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Why do they cover Paul's songs but never mine?
October 28, 2010 4:30 AM   Subscribe

Cover Me - A blog about cover songs. Started out as a college radio show in 2006, now a website! Includes: A recently unearthed Weezer cover of Toni Braxton's 'Unbreak my Heart', 5 Good Covers of Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' (with one by MeFi favorite Pomplamoose), covers of songs from the Radiohead album Kid A (one by an a cappella group!)
posted by bluefly (85 comments total) 82 users marked this as a favorite

 
Am I the only one that thinks that there are no good cover songs? And that there should be rules preventing most of them from being played, particularity the ones that are so bad that they forever ruin the original, so that you can no longer listen to the original without reacting to it like the crap one?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 5:02 AM on October 28, 2010


It's a great site! And I'd say that even if my cover of an obscure Jerry Lee Lewis tune (Keep Your Hands Off Of It, aka "Birthday Cake") wasn't slated to appear on the site TOMORROW, to coincide with the site's birthday! So y'all stay tuned for that one, y'hear? It's full of the kind of really stupid sexual double entendres that only the twisted Jerry Lee coulda come up with! Meanwhile, the fine folks over there did already showcase some of my covers, in past editions of their "Under the Radar" column, which focuses on relative unknowns such as yours truly.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:02 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Featuring MeFi's own flapjax at midnite.
posted by Sailormom at 5:03 AM on October 28, 2010


Speak of the devil.
posted by Sailormom at 5:04 AM on October 28, 2010


Am I the only one that thinks that there are no good cover songs?

I am so sorry, but I must now proceed to utterly and mercilessly slay your point, Old'n'Busted.

Que Sera Sera by Doris Day

and

Que Sera Sera by Sly and the Family Stone.

You may now thank me for enlightening you.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:09 AM on October 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


Speak of the devil.

ha! Thanks, Sailormom. Shoulda jes' waited fer ye!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:10 AM on October 28, 2010


Ah, how fortuitous flapjax! That's awesome.
I am also reminded of the super fun Music challenge of covers of songs that were #1 the year you were born.
posted by bluefly at 5:10 AM on October 28, 2010


Old'n'Busted: Am I the only one that thinks that there are no good cover songs? And that there should be rules preventing most of them from being played, particularity the ones that are so bad that they forever ruin the original, so that you can no longer listen to the original without reacting to it like the crap one


Yes, probably.
posted by flatluigi at 5:13 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am also reminded of the super fun Music challenge of covers of songs that were #1 the year you were born.

Friends, neighbors... Mefi Music has had a number of fun Challenge themes involving covers, and there will surely be more in the future, so drop by there every now and again!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:14 AM on October 28, 2010


I love me some covers! The Originals is the name of a radio show and a book by Arnold Rypens from Belgium. It also has a website with a searchable database. Another nice example of somebody putting his compulsion into a project. It is really extensive and from my own experience, it's very hard to find some vinyl that hasn't been catalogued yet. I don't have the latest edition of his book, but I really need to since the one I have really falls apart from the heavy, heavy use. Most notes in it are in Dutch (dunno about the language of the latest edition), so you might miss an anecdote or two, but the listing of 12000 song titles makes it unmissable for anybody seeking 'quality through quantity' in this niche of music appreciation.
posted by ouke at 5:15 AM on October 28, 2010


I feel obligated to link two of my favorite covers: Reckoner and Just, both originally by Radiohead.
posted by flatluigi at 5:15 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man, when Kenny G covers a song, he owns it.

Kinda like when your dog licks your ice-cream cone.
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:15 AM on October 28, 2010 [15 favorites]


BTW, if folks aren't aware of it, you should definitely check out Coverville, a VERY long running (number 714 just came out) and truly excellent free podcast about cover songs.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 5:19 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also Coverville if you just can't get enough.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 5:19 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Old'n'Busted: Old And In The Way makes a nice argument against your opinion, to name just one. Even if they are Old & Busted & in the way. (somehow this link misses the nice fingerpickin' intro)
posted by ouke at 5:19 AM on October 28, 2010


Am I the only one that thinks that there are no good cover songs?

