As you may have gathered from the last post in this series I enjoy a good cover song. It doesn’t matter if it’s a straight ahead rendition of another artists song, a genre switch, a complete reworking, etc., I like them! I also admire artists who aren’t afraid to take on an iconic song, those who can turn a horrible song good by reinterpreting it (see Reignwolf’s take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Chains” in the link above), or those who can use their talents to elevate an otherwise mediocre song. I’m going to try to hit on most of those types of covers in this week’s edition of WeeFuse’s Virtual Turntable. That said, if I don’t exercise some self-control this post could go on for hours…
Like A Virgin by Teenage Fanclub (Madonna)
This is the song that started my borderline obsession with cover songs. It was a “for promotional use only” CD I got from my college radio station that I got as a “thank you” gift for making a donation to the station a few years after I graduated. I already liked Teenage Fanclub- they are from my grandmother’s home town of Bellshill, Scotland so how could I not?- one of those bands that was HUGE in the U.K. but never quite made it past college radio here in the States. What I like about this cover is that, whatever you might think of the original song, the group treats it seriously, gives it a bit of edge, and makes even better.
Gold On The Ceiling by Lanie Lane (The White Stripes)
I like this for a number of reasons. I like the Black Keys, I like Lanie Lane, I like that this was played live at a radio station with minimal instrumentation and still sounds great. I also like that she was willing to take on a song that couldn’t have been much more than a year old when she recorded her version. Lanie Lane’s sophomore album “Night Shade” drops (that’s what the kids say, right?) on October 24. FYI, Lanie Lane is one of three artists/groups I’ve been introduced to through Anthony Bourdain’s various television shows, the others being the Black Keyes and Dead Combo.
Maybellene by Social Distortion (Chuck Berry)
I think the quality of this cover has as much to do with Chuck Berry’s songwriting as anything else. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Social Distortion, I desperately hope that Mike Ness will release another solo album before I die, and I love the way that they have taken an absolutely iconic rock and roll song, put their So-Cal country-punk stank on it, but the fact remains that you’d have to do it really wrong to screw this song up. Clearly, they haven’t. They’ve created a version of the song that is completely faithful to the original and that can stand on its own as well.
Ain’t It A Shame by Sinead O’Connor (the B-52s)
This is a curious case because I love this version of the song without ever having heard the original. Truthfully, I probably have heard it- there was a period in my high school/college like when it seemed like every girl/women I dated LOVED the B-52s whereas my reaction to them has always been an enthusiastic…meh. So, yes, I’m sure at some point my clumsy groping was interrupted by, “Isn’t this a great song?” and I responded with…some sort of a lie. Anyway, I should probably listen to the original, maybe it’s great, but for the moment I’ll stick with my blissful ignorance.
A Change Is Gonna Come by Al Green (Sam Cooke)
Sam Cooke’s original version of this song is not only one of my favorite songs of all time, but maybe one of the most important pop songs ever written. Seriously, listen to it. If you’re crying now, you “get it.” So, if you’re going to cover this song, you’re going to do it live, you’re going to do it at a 9/11 benefit concert only a few weeks after the terrorist attacks, you better have “chops” equal to, or at least close to those, of Sam Cooke- cue the Reverend Al Green. A different take on the song, but a great one.
All I Have To Do Is Dream by R.E.M. (The Everly Brothers)
If you ever want to know if a band is “real,” take away their amps, limit their instruments, give them a simple song and see what they can do with it. In this case, take away Michael Stipe’s mumbly and obtuse lyrics, the jangly Byrds-esque Rickenbacker guitar sound, and take on the only song to ever top all of the U.S. charts (rock, pop, country, R&B, etc.) at the same time and see what they can do with it. Well, in this case, R.E.M. nails it. This is from the documentary, Athens, GA Inside Out.
Paranoid by Big Country (Black Sabbath)
Yeah, there’s not much I can say about this. It came on in the car the other day and the first thing I thought was, “I don’t own any Sabbath albums?!” Turns out it was tucked away among a bunch of obscure Big Country songs (that phrase should have you questioning my sanity if you haven’t already) I, um, obtained via electronic means… Anyway, it’s pretty straight-forward, pretty unexpected, and pretty great!
Hurt by Johnny Cash (Nine Inch Nails)
There’s really nothing I need to say about this.