A few years back, due to a question from one of my children, I wrote about a number of songs I had collected over the years. I referenced part of it last year when I reblogged Jeff’s Songs of Summer series. So, as we’re quickly coming to the end of the 13th summer in this millennium, I thought to reprise and update the piece for Friday the 13th (a favorite number of mine).
- Cover version (AKA cover song, or simply cover)
- - a new performance or recording of a contemporary or previously recorded, commercially released song or popular song.
As we hit the unofficial close of the summer with the passing of Labor Day, what’s left in the year? The kids are back in school and the Fall will be here in a few short weeks. So, that brings a certain period of reflection on my part. My better half would undoubtably say, “That’s your excuse?” Why yes, dear. I should reflect some.
So, I’ll answer a question that came care of my daughter. The same one who convinced me to get this t-shirt:
“Dad, why do you have so many of the same songs, by different artists, on your iPod?”
Obviously, this was a more serious query than the usual. Any “What are you listening to, or, who are you texting?” question or sociopolitical editorial (Ben Afleck playing Batman doesn’t count) will be bench-warming while my musical contemplation is set forth.
Well, loving daughter of mine, I must really like them or I wouldn’t have not them on my portable player. That’s too simple an answer, you say?
To give my little girl (“Dad! I’m not little anymore.”), and those reading, more exposition, I am going to post on some of those on my trusty iPod here. Possibly others in a series on this blog, down the line. As if I didn’t have enough going on already. Music-wise or any which way a fearful parent can imagine. Might as well inaugurate this with song.
Written mainly by Paul McCartney, and credited to the writing team of Lennon-McCartney, in 1966. Released on the seminal Revolver album, it can be argued that it was a prime example of the group moving away from just being a popular musical act to one that would seriously impact and influence music as a whole. The string arrangements by George Martin, and the lonely, heartfelt lyrics by McCartney on this album cut made it a stunner for listeners. The most mature song by the group at this stage of their career when taken in and fully appreciated.
Among all of the artists who’ve covered this song — and that includes a whole lot from 1966 – 2008) — it’s a credit to the genius that was Ray Charles that his rendition continues to have a similar impact among music fans. His more bluesy take was sadly beautiful to The Beatles’ beautifully sad interpretation, if that makes any sense…remember I’m on antihistamines as I write this. Both remain head and shoulders above any other versions, well at least in my head, and are my favorites.
Written by Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman of 10cc in 1975. I find the original song intriguing for its technique of laying down multiple tracks and the creation of its virtual chorus within the piece. Plus, its keen sentiment of one trying to delude themselves of what they’re feeling was a great exposition of that never-ending and universal human trait. As Allmusic described:
“…an examination of love from the point of view of a victim who refuses to believe he’s succumbed.”
This was another song that has been covered by a great many artists (including Richie Havens, The Pretenders, and even Donny Osmond). Still, as enjoyably downbeat as the original could be in its attempt to sorrow the listener — both lament and love start with the same letter, now don’t they? — I have Dee Dee Sharp‘s superb 1976 rendition to bring me back up. Her delivery of the song started deceptively slow, but built a resonance via her vocal power and the defiance offered.
I found her holding the long and throaty “timmmmme” lyric a triumphantly dissenting note to the plight and disillusion of heartbreak in her presentation. It proved this woman would not be held down by love’s hiccup, or the song’s lament. Dee Dee’s re-interpretation easily made it my favorite of these two.
Largely written by guitarist Robby Krieger, though credited to The Doors as a whole, in ’66. Released by them as a single in 1967, and even re-released in the turbulent year of 1968, the original hit #1 on many music charts. It’s arguably the band’s signature song, and one of the great emblems for the decade. I have the album cut on my iPod, not the shortened radio edit, just for the extended organ solo by Ray Manzarek‘s stellar keyboard work and Krieger’s dynamic guitar riff.
The song, influenced by John Coltrane‘s harmonic progression and his jazz cover for The Song of Music’s My Favorite Things, was one of those influential tracks where you could ask, “Who didn’t record a version of it?” As a fan of the great Shirley Bassey (her Bond movie songs are among my library stalwarts), her brassy vocals have little equal, at least for me. Her 1970 rendition of this caught me off-guard when I first heard it, and I instantly fell for her interpretation and it’s big, early James Bond-like orchestral arrangement.
