Friday Fives – cover your ass edition

joe20cocker

I know this is a sacred topic to most music snobs.  I know this, because I am one, too. Let’s face it, plenty of times, the cover is better than the original  Like ANY time that ANY band did ANY song that was a Lou Reed song.  I thought about this piece as an idea on the way home.  Without doing any research, I wrote down several that came to mind.

Then, and only then, did I consult the interwebs.  What I found online were obvious, and so a little disappointing.  What I think the internet lists generally chose were versions that were more successful.  Me & Bobby McGee is the perfect example of this.  Janis KILLS that song!  It truly became her signature song.  It is super tragic that it didn’t come out until a week after she died.  Still, it will always be her song.  Is it better?  It’s not better than this bootleg version I have that I can’t find online. It’s just Kristofferson and an acoustic.  It is more spoken work, and SO sparse… it really tells a more powerful tale.

I did find this excellent demo from Janis, though.  No production or overdubs… just her catching where to lay the syllables against the chord changes.  It’s pretty sweet.

Another song that tops the list is Hendrix’ over of ‘All Along the Watchtower’  Also, it is great.  Interestingly, it ws Hendrix ONLY hit.  Did you know that?  He didn’t break through with Foxy Lady, or Purple Haze.  Sure, the freaks found him that way… but the way America discovered him was covering Dylan.

Africa  – Toto/Mike Masse

Local Colorado guy, plays bars and does covers (just like my stupid band).  Except, this guy is incredible.  Watch this video below.  Dude has 8 million hits!  We are actually going to see him finally play live at Lodo’s in Highlands Ranch

Btw, since we are talking about this song… this is pretty great.  It’s Dax Shepard and his wicked hot and talented wife making their own video for the song.  It’s dumb.  Really, really dumb.  But… they get it.  It’s a great watch.  Between these two clips (both over 8 million), Toto is cool again.

Black Magic Woman – Fleetwood Mac/Santana

I know you don’t know this is a cover.  It wasn’t a Santana song, but Fleetwood Mac.  Now, we are not talking about the Fleetwood Mac you know, run by Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.  No, this was WAY before then when they were a British Blues band.  Here are both –

Fleetwood Mac (the Peter Green version) 1970

There is nothing wrong with that version.  In fact, it probably could have been the famous version except for Peter.  See, Peter Green was a genius, and also nuts.  Nuts.  Not nuts in a romantic way… I mean nuts in a way that he literally disappeared for 30 years.  The only thing to compare it to is Syd Barrett and the whole Pink Floyd mess.

Here is the Santana version (1971).  Oh, recognize any of these guys?  You should.  They all quit Santana’s band to form Journey.  To me, it is superior because I feel it really found its legs in the Latin inspired groove that left like it should have been there all along.  I mean, we are singing about voodoo, right?

It is interesting to note this cover is only a year later.  Can you think of a modern parallel to that?  I can’t.

 Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen/Bruce Springsteen

God, I love this song.  I am honestly not much of a Bruce fan.  I don’t think I have a single CD of his.  Yet, I regard this song as probably the best rock song ever written.  Here is that song, in all of it’s 1977 glory.

 Now, how can I put this on the cover list?  First off, it’s not a cover.  Second, the song is absolutely fucking perfect.  On every level.  Well, this guy Bruce Springsteen does a pretty good cover.  Really, I count this version below as a cover because it is so stunningly different and beautiful.  Also, I think it took balls of steel for Bruce to take his biggest hit and tear it apart.  This newer version is an elegy of sorts.  The original version is about being young and perfect and getting ready to breakout and have all the opportunities in the world.

This version below, though, is a resignation.  Note, fast forward to the 4 minute mark.  Bruce just goes full Bruce on this version.  Not that ‘America is #1 ‘Bruce… but this telling is from the guy who wrote the line ‘end up like a dog that’s been kicked too much’.

Am I Evil – Diamond Head/ Metallica

To me, there just is no discussion.  There is Metallica’s version.  That is it.  So, here is the original, and I think it mostly sucks… because of the singer.

While the guitar riff rocks perfectly cromulently… this singer guy is full glam.  There nothing evil here at all.  Below is Metallica’s take.  This song couldn’t possibly be more Metallica than it is.

 Let me put this in the parlance that my 16 year old self would understand it.  He would say the original was simply ‘gay’.  Now this one, below… this is just the sound of pure fucking evil.  When my parents found my Ozzy records and growing my hair out… they worried.  They thought this (song above) was what I was listening to.  Kinda funny how incredibly tame Ozzy compared to this.  The only subversion in Ozzy’s records is serious and thoughtful Christianity.  Below the full proper evil version from Metallica.

