The Year In Review

Our puny human minds perceive time as a linear thing that travels from then to now. We even impose cycles on time and begin and end them on arbitrary dates. Humans have always done this, it’s probably something in our DNA that compels us to impose order on the cosmos. It also compels us to look back at the year past and try to make sense of it. Or to at least remember some of the more notable events.

James Mathus and his Knockdown Society “Diggin’ My Potatoes” (Traditional)
Did you know that 2008 was the International Year Of The Potato? Did you pay appropriate homage to the humble yet mighty spud? It was also the International Year Of Sanitation but there aren’t many good cover songs about sewerage.

Hurra Torpedo “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” (Bonnie Tyler)
There was a total lunar eclipse visible in the Americas and Europe in February. It was kinda creepy and I can understand why it would freak out people without a good understanding of astronomy. The experience was very cool, much cooler than a total eclipse of the heart.

Pavement “No More Kings” (From Schoolhouse Rock)
In April the island of Sark finally dismantled its feudal system to comply with the European Convention On Human Rights. I respect a good feudal system as much as the next guy but it was probably getting to the point where it was bad for tourism. The Lords of Sark will just have to find more creative and subtle ways to oppress and exploit their serfs.

If you’re wondering what life was like under Sark’s feudal system, it probably looked a lot like this:

Big Low “Dark As A Dungeon” (Merle Travis)
Gary Gygax, the geek who invented Dungeons and Dragons, died in April. When I was in college there was a gorgeous Indian exchange student who lived in the dorm next to mine who was heavily into D&D. She was stunning and exotic and I wanted to work through the entire Kama Sutra with her. I seriously considered joining her D&D group. Just one more example of a guy willing to do something stupid, boring and pointless in the vague hope that it might get him laid. Then I found out that she was not only very smart and very beautiful and every inch a woman, she was also jailbait. Apparently she had skipped a couple of grades in the course of her academic career. So I decided not to join her dungeon and to just exchange pleasantries when we ran into each other.

Kite “Breakfast In America” (Supertramp)
In September the Constitutional Court of Thailand ordered the Prime Minister to resign after he accepted money to appear on a cooking show. That’s a country that holds its elected officials to a high standard. The U.S. could learn a thing or two from Thailand.

A Stocking Full Of Cinders

For the last two years at Christmastime I’ve tried to post what I thought were cool and interesting Christmas covers. And those posts have had the lowest number of hits of anything I’ve ever posted. So this year I’m abandoning that approach and just posting the most inappropriate songs I can find. Maybe that will appeal to my readers. Of course if it does I should probably start worrying.

Neko Case “Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis” (Tom Waits)
It’s really a hopeful Christmas card but you just know that her new boyfriend will dump her when she’s eight months pregnant and she’ll end up shooting dope again and giving blowjobs in the alley to pay for it. Her kid will be taken away by DCFS and put in a foster home. But she’s entitled to find hope and happiness wherever she can, even if it’s fleeting.

I was hoping that this song would be on Scarlett Johansson’s Tom Waits tribute album. I really shouldn’t have been disappointed when it wasn’t. It was just too much to hope for.

Wax “Happy Happy Joy Joy” (From the Ren And Stimpy Show)
It’s kind of like “Joy To The World.” They don’t know they’re ugly and that’s very funny. Doesn’t that just sum up the spirit of Christmas, or at least holiday meals with the extended family?

Joya Landis “Angel Of The Morning” (Merrilee Rush)
Okay, so it’s not “Angels We Have Heard On High.” But if you ask most men what they really want for Christmas they’ll tell you they want a woman who tells you upfront that she’ll screw you all night and that you can leave in the morning with no strings attached.

Mitch Miller And The Gang “Give Peace A Chance” (John Lennon)
Peace on earth and goodwill to men who desperately want to appeal to a hipper, younger audience.

Stars “Fairytale Of New York” (The Pogues)
This is one of those songs that just brims with holiday good cheer. Especially the part where he calls her an old slut and she calls him a cheap lousy faggot.

Billy Idol “Plastic Jesus”
This song really isn’t a cover since only the first verse is the same as the tune sung by Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. But we are celebrating the birth of the Baby Jesus, so I wanted to include this song about how Jesus protects people when they’re on the road. He’s hollow and you can use him like a flask!

Sticks And Stones

Netiquette Reminder: I’m always grateful when people link their web pages and blogs to Cover Freak. I prefer that people link to the Cover Freak HTML (either the main page or the particular post they’re interested in) and not link to the URL of the mp3 file. It’s also best to provide some attribution about where that link is coming from. Thank you.

While I am technically considered part of the Baby Boom generation I’ve never felt that I was part of that group. The Boomers grew up watching Howdy Doody on TV. I grew up watching Captain Kangaroo because Howdy had long since been canceled. I was four years old during the Summer of Love and my only memory of the Chicago Democratic Convention was that my dad couldn’t take my brother and me to the museum like we’d planned because people were rioting downtown.

Because Classic Rock radio is programmed by Boomers I grew up hearing the Beatles, Who, and Rolling Stones more or less constantly. Their music always seemed to me the property of another generation and I heard it all so often that I got sick of it. That’s why I’m not a real big fan of any of those bands. I understand that they’re a big part of many people’s lives and there’s a song or two from each I like. But the nice thing about covers is that they give me a chance to hear songs by bands I don’t particularly like in a new way. Today’s object lesson is the Stones.

Jacqui Naylor “Miss You” (The Rolling Stones)
I absolutely despise this song. For me it defines the term “disco sellout.” In fact the Some Girls album marks the point at which I gave up completely on the Stones. But Jacqui Naylor makes it something smoking and erotic. It might even make me check out Some Girls again. Maybe.

