Friday, February 01, 2019

Weekend Listomania: Special Honkies, Please! Edition

[I originally ran two pieces somewhat similar to this one back in 2007, when this blog and the world were young. I have almost totally swapped out the song choices and re-written the whole fershlugginer mess, just to demonstrate that I'm not the slacker you all probably, and with justification, think I am. In any case, enjoy. -- S.S.]


Okay, so here's a hopefully entertaining project for us all:

BEST PERFORMANCES OF SONGS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN AND RECORDED BY THE GOOD FOLKS AT MOTOWN AS REINTERPRETED BY ROCK, POP, AND SOUL ARTISTS OF THE NON-AFRICAN AMERICAN PERSUASION!!!

Self-explanatory, I think and thus no arbitrary rules. But if you nominate either Linda Ronstadt's "Heatwave" or Soft Cell's "Tainted Love," I will come to your house and smack you silly.

Okay, and my totally top of my head Top Ten is/are:

10. The Rolling Stones -- Just My Imagination (The Temptations)



In the immortal words of (Holy) Greil Marcus, the Stones cover of this will be breaking hearts for as long as people are still listening to rock-and-roll. I should add that as much as I adore the Temptations original version, it's major league urbane; you can almost hear the tuxedos while they're singing it. The Stones reading, by way of contrast, is about as pure a musical representation of desperate romantic longing as can be imagined.

9. The Beatles -- Money (That's What I Want) (Barrett Strong)



Fun fact: The original of this was the very first Motown record. It also still boggles my mind that a jazz and classical guy like George Martin totally nails the piano part.

8. God -- One More Heartache (Marvin Gaye)



From 1969, my college band essaying what I think is a very convincing garage rock assault on Marvin's classic (that dual guitar solo was decidely avant-garde at the time). Yes, that's some asshole whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels on bass in the first half of the track and on piano throughout.

7. Joan Osborne -- What Becomes of the Broken Hearted (Jimmy Ruffin)



From the astounding documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown. Which, if you haven't seen it, means your life is the poorer for it.

6. Fleetwood Mac -- I'm a Roadrunner (Jr. Walker and the All-Stars)



Anybody else noticing that a lot of the pre-Buckingham/Nicks Mac albums are a lot better than legend tells us?

5. Steve Martin -- Billie Jean (Michael Jackson)



Okay, it's not technically a cover, but it's the best version of the song ever.

4. The J. Geils Band -- Where Did Our Love Go (The Supremes)



This was actually a single at the beginning of the punk era, which may explain why it wasn't a radio hit. Which it clearly deserved to be. Damn, I love the rhythm guitar in the solo section at the end.

3. Bruce Springsteen -- War (Edwin Starr)



I was surprised to find, in a Google search, that Springsteen has covered surprisingly few Motown songs. In any event, this is pretty great. Especially in the historical context of when it was performed.

2. The Small Faces -- Every Little Bit Hurts (Brenda Holloway)



A definitive performance of the definitive Motown torch song ballad. Fun fact: The song was written by the same guy who wrote The Standells' garage punk classic "Dirty Water."

And the number one Caucasian performance of a Motown hit, it's not even a contest, is clearly --

Graham Parker and The Rumour -- I Want You Back (The Jackson Five)



This is simply terrific, but it also gets extra points for chutzpah -- I mean, what are the odds that a bunch of Brits, as white as the whale, could do a credible job on this?

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

And have a great weekend, everybody.

26 comments:

Squints said...

While I take your larger point about Linda Ronstadt's "Heatwave," ya knoooooow:

The guitar break in the middle, especially the jangly part toward the end, ain't half bad.

Anonymous said...

Frampton's Camel - I Believe (When I Fall In Love)
Laura Nyro - The Bells, Dancing in the Streets/Monkey Time
Valerie Carter - Ooh Child
Humble Pie - I Don't Need No Doctor

Sal Nunziato said...

The Action- Since I Lost My Baby
The Beatles- Please Mr. Postman
The Action- Since I Lost My Baby

Squints said...

I like Money. (Heh. Who doesn't?) But I'm with Sal. I would take Please Mr Postman over it.

Billy B said...

Road Runner/ Road Runner's G Jam - Humble Pie
You Keep Me Hanging On - Vanilla Fudge
Heard It Through the Grapevine - CCR (a little long and drawn out, but worth the mention)

And to the pre-Bucky Nicks Mac - most certainly. I much prefer the earlier incarnations of the band to the real popular stuff

Blue Ash Fan said...

