Sincerest Form of Flattery

The other day while I was tooling around in my car the song “Landslide” came on the radio; however, it wasn’t the original Fleetwood Mac version, but the Dixie Chicks 2002 cover version. As I was listening to it I realized that I might actually like the cover version more than the original (heresy, I know). The way that the Dixie Chicks’ voices harmonized and melded together simply appeals to me slightly more than the more solo effort of Stevie Nicks. I still like the original, but given the choice I would probably listen to the Chicks’ version. Nicks wrote a beautiful song and does an amazing job with it, but I can’t help what I like.

This got me thinking about cover songs in general and other instances where I prefer the newer version of the song to the original. I’m generally a person who doesn’t like change, so I generally tend to favor the first version of a song that I hear; if I hear a song and don’t realize it is a cover I am far more likely to fancy the new version over the original. It works the other way as well – if I hear the original first, I tend to stick with that version over any subsequent versions that come along. What can I say – I’m a creature of habit and I’m mostly loyal to the first iteration that I am exposed to. This happens with movies as well.

However, I do occasionally buck my own trend and like a cover version even after I have already heard and liked the original. Sometimes a cover brings a new or interesting interpretation to a song; by adding their own flair to the song, the cover artist actually takes ownership of the song and makes it their own. They may change up the tempo or alter the arrangement. Sometimes all is takes is a woman singing a song that was traditionally sung by a man (or vice versa) to change your perspective on the lyrics or make you think of a song differently. You may just prefer the voice of the singer doing the cover version. It isn’t an exact science – I like what I like. With that in mind, here are some of my favorite cover songs:

  • Jem – “Maybe I’m Amazed”

 

Whoa – am I actually saying that I prefer a cover of a Paul McCartney song? Yes I am. The Wings version of this song is actually one of my favorite songs of theirs, but I’ve either heard it too much or can identify more with this song sung by a woman. Sir Paul wrote a beautiful song for his wife Linda, but it takes someone else singing his words to really speak to me. It doesn’t hurt that this song was prominently featured in The O.C., one of my guilty pleasure shows.

 

  • Gary Jules – “Mad World”

 

I will be the first to admit that I didn’t understand the movie “Donnie Darko” at all. I legitimately have no idea what was happening. I know it’s a cult classic, but this is one of those times where I don’t know if the movie was just smarter than I am or people just like weird stuff. However, the one thing I did take away from the film was its excellent cover of the Tears for Fears song “Mad World.” This slowed down version is much more poignant and tragic, which I guess is more my style.

 

  • Dynamite Hack – “Boyz in the Hood”

 

I think it is the sheer lunacy of a bunch of white boys doing an alt rock cover of a song by the rapper Easy-E that appeals to me because I can’t hear this song without smiling. The original is the more authentic, of course, and gives an insight into a way of life. The latter is just ridiculous. Sometimes I just want my music to be fun.

 

  • Sonic Youth – “Superstar”

 

The original The Carpenters version of this song is much more upbeat and not quite so ominous; it’s probably no coincidence that I discovered this Sonic Youth version in the trailer for a horror movie, High Tension. Sonic Youth made this song downright creepy; I’m guessing the lesson here is that I prefer the more unsettling and melancholy versions of pop songs. Perhaps this is something I should talk about with my therapist.

 

  • Metallica – “Whiskey in the Jar”

 

You want to piss off a lot of people on St. Patrick’s Day? Tell them how much you love “this Metallica song” when someone plays “Whiskey in the Jar.” That never fails to get people all riled up. The traditional Irish song was made famous first by the Irish folk band The Dubliners, but I much prefer the hard rock edge that Metallica puts on it. They take this song to a whole other level.

 

  • Tiffany – “I Think We’re Alone Now”

 

Thanks to the radio always being on in my house growing up, I was well aware (unlike most of my friends) that this song was originally performed by Tommy James & The Shondells. But knowing my musical history didn’t make me any less a child of the 80s so I much prefer the updated version that “mall queen” Tiffany released in 1987.

 

  • 10,000 Maniacs – “Because the Night”

 

This is obviously a great song because The Boss himself, Mr. Bruce Springsteen, helped write it. But I have never been much of a Patti Smith fan so her original version of the song didn’t do much for me. I remember being very bored when she was the opening act for R.E.M. when I saw them in concert; I didn’t dig her at all. I am, however, a fan of Natalie Merchant’s voice, so it is no surprise that it is no contest that I prefer the 10,000 Maniacs version to the original.

