We know, the title kind of implies this was a collaboration of sorts. But there are some collaborations that are just a little too odd to imagine, and Fall Out Boy with Ed Sheeran are among them. Though by the looks of it, something may be in the works. But for now, the two artists are simply showing their mutual love of Elton John in two separate covers, which will appear on a deluxe reissue of Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Also appearing on the cover album will be Hunter Hayes, the Zac Brown Band, and many more. Check out the covers track list below.
A friend of mine suggested some good ground rules for this one: You have to strip out covers of old blues tunes (sorry Stones and Beatles). Also strip out cover bands (sorry Joe Cocker and Nouvelle Vague) and cover [tribute] albums. He suggested “Police & Thieves,” with which I concur, as well as Souxie And The Banshees’ “Dear Prudence,” with which I do not. This could still be a huge, huge list, but these are some of the very best, in order.
10. Benny And The Jets “ Beastie Boys w/ Biz Markie (original by Elton John)
Benny And The Jets is my least favorite of Elton’s hits (I’m not counting anything after 1989, cause why would I?), but it is given a reason for existing here by The Biz, who was fucking around in the studio with The Beastie Boys, checking out old records, and decided to cut this version, where he slurs lyrics he clearly doesn’t know, ridiculous crowd noise included. Hilarity ensues.
That’s the thought bubble I could have sworn I saw spring from my friend’s head several weeks ago when I mentioned that my all-time favorite remake is Aretha Franklin‘s 1971 Sunday-morning-at-the-pulpit rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” “You mean her version isn’t the original?” he asked, totally floored. No, she borrowed it from Simon & Garfunkel, who had hit No. 1 with it the previous year, and never gave it back.
Every time I think of Franklin and the crafty way she used to take ownership of other people’s hits (Dionne Warwick‘s “I Say a Little Prayer,” Ben E. King‘s “Spanish Harlem” and most famously, Otis Redding‘s “Respect”), I remember a story Dusty Springfield once told me. Franklin was originally offered “Son of a Preacher Man,” and when she turned it down, Springfield snatched it up. Shortly after Springfield’s version hit the Top 10, she met Franklin for the first and only time in an elevator. Franklin walked in, put her hand on Springfield’s shoulder and simply said, “Girl.” Not another word. “I just about fell out!” Springfield told me, still in shock and awe decades later.
Franklin eventually recorded “Son of a Preacher Man,” and Springfield so liked what Franklin did to her hit that she began performing it in concert Franklin style. And that, folks, is what you call running off with someone else’s song. (For the record, I prefer Springfield’s original.) Now, here are ten other cases of musical robbery.
Marvin Gaye “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” Just one year before Gaye went to No. 1 for seven weeks with his biggest hit, Gladys Knight and the Pips took their gospel-infused version of one of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong’s two crowning achievements (the other being the Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”) all the way to No. 2. Both are spectacular, but Gaye’s moody, brooding take, which actually was recorded first, making it a “cover” in timing only, will always be definitive.
Harry Nilsson “Everybody’s Talkin'” and “Without You” Little-known fact: The late singer-songwriter who wrote Three Dog Night’s “One” had his two biggest hits singing other people’s words. Fred Neil‘s 1966 original version of his own “Everybody’s Talkin’,” though moving, lacks the mournful tremulousness and vocal drama that Nilsson brought to it three years later. Nilsson’s emotional bells and whistles sell the song. “Without You,” his biggest and signature hit, was written and recorded by Badfinger in 1970, two years before Nilsson took it to No. 1, and has since been covered by Mariah Carey and seemingly at least one contestant per season on American Idol. The song, however, belonged to Nilsson in life, and it still does in death.
Billy Paul “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” Bob Dylan’s song has been done to death”by Peter, Paul and Mary, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, The Four Seasons (under the pseudonym The Wonder Who?) and so many others”but Paul’s jazz-inflected rendition gave it a certain soulful urgency lacking in every other version I’ve heard. This is one of those rare times that someone not only did one of Dylan’s compositions justice but did it better than Dylan, too.
Anne Murray “You Won’t See Me” I’d read it many times and always assumed it was a suburban myth, so when I met Murray in the ’90s, I asked her, “True or false: Did John Lennon really tell you that your 1974 version of “You Won’t See Me” was his favorite Beatles cover?” True. Better than Marvin Gaye’s “Yesterday,” Elton John’s “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and Aretha Franklin’s “Eleanor Rigby.” (I wonder what he would have made of Tiffany’s “I Saw Him Standing There” had he lived eight years longer to hear it.) Once again unwrapping her gift of interpretation six years later, Murray took the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” and made it listenable at last.
