Friday, April 21, 2006

Cover Songs

Speaking of Neil, I hope everyone caught Sid and Susie (Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs) on The Tonight Show this week. They did a cover of Neil's "Cinnamon Girl" off their new record, which I blogged about last week. Hoffs looks about like she did 20 years ago, but she's getting that aggressively taut and ropy look that thin women sometimes do as they age. Sweet is rather more endomorphic than I can remember seeing him before, and his scruff is gray now, but honestly, he looked and sounded fine to me. Well, no, he looked pissed off or uncomfortable or something, but as a performance, it was good.

I do confess to a bit of prejudice about cover songs generally, and that's a certain impatience with covers that don't "do" anything to the original. Just covering a great song isn't really enough, in my opinion: I need to see an interpretation, a reconsideration of the song. It's one of my biggest issues with Sweet: he's never met a cover he didn't like (the running joke around Liberal Mountain is that you're not legally allowed to make a tribute disc without including Matthew Sweet--snarky, but not wholly unfair) and his default position is a pretty straightforward recreation of the tone and feel of the original (witness for example, his version of "Karen" on Shoe Fetish--terrifyingly faithful to the original).

In that sense, his partnership with Hoffs is excellent, since she's responsible for one of my favorite reinterpretation covers of all time: The Bangles' take on Simon & Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter." (Other faves include The Lemonheads' "Mrs. Robinson," and Sonic Youth's "Superstar.") Of the four songs I've heard off Under the Covers Vol 1 so far, most are more faithful than interpretive, alas.

What are your favorite cover tunes? Is it because it's a great song, or because you like the covering or original artist?


Anonymous said...

Glass Eye doing S&G's "Cecilia" and Aztec Camera doing Van Halen's "Jump"

Anonymous said...

The Jam's version of "David Watts."

Of course, the ultimate cover in my mind is DEVO's reworking of "Satisfaction." Genius.

Anonymous said...

Jason Falkner's cover of "Both Sides Now."

It's a great song to begin with, to which Jason gives a kick in the pants and hence comes up with a great bit of power pop. Emphasis on the power.

Anonymous said...

patti smith covering prince's - when doves cry


watertiger said...


Fat Boy Slim/Bootsy Collins' rendition of "The Joker."

Vicki said...

Okay, asked! :)

Three covers come immediately to mind, all performed by the Indigo Girls:

1. Joni Mitchell's River. Emily sings it beautifully.

2. Gladys Knight and the Pips' Midnight Train to Georgia.

3. The Grateful Dead's Uncle John's Band.

And then there's Peter, Paul and Mary's rendition of Leaving on a Jet Plane by John Denver.

You want more? I got lots and lots more...

Vicki said...

And what withnail said...

Elvis Costello...:)

Anonymous said...

Red Wine

Anonymous said...

That would be Ray Charles on just about
any cover he chose to sing.

Also, James Taylor's son ( whose first name I do not remember ((sorry)) )who covered the Beatles tune, 'I Will'.

refinnej said...

Sex Pistols version of "My Way" and Cake's of "I Will Survive".

Dosen't Shane McGowan do "Cracklin' Rose"? I seem to remember hearing Thers play that. If I'm not hallucinating that was pretty cool too... or even if I am. Cool is cool.

Anonymous said...

was reminded last night at the Voxtrot show (great band, well worth checking out) when between bands the club was playing Television's "Marquee Moon" that Chris Stamey does an incredible version of "Venus."

Anonymous said...

My band (The Breed Australia: do a ripper cover of The Who's The Kids Are Alright. (We also cover The Lemonheads cover of Mrs Robinson ;-)

When I'm chilling at home I like to unwind with an acoustic version of Bowie's Ziggy Stardust (a full home studio version of which you can hear at

And while I'm pigging out on comment space (sorry ;-), and being original music it's a little off-topic, have you heard The Camaro Rouge? Just discovered these Canadians today - hot stuff.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeh, and Anonymous (signed Mestizo)'s suggestion of Patti Smith doing Prince - man that's a hot version!