However, it was Jose Feliciano‘s 1968 take of Light My Fire that gets the majority of play out for me as I get older. Arguably, it remains the best known cover of the song. I have to agree with Wikipedia in that this remake:
“.…blended Latin influences, including a mixture of classic Spanish guitar and flamenco, with American pop sounds.”
Even Krieger admitted that Jose’s new arrangement on his cover was instrumental on those who followed in performing the song. If not for this, Shirley Bassey’s cover likely would not have sounded as it did. It reached #3 in 1968 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and won Jose a Grammy for Best Contemporary Pop Vocal Performance, Male that year. If I get to choose some of the songs for my funeral, put this one on the includes.
Written by Phil Medley and Bert Russell, this song was first recorded in 1961 by the Top Notes. Admittedly, that was not a favorite version of mine. Its first really popular recorded set was performed by the great Isley Brothers in 1962. This version established not only the song, but the Isley’s unique sound and put them high on both the R&B and Pop charts. The 8-year old in me can still recall first hearing this song on the radio from a neighbor’s house near my grandmother’s home.
Yet, it was The Beatles take of the same song, in 1964, that really made me appreciate it. That, along with John’s wonderfully raucous lead vocal on the piece (performed once as the final cut for the Please Please Me album recording session). So memorable it was, as writer Ben Williams wrote last Spring (along with its sterling music and direct lyrics), that the song made it into various other media and pop culture: TV shows (e.g., A Different World) and film (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, see below).
To such an extent Twist and Shout became something more than just a popular tune as it was covered not only by host of individuals and groups, like The Searchers, but all the way up to an unexpected take by the legendary Mae West. But, these two remain my favorites.
Written by Bob Dylan, as the curtain began to close on the 60s in 1969, it was originally penned for the Midnight Cowboy film — Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talkin’ was chosen as the theme song instead. The author’s take via radio airplay that year did much for me. I hadn’t paid much attention to the artist Dylan up to that point. Its clever musical hook of the “recurring four-note steel guitar riff” sucked me right in, along with its suggestive lyrics — mind you, being that I was a hormonal teen at that time, you can plainly see why that was.
Covered by the likes of Hoyt Axton, the Everly Brothers, and Isaac Hayes, it had a solid crossover along other music genres and among the tune’s followers. However, the cover song I own was done by the Brothers Isley from their 1971 album, Givin’ It Back. It most certainly stood out, mainly because it’s a great rendering on the group’s part that paid homage to Dylan’s uniquely fresh song while making it a wholly soulful interpretation in their own right.
Written by the legend that still is Chuck Berry in 1956, “…in response to his sister Lucy using the family piano to play classical music when Berry wanted to play contemporary popular music”. Rolling Stone magazine would go on to call it a “…masterpiece that helped to define the rock and roll genre.” Its purest form remains watching the man perform it himself, and he was already up there in age when he did it here:
Though it’s been covered by a plethora of artists, including Electric Light Orchestra and Iron Maiden, the first time the tune really caught me was listening, once again, to The Beatles‘ cover version, released in the U.S. in 1964. George Harrison‘s vocals and Berryesque guitar play gets me going every single time. I think you can tell it was a favorite of John, Paul, and George, and likely practiced and played who knows how many times between Hamburg and Liverpool.
However, in discovering this one song from my all-time favorite music group, it led me to recognize and appreciate the great guitarist, singer, songwriter by the name of Charles Edward “Chuck” Berry. Without him, who knows where rock ‘n roll would have gone. I say, with complete belief, his impact upon the music in general, and this song in particular, cannot be minimized. Ah, hell. John Lennon said it even more clearly:
“If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.”
Look him up, kids. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its opening in 1986. He is number 5 on the Rolling Stone list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Number 6 in their 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, too. He was the basis of rock ‘n roll, music lore, and music fans should forever be beholden to this singular artist.
Whew… I’m going to lay down now, but with my headphones on.