Linda Ronstadt “You’re No Good” Dee Dee Warwick recorded it first, and Betty Everett took it for its first trip up Billboard’s Hot 100 (to No. 51 in 1963). As great old-school soul singers go, both were up there with the best, but what made Ronstadt’s version pop and rock and sent it to No. 1 for one week in 1975 was the mix of Peter Asher’s haunting production, a tough-as-nails Ronstadt at the peak of her vocal power and the best instrumental outro in the history of ’70s rock. Love and anger rolled into one of music’s great transcendent kiss-offs.
Amii Stewart “Knock on Wood” Eddie Floyd‘s 1966 original is a soul classic and deservedly so, but Stewart’s 1979 cover”which went all the way to No. 1”is a highlight of the era of disco balls, bell bottoms and white polyester.
Darlene Love “River Deep – Mountain High” I know, sacrilege! How dare I say that anyone ever topped Ike & Tina Turner’s 1966 classic! But there you go. Recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Love, whose voice is one of the greatest instruments ever committed to record, covered the Phil Spector track for the 1985 Broadway musical Leader of the Pack, and nailed it effortlessly on the cast recording. She sang it with a soulful clarity and technical precision that matched and then surpassed the Queen of Rock & Roll because Love, unlike Turner, didn’t have to claw her way out of Spector’s great, big, oppressive “Wall of Sound.”
Marc Almond Featuring Special Guest Star Gene Pitney “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart” Topping Gene Pitney is hard work, but when Pitney revisited his own 1967 UK hit as a male-on-male duet with Soft Cell’s Marc Almond, the result not only improved on its source material, but it gave the singer one final trip to No. 1 in 1989.
David Cook “Always Be My Baby” In what remains one of American Idol‘s greatest moments, during season seven, Cook took a sappy Carey song I’d always despised and turned it into a grungey, slow-burning stalker anthem. In the process, he proved himself a true artist and Carey a songwriter capable of greatness.
We know, we know. We’re still nursing our Halloween candy hangovers, but we swear we already saw Santa at the department store and”let’s face it”it’s only a matter of days now before the decorations start coming out. So what better way to get in the holiday spirit than starting up a Holiday Song Channel? Starting November 1st, artists can take their best shot at spreading holiday cheer across the web. Think you’ve got the next “Frosty The Snowman” or “Jingle Bells” under your cap? We want to hear it!
Upload your best holiday jingle, ditty, tune”you get it”to OurStage’s Holiday Song Channel. Your entry must be an original composition or a public domain cover and, of course, holiday spirited in nature. So get creative, get cheerful and get into the spirit of things. The competition will run right up until December 31st and the winner will get $100 and a crack at the site-wide $5,000 grand prize. Bet that will help pay off all those holiday shopping debts!
Welcome to the sixth installment of “Under Covers,” a bi-weekly topic dedicated to exploring the musical possibilities of artists appreciating one another’s work on both the OurStage and national levels. This week’s topic: Original Covers.
There are two brands of cover artist: the copycat and the innovator. No one is going to deny that playing your favorite rockstar(s)’ epic anthems verbatim isn’t a blast, but it’s always a little more interesting”at least to me”to hear the classic tunes we all know and love reworked from a fresh, new angle. I’ve decided to change the format of this edition of “Under Covers” yet again, this time highlighting some of the most original cover songs on the site.
To start, let us explore what has officially been deemed the world’s most covered song: “Yesterday” by The Beatles. According to The Guinness Book of World Records, Paul McCartney’s dream-inspired eulogy honoring sunnier days has been covered nearly 7 million times. Yet no matter how many times this song is redone, it will forever stay relevant, as the idea of yesterday will remain as long as the earth is spinning. As noted earlier, the hooky melody to this song came to Sir McCartney in a dream. Upon awaking from the dream, he raced over to the piano to solidify the idea before it drifted away. After that moment, the story goes that Paul became more or less obsessed with his inadvertent creation, playing it whenever he got a chance, and eventually driving his fellow band mates insane. Even after the success of the song, Lennon went on record to state his dislike of the bothersome circular nature of the lyrics as the listener never actually finds out what has happened since yesterday. Regardless, it is a strikingly simple song for the emotional weight it possesses.
