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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sunday Music (Cover) Blog (or Against Novelty Too)

Many thanks to Dan and company for inviting me back. 

I'm planning to spend most of my time here this month blogging about law teaching and technology. But Marc DeGirolami's terrific post below inspired me to join the rebellion against "the ideology of novelty" in a different way -- by opening a thread on favorite cover songs.  A cover, as Wikipedia tells us, is "a new rendition (performance or recording) of a previously recorded, commercially released song." 

So, in the tradition of previous Sunday music blogs here and elsewhere in the legal blogosphere, I thought I'd celebrate the value of "derivative reaction" with a list of places where it has produced interesting and enjoyable music.  Please feel free to add examples and recommendations of your own in the comments (with extra points awarded for comments that take the derivation a step further and identify favorite covers of covers, reviews of review essays, or derivatives of derivatives (second derivatives) in calculus examples).

Here's my own randomly-generated list:

Peter Gabriel’s cover of Vampire Weekend’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” (which mentions Peter Gabriel)

Husker Du’s cover of The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High”

The Byrds’ cover of Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn” (with lyrics from The Book of Ecclesiastes)

Pop Will Eat Itself’s cover of Shriekback’s “Everything that Rises (Must Converge)”  (title borrowed from Flannery O’Connor)

Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s cover of Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”

Jethro Tull’s cover (of sorts) of Bach’s “Bouree in E minor”

Depeche Mode’s cover of Nat King Cole’s “Route 66” (written by Bobby Troup)

Big Star’s cover of Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy” (originally by eden ahbez)

Elliott Smith’s cover of Big Star’s ‘Thirteen"

Bad Astronaut’s cover of Elliott Smith’s “Needle in the Hay”

Ed Kuepper’s cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” (originally by June Cash and Merle Kilgore)

Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt

Nirvana’s cover of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World”

Nirvana’s cover (with the Meat Puppets helping) of The Meat Puppets’ “Oh, Me”

Arlo Guthrie’s cover of Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans”

Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”

Fairport Convention’s version of the traditional song, “Matty Groves”

Traffic’s version of the traditional song, “John Barleycorn Must Die”

The Bangles’ cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade of Winter”

Squirrel Bait’s cover of Phil Ochs’s “Tape from California”

Julian Cope’s cover of Thirteenth Floor Elevators’ “I’ve Got Levitation”

David Gilmour’s cover of Unicorn’s “There’s No Way Out of Here”

The Soft Boys’ cover of Syd Barrett’s “Vegetable Man”

The Effervescent Elephants’ cover of Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive”

Peter Jefferies’ cover of Barbara Manning’s “Scissors”

The Times’ cover of the Teenage Filmstars’ “I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape”

Big Dipper’s cover of The Embarrassment’s “Faith Healer”

Dick Gaughan’s cover of Leon Rosselson’s “World Turned Upside Down”

Fall Out Boy’s cover of Bob Hope’s “Thanks for the Memory” (with all the vowels removed)

And last but not least:

Gary Jules and Michael Andrews’ cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” – which has inspired numerous covers of the cover version (including the recent one by Adam Lambert on ‘American Idol’)

OK.  Did I cover everything?  Or have I left anything out?

Posted by Marc Blitz on May 3, 2009 at 05:08 AM in Music | Permalink


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Wow!!! where i can buy dvd online containing those album.

It is really great! love it!

Posted by: Gwendolyn Myers | Jul 22, 2009 2:54:24 AM

I'm clearly late to this party, but it's way better than grading, so:

I think Paul McCartney has said that his favorite cover of a Beatles song is Stevie Wonder's version of "We Can Work It Out." If so, he's probably right. Meanwhile, Red Hot Chili Peppers do a pretty good cover of Stevie's "Higher Ground."

I think the all-time "hard to believe he didn't write that" cover is Springsteen's "Jersey Girl," which is a cover of a Tom Waits song. And of course, each season of "The Wire" has a different cover of Waits's "Way Down in the Hole."