A song has an existence independent of the first person who happened to perform it. Good songwriting is a skill that's a lot rarer than good singing and most of the time if a contemporary performer does a cover, that song is better than anything new that she/he would have written.
posted by octothorpe at 5:27 AM on October 28, 2010


One of the greatest joys in my life, one of the things that makes me feel like a fantastic, accomplished father, is listening to my 15-year-old daughter covering depressing emo songs on her soprano ukulele. I know, the uke-playing magical-pixie ironic cover is a complete cliche at this point, but I tell you, when it's your own kid playing, the kid that you taught, on the uke that you bought her somewhat reluctantly, not sure if it'd go by the wayside like the violin, the keyboard, the electric guitar you bought her, then here she is just wailing on it on the couch...it's heaven, man. Pure heaven.
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:31 AM on October 28, 2010 [14 favorites]


You may now thank me for enlightening you.

Well I feel enlightened. Thank you. That cover by Sly and the Family Stone was all kinds of awesome.
posted by three blind mice at 5:36 AM on October 28, 2010


Am I the only one that thinks that there are no good cover songs?

I think you may be.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:39 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is pretty great. Thanks!
posted by codacorolla at 5:43 AM on October 28, 2010


On the other hand.
No, wait, that is also awesome. Somehow.
posted by geekyguy at 5:49 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Copy Cats is another good covers blog. Some truly weird/awesome stuff in there.
posted by schmod at 5:51 AM on October 28, 2010


Bettye Lavette covering Ringo Starr's "It Don't Come Easy" as another refutation of the assertion that there are no good covers.
posted by VeritableSaintOfBrevity at 5:54 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Old'n'Busted: Yes

(But at least you got the first post.)
posted by absalom at 5:56 AM on October 28, 2010


> Am I the only one that thinks that there are no good cover songs?

Oh dear. Flapjax, that's the kind of remark that could spawn a 300-comment thread.

Without trying to destroy anyone's point I have to say there are some, including a few that cut the original. I heard "All along the watchtower" as sung by Dylan when it first came out due to grabbing John Wesley Harding on the first day of issue, listening all the way through twice that day, and then again many more times after that. With all those opportunities to hear the songs on that album I never noticed that Watchtower was even a good song, let alone a great one.

Then Hendrix released his cover (which was good enough that it still gets lots of radio and other play lo all these decades later.) I happened to be driving when I first heard it but couldn't continue. I had to pull over to the side of the road and just listen. Basically Hendrix had to hear that song to me.


P.s. I suppose when you say "no good covers" you're leaving aside stuff like jazzmen riffing on songs written and recorded by others, or Celtic/BritFolkRock bands reprising numbers that might be 100 or 200 years old, or other categories like that? Because there's a tidal wave of good covers if you include them.
posted by jfuller at 6:06 AM on October 28, 2010


Listening to his cover of Kid A just gave me new respect for John Mayer.
posted by rbellon at 6:12 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one that thinks that there are no good cover songs?

Oh dear. Flapjax, that's the kind of remark that could spawn a 300-comment thread.


Uh, jfuller, just to clarify: that's not me you quoted there, that's Old'n'Busted's comment.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:12 AM on October 28, 2010


This site is great, it's not just sticking up songs at random but more in-depth features too, like the Live Collection, showing all the covers they can find from a given artist (so far including Wilco and Drive-By Truckers).

On the value of covers: Often the original or early version of a song isn't the best or definitive one anyway.

Case in point: Hendrix's Hey Joe (go listen to the Byrds' version some time - I love the Byrds, but that is emphatically not a good song). [on preview, jfuller already mentioned Hendrix, but at least Dylan's version of Watchtower was good]
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:14 AM on October 28, 2010


Alien Ant Farm's Smooth Criminal > Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal.
posted by Scoo at 6:16 AM on October 28, 2010


What do you call an all-female Weezer tribute band?

Something that would keep me from going into the bar where they are playing.

Let's be clear: a "tribute" band is not a "cover" band. Covering a song means you make it your own. Like this. You know showing the original artists how their song is really supposed to sound.

Tribute is trying to be as faithful to the original as possible.
posted by three blind mice at 6:22 AM on October 28, 2010


Case in point: Hendrix's Hey Joe (go listen to the Byrds' version some time - I love the Byrds, but that is emphatically not a good song).