Dolapdere Big Gang “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (The Rolling Stones)
Ever wonder what it would sound like if the Glimmer Twins were Turkish Gypsies? Now you know.

Marc Almond “Paint It Black” (The Rolling Stones)
As much as I love Soft Cell’s song “Sex Dwarf” I think this might be the ultimate expression of Marc Almond‘s art. The syrupy strings, the gregorian-chant style background vocals, the melodramatic singing– this song has it all. I didn’t realize that he’s got a new-ish album of covers out. The clip of him doing “Dream Lover” sounds like it’s worth the price of admission alone.

Social Distortion “Under My Thumb” (The Rolling Stones)
So much has been written about how dangerous the Stones seemed to a square public when they started out, especially compared to the Beatles. Social Distortion really sounds dangerous to me. And pissed off.

Steve Earl “Sweet Virginia” (The Rolling Stones)
When I write a post about a particular band I like to include a song where that band covers somebody else’s song. They’re the band that everybody wants to cover, what does it sound like when they interpret songs they didn’t write? That’s what usually ends up in the five-hole on posts like this.

One can make the argument that many Stones songs are covers because their career has been built on plundering the music they listened to as teenagers. When they actually do cover another artist’s song the results range from dull and unimaginative to absolutely terrible. So rather than subject my readers to that I’m just going to include this soulful version of one of the Stones songs that I like.

Totally Awesome 80s

Delayed Gratification: Hang The DJ, the “alternative book of music lists” that I contributed to, is now available in the U.S. Amazon can’t get it to you by Christmas, but buy several copies anyway. There’s a lot of funny and thought-provoking stuff in there. And then there’s the list I wrote.

I first experienced independent living during the 80s. I went off to college and then got my first real job and apartment and started to make my way in the world. I spent a good portion of that decade under the influence of one substance or another, falling in and out of love, and eating ramen noodles. Those were some good times and I have fond memories of things that happened then. But by and large I don’t miss the popular music of the 80s. But leave it to the legions of cover artists out there to make some of that horrible corporate dreck listenable again.

The Meat Purveyors “Beautiful World” (Devo)
They said that they had broken up forever but the Meat Purveyors are back with a new EP, making our world more beautiful with this cover that features mandolins and accordions. I don’t consider Devo to be horrible corporate dreck, of course. They were a bit too far out there for me at first. It took me most of the 80s to warm up to them.

Ariel Aparicio “Pretty In Pink” (Psychedelic Furs)
When the Furs came to play at my college their record label gave the student radio station I worked at a bunch of promotional crap. We invited our listeners to the station to “act psychedelic,” whatever that meant, for the chance to win said crap and a couple of tickets to the show. That is to this day one of the lamest radio station promotions I’ve ever seen.

Ariel Aparacio owns two restaurants in Brooklyn and still had enough free time to record an album. You can find out more about him at his web site.

The Social Services “The Final Countdown” (Europe)
I have another version of this song played by a guy who lashed together a ukulele, a kazoo, and a toy piano. But I prefer this swooning piano ballad rendition of the screeching overwrought hair-metal classic. The trumpet is really nice on this one.

Nouvelle Vague “Just Can’t Get Enough” (Depeche Mode)
Future generations may never forgive 80s musicians, what with all that hairspray depleting the ozone layer and all that fossil fuel wasted generating energy to run cheesy synthesizers and drum machines. But this cool bossa nova treatment might make them a bit more sympathetic.

Uncle Earl “Canary In A Coal Mine” (The Police)
There are more bluegrass covers of Police and Sting songs out there than you might think and they’re almost all quite good. There’s something about bluegrass players that enables them to make Sting’s songs sound not lame. Scientists are currently working to harness that amazing power for use as either a source of renewable clean energy or a horrible doomsday weapon. They haven’t made up their minds yet which it will be.

Special thanks to Uncle Flakey for sending this one my way.

Giving Thanks

They’re Sprouting Like Mushrooms: Seems that there’s a new cover blog on the block. Check out Cover Mode. Go ahead. I’ll wait for you to come back.

I used to date a woman who had family in Toronto. And every year she would insist on going there to visit her relatives over the Thanksgiving holiday. The only problem was that Canada celebrates Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October so I always missed the big feast at home and also missed it in Canada. For years she deprived me of my turkey and cranberry sauce and that’s just one of the reasons we broke up.

So it is in that same spirit of just missing Thanksgiving that I post these songs about giving thanks three days late.

ZZ Top “I Thank You” (Sam And Dave)
Billy Gibbons could sing the phone book and make it sound sleazy. And what’s Thanksgiving about if not sleaze?

Lee Karnaghan “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” (John Denver)
This song doesn’t stray too far from the original musically but the lyrics are all about being an Australian cowboy. Think of it as a short class in cultural anthropology.

Magazine “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” (Sly & the Family Stone)
The song’s essential funky DNA is there but Magazine piles on burbling synthesizer squeals and freaky guitars.

Anita O’Day “Thanks For The Memory” (Bob Hope)
Finding a decent cover of this song was way more difficult than I anticipated. It’s quite the jazz standard but it seems that nobody’s bothered to come up with a fresh arrangement since the song came out in 1938. Just as I was beginning to lose hope Anita O’Day came through with a slinky Latin-tinged version.

Russ Tolman “Thanks A Lot” (Ernest Tubb)
When you’re covering a Johnny Cash song it’s very easy to just do it as a country song (pedal steel is optional but encouraged). But the man’s songs of heartbreak and hope are so universal that there’s no reason not to put them in a new musical context. Russ Tolman does a great job of exactly that.