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

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Friday Fives – I was a afraid of that – edition

What do you have an irrational hatred for?

          spiders

 What do you have an irrational love of?

 guitars

What do you have an irrational fear of?

           spiders

What is your most irrational fear while driving?

Not a fear, but a big ass pet peeve… how about that?  People not using their turn signals.  If… When I am president, it will be a law.  You MUST use your blinkers if you are turning.  I live out in the country, and I use them on dirt roads.  I use them if I am turning left… even if I am in the left hand turning lane.  So should you!  It takes no energy nor effort.  It burns no fossil fuel, and likely doesn’t even take a calorie of labor.  What about shopping centers, I mean… that is private property, right?   ESPECIALLY in shopping centers.  That is all the more reason.  Do you know cops mostly won’t get involved in an accident on private property… like a mall.  No matter whose fault it was, they won’t issue a ticket.  This means that no matter what happens, your insurance has to cover you.  What better reason to use your blinkers?

 How about rational fear?  What is a real thing you are afraid of?

You think I am going to tell you my greatest fear?  It’s physical, I will tell you that much.  However, I have between 200 and 500 readers here daily.  I don’t know that many people.  Surely one or two are here from this post, and want to kick my ass.  Hell, I want to kick my ass many days.  If you think I am going to tell you how best to hurt me, I am afraid that will not happen on this day.  What is written on the internet lives forever.

Let’s look at this.  Know how Dave Mustaine got kicked out of Metallica?  You know the over arcing story, he was a dick when he was drunk.  Metallica drank a LOT back then.  They were fun drunks.  A guy who is an ahole when he is drunk means that guy is an ahole.  He is just able to keep it hidden pretty well from himself.  Mustaine got kicked out for kicking Hetfield’s dog.

You know how Hunter Thompson got his ass kicked by the hell’s angels?  Know why?  He was watching a Hell’s Angel beat his girlfriend.  This, apparently, wasn’t uncommon. More importantly, it was no one else’s business.  Hunter saw this, and made no comment.  It’s against code.  Then, though, that same guy kicked a dog.  Hunter stepped in and said something like ‘only a chump beats his old lady and his dog.”  Again, this is against code.  He got his ass kicked.

I love dogs.  If I see you kick your dog, shit is gonna go sideways.  Therefore, I can not in good conscious, tell you how best to kick my ass.  I’m not tough.  I am a coward of a man who hides behind the internet and uses pseudonyms and fake pictures… expressly for the purpose of not getting my ass kicked

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

the Ace of Spades

Ace Of Spades

The Ace of Spades will fuck you up. Here’s why.

In history, the Ace of Spades was known as the ‘death card’ in gambling. The story goes back a long time, and became a common message and myth during prohibition, and then later in ww2. It has almost always meant very bad juju. But there are also some PSYOP success stories. In Vietnam, US planes sprinkled enemy territory with playing cards, but prior to carpet bombing, they dropped only the ace of spades. Before long, the Pavlovian technique took hold, and just the dropping of aces was sufficient to clear an entire area. It was not unheard of for US soldiers and Marines to stick this card in their helmet band as a sort of anti-peace sign. This isn’t why I am writing, though. Nor is it why you are reading. I want to talk about what the Ace of Spades (let’s just call it the Ace going forward, for brevity. Each time I use the term ‘Ace’ in this piece, I am referring specifically to the Ace of Spades. I want to talk about something even weirder; how the Ace was chosen twice by the winners. In 1959, Buddy Holly was on a tour across America with the latest hit makers. Think of a super quick version of Lollapalooza.

These were the biggest artists in America, but they only did a set of 4 or 5 songs. Seems like an awful lot of trouble, driving 10 hours between cities just to play a few songs. That was the business model back then, though. This was LONG before the days of prevost coaches and comfy driving. This also shows you how dumb and greedy the promoters were. The whole tour was given a school bus to cross the country. No beds, no tvs, not even seat belts. On top of that, this tour was through the Winter and the bus had no heat. It was so goddamn cold going from town to town that Buddy Holly’s drummer got hospitalized for frostbite. The terrible night Buddy died, he had had enough. They were facing an 8 hour drive on a school bus to the next gig in a winter storm (with no heat, remember). Buddy opted to charter a plane to get to the next city. This makes a TON of sense, and was pretty wise thinking. His ambition was simple, he just wanted to get to the next city early so he could do some laundry.

As you can imagine, the plane that night was a hot commodity. Drive 8 hours in freezing school bus through blizzard, or 2 hours in a heated plane. So, the other guys understandably fought for the available other seats. The last seat came down to Waylon Jennings (the Dukes of Hazard guy) and Richie Valens. Both wanted a seat, and neither was going to do that fucking drive again. So, how do we decide who gets the plane? We gotta be fair. No sense getting in a fight here, we are all still stuck on tour together. So, they agreed to draw cards and high card wins the spot on the plane. Richie pulls the Ace and wins. WINS!!!!

He gets a 2 hour heated plane flight and a day of hotel rest while the other sucks schlep across the country in a busted old school bus. We all know how that ends, as tragically the plane crashed killing everyone. To me, that isn’t the crazy or creepy part. It is that they fought for that seat, and it was the winner who got the seat on the plane. Geesh, some prize, huh?

In 1986, Metallica was touring Europe on their ‘Master of Puppets’ tour. Unlike the Holley/Valens tour, they had a really nice bus. The day before Cliff Burton (their bassist) died, he told a reporter that touring was way better now that they had their own bus. After a gig in Sweden, the band was off to another gig and an all night drive. The bus only had a couple of bunks. The best bed was in back, and they often fought for it. You see where this is going, right? Cliff and Kirk (their guitarist) drew cards to see who would get the good bunk. Cliff won. How? You know already… he drew the Ace of Spades.

That night, the bus hit a patch of ice and rolled. The collision threw Cliff out of the bus through the window, and then the bus rolled over on him and killed him. Yes, Cliff ‘won’ the high card competition.

In 1980, Motorhead record the ‘Ace of Spades’. It is a horrible 3 minutes of racket and mumbling, like every other one of their songs. See, Motorhead’s music is absolutely fucking horrible. Seriously, here is a link to the song.  It’s just bad.  The worst part is, this is their best song and their biggest hit.

Lemmy, their singer, is a legend, though. Everyone loves Lemmy. I love Lemmy. He is funny, crazy, charming, and unkillable. In the 60’s Lemmy served as Jimi Hendrix’ guitar tech. He was also the guy in charge of procuring acid for himself and Hendrix. That is just one of the stories in Lemmy’s bad ass life. There is a parable that goes “if Lemmy and God were to fight, who would win?”  The correct answer is “trick question, Lemmy is god!”

So, among their horrible collection of ear blood, he wrote ‘Ace of Spades’. Bad idea, Lemmy. Very bad idea. Dear reader, you are thinking ‘but wait, Lemmy is alive’. Is he? Let’s take a look at what that song did to him. Here is a photo of Lemmy before recorded his 1980 ‘hit’. This photo was shot on his way into the studio that morning.

Here is a photo taken directly after he left the studio that day… perhaps five hours after the previous shot was taken.  This face shatters mirrors in what is now known as “Lemmy induced mirror suicide.”

Lemmy_Mole

 What is my connection? Well, I have an Ace of Spades story myself. Maybe one day I’ll tell you about it. Anyhow, watch out of the Ace of Spades. You have been warned.

“winning” with the Ace of Spades isn’t ‘winning’, unless you are Charlie Sheen.