No particular reason to hold up the Byrds version as any sort of "original", though. Hey Joe was around a long time before the Byrds did it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:22 AM on October 28, 2010


I'm there, too! Unfortunately a recent spate of in-crew illness (pneumonia, gall bladder surgery and my own appendectomy) has delayed Pirates For Sail's ability to fulfill our promise, but when we finally get it done, it's going to be the greatest pirate cover of "Rock Lobster" the world has ever heard. (And incidentally, that's me on lead vocals for the Tom Lehrer and Stan Rogers covers.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:23 AM on October 28, 2010


> Am I the only one that thinks that there are no good cover songs?

Oooh, now you've started it:

Al Green - I want to hold your hand (shut up, Al Green!)
Jimi Hendrix - Johnny B Goode
Cake - I will survive
posted by carter at 6:25 AM on October 28, 2010


BTW, if folks aren't aware of it, you should definitely check out Coverville, a VERY long running (number 714 just came out) and truly excellent free podcast about cover songs.

Thirding this. It's a great podcast. Brian Ibbot also puts in track stops, so you can skip the rambling commentary and just get to the music.
posted by zarq at 6:35 AM on October 28, 2010


1. I love covering songs -- I learn a lot about music and songwriting this way.
2. I love cover versions -- I have a playlist called "Covers & Originals" full of same.
3. This is great!
4. Who needs four?
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:47 AM on October 28, 2010


I frequently don't like covers, either, but no good ones? No.

Dead Flowers, by Townes Van Zandt
posted by theredpen at 6:47 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one that thinks that there are no good cover songs?

Yes.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:49 AM on October 28, 2010


Am I the only one that thinks that there are no good cover songs?

Actually, I'm (almost) certain that you're not the only one, but I think you're wrong about there being no good cover songs, as several other commenters have ably demonstrated.

And if you banned all cover songs, you'd just kill a lot of perfectly excellent jazz straight dead, and that's just not good at all.
posted by WalterMitty at 6:51 AM on October 28, 2010


From the OP - Sunday Girl covers Tik Tok
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:56 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


No particular reason to hold up the Byrds version as any sort of "original", though. Hey Joe was around a long time before the Byrds did it.

I knew I should have footnoted that comment ;-) (though you'll notice I said 'original or early' version)....I know they didn't write it, or even record the first version, but they certainly did it before Jimi did (and that Wikipedia article says that their live versions of the song inspired the Leaves to record it). [/digression]
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:57 AM on October 28, 2010


I think the definitive "better than the original" cover is Aretha Franklin's Respect, originally by Otis Redding.
Otis's version is great, but, damn...she owns that song.
posted by rocket88 at 7:06 AM on October 28, 2010


Um, HOLY SH*T... this cover of Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer is smokin'. Suddenly the song makes much more sense, sung by a woman.
posted by papercake at 7:18 AM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Am I the only one that thinks that there are no good cover songs?

Yes.

In fact, most of my favorite versions of songs are covers - like everything ever written by Bob Dylan. Man could write, but he could not sing.

I adore unusual covers, covers which recreate songs into something else, and covers that are just so wrong they are so right. Like Ozzie Ozbourne's version of "Staying Alive."

(My husband also complains about cover bands -- especially those really big ones with that guy at the front in the tux keeping the beat. They're always playing someone else's music, never their own.)
posted by jb at 8:02 AM on October 28, 2010


Wow. Both the Morning Bell and the Motion Picture Soundtrack covers are really well-done. The piano on Motion Picture is tranquilizingly good.

(and Re: Morning Bell - Is there more banjo music being put out these days? It's starting to hook me.)
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:09 AM on October 28, 2010


> that's not me you quoted there

Oh, hai. (blushes)
posted by jfuller at 8:09 AM on October 28, 2010


I remember reading in the notes to Dylan's Biograph box that he was blown away by Hendrix's version--and that like many songwriters, he is not at all adverse to someone else taking hold of his songs and creating something more from it--I believe (without looking it up) that he felt the same way about Manfred Mann's version of Mighty Quinn.

Anyway, here's what there is on Dylan & Hendrix & Watchtower (via wikipedia):
Dylan has described his reaction to hearing Hendrix's version: "It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn't think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day."[25] In the booklet accompanying his Biograph album, Dylan said: "I liked Jimi Hendrix's record of this and ever since he died I've been doing it that way... Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it's a tribute to him in some kind of way."
posted by beelzbubba at 8:10 AM on October 28, 2010


guy at the front in white tie & tails, rather.
posted by jb at 8:14 AM on October 28, 2010


While we're all piling on the "covers can be better" bandwagon, just this morning I was reminded that The Arrows did I Love Rock And Roll before Joan Jett covered it.

