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Five, Six, Pick Up Sticks

The Yearly Grovel: I always say that everybody should have a hobby, and Cover Freak is one of mine. It’s not a real expensive hobby, it’s definitely cheaper than golf. But there are expenses involved. I need to pay to register the domain name, I need to pay the web hosting company, and I need to pay for the music that I post (at least the stuff that hasn’t been sent to me by bands or their publicists). There’s an orange button at the top of the left column that you can use to make a donation via PayPal. Over the course of a year that poor lonely button almost never gets clicked and so each year at this time I ask my audience to donate to help keep the lights on at Cover Freak. I’d like for each person reading this to please use that PayPal button to donate $2 to the cause. Even in tough economic times it’s a pretty modest request, less than a milkshake or a pack of cigarettes. If everybody donated it would be a big deal to me. And whether you stop by for the music or the writing I hope that if you’re visiting with any regularity you’re getting $2 worth of enjoyment out of the blog. Thanks for your support.

The sixth year of Cover Freak has been the most challenging. I’ve already self-indulgently whined about the challenges I’ve faced keeping the blog going and I’ve been touched by the encouragement I’ve received from the Cover Freak faithful. Despite my whining I do enjoy what I’m doing here and I appreciate the folks who come by to check out Cover Freak. Having conversations with people from around the globe is a very cool thing to be able to do. I asked what songs people liked the most from the last year and this is what folks requested. Thanks to everybody who took the time to let me know what you’d like to hear again.

Taut French Joel “We Will Rock You” (Queen)
I’ve been a big Queen fan since A Night At The Opera came out when I was in grade school. But I never really warmed to the brain-dead stomp of this song. It’s also just so horribly overplayed at sporting events. That’s why this contemplative acoustic version is so wonderful. It mines emotions that I never imagined were within the song.

Charles Angle “Let It Snow” (Vaughn Monroe)
Two different people requested this, which makes me seriously concerned about my readers. I wonder if Mr. Angle was drunk when he recorded this. He botches the lyrics, stumbles over the words that he does sing, and at one point just abruptly stops singing altogether. Freakette keeps asking me why they didn’t just do another take, and I just have to tell her that I wonder that myself. Many thanks to my friend John for rescuing this from a thrift store and sharing it.

Barb Jungr “Things Have Changed (Bob Dylan)
This is a serious contender for my favorite Bob Dylan song, and I’m not entirely sure why. There’s just something about it to that speaks to me. This is a nice jazzy version featuring some great percussion and a woman who’s a much better singer than old Bob.

Mathias “Substitute” (The Who)
This is another song that was suggested by multiple people. And I can understand why since it’s such a snappy syncopated take on the British Invasion warhorse.

Dick Haymes “Me And Bobby McGee” (Kris Kristofferson)
During the last week of August this year I had a nasty case of stomach flu. I was still able to post but I didn’t have time to come up with a theme for the week. Interestingly enough three of the five songs from that post were requested for this week’s post. I’m glad that the post was so popular, but it does make me wonder if I’m better off not having a weekly theme. I’ll probably still keep doing it though, just to keep myself challenged if for no other reason.

Dan Zanes “Drunken Sailor” (Traditional)
Dan Zanes is one of those rare people who makes music for children that doesn’t make adults cringe. That’s because there’s a high level of musicianship and a great love of music in everything he does. This version of the song uses traditional acoustic instruments (including a singing saw) to wonderful effect.

Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women “Que Sera, Sera” (Doris Day)
Roots rock legend Dave Alvin and his band do a great job of breathing new life into this song from a more innocent era. The Guilty Women are an all-woman band that absolutely tears it up live, go hear them play if you ever get the chance.

General Store “Hold Me Now” (Thompson Twins)
Even in the 80s I just couldn’t muster much enthusiasm for the Thompson Twins. I much prefer this languid guitar version of their hit.

Shinehead “Billie Jean” (Michael Jackson)
I love the reggae, love the Michael Jackson vocal tics, love the Morricone whistling. Just a really fun cover.

Jon Langford and the One Day Band “Rocket Man” (Elton John)
I had a request for anything by Jon Langford, so here’s a song he recorded for an episode of This American Life. He put together a band for one day using classified ads.

