July 6, 2010

Let's share the covers

Blog, I think the Randometer will appreciate that today I am randomly posting on the subject of song covers. Why? I guess I was thinking how much I like covers as a concept. I mean, you start with a great song and then find a cool way to reinterpret it. That just makes for yet another great song!  What's not to bizarradore about that?

To see my love of covers, all you have to do is look at the contents of Ipo my iPod. Like I have “Jump” by Van Halen and “Jump” by the cast of Glee. I even like it when the same artist as the original artist does it. Like Ipo has both the original of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” and the acoustic version he did for MTV.

For some reason I find it uber-cool to take a song and preserve the basics of it, but transform it into a whole new sound. One easy way to do that is simply to have a person of the other gender record it. I think Joan Jett and the Blackhearts may have actually topped Tommy James and the Shondells when in 1981 they revamped the 1969 hit “Crimson and Clover.” I’m sorry, but the hotness factor went way up. If you don’t believe me, watch the video:

A similar thing happened in what I think has to be one of the best covers ever, the Bangles 1987 re-do of Simon and Garfunkel’s 1968 hit “Hazy Shade of Winter.” Well, that happens to be my favorite S&G song in the first place. So it just shows if you take a fabulous song and use the tools of your generation’s music to make it your own, great results occur. Start with the original:

And check out the Bangles:

Sometimes it works to take a song and give it a completely new spin, and both the Randometer and I love it when that happens, Blog. I had the fun of thinking about that quite a bit when I wrote my novel Looking on Darkness. One of the characters is a jazz singer who likes to do crazy covers. For example, in one scene she performs Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” as a reggae number.

In that regard I love the following two covers. If there’s anyone out there familiar with the musical “Oliver!”, you may recall one of the big radio hits from that show, “As Long as He Needs Me.” It was sung straight up as a slow, plaintive, melodramatic ballad both in the musical and by the various people who covered it. But last year my Broadway idol Jason Danieley did a cover with his band that is all jaunty and chipper but for reasons I cannot quite figure, is completely awesome that way. Give it a listen on this page.

But nothing tops the insanity of the Manhattan Transfer’s reinterpretation of the slow, passionate Righteous Brothers ballad “Unchained Melody.” If you do nothing else today, Blog, click on this link and listen to it. It’s like some nutty cowboy song or something. Who knows what they were on when they recorded it. Fantastic.

Sometimes covers are not so separated by time and style as these examples, as I will now illustrate, Blog. Last year I discovered the incredibly awesome version of “Our Lips are Sealed” by Fun Boy Three, which to my mind is eons cooler than the famous version by The Go-Go’s. Well, it seems the song was actually co-written by Go-Go’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin AND Terry Hall of Fun Boy Three. And the latter version came out only a year after the former. So, it was a fascinating case of artists collaborating and then performing a song separately in their own unique ways.

In closing, enjoy it--one of my favorite covers ever.

Have your own favorite cover song? Sing out in the comments! Randometer says you must!

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