On a creative level, taking a simple song and expanding up on it is always more challenging than the stripping a complex song down to its core, which is why 8- member German a cappella group Die Vielharmoniker‘s take on “Yesterday” is so breathtaking. They change the beginning from a straight rhythm made up of only 8th notes, to one comprised of 8th notes, half notes and melody. It’s always amazing to me how capable a cappella singers are when singing instrumental textures. Die Vielharmoniker is no exception. Whether intentionally or not, their la-la-la’s during the chorus sound like the guitar plucking in Yesterday, and the long sustained notes sung by the deep voices in the group sound like the low string instruments used in the original song. For the most part, the song is split between secondary vocals featuring one lead vocalist, but at certain points in the lyrics like hanging over me and a place to hide away, all participants come together to sing the lyrics as one, creating an enveloping sonic pillow for listeners to enjoy. To change things up even more, they switch lead vocalists and their harmonies throughout the composition, giving each new section a different vibe than its predecessor. Hear what the artist’s themselves have to say about the arrangement and their unique a cappella twist:
“The arrangement of “Yesterday” is mainly based on a King’s Singers version of this Beatles classic. It was adapted by Viola to suit the voices we have in the group and features myself and Toby, another Englishman, who left the group at the end of 2008. We have more demanding arrangements that we sing, but the voice parts on this title come together beautifully to produce layers of sound and seemingly complex harmonies. Less is, as they say, often more! ;o)”
“It’s still one of our favourite arrangements to sing and is always a welcome inclusion in any set we perform. It helps, of course, that the original song is so well written. All we do is give it a fresh twist by singing it a cappella.”
– Matt Atherton of Die Vielharmoniker
Stemming from the same decade, The Doors‘ iconic and heavily covered Light My Fire has been theorized to be a euphemism for many indulgences. Whether said indulgences be sex, drugs or plain raucous behavior, it can be agreed upon that this song encourages some sort of energetic outlet. So what happens when one man takes a song thriving with enough flammable energy to light the night on FIYAH and whittles it down to acoustics? Listen to Owen Brady‘s rendition of the unrelenting classic and find out for yourself! Despite lessened instrumentation and a slower tempo, his version sacrifices no passion from the original, and more than makes do without the lengthy acid rock organ solo. Brady’s vocals are very dynamic, varying from the sweet and sensual to straight up top-of “your-lungs bravado. During the instrumental breaks between chorus and verse, smooth guitar licks accompany the rhythm to create a sort of mini solo, sections that eventually become something to look forward to throughout the piece. So while Mr. Mojo Rising and The Doors may start a forest fire with 7 minutes of full ensemble, Mr. Brady strikes the match in a mere 3:04 “ just enough time for his well balanced creation to set your soul ablaze.
These artists and their songs are fantastic examples of modern refurbishings of timeless classics. It is this mentality that allows 40-year-old hits to grow and evolve with the times, a mentality that will hopefully persist as long as music exists. If you have a topic for “Under Covers” or know artists that you would like to cover or be covered by, leave a comment about them below!
Is Madonna madness slowly killing your soul? Try Boyce Avenue‘s version of 4 Minutes. Love Rhianna but her songs too high energy for every occasion? Never fear, you can still enjoy SOS by The Last Shadow Puppets. Is Alicia Keys a little too soulful for you? Then maybe The Honorary Title’s cover of No One is more up your alley.Perhaps you’re more into a guy singing about kissing a girl”no worries, Max Vernon’s version of Katy Perry’s breakout hit reverses roles.
I’ve never been one for the bells and whistles. For me, there’s nothing like listening to an original spin on a popular work. That way I” the rare bird communications major and resident country girl here at OurStage ”actually has something slightly underground or emerging to talk about around the water cooler. I feel a sense of pride when using lingo like “acoustic” and “cover.” You see, my pop culturalized knowledge of music is comparable to a child coming into an anatomy class only knowing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes because they heard it at nursery school a zillion times. Having said that, I can truly appreciate songs that are a little lesser known, but still relevant. These cover songs are like the covers on my bed, making me feel secure and warm in a cold world of music majors and teenyboppers.
Later this week, you’ll be seeing a blog about songs composed by extraordinarily large bands written by my Community comrade, Aidan. He may argue the point that bigger is better. But I beg the question, “Isn’t less more?”. If something is good, its good, PLAIN and SIMPLE. No need to overcompensate with frills, bows and electric guitar. Stay tuned and see. I’m sure you’ll be siding with me.