Inside The Gates Radio Embraces Cover Songs
BY: MIKE PODSEDLY
Cover Songs have an important place in the rock music universe. I have looked for cover versions of songs because the interpretations by other artists are fascinating listening. Covers range from duplicating the original performance to putting a whole new spin on the song.
In popular music, a cover version, remake, cover song, revival, or simply cover, is a new performance or recording by someone other than the original artist or composer of a song. No matter how unique and different your version is, someone else legally owns the song and is therefore entitled to royalties. By requesting a mechanical license, you are ensuring that the original creator of the song is getting their fair share of the sales of the cover.
The advent of the singer/songwriter era, around the late 60s or early 70s, many artists’ songs had greater lyrical and musical depth leaving room for an evolving re-interpretation of a song’s feel or meaning. Using someone else’s hit song has often been a way for a new act to get heard and recognized.
Nowadays, a “cover-version” of a writers’ song is considered a high compliment. It means that the effort has garnered attention and appreciation to the point of other stylists wanting to add their interpretation to a song they find appealing.
I have selected a list of cover songs that I consider significant in some way. I have added some comments to each song of interest.
“Twist And Shout” (1963) cover by The Beatles of The Isley Brothers: In the beginning of their career The Beatles covered a lot of songs. This one was especially attention getting.
“House Of The Rising Sun” (1964) cover by The Animals of Unknown: This song is so old, its origin is unknown with many theories.
“With A Little Help From My Friends” (1968) cover by Joe Cocker of The Beatles: These versions couldn't sound less alike. The Beatles version sounds vanilla, while Joe's is gospel soul bliss.
“Everybody’s Talkin’” (1968) cover by Harry Nilsson of Fred Neil: Nilsson had been a computer programmer at a bank in Los Angeles. He released “Everybody’s Talkin'” on his 1968 album, “Aerial Ballet”. The next year it stole the show as the featured theme song of the 1969 cult classic film, Midnight Cowboy. The song helped solidify Nilsson’s career as a countercultural poet with no master.
“Woodstock” (1970) cover by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young of Joni Mitchell: Joni Mitchell wrote and recorded the definitive song about the Woodstock festival. She did not attend but watched the TV coverage from her hotel room. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young did appear, playing an acoustic set followed by an electric set around 3 a.m.
“Me and Bobby McGee” (1971) cover by Janis Joplin of Kris Krisofferson: This was written by Kris Kristofferson, but it was Janis Joplin's hit cover that gave his career a lift. The song was released after she died of a heroin overdose. It was the second song that was #1 in US after the artist had died.
“Lucy in The Sky With Diamonds” (1974) cover by Elton John of John Lennon: As the story goes, Elton made a bet with Lennon that he could make a #1 hit with it. After he lost, Lennon came out of retirement during Elton's show got up on stage for 3 songs.
“Blinded By The Light” (1976) cover by Manfred Mann's Earth Band of Bruce Springsteen: This cover version from went #1 in 1976. Ironically, Bruce used to perform the Manfred Mann hit “Pretty Flamingo” in early concerts.
“Cocaine” (1977) cover by Eric Clapton of J J Cale: Another song that was recorded and released originally by J J Cale. The success of the song led to Cale getting a record deal enabling him to have enough money to make music on his own terms.
“Ooh Baby Baby” (1978) cover by Linda Ronstadt of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: Linda was not a songwriter, so it was about picking the right song. Her styling was the key to her success. She covered many songs but this was a perfect choice for her.
“Walk Away Renee” (1983) cover by Rickie Lee Jones of The Left Banks: Rickie was a great interpreter of Rock and has done an entire album of covers. This one is from the highly praised "Girl At Her Volcano" LP.
“Alone” (1987) cover by Heart of i-Ten: “Alone” first appeared on i-Ten's 1983 album with little success. They heard that Heart was looking for a power ballad and Alone came to mind. They liked everything about the song except for the first line of the chorus.
After investigating cover songs I wanted to get reactions from the Inside The Gates DJs, a most knowledgeable group.
Dinnis Keefe has a live show on Saturday evenings at 6:30pm titled SoundSense. He has been in the radio and recording business for years and his experience is reflected in his show commentary.
“Everybody wants to cover a Dylan song. First off, the songs are almost all lyrically marvelous and melodically obliging. It’s hard not to look and sound good with one of these tunes coming out of your mouth. And frankly, Mr D’s original renditions usually leave some room for refinements.”
Keefe described what he looks for in a cover saying “For taking a song as far as conceivable from its original intent and turning it into something astonishing, if not unrepeatable. Bettye Lavette’s ‘Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook’ takes the gold. Start with George Harrison’s ‘Isn't It A Pity.’ Listen sitting down to avoid injury when your knees buckle.”
Alikhan shares his favorites
Shiraz Alikhan has a live show on Sundays at 4:30 pm named San Francisco Nights. He was in a cover band here in Big Canoe for several years called Off the Record. He also performs a lot of covers at the Acoustic Showcase performances
Alikhan commented about “’With a Little Help From My Friends’. John and Paul wrote this for Ringo to sing on ‘Sgt. Pepper’ and deliberately wrote a melody with limited range. Cocker put himself on the rock music map with his aching, soulful version at Woodstock which became a kind of anthem. That concert and the movie documenting it displayed Cocker's rather eccentric singing style that some people mocked. He was good natured during his ‘Dueling Cockers’ appearance on SNL in 1976. Then John Belushi joined him on another great Cocker cover, Dave Mason & Traffic's ‘Feeling Alright’”.
Alikhan further pointed out that “We have a great cover of Procul Harum’s ’A Whiter Shade of Pale’ by Annie Lennox and also have a terrific cover of ‘Ain't No Sunshine’ a Bill Withers classic by Joan Osborne in our library. My wife really likes this version.”
Looney’s Tunes too
Craig Looney has a Live Show on Sundays at 6:30 pm appropriately called Looney’s Tunes
Looney remarked that “Cover songs are the topic and I think all of the ITG Radio DJ's are huge fans of them. I enjoy them so very much that I started a new regular segment on Looney's Tunes, Cover Me Up.
Each week I play an original track from an artist/band and go to great lengths to find an interesting cover version. The covers I most enjoy are versions that consider the original as a foundation and build it into something unique, respectful of the original, but distinct in their own interpretation.
I have found some great ones during my research, including Simon & Garfunkel's ‘Scarborough Fair’ covered by the band Sea Level, Simon & Garfunkel's ‘Sound Of Silence’ covered by the artist, Disturbed, Aerosmith's ‘Sweet Emotion’ covered by Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon and Johnny Cash's ‘Ring of Fire’ covered by Ruthie Foster”
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