Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Cover Wars: Volume One

The Walker Brothers version of "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" is one of those records I am taking with me when I go. For years I was under the impression it was their song and the Frankie Valli version was a decent cover. The fact is, the song was written by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe, Frankie Valli released it as a single, but it didn't become a monster smash until the Walker Brothers released it a year later.

Why am I telling you this?

Another one of those "in the coffin" records for me is Lulu's "Oh Me Oh My." Once a record hits that nerve, there is no turning back. I don't want to hear it rearranged. I don't want a reggae version. I don't want a remix. And if you're going to cover it, where I would normally balk at a faithful recreation---why bother?---when it comes to personal faves, at least show it respect, and keep it recognizable.

And speaking of respect, Miss Aretha Franklin's version of "Oh Me Oh My" popped up on the trusty ol' iPod yesterday while I was traveling on New Jersey Transit, taken me by surprise and keeping my mind off of the water below, as we crossed the bridge into South Amboy. (I hate that bridge.)

Holy Crap!

I've owned "Young, Gifted and Black" for what seems like my whole life. It's essential Aretha. I know the song was a hit for Miss Franklin, and yet, I felt like I was hearing it for the first time.

Now what do I do.

I think the death rule is, you are only allowed one version of each song in the coffin when you go.

You decide.

And also, feel free to share personal faves that were either covered to your amazement, or butchered to your dismay.


kevin m said...

Off the top of my head (still haven't had my morning coffee), The Holmes Brothers version of Cheap Trick's I Want You (to Want Me) is probably one of my favorite covers ever and I'd have no problem taking that version with me to the great beyond.

Sal Nunziato said...

You know Kevin, Cheap Trick is one of my favorite bands and their hits are my least fave songs by them, especially I Want You To Want Me. That Holmes Brothers cover is stunning! Great choice! And no coffee!

tinpot said...

I've always respected Lulu, but no-one could call her a great singer. So Aretha (who I love) should have the edge in this contest. But ... there's something magic about Lulu's version that Aretha just doesn't find.
So one vote for Lulu!

Anonymous said...

Hello all...no, please remain seated,

There's no shortage of cover verions of Jimmy Webb's Wichita Lineman. A song that great essentially plays itself. But, holy guaca-mackeral, look at this list:


God, the royalties from this song must have put Jimmy Webb's kids though college many, many time over. People from Jim Nabors to Sergio Mendes & Brazil 66 to Pat DiNizio(!) have apparently covered this tune. Devotees of twangy guitar should definitely google Johnny A's gorgeous version. But for today, feast your ear-holes on this mid 1990's version by an obscure Australian band named The Clouds:


I love this version.


Sal Nunziato said...

That Clouds version was great! Immediately reminded me of this, in style and execution.

Barry Eisenberg said...

Speaking of Aretha, I was amazed the first time I heard her sister Erma's cover of The Doors' Light My Fire (1969). Wow! I never was into The Doors, but this cover by Erma is special. Similarly, I never was into The Band, But Aretha's cover of "The Weight" (1969) sends me soaring!

dogbreath said...

Just listening to it again today: Angelique Kidjo's take on "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" does the business for me every time, a complete contrast to Jimi - but as I'm down to be cremated & scattered, should I be taking it with me? Sorry to hear you're having trouble passing water btw (old joke I know!).

Anonymous said...

Laura Nyro's early hits were almost always recorded better as covers. She always seemed a little stiff on them. My favorite is Brian Auger and the Trinity's version of "Save the Country." Just the intro piano chords are enough to get to me.

itsok2beright said...

I never listened to Lulu back in the day, but her version of a duets album (Together) is great. She even re-covers her own song; To Sir With Love.

As to the original posted question, I'm working on a spreadsheet for that.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I've always been fond of covers. Here are a few:

Johnny Cash "Rusty Cage"


Flat Duo Jets "Sing Sing Sing"


Posies "Richie Dagger's Crime"


Andy Kaufman "That's When Your Heartbreak Begins"


Davey Graham "Both Sides Now"


Signtopia said...

Sympathy For The Devil by Jonathon Round

Shriner said...