Rusty Cage – Johnny Cash/Soundgarden

There is nothing wrong with the original.  It’s great.  However, Rick Rubin and Johnny Cage change the meaning  of every single word with their new telling… yet they don’t touch a word.  Here is the original.  Sadly, it does not feature Chris Cornell singing.  Very very few Soundgarden songs show him singing.  Instead, in Soundgarden, he only screamed.  anyways here, here is the original.

WAIT… before you even hear the song… look at this frame.  Even in the still, he is screaming.

See, told you.  Why even have lyrics.  It is just him screaming for 15 years in Soundgarden.  YET… he can sing his dick off.  He may have the best deep voice in all of rock, and literally no one knew.  Listen to this secret acoustic outtake of ‘Like Suicide’  When I heard this, I was frustrated.  It was like the first time I heard him to Seasons.  I thought ‘wait, he can sing?  He could sing he whole time?  Why the hell did he never even try until he was ‘retired’.

Sorry, back to my point.  Rick Rubin (who, to me, deserves as much credit as Johnny Cash here) and just let’s Johnny go all Johnny Cash on it.  This was towards the end of Johnny’s life.  I believe June had already passed… and you can hear Johnny dying a little in every verse.  Luckily for us, Cash knew his time was very limited.  So, he and Rubin spent his last years together just recording at a gonzo pace.  Here this.  Feel this.

And if that doesn’t give you feelings… watch this video below.  I assume this was made post Johnnys’ passing.  It is fucking beautiful and perfect on every level.

This may be the beautiful and creepy and perfect video ever made.  Though this has nothing to do with covers, it is a good place to leave you for the day

Friday Fives – you know… that thing?

What would you do if a random stranger gave you a bouquet of roses?

I don’t know. I think that would be pretty swell. Something like that happened when I was a wee lad… early high school. It was Valentines day, and so the spirit team or activity club or whatever they were called (these groups run high in ‘Beckys’) were delivering roses. You could buy a rose from them for a $1 and they would deliver them during 4th period… or something like that.

These gals came on their delivery and handed me ten roses – one at a time. This was in front of the whole class. Clearly someone liked me. I was super duper puzzled. I had zero idea. I looked around class and saw a girl wink at me – just like in the movies, I swear to you. Well, that was pretty goddamn great. We were briefly boyfriend and girlfriend. I can’t say anything like that has happened before or since. I highly recommend it, though.

 What is the most commonly used color in your house?

Green. Love green. Wife loves green. It bring the outside indoors, and celebrates the mountains and pine trees and all that is good about Colorado. There is a reason why out license plates are green. Green is good! Specifically, dark green. Like, a forest green. Whatever color my truck is, I like that color.

What color is your favorite t-shirt?

There is a grey (or is it gray?) one and a green one. The color isn’t what the most important part is. It’s the softness. Polo makes these light weight cotton t shirts that I use as under shirts. They are the softest thing in the world. They are also incredibly well made. I have ones that are ten years old that get worn almost once a week and are still in good shape. So… Very… Soft. Ever been hugged by god? Tell you what; this is what it feels like. I am generally wearing one of these shirts at all times. If it is warm out, I am just wearing that shirt. If it is cool out, I am wearing that shirt under whatever you see.

I think the shirts are fairly expensive… maybe $30 of $40 a pop. It’s worth it, though, I swear! Here is the deal, though, I go to the Polo outlet (pretty much my favorite place on Earth) in Castle Rock and get them on sale. Once they are at the outlet, they are already half off. So, they run about $20 a pop. Once a quarter, though, they cut those prices and sell them in all colors for $10 a pop. At this time, I buy like crazy.

It’s not collared, or anything like that. Even better is they now silk screen the tag. So, there is no tag. I know everyone is doing this, but I really love this development! I can’t find the shirt online. They have zillions of different shirts, of course. So, I found a picture from Facebook of me in a grey one. If you look, you will see just about every picture of me has me wearing one of these. I have four grey and four black ones. Treat yourself to one of these, it will change your life! It’s like a great pillow and great sheets and a nice bed. You are going to spend a third of your life in bed, make it comfy!

 If you could go back in time, what time would you live in and where would you live?

