They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Today’s MotM is all about sincere flattery, and I think you’ll enjoy this crazy trip that weaves old and new, amazing and awful and a few little mind blowers. Like, for example, did you know that Manfred Mann’s incredible “Blinded by the Light” was actually a cover? And wait til you hear who did it first! Or how about Nazareth’s biggest hit being done first by The Everly Brothers? Who woulda thunk it?
The idea for today’s playlist comes from my family’s current favorite TV show, The Voice. For those who aren’t in the know, The Voice is a singing competition program on NBC with 4 famous coaches who lead their vocal teams into a final showdown resulting in one winner, with the help of voting from viewers. I know, I know…it’s not an original idea. American Idol has been doing basically the same thing for years. And just like American Idol, none of the songs performed on the show seem to be originals either. But that’s okay, because sometimes the original idea is more like a rough draft. A bit flawed. It’s not til the next generation, or the one after that, when genius really strikes.
So back to The Voice. A few weeks ago as Season #3 was narrowing down the competition, there was an incredible performance from cutiepie Dez Duron. Hailing from Louisiana, Duron was the QB for Yale’s JV football team before he quit to follow his dream of singing. He belted out an incredible song I’d never heard before, and it was amazing. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought it was a cover of Harry Connick Jr or Michael Buble. Well, I didn’t know any better. I’d never heard the song. I had no idea it was from Justin Bieber. Yeah. Bieber. But the thing is, the song was amazing when it was recycled and adultified a bit, and even my Bieber-bashing teenage daughter had to admit how great it was. That Dez sang it exactly the way it should have always been done. Check it out:
In Season #2, we rooted for former Mouseketeer Tony Lucca. Under the tutelage of Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, Lucca performed better-than-the-original renditions of Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” and Jay Z’s “99 Problems.” But his best performance that made me absolutely sure he was a winner (he wasn’t), turned out to be a cover of The Heavy’s “How You Like Me Now.”
It’s not available on Grooveshark, but you can watch his performance here, and I hope you do, because it’s really really really good. I dare you to disagree with me! Even Blake Shelton called the performance badass. It got me to thinking about all the cover songs I’ve loved over the years which were actually better than the original. A few great examples from today’s playlist:
Blinded By The Light Amazing song by Manfred Mann. Who knew that Bruce Springsteen actually wrote and sang it first? I didn’t…and it’s nowhere near as good. You’ll have to check it out for yourself.
Wild Thing My favorite version was a dance mix from 1985 by the punk band X. But everybody knows from a few decades earlier….however, did you know the original version was recorded by a band called The Wild Ones in 1965? Thank goodness The Troggs thought they could improve on it just a year later, because the original is absolutely awful. Just to show you, I’ve included all 3 versions on today’s playlist.
Goo Goo Muck My mind was officially blown when I discovered that what I thought was the quintessential original Cramps song was a cover of an obscure tune from 1962, done originally by a band out of Bakersfield called The Gaylads (not to be confused with a later Jamaican reggae band with the same really bad name). Blown, I tell ya! And this whole time I thought Lux Interior and Poison Ivy were so creative and came up with those bizarre lyrics on their own.
Hey Joe What? Jimi Hendrix didn’t do it first? No! Say it ain’t so, Joe. But fortunately he came along and did it justice. I think you’ll agree.
Love Hurts Another shocker. After growing up with the 70’s Nazareth version of this rock ballad, it was a little shattering to find that The Everly Brothers did it first in 1960. This is a song that just screams to be featured on an episode of That 70’s Show when Donna dumps Eric and he’s moping in the basement, not crooned to an acoustic guitar on a beach around a bonfire in an Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon beach party movie. It’s just not right, I tell ya.
Can’t Get Used To Losing You I was 15. I had ratted out hair and wore purply black lipstick and went to a lot of punk shows, but secretly loved ska and reggae. Well, not so secretly. One day I was in the kitchen singing along to this song by The English Beat, when my dad walked by and stopped dead in his tracks and looked at me funny.
