Jun 152013

Sounds of the Hall in roughly 33 1/3 minutes!

Sounds of the Hall in roughly 33 1/3 minutes!

Cover versions are funny things; a familiar face seen out of context. Sometimes they’re inspired, sometimes lame, sometimes just downright silly. I rarely think a cover version is better than the original, even if the original isn’t all that great to begin with. I might enjoy the novelty of the cover for a while, but eventually it all goes back to respect for the source.

Still…compare, contrast & have fun listening.

SNSI_ Under the Covers

[Note: You can add Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your iTunes by clicking here. The Rock Town Hall feed will enable you to easily download Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your digital music player.]


  9 Responses to “Rock Town Hall’s Saturday Night Shut-In: Under The Covers”

  1. I’ve got some time to listen this morning. Here’s my running commentary.

    Who does that “Ziggy Stardust” cover? Did Bauhaus or some permutation do that one? It’s so close to the original it could be an outtake from Bowie and the Spiders’ original recording sessions. It even has the same funny snare sound. This gets to one of the difficulties with recording a cover of an iconic song: How to avoid making it into a fun karaoke exercise that would have been better served by a live performance?

    I don’t recognize the second song. I assume it’s Cat Power either covering an obscure soul song or turning an obscure U2 song into what sounds like a cover of an obscure soul song. Either way, I find the song boring, which is a typical problem with covering an obscure track. Sometimes there’s a reason a song is a deep kut. Every now and then I like a few songs from recent Cat Power albums, but I will never forgive her for that abominable cover of “Satisfaction.” I dread that showing up on this episode. I’m gonna lose it, man, if that version plays.

    I was thinking Steve Wynn had something to do with what turned out to be a cover of “What Goes On.” I love this song. It’s one of the most tempting songs for any band with cool tastes to cover. The difficulty with covering this song is that, no matter how good working to cover it is as a learning tool, what good actually comes from covering it? In the case of this version, the singer’s voice sucks, the band just rushes through the chords, and then they fail to maximize the majestic instrumental breaks. I would suggest musicians with good taste learn to cover “What Goes On,” then use the lessons from that song to write their own song, incorporating whatever part most appealed to them in the learning process. The Feelies, to cite one of many bands, made an entire career out of mining the VU songs they learned in private.

    I’m not sure what a cover of “Pink Moon” has to offer. I like the original, and this cover is not bad. The piano is especially good. That’s new to this arrangement, right? I always think of the original as being based around Nick Drake’s distinctive, heavy fingerpicking style. This is one of those covers that I’ll give the artist a high five for simply having the taste to cover. It’s also good he didn’t try to force the song into being more than what it is.

    What do you know, that was The Feelies doing “What Goes On”! Man, they should have had the good sense to be satisfied with all the songs they wrote that were based on that song and left the original to the VU!

    I feel confident stating that this instrumental cover of whatever John Hiatt song is MUCH better for the fact that I don’t have to hear the constipated toothpaste-thin turd that is Hiatt’s voice.

    The next song – is it called “Love Crime” – is simply not a song I could imagine liking in any form. It’s this a cover of a Glenn Frey solo song? An obscure U2 song? This has 1986 written all over it. This is the first song on tonight’s episode that has given me no pleasure. I take that back: My wife is a huge fan of the TV show Murder She Wrote (it’s like her T.J. Hooker), so those parts of the song do make me smile.

    I’m not sure I know the next song, either, but the approach is appealing, at least until the Sam Ash Sound guitar comes in. It sounds like M.I.A. in her dirty, rich girl mode.

    More in a bit…

  2. ladymisskirroyale

    Mod, can I just say that your ongoing commentary is as much fun as Mystery Science Theater 3000 (although Slim’s choice of cover material is a bit better). Your commentary has brought immense joy to my Monday morning. It’s almost as good as dancing. I can’t wait until you get to CVB’s cover of “Interstellar Overdrive” which I think I like even better than the original. Given your comments so far, I’m guessing you’ll hate it, but c’est la vie.

    I’m a big fan of covers, primarily because I like to see how a band/artist interprets the material. Your comments about Bauhaus’ cover of “Ziggy Stardust” are right on about the Cover Issue: xerox or edit? I tend to prefer a cover that is in a different style or offers something new rather than a straight up copy.

    Covers also offer some of us newbies to a particular genre of music an opportunity to 1. discover new bands, and 2. go back to the original versions of the songs.

  3. I remember CVB’s cover; that one’s plenty good and was a cool choice in its day!

    What you say about covers turning on people to music they may not have previously heard is right on. Even the Xerox covers can be justified for doing that.

  4. The list, including covered original artist:
    Bauhaus> Ziggy Stardust Simply Beautiful What Goes On Pink Moon Have A Little Faith In Me Lovecrimes Black Steel I Put a Spell On You Alone Again Or Interstellar Overdrive Pour Some Sugar On Me She Don’t Use Jelly Anyway That You Want Me <Troggs

    Yeah, some of these are cool, and some will never need to be heard twice (Cleaner's NIN-style take on hair metal), but it's good to know they're out there, either for entertainment, or for a cautionary tale.

    A couple of notes based on Mod's comments:
    -The Ziggy cover is indeed a spot-on rendition. Hearing the reverence Bauhaus puts into this reinforces an understanding of where that band was coming from. Similarly, the Feelies and Spritualized songs not only expose the templates for those bands, but to me they also reveal the working ethic of the original bands. Not only have a thousand bands emulated the "What Goes On" riffs, but so have the Velvets. And, listen to the end of the Spiritualized cover, as they kick into the "Wild Thing" riff, and you realize that was the building block for so much of the Troggs' sound. I guess we could say that one of the things a cover version can do, is to reflect new light on the original?
    -The M.I.A. sounding woman on the Tricky song is his co-singer, alter-ego, mouthpiece Martina.
    -The Afghan Whigs piece is not from '86, but in fact this year, covering a song from last year.
    -Arto Lindsay (Cat Power?!) was in DNA and Ambitious Lovers.
    -I almost put on the Beck cover of "I Only Have Eyes for You", which he treats very reverently.

  5. Wow, that playlist came out funky! That’s what I get for using arrows to indicate. I guess it went all freaky html on me. Well, if anyone needs any clarification, I’ll re-post it.

  6. Afghan Whigs…there’s a band whose charms I suspect the world is keeping a secret from me. Man, I don’t get them one bit. I hope the rest of you who like them are getting a good laugh at the “Kick me!” sign you’ve taped to my butt.

  7. Oh…I think it’s time for a Critical Upgrade on them.

  8. ladymisskirroyale

    “Pour some sugar on me she don’t use jelly anyway =

    Greatest unplanned rock title sequence, and right there with your theme of “Under the Covers”

  9. misterioso

    I’m pretty sure that back in the 90s I could say whether Afghan Whigs sucked more than the Gin Blossoms or vice-versa, but I can’t remember anymore, thank God.

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