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cover songs

Saturday video break: Something So Right

Here’s Paul Simon performing one of his solo hits:

Simon was a top-notch songwriter for over 20 years, and if you look at the trajectory of most artists, that’s a long time. Here’s Annie Lennox, in a recording someone took from a performance she gave on morning TC show, doing her rendition of this song:

Her actual recording, on the Medusa album, is longer, but I was delighted to find even a low-quality version of her doing a live contemporaneous performance of this, so that’s what I went with. Paul Simon is a decent singer with a decent voice, but man is it a treat to see his work being done by someone with a truly amazing voice, and a lot more stage presence to boot.

Saturday video break: Somebody Loves Me

I feel like we could use a little sax music, so here are Al Cohn and Zoot Sims:

I’m pretty sure it’s the law that you have to be a musician to be nicknamed “Zoot”. Where there’s jazz there’s western swing, and where there’s western swing there’s the Hot Club of Cowtown:

Sadly, there was not a live version of this, but I encourage you to search around YouTube for the live performances they do have. If you don’t already like this kind of music, you will after you watch a few of their videos.

Saturday video break: Solsbury Hill

An all time classic from Peter Gabriel:

No, I have no idea what the lettuce this is about. Apparently, the video was done much later, so who knows. Now here’s Jiggernaut:

There’s a live version here but the audio quality is so-so. I personally like bagpipes and think it adds something to this rendition, but your mileage may vary.

Saturday video break: Smells Like Teen Spirit

I have two covers of the grunge classic. First, the Meat Puppets:

Boy, they really leaned in on their name, didn’t they? That’s from “Newermind”, a tribute to Nirvana on the 20th anniversary of the album release, put out by SPIN magazine. Next up is Tori Amos:

That’s probably the best-known cover of the song. I have to say, I’m a little uncomfortable looking at her posture at the piano – that seems like an ergonomic problem – but I suppose there are only so many options if one want to make eye contact with the audience.

There are lots of other covers out there, but of course the best full-media interpretation of Kurt Cobain is done by Weird Al:

And yes, it does pay to rehearse. See you next time.

Saturday video break: Ship of Fools

I give you Bob Seger and his amazing 70’s-era hair:

If we must have a musician from Michigan run for the US Senate, shouldn’t it by right be Bob Seger? I’m pretty sure it should. A different song by this name is a Grateful Dead standard, and while I don’t have that in my library, I do have Elvis Costello’s cover of it:

I found a video of him doing this live at Radio City Music Hall that was great, but annoyingly it cut off about halfway through. So this is the best I can do.

Saturday video break: She’s No Lady

Here’s national treasure Lyle Lovett:

You’ll have to ask him if he wrote that about Julia Roberts. In the meantime, here’s Lou Rawls:

Also a national treasure. You might be able to get away with having this song dedicated to your wife if she hears Lou Rawls singing it.

Saturday video break: Shenandoah

Here’s Bruce Springsteen performing this classic American folk song:

That’s from his Seeger Sessions album, which was basically aimed right at my sweet spot. For an every more growly-voiced take, here’s Tom Waits with Keith Richards:

Hitch the horses to the wagons, I’m ready to ride.

Saturday video break: Shame On The Moon

Here’s Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band with a deep cut:

Gotta say, in thirty years of listening to AOR and classic rock radio, I don’t think I’d heard that song before. I know, the playlists are shallow, but still. Now here’s Rodney Crowell:

I’ve mentioned the Fluxblog 80s mixes before. Turns out the Crowell song is on the 1981 mix, and the Seger version, which I presume is a cover, is from 1982. I didn’t know Seger did covers, but that song is right in his wheelhouse, so there you have it.

Saturday video break: Shake Your Booty

Fluff up your hair, put on your dancing shoes, turn your HiFi up to max volume, and get down to KC and the Sunshine Band:

Now that, my friends, is what I’m talking about. It’s too much awesomeness for any one person, and it can all be yours for $12.99 plus shipping and handling on K-TEL Records’ Sizzling Hits of 1975. Order now, operators are standing by.

Some forty years later, it all gets put through the Disney machine, and out comes Forever in Your Mind:

That is from the Disney Channel show Best Friends Whenever, for its back-to-the-70s extravaganza episode. Go ahead, ask me how I know this. The thought occurs to me that those groovy grandparents probably ordered a copy of K-TEL Records’ Sizzling Hits of 1975 back in the day. Possibly on 8-track, which I believe cost a dollar more. Those were the days.