“Whuuuuut?” I said, all surly and Moon Zappa like.
“I just didn’t figure you for an Andy Williams fan,” said he.
I didn’t think he knew what he was talking about.
This is just the tip of the cover song iceberg, but you’ll hear many more on today’s playlist by clicking the play button below or visiting Grooveshark. I know there’s more awesome cover songs than I could ever include in today’s playlist, but feel free to add your favorite in the comments section, and I’ll try to add them on, because I kinda like you guys, and um… well… I got ya covered.
- Dez Duron – U Smile I won’t even bore you with the original.
- Manfred Mann – Blinded By The Light
- Bruce Springsteen – Blinded By The Light
- Carlos Santana – Black Magic Woman Fleetwood Mac did it first in ’68. Santana did it better two years later, and it turned into a classic.
- Aaron Neville – Everybody Plays The Fool The Main Ingredient (which featured actor Cuba Gooding Jr’s father, btw) got a Grammy nod for this tune in 1972, but I still like Neville’s version from 1991 better.
- English Beat – Tears of a Clown Did you know that Stevie Wonder co-wrote this song? It was Smokey Robinson & The Miracles who recorded it in the 60’s, and lots of folks have covered it (including Phil Collins & Petula Clark) but you know I’ve got a thing for The English Beat.
- UB40 – Many Rivers To Cross Jimmy Cliff’s version is awesome, but this is the one I cut my teeth on, and will always be my favorite.
- Annie Lennox – Train In Vain I didn’t think this classic from The Clash could be improved, but I was wrong. Supposedly Dwight Yoakam & Third Eye Blind did versions too.
- English Beat – Can’t Get Used To Losing You
- Andy Williams – Can’t Get Used To Losing You
- Nazareth – Love Hurts
- Everly Brothers – Love Hurts
- Gloria Jones – Tainted Love This tune was a commercial flop when first recorded in 1965. Soft Cell gave it the sound it needed in 1981.
- Tony Lucca – 99 Problems Besides the original from Jay-Z, country band Hugo recorded it as well, and it’s that version that inspired Tony Lucca.
- X – Wild Thing
- The Troggs – Wild Thing
- The Wild Ones – Wild Thing
- Wall of Voodoo – Ring Of Fire I admit this version could never top Johnny Cash’s original, but I had to include it, because it’s so interesting and cool. And a huge part of my teenage years.
- Johnny Cash – Hurt When I heard Johnny Cash had recorded a Trent Reznor song, I was just hoping it wasn’t “Closer.” Cash really nailed it.
- Johnny Cash – Personal Jesus Depeche Mode’s version is great, but again…Cash nailed it.
- Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah Possibly the most covered song of modern times.
- Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over The Rainbow My daughter grew up listening to this version, and didn’t realize it had been made famous more than 50 years earlier.
- Richard Cheese – Bohemian Rhapsody I wanted to share Jake Shimabukuro’s solo ukelele version of this Queen classic (which is spectacular), but this’ll do…it’s not better, but it’s kind of funny!
- Cheap Trick – Don’t Be Cruel
- Devo – Working In The Coal Mine Allen Toussaint did this in ’66, and Devo did it in ’81.
- The Cramps – Goo Goo Muck
- The Gaylads – Goo Goo Muck
- The Leaves – Hey Joe At least I saved the worst for last…
Bonus: Wait, don’t go yet! I’ve got one more that I wasn’t able to include on the Grooveshark playlist either because of availability. Chester See is an artist most of you have probably never heard of. His gig is covering other people’s songs on YouTube. In the following video, he partners up with another talented fella, Andy Lange, to create a really cool version of ‘Madness’ that is, I think, better than Muse’s. Enjoy!
She’s often spotted driving around town singing at the top of her lungs to new wave hits from the 80’s, but at work Valerie hosts the afternoon classical show Siskiyou Music Hall (at 90.9 FM in Shasta County or streaming at ijpr.org).