Might As Well Jump

Speak Up: There’s still time to let me know what your favorite songs are from the last year of Cover Freak posts. I’ll be doing the yearly Best Of post next week and I’d love to get suggestions from as many people as possible. Just leave a comment or use the contact form to let me know what you liked.

Last week Felix Baumgartner jumped from a balloon at 128,000 feet and fell to earth. It was a pretty incredible feat that captured the world’s imagination in a way that I haven’t see in awhile. Something that amazing requires a Cover Freak post.

Aztec Camera “Jump” (Van Halen)
The jump never would have happened without the sponsorship of an energy drink company. I’m conflicted about it, since they sponsored a very cool thing but they only sponsored it in order to sell their product. I would feel better if some rich guy had financed the jump just because it was cool.

This may be the worst Van Halen song ever, which is really saying something. There was no good reason to throw a cheesy synthesizer into this song. Thankfully Aztec Camera dispenses with the keyboards on this mellow version.

Ananda Shankar “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (Rolling Stones)
The jump was not only cool in and of itself it may influence the design of future space suits. Good to see that there was some scientific value to the endeavor as well.

This cover adds some cheesy synthesizers but this time they work. They add to the early-70s freakiness that the sitar provides.

Brendan Rivers “Jump Into The Fire” (Harry Nilsson)
Wikipedia describes Mr. Baumgartner as an Austrian skydiver, daredevil, and BASE jumper. That’s a cool way to spend your time but I wonder if he’s making a living doing that or if he’s just a bored trust fund baby. Either way I admire the skill and daring of what he does, but I’d be more impressed if he grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and achieved his career through grit and determination.

The original version of this song was smooth and breezy. This one is a little more twitchy. The singer sounds like he’s at the end of his rope, which I like.

Men At Work “Jump In My Car” (David Hasselhoff)
We used to have a convertible but I never jumped into it. I still regret not taking advantage of that opportunity.

Not that I was ever a big Baywatch fan, but that show has always prevented me from taking David Hasselhoff seriously as a singer. Apparently the guys from Men At Work have a similar problem taking his music seriously. This song comes from an Australian radio show.

The Bobs “Free Fallin'” (Tom Petty)
I’d never do something as extreme as jumping to earth from space, but I’ve always wanted to try skydiving. Mrs. Freak isn’t wild about the idea but I’m still determined to do it someday.

I’ve always found this song to be pretty sappy, but I just love anything the Bobs do.

I Wanna Be Sedated

Time To Vote: No, not in the general election, but for your favorite Cover Freak songs from the last year. In two weeks I’ll be celebrating another Cover Freak birthday with the annual Best Of post. Leave a comment or use the contact form to let me know what songs you’ve liked the best on Cover Freak between October 2011 and September 2012. I’ve never gotten ten submissions and I’ve always needed to fill in with my faves. I’d really like to dedicate this year’s post entirely to audience selections. Thanks in advance for your participation.

Last week I went into my doctor’s office for a minor procedure that required me to be sedated. Although I’ve sedated myself plenty over the years with various substances, being sedated with medical-grade drugs was a new experience for me. And pretty much any new experience finds its way onto Cover Freak one way or another.

Full Blown Cherry “I Wanna Be Sedated” (The Ramones)
I really did want to be sedated. There was no way I wanted to be awake and alert given what was being done to me. It was a minor procedure but it would have been pretty unpleasant if I had been with it.

Ramones songs are so caveman simple that you can do pretty much anything with them. The rockabilly arrangement seems so natural.

The Zoot “I’m Only Sleeping” (The Beatles)
I wasn’t asleep, I had “conscious sedation” which left me able to respond to requests from my doctors. The idea creeps me out, I still wonder if they used the stuff like truth serum to get me to tell them my internet banking password.

This is a very tight arrangement that still manages to sound like a bunch of friends sitting around having fun. Which is not easy to do.

Richard Cheese “Relax” (Frankie Goes To Hollywood)
The point of the sedation was not to knock me out but to make me very relaxed. And it did a very good job of it.

Scissor Sisters “Comfortably Numb” (Pink Floyd)
I was quite comfortably numb. So comfortable in fact that I don’t remember anything that went on. I remember getting a pleasant rush as they administered the sedation and the next thing I knew I was waking up in recovery.

I just love the Bee Gees disco treatment on this one.

Spiers & Boden “Innocent When You Dream” (Tom Waits)
I don’t think I dreamed since I was awake. I think. Which is a pity since I try to take advantage of every opportunity I have to be innocent.