For improvement over an original, Richard Thompson's version of "Oops! I Did It Again" is in the running.

Pet Shop Boys' "Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off of You)" is two covers in one, and quite amusing. Also in the "I Love the '80s" category is Naked Eyes' cover of the 1960s Bacharach/David song "Always Something There to Remind Me."

Elvis Costello did a great cover of "Days" by the Kinks. He also did a great gospel-style version of Van Morrison's "Full Force Gale."

I don't like a lot of Dylan covers, but Robyn Hitchcock does a nice version of "Tryin' to Get to Heaven." I think he's also done a whole album of other Dylan covers. And live, he does a great version of Carl Douglas's "Kung Fu Fighting."

Yo La Tengo's "Fakebook" is a good album comprised entirely of covers.

Worst cover: that disco version of Beethoven's Fifth.

Posted by: Michael Cahill | May 12, 2009 8:32:01 PM

OK, the Bangles cover got in my head this morning and jarred loose a bunch of favorite covers:

Frank Zappa's cover of Whipping Post (he said he started playing it after one concert attendee kept yelling for it, and he was ashamed he didn't know it).

Zappa's cover of Happy Together with Flo & Eddie (I don't know if this qualifies, since they were the original singers from The Turtles).

Graham Parker's cover of I Want You Back (the Jackson 5 tune).

Johnny Cash kills on Your Own Personal Jesus (p.s. if you want to make your own personal Jesus on toast, see http://www.blacktable.com/gillin041202.htm ).

Alvin and the Chipmunks do All My Lovin' (I heard this 45 before The Beatles' version!).

Speaking of The Beatles, they of course did tons of great covers in their early days (e.g., Long Tall Sally, Twist And Shout, even Till There Was You (from "The Music Man")).

Aerosmith's ferocious cover of Come Together (the only worthy part of the "Sgt. Pepper" movie fiasco).

ELO's hyped-up version of Roll Over Beethoven.

The Grateful Dead's concert version of The Mighty Quinn.

Speaking of Manfred Mann, their version of Blinded By The Light had more commercial success than Springsteen's original cut.

Covers for kids (I hear a lot of these lately):
The Rainbow Connection - Shawn Colvin
Teddy Bears' Picnic - Jerry Garcia & David Grisman
Frog Went A-Courtin' - Bob Dylan

Ear poison alert (good luck getting any of these out of your head!):
Pablo Cruise's version of I Go To Rio.
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass actually made A Taste Of Honey swing (oh that low trombone note and bass drum intro!).
Friends of Distinction's lyrical declension of Grazing In The Grass (Hugh Masakela wrote and recorded the instrumental first -- c'mon, you know you can recite it faster than any Latin lessons still stuck in your head).

And don't forget the wonderful parodies by Spike Jones and Doodles Weaver.

Posted by: Rick G. | May 5, 2009 1:57:54 PM


I'll try to send it to you. And I think that probably was Tori Amos's version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

And Alex Long is right, I should have included the "Here Comes Alex" - Hier Kommt Alex," which I still maintain should be his theme song / entrance music for classes.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | May 4, 2009 5:14:10 PM

Bruce - Maybe it was the Tori Amos version of Smells Like Teen Spirit?

My only contribution at the moment is Todd Snider's cover of Fred Eaglesmith's "Alcohol and Pills?"

Well, and the Replacements' version of Kiss' "Black Diamond."

Posted by: Chad Oldfather | May 4, 2009 1:37:33 PM

Bjork and PJ Harvey? I'd like to find a copy of that one.

In a bar in the early 1990s I heard a familiar tune that it took me a while to recognize -- it was someone doing a cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" that made it sound like a 1960s folk song. But I've never been able to figure out who it was.

Posted by: Bruce Boyden | May 4, 2009 12:30:26 PM

Husker Du's version of "Eight Miles High" is maybe the greatest cover of all time.