 

  • Eric Clapton – “I Shot the Sheriff”

 

I happen to subscribe to the “Clapton is God” way of thinking about things, so as much as I enjoy Bob Marley and like his original version of this song, I would much rather listen to ol’ Slowhand do his thing with this tune. Apologies to Marley and the Wailers, but that’s just how things are.

 

  • Nirvana – “Lake of Fire”

With all due respect to The Meat Puppets, once Kurt Cobain gets ahold of your song, it’s pretty much over. No one is going to remember that it was your song, which is exactly what happened when Nirvana performed the song during their legendary MTV Unplugged appearance. Even though The Meat Puppets came first and Cobain was paying them tribute with his version, most people think of this as a Nirvana song.

 

  • Johnny Cash – “Hurt”

 

I liked this song just fine when it was originally done by Nine Inch Nails, but in the hands of the “man in black” the song really takes on a life of its own. Covered toward the end of Cash’s life, his version carries the weight of a man looking back at this life and the mistakes he’s made. It’s tragic and beautiful all at the same time.

 

Definitely NOT making my list:

  • Whitney Houston – “I Will Always Love You”

 

I get why people love this song and there is no disputing that Houston has a gorgeous voice and made this song a global phenomenon. But this is and always will be Dolly Parton’s song to me. Because Dolly Parton is awesome.

 

I’m sure that I missed a bunch – what are your favorite cover songs of all time? Sound off in the comments below.

 

12.12.12. Concert for Sandy Relief

Last night, like I suspect a lot of people, I tuned in to the 12.12.12 concert for Sandy relief. I was kind of surprised that I had so many options as to where to watch the concert; it aired on dozens of channels and was streaming live on-line on over a dozen websites. It was nice to see that so many different networks and sites came together to make sure that many different audiences could watch the concert.

Of course, I don’t know how diverse the audience for this concert was. It definitely skewed toward older white guys – the only woman to headline was Alicia Keyes and she and Kanye West were the only people of color – and there was a surprising British bias with acts like The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, The Who, Chris Martin, Roger Waters and Paul McCartney. It makes sense that the participants would skew toward the Baby Boomer set, as they have far more money to contribute than young adults. The tickets to this show weren’t cheap and the goal was to attract as much money as possible. I also think that younger people would me more likely to tune into a concert featuring “classic rock” that vice versa; I don’t know how many Boomers would be watching a set list featuring Justin Bieber and One Direction. I don’t know that I would watch that. I am right in the middle of these age groups, but my musical tastes skew toward the performers that were featured. In fact, I’ve already seen a large percentage of them in concert.

I enjoyed the concert, though it was pretty long. I fell asleep for the end of it, which is not a reflection on the musical performances but a result of the cold medicine I took earlier in the evening. Even with the 7:30 start time, the concert rocked out until the wee hours of the morning. I don’t know how those people in the audience were still awake. At least it looked like the people on the floor had seats; the few times I’ve done the floor it has been standing room only and you have to get there hours ahead of time to get a good spot. That is a long time to be on your feet.

Some random thoughts that I had during the concert:

  • Kicking it off with the Boss. The right way to do it. BRRRRUUUUUUCCCCCCCEEEEEE!
  • Liking the song selection – you really can’t be more on the nose that “My City in Ruins.”
  • The Boss’ pants are awful tight. They leave absolutely nothing to the imagination.
  • Bon Jovi and The Boss together on stage? That might be too much for the good people of Jersey to handle.
  • Text of the night goes to my brother who asked me if Jon Bon Jovi and Chris Jericho (WWE professional wrestler) are the same person. He’s not wrong; I never noticed the similarity before.

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  • I was a little disappointed in Roger Waters – he doesn’t really have a good voice anymore. Now I’m wondering if I didn’t notice this over the summer when I went to see The Wall because there were so many other cool things going on visually. Maybe that is the whole point – distract the audience with the special effects.
  • If you are going to announce that Eddie Vedder is making an appearance during the Waters set, it is probably best to not have a guy who looks slightly like Vedder sing some of the songs before Vedder appears. Twitter was freaking out – they thought Eddie had bailed and they were using a reasonable facsimile of Vedder to stand in. I knew that Vedder wasn’t appearing until “Comfortably Numb,” as Waters had said so the night prior on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. I had inside information that apparently no one else had.
  • It is amazing – every time I see Vedder, I am immediately transformed to being 14 years old again. Pearl Jam is allegedly working on a new album and will tour next year; if so, count me in. I haven’t seen them live in over a decade.
  • Brian Williams seems like he’s losing it. He was goofy. At one point he said something about swinging a dead cat.
  • Reaction seems split on Adam Sandler’s rewriting of Cohen’s “Hallelujah” as “Sandy Screw Ya,” but I thought it was pretty funny. I’m a sucker for a Sandler song parody.
  • Ugh. What is Kristen Stewart doing here? And more importantly – why does she look so terrible?