Tom Waits is truly one of our greatest living songwriters. This song is just beautiful, especially played on accordion and fiddle.

Death Of A Language

I was recently read that the last native speaker of an obscure Scottish dialect died, taking the language to the grave with him. It’s sad when a language dies out, for lots of reasons. It makes the world just a little more homogenized and the unique aspects of a culture are often lost along with the language. In this case I was interested to discover that this particular language was very closely tied to traditional fishing methods and it started to die in the 1950s when fishing became industrialized.

And so let’s raise a glass to this tragically lost language.

Petty Booka “Let’s Talk Dirty In Hawaiian” (John Prine)
The Cromarty dialect was closely linked to fishing but I’m willing to bet that you could still talk dirty in it. I think that’s one of the things that links all human languages. And it’s so sad that nobody will ever talk dirty in Cromarty again.

Spiderbait “Jive Talkin'” (The Bee Gees)
Jive, on the other hand, is probably less universal among human languages. I just can’t imagine anybody talking jive in German for instance. The “I talk jive” scene from the movie Airplane probably falls really flat dubbed into German.

Mysteries of Life “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” (Talking Heads)
A great headline for the story of the end of the language would have been something like “No More Heads Talking Cromartie,” but that would probably be too much to hope for from a headline writer. I love this song, I just think it’s one of the most beautiful ones ever written.

Leonard Nimoy “Everybody’s Talkin'” (Harry Nilsson)
Back in the day if you were a successful television actor you had a good shot at getting a recording contract. I’m not sure why that was the case but it resulted in some truly wondrous music. And also stuff like this. Mr. Nimoy’s voice is so thin and tuneless I just can’t understand why he got to make so many albums.

Danni Carlos “Don’t Speak” (No Doubt)
There’s nobody left to speak Cromarty, whether you want them to or not. I do like the little bit of flamenco flair on this version.

Grow Big

Thanks: I appreciate all the kind comments on last week’s post. It’s easy to get wrapped up in life’s challenges and forget that people enjoy the blog. Thanks for reminding me of that and for the words of encouragement.

Last week they had Picture Day at Freakette’s school. It’s one of the old rituals where you’re sorted by your physical size. Freakette has usually been the shortest kid in her class. Mrs. Freak and I thought she had had a growth spurt over the summer and as it turns out we were right. While Freakette is still certainly in the bottom half of her class height-wise, there are six kids shorter than her. Like all of life’s passages, this one cries out for a Cover Freak tribute.

Et Cetera & Allan Clarke “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress” (The Hollies)
Freakette will probably never be a long cool woman. I hope that she’ll be cool and she’ll probably own a black dress at some point in her life. But she’ll probably be of middling height at best once she stops growing.

I just love the throbbing disco beat that they bring to bear on this old classic rock warhorse. If you look on iTunes you’ll find alternative versions by these people sung in German, if you want to get your Eurotrash disco thang on.

Cactus “Long Tall Sally” (Little Richard)
For some reason I’ve always remembered learning about genetics in high school. The thing that really stuck with me for some reason was that while experimenting with peas, Gregor Mendel discovered that the short gene was dominant. Which is why Freakette will never be Long Tall Freakette. I’m about six feet tall and so are several of the women on my side of the family. Mrs. Freak, despite her many charms, is not tall. And so our child is doomed. But for the time being she’s not the shortest, and I’ll take that.

This is just a fantastic version of this song. There’s really no trace of Little Richard there at all.

Jon Hardy & The Public “Short People” (Randy Newman)
It’s great that Randy Newman had commercial success with this song, although I kinda wish that he would have had a hit with just about any of the other wonderful songs he wrote. This is really just a novelty song with a sense of irony that escaped a whole lot of people when it came out. The world would have been a much different place if “Let’s Burn Down The Cornfield” had been a radio hit.

Love the horns on this one.

IQ “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (The Four Seasons)
Freakette’s a big girl now, and getting bigger by the day. Maybe next year she’ll tower over all the other kids. But probably not.

They Might Be Giants “Jessica” (The Allman Brothers)
My family tends to be tall, but we’re not giants. So Freakette won’t be a giant either. I can say that with certainty.

This is a hilarious deconstruction of the Allmans classic. The trumpet makes me howl with laughter.