchased from iTunes. It doesn’t get much more obscure than Geechie (or Geeshie) Wiley, but then again Jack does obscure better than most. [Buy]
So there are a lot of songs about masturbation. Let’s just leave the introduction at that.
Warren Zevon – Dancing With Myself (Billy Idol)
Why in 1992, eleven years aft er the song’s double popularity as hit singles from Idol’s original group Generation X (shortened to Gen X for this record) and as a solo cut, Zevon decided to bust out his one-man acoustic cover live is beyond me. But I’m glad he did. One can only wonder if he danced while singing it (the literal sort of dancing I mean). For a more unintentionally disturbing version, check out Gonzo singing about it on Muppets Tonight. Yikes. [Buy]
Byron Lee and the Dragonaires – My Ding-a-Ling (Chuck Berry)
The fact that this was Chuck Berry’s only number one hit – in 1972 no less – should be a source of shame to music fans everywhere. Still, the rock legend may have pioneered the musical-instrument-as-penis metaphor that lead to “Bang on the Drum All Day” and the Dylan song below. This horn-fueled reggae take livens it up that you can ignore the inane lyrics. [Buy]
Claw Hammer – Praying Hands (Devo)
This one is basically an instruction manual on technique, proclaiming Devo’s renowned class for the world to hear. Equally tasteful, Claw Hammer breaks it down into loose garage rock when they cover the full album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo. [Buy]
Scala & Kolacny Brothers – I Touch Myself (The Divynals)
Now this song has never been particularly subtle, but somehow when a full female choir sings it together it becomes extra creepy. Like Renee Fleming telling you way more than you wanted to know. [Buy]
David Bowie – Pictures of Lily (The Who)
Townsend claims he wrote this because he wanted to see a song about masturbation become a hit. Well he succeeded, immortalizing British actress Lillie Langtry in a somewhat twisted way. She did indeed die in 1929, as the song says, and one wonders how the “Jersey Lily” would respond to her most famous legacy. [Buy]
Liz Phair – Turning Japanese (The Vapors)
All of these songs are more or less gross, but in 1980 the Vapors took things one step further by adding racial sensitivity to the mix. I won’t go into the details about how turning Japanese relates to masturbation, but it’s gross. Like many masturbatory groups, they deny the charges, saying that “Turning Japanese is all the clichés about angst and youth and turning into something you didn’t expect to.” Well, that’s probably not why Liz Phair, singer of the classics “Blowjob Queen” and “H.W.C.” (look up what it stands for) chose to cover it. [Buy]
Jason and the Scorchers – Absolutely Sweet Marie (Bob Dylan)
Living up to their name, this cowbilly punk crew scorches through this Blonde on Blonde classic. Though this is Bob at his most lyrically inscrutable, some metaphors are clear. “I’m just sitting here beating on my trumpet” = best euphemism ever. [Buy]
Eden Automatic – She Bop (Cyndi Lauper)
Time for the ladies to have a say. Eden Automatic gives a surf-rock swagger to Cyndi’s pleasure-proud hit, precluding Britney Spears’ “Touch of My Hand” by several decades. Bonus: You can download Eden’s full album for free over at Aimestreet. [Buy]
The Raconteurs – Teenage Kicks (The Undertones)
Alright, now here’s where I draw the line. Everyone says this songs about masturbation, but I don’t see it. The Raconteurs do such a kick-ass version though I’ll let you decide for yourself. [Buy]
Paddy Milner – Blister in the Sun (Violent Femmes)
To tide you off before the Femmes-themed post I hope to do soon, here’s a jaunty piano-backed take on their biggest (or only) hit. Milner bounces around the keys with strange cadences and notes, backing his more conventional voice. Very Femme. [Buy]