San Francisco about 1966-67, Monterey Pop era. You might be thinking San Fran 1969, but you would be dumb. By then, San Fran was overrun and overexposed. Every deadbeat kid from the entire country had set up camp in San Francisco by then, expecting to be taken care of. The great and iconic San Francisco bands were national now, and so not playing around the corner at the Matrix anymore. The Hells Angels had flooded the city with meth, too. So, it was mostly tweakers everywhere.

Wanna know what San Fran was like before then? It was heaven, and paradise. By 69, though… well… just read George Harrison’s account of it. He was disgusted.

 I thought it was gonna be all these groovy kinds of gypsy people with cool shops making works of art and paintings and carvings, but instead it turned out to be just a lot of bums, many of them who were just very young kids who came from all over America and dropped acid

For the 70s, Manhattan would be pretty great!

 If you could have any ONE thing in the entire world (not including money) what would it be?

A cool old beater convertible, just to cruise around the country in. nothing nice, mind you. Like… a $3,000 car. Not a classic car, by any means. Nothing anyone would ever bother to ‘restore’. Just something timeless and cool. It was someone’s grandma’s car.

Something like this.

OR… how about a thing? You know, Volkswagon Thing? Just ugly and unsafe and unreliable. This car says “know what? I am cool! I am cool because I don’t care if I am cool or not… and that makes me cool, right?” Just that they called it the ‘thing’ is brilliant. What else was in the running? The Volkswagon Aw Fuck it? The Volkswagon This Kid is Never Gonna Get Laid? Perhaps the Volkswagon This Seems structurally unsound and dangerous to give to a teenager.

Friday Fives – media inquiry edition

1.  What Jeopardy category would you totally dominate?

rock and roll.  If only there was a rock and roll jeopardy, I would run the world, seriously.  The  sad part is, they did have one, years ago.  Jeff Probst was the host, long before Survivor.  Problem with that was, it was only for celebs.  There are clips online, its fun to watch.  To soothe myself, I play the rock category on Quizup on my phone.  It is super addictive, and they have every category you can imagine.  I kill at Simpsons, and I am top in all of Colorado for rock trivia.  I am in the 30’s for nationwide, but crawling up every day.  Come find me and play some games online.  My screen name is ‘Baron von Lono’, and my avatar is a pic of Dali (but of course)

If you can beat me in rock trivia, I will buy you lunch.  What’s my secret?  Well, I learned from the ancients and elders, like the band Mister Mister.  Carry a ladle, my brother.  Carry a ladle indeed.

2.  What cover song do you enjoy more than the original?

Good and thoughtful question, I am impressed.  I would have to say Jimi Hendrix version of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ is easily one.  Strangely, that was Jimi’s biggest charting hit ever.  Bob Dylan (who wrote the song) like Jimi’s arrangement so much he changed the way he played it going forward to match Jimi’s version.

I am hoping and assuming you have heard Johnny Cash’s later work with Rick Rubin.  He did some AMAZING covers, and truly made them his own: Hurt, rusty cage, one.  Lesse… what else.  Janis’ version of Bobby McGee.  That is a Kris Kristofferson song.  Some other sad trivia about that is Janis never saw its success.  She died before the album came out that it was on.

Zac Brown band does a really great ‘Jolene’, which is Ray Lamontagne.  Quite a the departure for a country boy, and song that turned me on to ZBB.

Here is a fun one.  Walk off the Earth does a bitchin cover (and bitchin video) of Lorde’s ‘Royals‘.  All of their videos are super cool and innovative.

I will close with this awesome and unlikely pairing.  Willie Nelson covering Pearl Jam.

I could also tell you about the Grateful Dead covering Metallica.  However, you are just not ready for that yet.  But its real and it exists.

3.  What song, movie, game, etc. has a surprisingly dark message when you really look closer at it?

ooh, another thoughtful question.  I am quite tickled with today’s line of interrogation.  This is truly my expertise.  There are a bunch.  Born in the USA has such a booming and hopeful chorus.  The song is incredibly dark.  Reads mostly like a suicide note if you just look at the lyrics.  Here, go do.

Of course there is the Police with Every Breath you Take, but you already knew that one.

How about Today from Smashing Pumpkins?  Billy says he wrote that as a suicide note after fighting with writers block for some time, and a huge deadline approaching for him to deliver his big commercial breakthrough album (which became the masterpiece ‘Siamese Dream’).

There are, of course, tons.  All great music is written from sadness and heartbreak.

4.  What is the best, most creative music video you have seen?

That would have to go to the Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’ video.  I can’t think of a better one.

5.    What’s your theme song?

this one, I think