So I never actually heard Joe South's original version of "Hush" until a few years ago -- and it's great.

But the Deep Purple cover is a prime example of "making it your own". That one goes in the coffin.

Ken D said...

My all-time least favorite cover (excluding obvious Pat Boone–ish debacles) is 10,000 Maniacs' poppy, upbeat clueless remake of John Prine's "Hello In There," one of the saddest non–love songs ever. Nothing like lonely seniors to get those fingers snappin' and toes tappin'...

Hard to pick a favorite except to say that a highlight of any Marshall Crenshaw show is when he pulls out a forgotten chestnut and kills it. Last time I saw him it was "Journey to the Center of The Mind" (which is the only was I want to hear Ted Nugent).
And does anyone else remember old NRBQ shows with the "magic box"? You could request any song ever written (except an NRBQ song) and they would try to cover it. It was often a hilarious meltdown, and occasionally a jamming masterpiece.

Anonymous said...

Hello all...no, please remain seated,

Sal....Yes!...to the Whigs version of the Supremes' Come See About Me. Very Cool. Also, Yes! to the Holmes Brothers cover.

Here's another cover that knocks it out of the park, in my book, from the field of Country Music. Jamey Johnson does Waylon Jennings proud and wraps his chords around Dreaming My Dreams. Man, what a voice....



M_Sharp said...

I prefer Nick Lowe's "True Love Travels On A Gravel Road" to Elvis' bombastic version.

rick said...

The covers of 'Baby, It's You' by Smith; 'You Keep Me Hangin On' by The Vanilla Fudge; 'The Letter' by Joe Cocker...

Ken D said...

M_Sharp: "Gravel Road" was our "first dance" wedding song. Fine as Nick Lowe's version is, I'll take Percy Sledge's original. (I gave my wife the original 45 as a wedding present...)

Anonymous said...

VU's Rock and Roll by Mitch Ryder!

Cheers Marlon

Dave said...

"Oh Me Oh My" is a song I want to be buried with, too. I agree with Tinpot that Lulu's version wins, despite Aretha's spectacular vocal on her version. I believe in the notion of "casting" in music as well as acting. "Oh No, Not My Baby" is a personal favorite, and there's no way, despite another great vocal, that Aretha can capture the innocence of Maxine Brown's version (or Carole King's, for that matter).

But Aretha has astonished me several times with her cover. She took a perfect record, Sam Cooke's "You Send Me," and equalled it (she had me with that piano intro, before she opened her mouth) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQNJTmyPdnw, and took a routine Ray Charles rocker, "Come Back, Baby" and made it swing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-YSdeTaOaM

Dave F

Anonymous said...

Can't think of awful covers, as I apparently don't reserve space for those in the ol' memory bank. But some I love include Thelonious Monster's 'For My Lover', Throwing Muses' 'Amazing Grace', Sidewinders' 'Solitary Man', Red House Painters' 'All Mixed Up', Knitters' 'Silver Wings', Adicts 'Ode To Joy', Social Distortion's 'Ring Of Fire', Linda Ronstadt's 'Blue Bayou', Nina Simone's 'Ballad Of Hollis Brown', Eno's 'You Don't Miss Your Water', Siouxsie & Banshees 'The Passenger', Humble Pie 'I Don't Need No Doctor' (live), Blanche 'Runnin' With The Devil', Axton Kincaid "I Wanna Be Adored', Cigarettes After Sex 'Keep On Lovin' You'. Some songs are hard to do bad, so I have multiple covers, like 'Ace Of Spades', 'Wichita Lineman', 'I Wanna Be Sedated', 'Dancing Barefoot'. In the grave? From the above list, Knitters, Simone, Eno, Cigs After Sex.

M_Sharp said...

Thanks, Ken D, I didn't know that Percy Sledge did the original.

M_Sharp said...

I was amazed that The Yahoos "Dancing Queen" made me like that song, at least for the music. They also do a very worthy version of "Love Train", and a good "Roam".

Bill said...

Ii recently discovered the Holmes Brothers version of "Everything Is Free" by Gilliam Welch. Knocked my socks off, as they say.