And another shout-out for Coverville, and I'll bet if you dig back through various Originalville episodes of Coverville you'll find lots of places where the covers owned.
posted by straw at 8:20 AM on October 28, 2010


I prefer The Shadows of Knight and The Golden Cups versions of Hey Joe over Hendrix, The Leaves, or the Byrds.
posted by rfs at 8:25 AM on October 28, 2010


Just about the only thing to hate about the Cover Me podcast is how god damned hard it is to acquire some of the songs mentioned in it...
posted by alvarete at 8:53 AM on October 28, 2010


Just chiming in to say that I've always had a soft spot for covers, and even if you think you hate covers, you probably have fallen in love with at least one song that was a cover, whether or not you realize it was.

That, and I figured I'd link to one of my favorite cover websites: The Beatles Complete on Ukulele, posted on the blue about six months ago.
posted by mysterpigg at 9:17 AM on October 28, 2010


I love covers!

Previously (four or five generations of Train Kept a'Rollin' beginning with Tiny Bradshaw in 1934, including a side trip to Antonioni's Blow Up.)

Right, Dylan's live performances of his own song are now covers of Hendrix's cover. Brilliant, all around!

On the other hand, benthonic Nazareth are not to be forgiven for gererations of rockers who think Love Hurts is their original.
posted by Herodios at 9:46 AM on October 28, 2010


I love covers, love them, but...

Why does it seem that these days so many folks have the idea that the way you do it is to play the original at 3/4 speed?
posted by humboldt32 at 9:56 AM on October 28, 2010


Am I the only one that thinks that there are no good cover songs?

Yeah, I'm totally willing to turn this glib, ill-informed snark into an epic Mefi list of covers that kick the everlovin' shit out of the original.

Starting with:

Toots & the Maytals - Take Me Home, Country Road

If you prefer the milquetoast John Denver original, I have grave concerns for your paucity of soul.
posted by gompa at 10:14 AM on October 28, 2010


This lead me to Hussalonia's cover of the entirety of Billy Joel's Glass Houses.

I love you.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:40 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why does it seem that these days so many folks have the idea that the way you do it is to play the original at 3/4 speed?

These are the same people who seem to think that "acoustic" means playing your electric guitar while sitting on a stool.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:43 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I especially love distillations -- when the song is stripped down to its bare essence, and the bones are revealed. for instance, Shudder to Think's version of So Into You. They take what on the surface seems like a harmless ditty about a guy coming on strong, the way guys did in the disco era, and they reveal the lurid, drooling obsession that is at the base of the thing. I've always felt it was a very powerful reinterpretation of the meaning, via the approach to the music.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:53 AM on October 28, 2010


Am I the only one that thinks that there are no good cover songs?

Newton Faulkner might disagree. Or maybe Jeffrey Gaines.

Or my personal favorite (and yes, she's "covering" her own tune) Stevie Nicks doing an alternate version of Wild Heart.
posted by JaredSeth at 10:53 AM on October 28, 2010


Am I the only one that thinks that there are no good cover songs?

I refute it thus.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:56 AM on October 28, 2010


I like Ted Leo's mashup/cover of Since U Been Gone + Maps. Also, I've been enjoying the Cover Me site for a week or so, and I'm glad I decided to post it here; I love all these other cover recs!
posted by bluefly at 10:58 AM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Very cool post, thanks!
posted by brand-gnu at 11:54 AM on October 28, 2010


Alien Ant Farm's Smooth Criminal > Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal.

Don't make me cut you.
posted by cazoo at 12:01 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


No good covers? Go forth and contemplate Bettye LaVette covering "Love Reign O'er Me".

Hey, if it's good enough for Daltrey and Townsend....
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:20 PM on October 28, 2010


My Morning Jacket's epic run at Terminal 5 last week featured many, many awesome covers. This website put together pretty extensive posts about each night.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Bonus, also from Cover Me: "A Quick One, While He's Away" (My Morning Jacket w/Eddie Vedder). I've seen MMJ play this live twice. Jawdroppingly awesome.
posted by kosem at 1:34 PM on October 28, 2010


We've been playing a lot more cover songs in my band lately, and I really enjoy the whole process of picking which ones to try and then playing with them to see if we can make them fit. Sometimes it's a sentimental favorite, sometimes it's a melody we know our singer can really nail, sometimes it's just the challenge of trying to make something work that is nothing like what you normally do. It's a great way to mix things up, and if you avoid obvious choices a lot of people won't realize it is a cover anyway.
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:58 PM on October 28, 2010


Husker Du Eight Miles High >>> The Byrds Eight Miles High
posted by tim_in_oz at 2:31 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one that thinks that there are no good cover songs?