Saturday video break: September

The only thing that can rival the 80s for video awesomeness is the 70s, and when you think of the 70s, you should think of Earth, Wind & Fire:

The glitter, the dashikis, the groovy video effects – it’s all there, in one spectacular package. The vocals and the horns are pretty great, too. A more modern take on this comes from Pomplamoose:

I like how they sped up the tempo, and of course the dancing grandma is fabulous. It’s not as funky as EWF – how could it be? – but it’s peppy and joyful and it works.

Saturday video break: Save It For Later

Let’s start with The English Beat:

Some day, when my kids ask me “Dad, what was it really like in the 80s?”, I’m going to show them that video. That, and maybe an episode of LA Law. Now for one of the best cover-doers out there, the pairing of Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs:

Do yourself a favor the next time you’re feeling a little blue and you have some time to kill, and spend some of that time on YouTube with live acoustic videos of Sweet and Hoffs doing their thing. I couldn’t find such a version for this, but there’s plenty of others. You’ll thank me for it. And as good as that is, my favorite version of this remains Pete Townshend’s:

Just perfect in every way. Happy Saturday, y’all.

Saturday video break: Sara

Here’s Fleetwood Mac with one of their bigger post-Rumours hits:

There isn’t a Fleetwood Mac video channel as far as I could tell, so that was the best-looking video I could find. Other than the lips not always synching with the music, it’s not too bad. Now here’s Camper Van Beethoven’s take on this:

That may be the least-viewed video I’ve ever embedded. CvB did a song-by-song cover of the Tusk album – their 10-minute rendition of the title track is kind of amazing. Perhaps a bit of an acquired taste, but I like it anyway.

Saturday video break: Safety Dance

Hey, I just realized that I’ve never seen the video of the Men Without Hats classic “Safety Dance”. Let’s watch, shall we?

Well, that was…um, yeah, I got nothing. Let’s just go to the Literal Video version, because there just had to be a literal video version of that:

Now it all makes sense. With that, here’s Big Daddy:

No matter how weird things get, you can always count on Big Daddy.

Saturday video break: Royals

Here’s Lorde’s global hit:

She’s going to be in Houston for the 2017 Free Press Summerfest, which I will be unable to attend. One presume she isn’t coming all this way just to play a couple of days in Houston, but her tour schedule doesn’t actually include many American appearances, so check her out while you can. Meanwhile, here’s Bruce Springsteen’s now-famous cover of “Royals” from his down under tour in 2014:

I’ve watched that video multiple times and I still love it. It’s Springsteen at his roots, singing a song you could imagine him having written. He’s well known for doing covers at his live shows, but man would I love him to put together an album of the tributes he’s done.

Saturday video break: Rock This Town

A big hit from the Stray Cats:

Am I the only one who thinks that the “real square cat” who “looks so 1974” kinds sorta resembles Weird Al Yankovic with a short haircut? It’s the mustache and the smirk, I guess. Now here’s lead singer Brian Setzer with his Orchestra nearly 20 years later:

That’s the beautiful thing about having a horn section – you can let them kick things off while you get a quick drink and fix your hair. Also, they sound great. Other than that, it’s the same basic arrangement, he just has more accompaniment.

Saturday video break: Pulling Mussels From A Shell

Squeeze, circa 1980:

Such an underrated band. I don’t think I heard any of their music on the radio back in the day – I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it on a “classic rock” station either, though I can’t swear to this. I discovered them the old-fashioned way, by raiding my roommate’s record and CD collection. Now here’s Chris Difford circa 2012:

I don’t know if it counts as a “cover song” when an artist reinterprets his own material, but I love it when it’s done well. Phil Collins’ “Behind The Lines” from Face Value, and Sting’s “Shadows In The Rain” from The Dream Of The Blue Turtles are my other top two in this category. Do you have any examples?

Saturday video break: Pressure Drop

Here’s Toots and the Maytalls:

I have a live acoustic version of this from the KCBO in-studio series. Any way they do it sounds good. Now here are The Specials:

That’s from the soundtrack to the movie Grosse Point Blank, which came out in 1997 and which I’d say was the leading edge of the 80’s music revival. Now I feel like I need to get the second album as well. It’s interesting that the score for Grosse Point Blank was composed by Joe Strummer of The Clash but their cover of this song was not the one picked for the movie. I think it was the right choice, but it’s still interesting.