With the possible exception of the Supersuckers' version of "Hey Ya!"

Or maybe Jason & the Scorchers' version of "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

Or possibly the Lemonheads' version of "Luka."

Or perhaps Neko Case's version of the Shangri-Las' "The Train from Kansas City."

And as for Aztec Camera's cover of "Jump": Joe Slater, you need to get out of my head right this very instant! (although I'm surprised you failed to include Die Toten Hosen's version of the U.K. Subs' "Here Comes Alex" (Hier Kommt Alex))

P.S. Matt Bodie, I think you are right about "Romeo & Juliet."

Posted by: Alex Long | May 4, 2009 10:56:24 AM

Dinosaur Jr.'s cover of the Cure's Just Like Heaven

Posted by: Jay Wexler | May 4, 2009 9:32:00 AM

Thanks for the comments so far! They reminded me of some covers it was negligent for me to omit from my original list!:

William Shatner's of "Rocket Man" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"

The fast-paced cover -- by the Lou Barlow-fronted band, Folk Implosion -- of Schoolhouse Rock's "I'm Just a Bill" (which is arguably a better fit for an age of fast-paced technology and deep partisan hatred)

Dick Dale's cover of "Hava Nagila" (There is also a punk version by another band that's very good, with anarchically misplaced "Heys")

Susan Boyle's cover of "I Dreamed a Dream"

Iron & Wine's cover of New Order's "Love Vigilante"

Robyn Hitchcock's cover of The Psychedelic Furs' "The Ghost in You"

The Easy Star All-Stars has also recorded all-reggae versions of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" and the Beatles' "Sgt Pepper's"; "Dub Side of the Moon" and "Lonely Hearts Dub Band"

And thanks for adding Husker Du's "Mary Tyler Moore" theme. That should definitely be on the list.

I looked and looked for a Bob Dylan (or any!) cover of Shriekback's wonderful song "Nemesis" but haven't yet located one.

Posted by: Marc Blitz | May 4, 2009 8:56:53 AM

Oh, and there are all sorts of good covers of "Save it for Later." But the English Beat's is still the best.

Posted by: Matt Bodie | May 4, 2009 12:40:25 AM

This gives me the opportunity to resurrect a debate that I've always lost, whenever I bring it up. I think the Indigo Girls' cover of "Romeo & Juliet" is better than the Dire Straits version. But maybe that's just because I really like Amy Ray's voice.

Posted by: Matt Bodie | May 4, 2009 12:15:48 AM

Cover of a cover: Metallica's cover of Thin Lizzy's cover of the traditional song "Whiskey in the Jar."

Posted by: Sumbuddy | May 3, 2009 3:17:56 PM

Very cool topic, Marc.

Mark Kozelak's covers of ACDC, Paul McCartney, Modest Mouse, and the Cars.

Cap'n Jazz's cover of A-Ha's "Take on Me"

I'll put in a vote for the Jeff Buckley version of Hallelujah.

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's medley of "Over the Rainbow" and "What a Wonderful World"

Ben Fold' cover of Dr. Dre's "Bitches Ain't Shit" (not sure if he ever recorded it, but he plays it live a lot)

The Flaming Lips' cover of Neil Youngs "After the Gold Rush"

Posted by: Zak Kramer | May 3, 2009 2:32:12 PM

Since she's done some pretty wild and amazing feminist recovery work over two albums of covers and endless bootlegs, seems like Cat Power deserves a mention:

cover of the Rolling Stones's Satisfaction: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yon18DBsU_c&feature=related
cover of Frank Sinatra's NY, NY: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpFwnf6F_GY
cover of Oasis's Wonderwall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeR1Mo8S7cs

Posted by: Paul K. | May 3, 2009 1:20:39 PM

1) "Landslide"--Dixie Chicks of a Fleetwood Mac song. Which you prefer depends on what you think of the Dixie Chicks.