No songs to add, just a huge KUDOS to Steve for his #1 choice. Didn't expect to see that and couldn't be more in agreement.

I remember the review of "Stick to Me" in Creem, I believe, where the reviewer said he heard today's top selection on his car radio and was so blown away he had to pull over to listen. Made sense to me then: still makes sense now.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but I DO very much like Linda Ronstadt's cover of "Heat Wave" and I AM nominating it - the energy, the backing vocals, and, yes, the guitar break. And I think you've got a little selective amnesia there, Mr. Simels; I remember that you were actually quite enthusiastic about her version when you wrote about the album from which it came, back in the mid-70s, for STEREO REVIEW. Not that that has to represent your current opinion...

Chris E.

MJConroy said...

Agree with GP at #1!And glad to see Joan Osborne on the list - I love that cover - best one on the soundtrack.

How about
Rod Stewart - “(I Know) I’m Losing You”
The Who - Baby Don't You Do It
Money (That's What I Want) - Jerry Lee Lewis (Live At The Star Club)

Squints said...

If we're going to cite "Don't Do It," the performance used has to be The Band's on Rock Of Ages.

vanwoert said...

Elvis Costello "From Head To Toe"

Anonymous said...

the reverse listomania might be fun, too. probably have to make Carole King off limits, tho.

edward said...

Can't Hurry Love - The Stray Cats
I Heard It Through The Grapevine - The Slits
My Girl - Fine Young Cannibals
Tears of A Clown - The English Beat

Anonymous said...

Lake Street Dive probably would have gotten around to releasing albums anyway, but I like to think their "I Want You Back" video supercharged the process.

BG said...

Speaking of the Beatles ---

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rokS8Ao4nQ

The Kenosha Kid said...

The Way You do the things you do - Jerry Garcia Band

Dancin'in the Streets - Grateful Dead 5/8/77 version

Money - The Flying Lizards
shut up you know I'm right

pete said...

The Beatles tune I'd pick is "Twist and Shout." The Stones tune would be "Around and Around." Both cut the originals.

steve simels said...

Uh, Pete...I love those, but neither of them is a Motown song.😀

phil henry said...

Respect-The Rationals
First I Look At The Purse- J. Geils
Ain’t That Peculiar-Fanny

Mark said...

Speaking of Vanilla Fudge and Motown covers, their great take on The Tracks of My Tears (see https://youtu.be/eMiScS4BoXU) on their 2015 over-the-top surprisingly fabulous album, THE SPIRIT OF '67, more than makes up for the Fudge's dreadful cover of The Windmills of Your Mind, which may or may not have been a contributing factor to Michael Legrand's recent passing.

Dave F said...

For me, it’s not close. Laura Nyro’s “The Bells”is the best ever “white cover” (and a reminder of Marvin Gaye’s magnificent ballad and his roots in classic )doowop). Nyro’s version of “Ooh Baby Baby” does Smokey proud.

DF

steve simels said...

Mark -- thanks for the Fudge track, which I'd never heard before.

Phil -- Respect isn't a Motown song. :-)

Roger said...

Here are a few, all from 1967:

"I Was Made to Love Her" - The Beach Boys (Carl singing lead), Wild Honey

"Too Many Fish in the Sea" - The Young Rascals, Collections. On the same album, "Mickey's Monkey" in medley with "Turn On Your Love Light."

"Baby I Need Your Lovin'" and "The Tracks of My Tears" - Johnny Rivers, both on Rewind and both top ten hits.

mainuh said...

Stones - Just My Imagination
The Band - Baby Don't You Do It
Beatles -You've Really Got A Hold On Me
Dave Clark 5 - Do You Love Me
Blood, Sweat & Tears = You’ve Made Me So Very Happy

rob

Bob S. said...

Soft Cell - Where Did Our Love Go FTW !

The best cover of Road Runner is by The Pretty Things, btw.

mainuh said...

"Too Many Fish in the Sea" - The Young Rascals, Collections. On the same album, "Mickey's Monkey" in medley with "Turn On Your Love Light."

Rodger, that is one great album.
I had the privilege of seeing them in '68.
As a band, musician wise, they could hold their own against any band of that era.

rob

Roger said...

Agreed, Rob. I didn't catch the Rascals at the time (I saw them later) but did see a few of the other NYC-area, B3-dominant bands that immediately popped up once they hit.