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KStew bought her patented joy and sunshine to the proceedings. She looked so miserable and unhappy to be there that you would have thought that she lost her home in Sandy.

  • Bon Jovi got to do their own set, but it is hard to rock out in a black turtleneck (I’m looking at you, Jon). Questionable fashion choices abounded.
  • If anyone was wondering, Clapton is still God. I love him; I pretty much wore out my Timepieces cassette back in the day. It took tremendous restraint not to buy tickets when I heard he was coming to Mohegan Sun Arena. I really, really want to see him live, but I need to remember I afford to go see everything.
  • The Rolling Stones set was only two songs. I was really surprised that they were on stage for such a short amount of time. I know that they were a late edition, but I wish they had been given more time.
  • Alicia Keys looked beautiful and was great; I was curious why she didn’t play “Empire State of Mind” during her set, but it turns out that was saved for later in the show. Otherwise that would have been a curious choice.
  • Very cool to see so many cast members from The Sopranos answering the phones in the phone bank.
  • Oy. Poor Steve Buchemi. What should have been a nice segment about the rescue and relief work that The Graybeards, a community organization in Rockaway, did after Sandy. Instead it was a bunch of drunk guys who totally derailed the segment by interrupting Buchemi and manhandling the poor guy. Probably should have waited to knock a few back until after they were on TV. Still, good on them and the work they do.
  • I’ve never considered myself a big The Who fan, but they put together a solid set. Nice tribute to Keith Moon during “Bell Boy.” I also never fail to think about Paul O’Neill when I hear “Baba O’Reilly,” as that was his at-bat music when he was a Yankee. And no, the name of that song isn’t “Teenage Wasteland.” Get it right people.
  • I probably could have done without Roger Daltrey undoing his shirt, but if I’m in that good of shape at his age, I’d probably flaunt it too.
  • Funniest line on twitter: Someone pointing out that Daltrey has more than a passing resemblance to Mama from Mama’s Family (a show that I admit to loving, even if it isn’t very sophisticated). It’s the hair.

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  • Ellen DeGeneres apparently looks like a lot of aging rockers; lots of people were compared to her throughout the night on Twitter.
  • We’ve hit the part of the night I was most looking forward to – how is this audience going to react to Kanye West, who they probably know mainly as the guy who was mean to Taylor Swift (in retrospect, West may have been on to something. Swift is super annoying).
  • Dear God, what is Kanye wearing? It’s some sort of hoodie/leather kilt ensemble. Fabulous. (Kanye’s skirt now has its own twitter account)
  • Look, I like Kanye, but I think he is totally miscast on this concert bill. This isn’t his crowd and they are giving him too much time. I’d love to see him live, but I don’t think he fits at this show.
  • At this point, I fell asleep. I really, really wanted to see the later acts, but it was just getting too late.
  • I was supper pissed that I missed a surprise appearance by Michael Stipe with Chris Martin
  • Billy Joel was reportedly solid as always. He’s really the best; I don’t care if it isn’t cool to like Billy Joel, I totally do.
  • Of course, the big news of the night was that the surviving members of Nirvana were reuniting to perform with Sir Paul McCartney. Courtney Love was none too pleased, but who cares what she things anymore? (This coming from someone who liked her band Hole). I am more likely to entrust Cobain’s musical legacy with his former band mates than with her at this point. She really needn’t have worried; they didn’t even play any Nirvana songs, but instead unveiled a new song, “Cut Me Some Slack” that will be in the movie that Dave Grohl’s upcoming movie. And Sir Paul still knows how to rock.

My main complaint about the evening, other than the length and Kanye not really fitting in, is that is difficult to find any footage of the performances online. Perhaps that will change in the next few days, but if they want to boost album sales for the benefit album, they should probably make the music more accessible to people who were unable to stay up until the show ended. I think the show even went over the scheduled time, so anyone who DVRed it probably missed some performances.

Otherwise, it was a nice evening for a good cause. I’m not usually a fan of watching concerts on TV – if you aren’t there, what’s the point – but this was a rare exception. I just hope that all the people that were watching opened up their wallets to contribute something for all the free entertainment that they received. All the performers donated their time –no one was paid for their performance. You can still make a donation here.