Sal Nunziato said...

And speaking of the Holmes Brothers, their cover of "Love Train" produced by Joan Osborne, is pretty outstanding.

itsok2beright said...

Ok, so I didn't put on a spreadsheet, but here are a few quickies, trying not to repeat anything listed already. I surprisingly liked Roxy Music's cover of John Lennon's Jealous Guy. I have a love-hate relationship with Disturbed's cover of Genesis' Land of Confusion. And, depending on the day, the Van Halen covers of You Really Got Me and Pretty Woman also fall into the love-hate category.

Oh, and Lulu's best song is Surprise Surprise with Mr. Page.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I can't pick between Lulu and Aretha. I"ve never heard it before and I like equal things better in both songs.

Here's Jackie DeShannon with Mr. Page:


Scott Lee said...

Re Wichita Lineman, this might be the best version you never heard:


Shriner said...

I think we can all agree that Wichita Lineman is one of the world's most perfect songs, right?

Sal Nunziato said...

"I think we can all agree that Wichita Lineman is one of the world's most perfect songs, right?"

Yes! Even Travis didn't muck it up.

Anonymous said...

Hello all...no, please remain seated,

Scott Lee...you're right, the Lineman sounds great on dobro.
Shriner...agreed. A perfect song.

Mr. Nunziato.....maybe a topic for future consideration..."what multiply covered songs are so perfect that you have to try to m**k them up?"


Dr Wu said...

I might be missing the idea, or maybe these are just so obvious, but no mention of Al Green's 'How Can You Mend A Broken Heart', Johnny Cash's 'Hurt', Sinead O'Connor's 'Nothing Compares 2 U', Jeff Buckley's 'Hallelujah', Talking Heads' 'Take Me To The River', Steve Wonder's 'We Can Work It Out', Aretha Franklin's 'Respect', The Beatles with 'Twist And Shout', Jimi Hendrix and 'All Along The Watchtower', The Rolling Stones' 'Not Fade Away' and 'The Last Time', The Clash's 'I Fought The Law'? It's got to be the obvious thing. Less obvious, maybe: Any cover by Bettye LaVette, especially today 'I Still Want To Be Your Baby' and 'Somebody Pick Up My Pieces'. Nirvana's 'Man Who Sold The World'. 'Gin And Juice' by The Gourds. The Fugees' 'Killing Me Softly'. Linda Ronstadt's 'You're No Good'. So many, many more. We do get to take our iPods with us, right?

Sal Nunziato said...

Dr. Wu,

I think we might have all gotten carried away with fave covers. I think my original idea of "Cover Wars" was pointing original VS. cover and seeing which is better. But then I made mention of "songs I am taking with me." I love Linda's "You're No Good" but I don't need it in the casket with me. Now, it is just a FREE FOR ALL!!!

Dr Wu said...

Ahhh! Well then, to the grave, sir, I choose Antony Hegarty's cover of Leonard Cohn's 'If It Be Your Will'. Goosebumps every time. Not a bad way to spend eternity.

M_Sharp said...

Eddie Cochran's cool, but I'll take Rod Stewart's "Cut Across Shorty" over his any day. Love the violin.

I hated every cover David Lee Roth ever did, but it was probably due more to the obnoxious videos than his renditions.

Michael Giltz said...

Sal, do you have a funeral mix? (You mentioned taking the Walker song with you.)

Songs for us to play at your funeral (the original recording, not me doing covers, not that such a thing wouldn't be a-mazing)?

Or just a mix to celebrate and play of some favorites? I do. Both. (The finale of the memorial will be "Here Comes The Sun" as the overflow crowd leaves the venue where tears and laughter spilled out and they walk out into a crisp fall afternoon....)

Bill said...

In the spirit of your original post, Young Americans is one of my favorite Bowie songs. I recently came across this version, and in some ways I think I like it even more. It calls more attention to the lyrics, and I think their rhythms match the wistfulness hidden in the song. Check it out!


Northing said...

Lulu kinda defines "blue-eyed soul". She was always a better singer than her arrangers were tasteful! But, c'mon...Aretha!