2) "House of the Rising Son"--The Animals of a Dylan song that Dylan purportedly snagged from an unknown singer named Dave Van Ronk, who played the song in his set at folk clubs in the early '60s, but never recorded it.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | May 3, 2009 12:45:28 PM

Ack, that should be "For the SHAME of Doing Wrong," not "For the SAME of Doing Wrong."

Posted by: Joseph Slater | May 3, 2009 11:39:16 AM

GREAT THREAD! I love covers that are significantly different than the original. I know some of the above but not others, and I will check them out (and probably buy some) after posting this. So thanks. By the way, you get a million points from me for referencing Shriekback, one of my fave 80s bands.

Here are some I like that aren't listed above.

Top 3:

Judas Priest, "Diamonds and Rust": I don't like the original by Joan Baez and I don't really like Priest or heavy metal, but this song re-works the original into an entirely different genre with complete success.

The Gourds, "Gin & Juice": Again, re-works the original Snoop Dogg version in a successful, if somewhat over-the-top, psycho-redneck style.

Nirvana, "Where did You Sleep Last Night" (Leadbelly): chilllingly brilliant.

Others I like (some might only be available on "bootlegs"):

Annie Lennox, "Don't Let it Bring You Down" [Neil Young]

The Beautiful South, "Don't Fear the Reaper" [Blue Oyster Cult]

Bjork and P.J. Harvey, "Satisfaction" [Rolling Stones; re Devo's cover, see below]

Tori Amos, "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

Power Station, "Get it On (Bang a Gong)" [T. Rex]

Aztec Camera, "Jump" [Van Halen]

John Cale, "Hallelujah" [Leonard Cohen, I know the Buckley cover is more famous]

Syd Straw and Evan Dando, "For the Same of Doing Wrong" [Richard Thompson]

David Bowie and Marianne Faithful, "I've Got You Babe" (Sonny & Cher)

Mott the Hoople, "Sweet Jane" [Lou Reed]

Elvis Costello, "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself" [Burt Bacharach and Hal David]

Tin Huey, "I'm a Believer" [Neil Diamond; the Monkees cover is more famous, obviously]

Liz Phair, "Turning Japanese" [the Vapors]

Robert Palmer, "Not a Second Time" [the Beatles]

Speaking of Husker Du covers, what about their version of "The Mary Tyler Moore theme"?

Speaking of covers of "World Turned Upside Down," have you heard Billy Bragg's version?

Speaking of folk covers, check out the Real McKenzies doing either "McPherson's Rant" (relatively straight) or "Scots Wa Hae" (appropriately punky).

Some good ones you probably omitted because they are so (relatively) well-known):

Jimi Hendrix, "All Along the Watchtower"
The Clash, "I Fought the Law
Talking Heads, "Take Me to the River"
Joe Cocker, "A Little Help From My Friends"
Devo, "Satisfaction"

Posted by: Joseph Slater | May 3, 2009 11:37:30 AM

A good cover says a lot about the creativity of the person/group performing it, and the quality of the original. Of the covers you've listed, I particularly enjoy the Johnny Cash cover of Hurt, although I've yet to hear a cover of Mad World that I didn't enjoy.

One correction to your list: Fall Out Boy's thnks fr th mmrs is not a Bob Hope cover. They do, however, perform a fairly decent cover of Michael Jackson's Beat It.

Posted by: AJ Jean | May 3, 2009 10:38:04 AM

I like Kate Bush's cover of Rocket Man

I think there are a bunch of great covers by Annie Lennox on Medusa, and by Everything But the Girl on Acoustic.

As for a great cover of a cover, I'm partial to DMB's version of All Along the Watchtower.

Also, the video for Alanis Morisette's cover of My Humps is hilarious.

There are many others on the tip of my tongue, but I can't remember them at the moment.

Posted by: Michael Risch | May 3, 2009 7:17:12 AM

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