Jun 212024
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

The Kinks covers

If The Kinks had stopped after their first year, they’d still be legends. “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night,” two of the all-time-great sixties rock singles, were both released in 1964. That’s more classics in one year than most bands have in decades (and their year gets even better if you slide in January 1965’s “Tired of Waiting for You,” recorded before “All Day Etc”).

But if The Kinks had stopped after their first year, this list certainly wouldn’t run 50 covers deep. Because, of course, they didn’t stop. They kept releasing hits, including Top 10s in both the ’70s (“Lola,” “Apeman”) and ’80s (“Come Dancing”). Maybe even more importantly, they kept creating, kept innovating, kept pushing forward, not settling into retreading their early garage-rock sound. That wide breadth gets reflected in the Kinks songs that artists covered. The big hits, of course, are well represented. But so are plenty of album cuts and singles that “flopped” at the time but were rediscovered years later.

Ray Davies turns 80 today. So today, we celebrate his birthday—and his ability to withstand decades of interviews about whether he and brother Dave will ever reunite—with our countdown of the 50 Best Kinks Covers Ever.

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Mar 012024
 
best cover songs february 2024
Annie Lennox — Nothing Compares 2 U (Prince/Sinéad O’Connor cover)

The emotional highpoint of the Grammys—well, other than Tracy Chapman’s return (covers-adjacent!)–was Annie Lennox’s tribute to Sinéad O’Connor during the In Memoriam. Bonus points because she was backed by two longtime bandmembers of Prince (who, of course, wrote the song), Wendy and Lisa. The teardrop on Lennox’s eye was very Prince, and the political statement at the end was very Sinéad. Continue reading »

Mar 292023
 
yo la tengo wilco

At Friday night’s Yo La Tengo show at Chicago’s Metro, fans got a surprise when the trio covered Wilco’s “If I Ever Was a Child” as the third song in their first set. Fans got a much bigger surprise a set and a half later when all six members of Wilco, on an off night in their own local residency, joined Yo La Tengo on stage for four more (non-Wilco) covers. Continue reading »

Mar 022023
 

Yo La Tengo recently began a tour in support of their latest album, This Stupid World. A good portion of the setlists have been devoted to original material from the new record, but the trio have been debuting some new and surprising live covers, too. Last week in San Francisco, YLT premiered a second-set version of “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad,” a traditional tune most associated with the Grateful Dead. Continue reading »

Sep 302022
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

beach boys covers

If you were to look at the charts, the Beach Boys basically stopped having giant hits after 1966’s “Good Vibrations” (with the obvious exception of 1988’s “Kokomo”). They’re a singles band whose singles mostly dried up six years into their sixty-year career. They had a brief run of good-time hits about girls, cars, and surfing, then faded. They’re the band preserved forever in that cornball publicity photo up top.

But that’s not the story these covers tell.

The big hits are here, sure. “Surfer Girl” and “Fun Fun Fun” and “I Get Around” etc. But so are many now-iconic tunes that weren’t hits. “God Only Knows,” the Beach Boys’ most covered song, peaked at #39. By their standards, that’s a straight-up flop. Many other covered songs didn’t even make it that high. But “God Only Knows” has of course belatedly been recognized as one of the great pop songs of the 20th century. As has the album it came off of, Pet Sounds, itself a relative commercial failure.

Pet Sounds, of course, has long since been recognized as a classic. So some artists dig even deeper. “Lonely Sea” is an album cut off their 1963 album Surfin’ U.S.A. “Trader” comes off the 1973 album Holland. Three separate songs here originally came off Surf’s Up, now the go-to pick for artists who want to show they know more than Pet Sounds. Even a song not released until the ‘90s, “Still I Dream of It,” gets a killer cover.

You can trace the story of the Beach Boys’ reputation through these covers. A group once perceived as a lightweight singles act have been fully embraced as musical geniuses, all the way from the hits of the ’60s through the then-overlooked gems of the ‘70s and beyond. Some of these songs below you probably won’t know. Others you will know every single word of…but you’ve never heard them sung like this.

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May 242022
 

Rarely Covered looks at who’s mining the darkest, dustiest corners of iconic catalogs.

bob dylan late 1960s

Today, on Bob Dylan’s actual birthday, we present part two in our week-long series showcasing covers of lesser-known Dylan songs.

I explained my methodology for defining “lesser-known” in part one on the early ‘60s tunes, but, briefly, the main criteria is that it can’t have appeared on a proper album. Then I just eliminated some additional well-known non-album tracks.

The late ‘60s offer a wealth of such tracks that have been covered – if not often, very well at least once or twice. Dive in below, and check back tomorrow as we enter Bob’s 1970s.

Happy birthday Bob! Continue reading »