I have been toying with something for a few days but I didn't want it to be about bad cover versions. Been there, done that. Though, it is a fun topic, I decided it could be more about missed opportunities. Let me explain.
Many moons ago, I mentioned in passing to a band member that Hall & Oates should cover the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." It would be a massive hit for them, I said. (So did scores of others, I presume. But I heard me say it.) Then, one summer afternoon in 1980, while shooting hoops in the Sheepshead Bay backyard of my friend John, it came on the radio. This was long before the internet and Stereogum, so there was no pre-release sample or build-up. No sharing of news on Facebook. This blew me away.
About ten years after that, I did read that a tribute to Elton John was about to be released on CD and that Hall & Oates were slated to record "Philadelphia Freedom." Genius, I thought. This is perfect. This will be as huge as the Righteous Brothers hit. But it wasn't. As a matter of fact, it wasn't very good. Completely devoid of any soul or emotion, this track felt lifeless, unlike what Elton originally released. How did five English guys nail it and two Philadelphia boys muck it up?
Now some of you might be thinking, "This H&O cover isn't so bad." Well, maybe it isn't. But this isn't about bad cover versions. It's about missed opportunites. This cover should have been massive. It's an A&R guy's dream.
The example I wanted to use instead of Hall & Oates was unavailable for evidence. No video on YouTube and all versions have been safely removed from my music library to avoid any possible infection to my other music. This was from my man, the pop genius, the Posy, Ken Stringfellow. He recorded one of my favorite songs of all time from one of my favorite albums of all time for a Left Banke tribute record. When I saw the pre-release info and spotted "She May Call You Up Tonight" by Ken Stringfellow, I thought, "This will be the best cover version ever." The Posies had already done what so many fail to do, and that is create a cover better than the original. They did that with their version of the Five Stairsteps "Ooh Child." (See below) They played it straight, but reached new heights with harmony and arrangement. It was like the finale of a Broadway musical, with power chords and a kick-ass rhythm section. And check out the genius move in the coda. You'll recognize another A.M. hit from the 70s.
But back to Ken for a minute. Instead of what I just described above, the Left Banke cover was two minutes of sped up drum machines, chintzy keyboards and vocals that sounded like they were recorded inside a giant tuna tin. Needless to say, I was crushed. What could have motivated this master of vocal and harmony to pay "tribute" in this manner?
Well, I guess this would be both a bad cover and a missed opportunity.
So my question is, do you have examples of "missed opportunities" but not necessarily bad cover versions?