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Friday, January 25, 2013

Vanished From The Megahertz 4: Cover Songs

One of the few things that I enjoy on commercial radio are cover songs, and I'm not talking about the ones that geezer rock bands throw out 'cause they need to keep their names in the news (U2 doing Carl Carlton's "Everlasting Love" comes to me), nor am I talking about the bands who because their latest c.d. sucks, will come out with a cover song that will get airplay on other formats (Pearl Jam doing "Last Kiss"), or bands who come out with cover that is so far out from left field that it simply makes you scratch your head (the lounge lizard/easy listening version of "Wonder Wall", power rock version of "Boys of Summer", or a metal version of "Bad Co.").

I am talking about cover songs that go so far above and beyond the original that they put the original to shame. You know those covers. Those are the ones that AREN'T played on the radio anymore (if at all). The ones that make you instantly forget about the original.

So my friends, here is my semi-short list of my favorite cover songs (and one full length c.d.), of which only two are played with any degree of frequency on the radio.  Most will have links to videos if you should desire to watch a few while reading this post, and all will have some kind of factoid attached to them.

1} I Fought The Law by The Dead Kennedys. There have been numerous covers of this Bobby Fuller song but this one by the D.K.'s puts the others to shame. While they managed to keep most of the original lyrics to the song, they added their own unique twist by incorporating the murders of George Moscone & Harvey Milk, Dan White and the so-called Twinkie defense into the song.

2} Hurt by Johnny Cash. Johnny Cash came out with five phenomenal c.d.'s produced by Rick Rubin during the last several years of his life, and this cover of the Nine Inch Nails song was one of about a dozen covers that he did. This one has, for some strange reason, been getting some radio airplay as of late.

3} Boys of Summer by The Hooters. The Don Henley version was so-so, but the Hooters version, from their excellent c.d. "Time Stands Still" is the best version that you'll never hear on the radio. They play it like it was meant to played: slow, haunting, and plaintive.

4} Atlantic City by The Band. I didn't realize that this was a cover until I heard the original by Bruce Springsteen from his album "Nebraska". This version is a helluva lot better than the original. Not as wobbly or dark as Bruce's but more upbeat and resigned. Also, I did not know that opening stanza was based on a real incident with the Philadelphia mob.

5} In A Metal Mood by Pat Boone. Yes, I said Pat Boone. Back in the late 90's, Pat decided to do a c.d. of metal song covers that were rearranged in a big band/swing vocal style. There is a lot more I could add to this, but it would take up the entire post. If you get the opportunity to pick this up on the cheap (Amazon), do it, 'cause you won't be disappointed.

6} White Lines by Duran Duran. I originally heard this kick ass version of the early Melle Mel song (which I found on a 12" EP at a Salvation Army thrift store) on a cover compilation of theirs called "Thank You". They had a few decent covers on there (Perfect Day and Take You Higher), but this one had the most airplay on the radio.

7} John Barleycorn by Traffic. While I won't say that this is the definitive cover (yes boys and girls, this is a cover song of a traditional English folk ballad), this is the one that I've been able to find a video of. If you want to hear a traditional version, please check out American folk duo Atwater-Donnelly.

8} Under The Boardwalk by John Mellencamp. Best cover of a Drifters song ever. Almost impossible to find on a c.d. (I think it was released only as a single), it is one of the few John Mellencamp songs that I truly enjoy.

9} Summertime by Billy Stewart. Best cover of a Broadway musical number.

10} Bridge Over Troubled Water by Johnny Cash with Fiona Apple. This song has a lot of memories for me, of which Simon & Garfunkel being one of my Dad's favorite duos. I've also heard a wonderful version of this song sung at a memorial service for my dad back in 2004. But hands down, this version is the one that still resonates rather deep for me. Even as I write this little blurb it still sends a chill down my spine.

And finally, not wanting to end this on a downer, here is one of my favorite versions of I've Been Everywhere (heard versions by Hank Snow and The Statler Brothers) sung by Johnny Cash.

7 comments:

  1. The JOhnny Cash remake of "hurt" is the best remake ever in my opinion.

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  2. Over the Rainbow Israel Kamakawiwoʻole

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  3. I LOVE this version of Boys of Summer. It's always been one of my favourite songs.

    Duran Duran covered White Lines? Huh what? I had no idea. I like this version, although I'm not sure if it's the music I like or simply the sight of Simon Le Bon in tight PVC pants.

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  4. I love both versions of Boys of Summer and White Lines (nice catch! Most Duran Duran fans don't even remember the Thank You album.)

    I HATE that Pearl Jam song.

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  5. Charles: There are some good ones out there, and he did a bunch of quality covers in his American Recording sessions with Rick Rubin, such as Tom Petty (Won't Back Down) and Soundgarden (Rusty Cage), but I agree that his cover of "Hurt" is the best.

    Bearman: Absolutely, and it was a toss up between that and Johnny Cash. Johnny Cash won out only because I cry less when "Bridge Over Troubled Water" plays.

    S.R.: There's a version of the song being played on Alternative radio out here, but The Hooters version is by far the best one.

    I'm not sure how I found this one other than maybe catching the video on MTV (back when MTV played videos) or hearing on the radio.

    M: Thankee.

    It's actually a very decent album. Definitely not done as a throw off, because contrary to popular opinion, Duran Duran can really rock. Too bad that most people either don't know about this album or don't care.

    BTW, they did a neat cover of Public Enemy's "911 is a Joke".

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  6. G: I know! I have the album and I thought that one was hilarious.

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  7. M: Sometimes it's worth checking out what a 80's band does some 10 or 15 years later.

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