Saturday video break: Our Lips Are Sealed

It’s peak 80’s with the Go-Gos:

I’m so old, I’m watching them drive around in that convertible and all I can think is “PUT YOUR SEAT BELTS ON! ARE YOU CRAZY?” Different times, they were. Now here are favored cover artists Matthew Sweet and Susannah Hoffs:

As one of the commenters said, a double bill of the Go-Gos and the Bangles would have been awesome. Maybe in another life.

Saturday video break: Operator

The classic gospel song by the great jazz/a capella group The Manhattan Transfer:

Oh, those outfits. I confess, I don’t actually have a ManTran version of this song in my library right now, though I have owned this on cassette in the past. I’ll get around to fixing that one of these days. I do have two versions by Eddie from Ohio, both of them live recordings:

EFO hasn’t toured much since 2005, when lead singer Julie Murphy Wells was diagnosed with breast cancer. That video is from 2012, and it makes me happy to see her healthy and dancing around. I like the coda they add that leans into the gospel-ness of the song. I keep hoping they’ll release another CD and maybe take another trip to Texas, but until then at least there’s some newer material on YouTube.

Saturday video break: Once In A Lifetime

One of the more iconic songs by the Talking Heads:

Who hasn’t asked himself these questions? Nobody does musical paranoia like David Byrne. This song was also used to great effect in the movie Down and Out in Beverly Hills.

And nobody does mashed-up covers of popular songs like Big Daddy:

Because of course this song blends well with Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O”. Isn’t it obvious?

Saturday video break: One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer

Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only John Lee Hooker:

We should all achieve that level of coolness at least once in our lifetimes. Now here’s George Thorogood with the version you’ve probably heard:

So, did Jersey party as good as they did in Philly? I love the narrative he adds to the song. The spoken-word song is an underrated tool in the musical toolbox, if you ask me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m thirsty.

Saturday video break: Nowhere To Run

Let’s throw it back with Martha and the Vandellas:

I love that music videos were being made in the 60s. MTV was a decade and a half away, something like this might get shown once on an “American Bandstand”-type show, and yet here we are fifty years later watching it on Youtube. What a serendipitous fluke.

Now here are The Commitments, paying homage on their extended soundtrack:

My fellow Orphan Black fans will recognize Maria Doyle “Mrs. S” Kennedy in the front row, second from the right. Last season coming up, I sure hope they tie it all together.

Saturday video break: New Year’s Eve

Since today is actually New Year’s Eve, I thought it would be appropriate to break the pattern for this classic torch song. Here’s Kacey Musgraves asking you what are you doing New Year’s Eve:

Props for the clarinet solo. there aren’t nearly enough clarinet solos in popular music, if you ask me. And because there are a ton of recordings of this song and I can’t help myself, here are Zoey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt doing their thing:

Happy New Year’s Eve. I’ll see you on the other side.

Saturday video break: My Best Friend’s Girl

A classic from The Cars:

Gotta love those period-era live videos, at least when the sound quality and production are reasonably good. Sometimes I wonder what the people who shot the video thought would happen to it. Getting uploaded to the Internet some 30 years later probably wasn’t a possibility they contemplated.Now here’s Hayseed Dixie:

And sometimes I think that the most authentic version of many rock and pop hits are countrified novelty covers of them by the likes of these fellas. The only competition for that would be a Big Daddy 50’s-esque doo-wop mashup. It’s a close call.

Saturday video break: Mrs Robinson

Let’s all sing along with Simon and Garfunkel:

Here’s a video of the song playing over scenes from the movie with which it is closely identified, The Graduate. The audio is a little weird or I’d have used it instead, but there it is if you want to watch it. The story of how that song wound up in that movie is worth reading, if only for a good chuckle at what a comedy of near-errors it was.

The Lemonheads have the best-known cover of this song, but I’m more fond of Pomplamoose’s version:

Mostly, I’m a fan of Nataly Dawn’s voice, and she nails the phrasing without being too overt about it. And I’m glad that Joe DiMaggio had the right number of syllables that Paul Simon needed.

Saturday video break: Mr Blue Sky

Here’s Lily Allen covering a classic rocker:

I kind of love this version. She has the perfect voice for a song that always makes me happy to hear. Now here’s the Electric light Orchestra original:

It’s good, and you have to love the trippy 70’s animation, but honestly I say Allen does it better. It’s faithful to the original but it just feels peppier. What do you think?

