Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cover Me | 2 Dozen Super Awesome Covers

Listen to Melt-Banana's mash-up/deconstruction of the Beach Boys' "Surfin' USA" and "You're Welcome"

Hear Crowd Lu fearlessly scale the upper registers of Minnie Ripperton's "Loving You"

Dig Anthony Wong's Lou Reedy take on Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind"

Let your jaw drop in utter disbelief as Kahimi Karie reconceives Jimmy Cliff's "Harder They Come" for the 21st Century

Thrill to Mika Nakashima's dead-pan run-through of Sid Vicious's version of "My Way" (Note how "fucking" passes the censor several times, but not a reference to killing her cat, which gets bleeped out)

Sweat and fret as O.N.T.J detonate The Runaways' "Cherry Bomb"

Grab it all in one big glop, here.

According to George Plasketes’ Play it Again: Cover Songs in Popular Music, there are an estimated 40,000 songs floating around out there with at least one recorded cover version. This strikes me as an incredibly conservative estimate.

Whatever the real number might be, there are degrees of covering, and not all acts of covering mean or resonate in the same way. There’s a significant difference, for instance, between a Cambodian pop musician of the 70s swiping guitar licks from Santana or Creedence Clearwater Revival and a contemporary Latino group in Los Angeles basing a whole career covering songs from The Smiths catalog.

Neither act is better or worse, neither more nor less interesting than the other. But they are, in terms of their meaning, different enough to note.

Likewise, and more recently, Gwyneth Paltrow’s covering Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You” (the clean version of “Fuck You”) on an episode of “Glee” exists on a whole other meaning-plane from that of Gnarls Barkley’s cover of the Violent Femmes’ “Gone Daddy Gone,” despite the common denominator of Cee Lo.

Speaking of which, what is UP with Gnarls Barkley’s “Gone Daddy Gone”? First, take a look at this official video. (Sorry, you'll have to click the link; embedding has been disabled.)

The song was a huge hit in the 1980s for the Violent Femmes, who were, if memory serves me, THE voice of the geeky white ectomorph. Every song seemed, regardless of the lyrics, to be about the experience of being extremely uncomfortable in one’s distressingly reedy, pasty body. So, what could a rather larger-than-normal black guy possibly be wringing out of this song?

As it turns out: Everything. The video, which pictures Cee Lo as a plump fly, his band mates as other insects, emphasizes and expands on the discomfort of the original, even as the actual musicianship slickens and pop-readies the song up from the much more spastic original. Cee Lo’s and Gordon Gano’s meaning are not exactly trans-racial equivalents, but there are interesting echoes going on. In the context of Cee Lo’s later smash-hit “Fuck/Forget You,” the “Gone Daddy Gone” cover makes even more sense: both recordings pitch Cee Lo as heroic outsider, marginalized underdog. But Ceelo doesn’t feel uncomfortable in his body; it’s more about him wondering what your problem is with it.

So, getting to the mix at hand. While listening to one song after the next might make it all sound entirely random, there are reasons for each inclusion—though there was no one single criterion that covered everything. First, and at bare minimum, I only included a cover if, in transit, some significant border was crossed: ethnicity, gender, nationality, race. Beyond that, I chose sublime examples of reconfiguration, amped-upness and unlikely verisimilitude.


Holly said...

Excellent, thoughtful post, Gary, but really, all you had to do to ensure my download was title the post "ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb!" NEVER gets old :-)

And I'd never seen the Gnarls video as I thought the cover was kinda pointless, but the video's great. Thank you!

Holly said...

Oh! Did you see also posted today:

Music For Maniacs - COVER THE EARTH - Bizarro Versions of Your Favorite Oldies From Across the World Wide Weird http://bit.ly/JEjPVE

Different aesthetic, I think, but also cool.

Gary said...

I can't figure out how to get the damned thing! Everything takes me to iLivid, which is exactly how I'm feeling now ...

Gary said...

Do you have a direct link to the download itself?

Holly said...


I suggest choosing 2shared, it's quick & painless

Gary said...

Okay, got it; downloading now. Thank you, dear!

Holly said...

Here is hopefully a better link to the tracklist :-)


Crafty C said...

This is so fabulous! I absolutely love the Ros Sereysothea version of Superstar. I also wanted to tell you that, on the Asian rock and hip hop mix, the Cambodian version of Both Sides Now from Dengue Fever is one of the most beautiful and amazing songs I have ever heard. It gives me chills every time I listen to it. I used to love the original but there is something about that one that is just so incredible.

Thanks for all the great stuff you post!

Crafty C said...

And thank you too Holly!

Gary said...

Carol, I completely agree with you about Dengue Fever's "Both Sides Now." I was considering adding it to this mix as well, and probably should have, as it's a great example of how a cover can, though slight adjustments in speed and tone, be exponentially more moving than an already moving original.

Anonymous said...

No track list, what? How should I proceed? Things may never be right from this point forward....