Friday, March 13, 2009

Covers are just tacky and lazy

Cover versions of popular music is typically the lowest form of art. I say this because it is usually unoriginal and done for the wrong things (money). Basing your whole act on another band, well, is just tacky and lazy. No real artist thinks cover bands are cool.

I think this realization came to me when I bought the Godzilla 1998 soundtrack and listened to the opening track, for the first and last time. It was David Bowie's "Heroes", performed by the Wallflowers. I was an absolute replica, with maybe some better production quality. It was pointless. Why would you do such a thing?

One time there was a street carnival downtown, and I had to work. A good friend coaxed me to shut the store down and we walked over to see a band. They were middle-aged, and looked like they had more than one Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt in their closet. And for some unknown reason, they began to play Radiohead's "Creep". It was terrible, because they didn't do the amp-distortion-check-sound before the chorus, which makes the song. Ironically, I had a copy of The Bends in my pocket while I watched them.

That also reminds me of a junior high talent show. A band played Blur's "Song 2", and they also messed up the best part of the song (the "woo-hoo"). The singer did the opposite of what was required, and sang the part in a deep, sarcastic voice. But, I have to give them credit for being 14 and playing in front of all their peers at grade 9.

I mean even classical conducters and orchestras are to blame here. They are playing 200-year-old songs. They are cover bands. Sometimes they are called tribute bands, and sometimes they are all-female versions of AC/DC. And don't get me started on jazz and blues. These are genres solely dedicated to simply covering old songs.

But there is some light at the end of the dark, musty cave here. So, it's time to talk about unique covers. You know, the ones that are so distinctive they garner respect and admiration (there are only like, three).

"Blinded by the Light" is a great, great song. Manfred Mann's rendition hit #1 on the Hot 100 in 1977, and unlike the original Bruce Springsteen version, this one was catchy as hell. My father, a vehement supporter of the Boss, always mentions how Manfred sounds like he is saying "douche" instead of "deuce" in the chorus. But, who knows what he's really singing about. The guitar effects give this version a groove that is hard to prove it isn't an original.

"Mr Tambourine Man" as performed by William Shatner is definitely outsider music. You probably haven't heard it unless you received The Transformed Man as a gag gift. I truly wonder if Bob Dylan has ever heard Shatner utterly screaming the last line from this 1968 art experiment.

Marilyn Manson's cover of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" is probably the best cover ever. Don't laugh. It is totally different from the original 1983 electronic standard, which is hard to think of without red hair and a synth beat. Manson totally reinvented the wheel here. The guitar and way the lyrics are sung are just... original. The band could have dropped the lyrics and wrote their own for a decent song.

Also, Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower" is better than the original

I dare you to suggest better covers. Don't even mention those goddamned string tribute albums. And if you are thinking right now that Johnny Cash's "Hurt" is the best cover, I want to spit on you.

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