Yes.


I thought he meant This.
posted by ovvl at 3:58 PM on October 28, 2010


Nina Simone's cover of Here Comes The Sun which I prefer to the original.
posted by jonnyploy at 4:01 PM on October 28, 2010


Wikipedia: "Hendrix opened the show with his own rendering of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", rehearsed only minutes before taking the stage, much to McCartney's astonishment and delight."

Three days after the original was released.
posted by ovvl at 4:02 PM on October 28, 2010


Creep (Radiohead) - Scala & Kolacny Brothers. One lonely doll's desperate attempt to be accepted.
posted by homunculus at 4:14 PM on October 28, 2010


Grace Jones: Joy Division, The Normal, Pretenders, Ástor Piazzolla, Piaf.
posted by ovvl at 6:03 PM on October 28, 2010


Room for one more inside? Speaking of Hey Joe...

This is pretty kickass too.
posted by hap_hazard at 10:37 PM on October 28, 2010


Covers are awesome. thanks! (the one askme of mine I keep going back to was about Beatles covers, you all came up with some fabulous things!)
posted by nat at 11:53 PM on October 28, 2010


Has there ever been a cover of any James Superstar Kolchaka hits? Hockey Monkey? Twinkle Twinkle, Ringo Starr?
posted by beelzbubba at 8:18 AM on October 29, 2010


That Cover Me birthday post I mentioned upthread (a whole album full of covers made especially for the occasion, and downloadable individually or as an album) is now online - cheggidout!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:11 PM on October 29, 2010


speaking of covers that are better than the original, Leonard Cohen wrote the original Hallelujah, but Jeff Buckley's cover is widely considered the definitive version. and this song has been covered many, many times.

as a side, Blues Traveler did a sweet cover of Radiohead's Creep and Sublime's What I Got this summer at ACL, both were definitely owned.
posted by camdan at 8:49 PM on October 30, 2010


...but Jeff Buckley's cover is widely considered the definitive version.

All due respect to Mr. Buckley, but I believe popular opinion concerning this matter has shifted, and now the general consensus is that the best covers of the song, by far, are found among the 27 versions by Metafilter musicians.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:27 AM on October 31, 2010


All due respect to Mr. Buckley...and if the 27 Varieties of MetaFilter Hallelujah are rated #1, then #2, and my personal favorite, is John Cale's version.
posted by beelzbubba at 7:46 AM on November 1, 2010


Yeah, I love Cale's version too. Aside from Cohen's original, it's my favorite, I'd say.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:23 AM on November 1, 2010


I think Leonard Cohen's recorded original on Various Positions is a pretty forgetful track...far from the best on that album. John Cale's version reworked it considerably, and I think almost all subsequent remakes, including Buckley's, are actually remakes of Cale's version as opposed to Cohen's.
posted by rocket88 at 10:05 AM on November 1, 2010


rocket88: Actually, yes, I agree, and I realize now that when I say "Cohen's original" I don't actually mean the original. Cause I don't think he actually knew how to sing it yet. I actually mean later performances by him. Sometimes it takes even the author of a song some time to settle into performing it well, performing it convincingly. I think Cohen grew into it himself. That is, before he got good and sick of it, as I'm pretty sure he did.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:31 PM on November 1, 2010


Don't know if anyone is still reading this, but I stumbled upon The Smith's Project today. It's one woman's endeavor to do "layered vocal arrangements of every Smiths' song by the end of 2010." She has a beautiful voice. I didn't think this merited its own post -- but it is cool.
posted by bluefly at 3:12 PM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


(darn it, The Smiths Project -- plural not possessive)
posted by bluefly at 3:13 PM on November 25, 2010


Wow bluefly I'm really glad to be reading the posts way down here. I think you meant to link to The Smith's Project. What a great find. it could totally stand on it's own as a post in my opinion.
posted by Sailormom at 6:13 PM on November 25, 2010


(darn it, The Smiths Project -- plural not possessive)
I can't believe I did that.
posted by Sailormom at 6:33 PM on November 25, 2010


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