Saturday video break: Minnie The Moocher

From the movie The Cotton Club, it’s Cab Calloway’s greatest hit:

I saw that movie in the theater back in the day – it was kind of mediocre, but the soundtrack is killer. I’ve owned it on vinyl and on CD, and of course now it’s been ripped to MP3. I suppose I should watch the movie again some day – it has a great cast, including a very young Diane Lane. I see that Siskel and Ebert both loved the movie, so maybe I’m wrong about its merits. I just know I thought it was meh at the time.

Now here’s a live version from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy:

Man, I love the sound of a muted trumpet. I’m pretty sure the soloist in this video had a straight mute as well as the cup mute you see going. I also like that they have a different verse in this song. What’s your favorite version of this tune?

Saturday video break – Merry Christmas, Baby

The Boss and friends bring you greetings of the season:

This was recorded in 2002. Seeing Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici again – it’s all the feels, you know?

Here’s a much shorter version of this song from Otis Redding:

Merry October, y’all.

Saturday video break: Mele Kalikimaka

We’re going to have a little Christmas in September these next couple of weeks, starting with this oldie from Bing Crosby:

I believe that’s the Andrews Sisters joining him as well. This is one of those songs, which were fairly prevalent in this era, that has one long verse, with no refrain, that gets sung a couple of times, possibly with a shortened version of the verse thrown in, with instrumental breaks as well. It’s a very successful form, and lends itself well to sing-alongs since everyone knows the words by the end, but there isn’t much more to say about it. So, we move on to the other version, from the Asylum Street Spankers:

See what I mean? Makes it easy to bring the song in at around three minutes, that’s for sure.

Saturday video break: Me and Bobby McGee

I have an acoustic Kris Kristofferson version of this classic that breaks my heart every time I hear it, and a version by the Modern barbershop Quartet that I can’t find on YouTube, so I’m just going to put a few videos for this out there. Here’s an acoustic version by Pink, who shows up often in a search on just the song title:

She’s got a good Joplin growl to her voice. If I hadn’t seen her singing that, I might have been fooled. Now here’s Sheryl Crow dueting with Kristofferson in a more rocking version:

Crow does not have a growl in her voice, but she has enough depth. I like the arrangement. Here’s a much younger Kristofferson singing with Rita Coolidge:

Kristofferson is the only singer I’ve ever heard clearly enunciate the line “Nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’, but it’s free”. Coolidge has a nice voice, but it doesn’t quite fit this song. There’s too much backup, too. Finally, here’s Kristofferson with Johnny Cash and a little bonus Willie Nelson.

I mean, honestly. They’re all too giddy singing this, but how can you blame them? And how can you not feel a little giddy yourself when Nelson walks onstage to join them?

Saturday video break: The Man In Me

Yet another Bob Dylan song to be covered:

Pretty good song, but that’s just like, my opinion, man. Now here are The Persuasions:

It’s not just my opinion but solid, objective fact that Jerry Lawson has an excellent voice.

Saturday video break: Mah Na Mah Na

There are many ways to spell that, but we all know the words. Sing along with the Asylum Street Spankers:

Very sad there’s no live video recording of that, it was always a blast to watch them perform it. With the title rendered as two words and not four, here’s CAKE:

Yes, I know, the video is a clip from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. I guess the band never made their own video for this.

Of course, the version everyone knows if from The Muppet Show, imported from Sesame Street:

The original version of the song, by Piero Umilani, is from a movie Sweden: Heaven and Hell (Svezia, inferno e paradiso).

If your first thought was like mine, that you expected a Benny Hill sketch to break out as you were watching that, then the song’s history should be easily comprehensible.

Saturday video break: Magic Bus

Get on the bus with The Who, y’all.

And as I threatened promised last week, here’s Pete Townshend doing this solo, at The Deep End:

Who needs backup vocalists when the whole audience sings along? Also, too: windmilling. I swear, I’ll have a non-Pete Townshend song next week.

Saturday video break: Love On The Air

I’m going to indulge my Pete Townshend fixation for the next two weeks. First, here’s former Pink Floyd guitarist and friend of Townshend David Gilmour with a single from his 1984 CD “About Face”:

And here he is performing the same song live, with Pete Townshend, at the latter’s legendary Deep End Live show:

Gilmour backed Townshend on the other songs during this show, and here you can see Pete enjoying himself as he returns the favor. Not all of the songs from this show are on the live CD, but thankfully the ones that aren’t live on YouTube. Do yourself a favor and check them all out.