The Cover Song: The Great, The Good, The Bad and The Downright Awful

Traveling through the interwebz and sifting through some music bloggers pages; I found one that painted a very black and white picture of bands covering other artists. I am not a millennial, I am a gen Xer, does that matter? Probably not. Am I a better writer than that person? Again, probably not. However, when  it comes to certain aspects of music why make it so black and white? Music is fluid, ever changing, and if you are gonna be judging, better back your shit up with some links to prove your point. Instead of pulling apart that person’s perspective, I offer you mine.

             I am going to take a stab at saying that many of the bands/artists that do cover songs they do it because well,  they really, I mean really liked that song/band. I am pretty sure that is how the majority of musicians started playing music in the first place. But to say that once you start writing your own music that you should stop covering other artists, well that’s horseshit.  Whether you music snobs like it or not, bands will be covering other bands and I say that’s absolutely awesome. You know why?  Even the crappiest cover song will possibly give the original or even another cover of a cover a chance to have a new fan, a new listener.

 The one thing that I LOVE about covers is, well, you can do so much with it; and at minimum, you bring a resurgence of that once loved track from a long time ago and make it current once again. There are some pretty shitty covers out there that deserve to be buried and never listened to again. But let me tell you about some of the greats, and good cover versions.

Here are three different version of Pressure Drop. I love the original and I love The Clash’s cover version. Perhaps this is a great point on how a great cover version can be.  But I love them both equally, and I don’t think that loving both is a disrespect to the original artist.

A little bit of history for you, Pressure Drop was originally recorded by Toots and the Maytals in 1969, The Clash covered this in 1979, (and a different version in 1980) and The Specials in 1996. (Tons of other bands have covered this track as well, but I gotta move on here, okay?)  There are similarities and differences that perhaps make each version more enjoyable to one fan or another. I am hoping that you took notice of the differences in time.

*please note that this was the best quality sounding track but I am miffed that this person misrepresented this track by posting an album that this track isn’t on! Also, note to self, don’t read the comments on youtube links!!! GAH!

I think I still have to hammer my point across with the fact that having cover versions allows an audience, a new generation, subcultures, age group, demographic, blah, blah, blah,  to get exposed to a song. I give you  three versions of Hallelujah.

That  little bit of history for you. Leonard Cohen wrote this back in 1984, Jeff Buckley did his version in 1994, and K.D. Lang in 2004.  I am starting to see a pattern here, are you?  I will tell you this, I don’t like Leonard Cohen’s original. Yeah you read that correctly.  I was only  able to appreciate the beauty in the lyrics when I heard Jeff Buckley’s  cover of  it.


Let’s get to the good, the bad and the downright awful examples. Oh yeah, there’s a song that’s got a great example of that. Seriously folks , this is where perhaps, it’s very difficult to do a cover version of a  song. I similarly feel this way about bands covering The Clash, but in my music hunts I have found some pretty good ones.

I know that there are countless versions of  the song Where Eagles Dare , but I chose these specific ones to make a point. The history on this one: The Misfits originally released this track in 1979 off the single Night of the Living Dead (an alternate version was released in 1985)

Bratmobile  (one of my favourite grrrl punk rock bands) covered the song in 1994 on their EP The Real Jannelle.  I mentioned that they were one of my favourite bands, right? Yeah, well their version is pretty bad.

And I have saved the worst for last.  David Pajo released an album titled Scream With Me in 2009. Oh, and when I heard this I was screaming. Not really with him. Just screaming. I am all for acoustic cover versions, in fact The Clash do a great cover version of Johnny Too Bad from The Slickers which is was a Jamaican rocksteady reggae band. But this cover is why some covers should be buried and never see the light of day.

There’s crazy underlying theme here. If  ya didn’t notice that each time it was covered, it was for a different generation, different demographic, different subculture. Did I possibly pick these tracks to prove a point? Absolutely, because this is how you write a persuasive blog. Now kindly get off my lawn, you millennial music gate keepers.

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