Saturday, June 25, 2005


They Sure Don't Make Them Like They Used To

In honor of the Black Cat's "Run For Cover" event tonight, I thought I'd post a few of my favorite cover songs.

A good cover song is more than just a band playing someone else's music. Any two-bit bar band can do that. The key is to take the tune and twist it in some way to make it interesting again. Speed it up. Slow it down. Completely change the musical style. Do something that'll take a familiar tune and force people to look at it in a new way. Take something that's old and tired and make it exciting again.

9353 is an old-school DC punk/art/psycho band. Their version of Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild is manic, scary and catchy all at the same time. I'm not sure if I should jump around and play air guitar or hide under the couch. This comes from their 2nd LP We Are Absolutely Sure There Is No God, later released on CD as Make Your Last Days Loud Days. Despite the fact that Amazon lists it, I'm pretty sure it's out of print. It turns up on Ebay periodically though. Be warned that it you search for "9353" on Ebay, you'll also find the occasional Air Supply single. Really.

There's no denying that Rock Around The Clock is an absolute classic. Of course, that makes it the perfect target to be destroyed. This version comes from the Sex Pistols' Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle. I've heard that this is The Sex Pistols, Tenpole Tudor, or possibly Eddie Tenpole fronting the Sex Pistols. I really don't know. I know it's a great tune though.

Talk about fun. What could be more fun than a bunch of New York hipsters playing toy instruments. Well, they could be covering a classic pop song. Say...The Letter. Pianosaurus does exactly that. Originally by Wayne Carson Thompson and made famous by The Box Tops. This band never fails to put a smile on my face.

The last time I saw Q And Not U I picked up this compilation called Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again. It's a compilation of indie-rock folks (many from here in the DC area) putting a new spin on songs from the Vietnam era. There are tons of great covers from the likes of Enon, Beauty Pill, Ted Leo, Death Cab and a bunch of others. Since I picked this up at a Q And Not U show, I figured I'd put up their track. It's a cover of Neil Young's Don't Let It Bring You Down. The disc is on Exotic Fever records. It's a benefit cd for the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). If you download this and like it, you should track it down and buy it. You can get it from Exotic Fever's website, or from Dischord. It's money well spent.

Devo has done a few covers in their day, but nothing else comes close to Satisfaction. It takes some balls to take one of the most recognizable rock songs of all-time (with one of the most distinctive guitar riffs of all-time) and turn it into a herky-jerky new-wave classic all it's own. Try not to run out of breath on the "Baaaabybabybabybabybabybaby....." part of the song. This can be found on the Are We Not Men? cd. Everyone should own that. Easily my second favorite cover ever.

And then there's Hüsker Dü's cover of Eight Miles High. This song absolutely destroys every other cover song ever done. I remember the first time I heard this in the mid-80's. My college roommate brought home the 7" one day. I knew The Byrds and this song. I knew a little about Hüsker Dü and what they sounded like. I knew this would be interesting, if nothing else. Holy Mother of God. Nothing prepared me for this. Total aural onslaught. If you know what song it is ahead of time, you can pick out the parts that sound like the original...maybe even a few lyrics. Play this for your folkie friends and watch them run out of the room. The rawness and power of this song are just amazing. It goes way beyond land-and-fast. The emotion that pours out simply transcends the noise. It's one of those songs that leaves you physically drained after hearing it. I really like The Byrds version, but it's the Hüsker Dü version that just kills me. Play it as loud as you possibly can. Then play it again. You can buy it here.

All songs are posted simply for the sake of turning someone on to something they may not be familiar with. They're only up for a limited time. If you like what you hear, you should support the artists and labels involved and buy the music somewhere legit. If you support them, they'll be able to make more music. If you don't, they'll have to become insurance agents or something. Who wants that?

7/5 - mp3's are down.

Hüsker Dü's cover of "Love is All Around," the theme to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, always brings a smile to my face.
You just like throwing your floppy hat in the air like Mary does.
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