Spotify: Let the Beat Build #5: April 2013
1. “Tyrone” - Jim James. JW: We’ve been talking about the magic of the cover song. It’s a tribute. It’s a reworking. It’s a personal self expression within the boundaries of a known quantity. Or, as they get more exciting or esoteric, lesser known “quantities”. I had a bootleg Soundgarden album that I really loved. One track on it had banter with the audience, and one fan yelled out something, maybe “Into the Void”. Chris Cornell chastised him asking why he didn’t want to hear any of THEIR songs. But I felt like their version of Into the Void WAS their song. And I’m sure this fan did too. We respect the artistry with which musicians create. But the original root content is simply the skeleton for various iterations of expression. When the live version deviates from the studio version, is it not a cover of one’s own song? Keep it loose. Draw on and celebrate influences that inspire you. This is the spirit in which sampling, remixes and mashups can be truly considered art. Ask yourself why then, did Yim Yames decide to sing this, of all songs. Answer? Because it’s a dope fucking song. And if you’ve ever sung it in the car, or shower or line at the DMV, you’d know that vibrations come out of your belly when you sing it. It’s strange. I tried to sing this at karaoke last year, and it was surprisingly hard. But also I only knew the chorus. Next time someone asks you for something unreasonable, you tell them, “You better call up Tyrone!” And you can’t use my phone. KW: My band almost covered “Into the Void” once. We played a live show on Middlebury College radio, and the show was called “Into the Void.” I also guest hosted a show there the same day.
2. “Pirate Ships” - Robert Smith. KW: Covers. I recently heard this cover and it destroyed me forever. It’s the real deal, an unreleased Robert Smith solo track from the Disintegration sessions. Here’s the original, also good, but entirely less foreboding. It’s like Robert Smith actually became The Sandman when he destroyed reality forever with his cover. Apparently I’m in a world-is-destroyed kind of mood. Better follow this track with a monster track. Something upbeat. Otherwise we might spend the rest of our endless days as shades.
3. “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” - Urge Overkill. JW: This doesn’t become a monster track until minute 1:08. Now picture Mia Wallace throwing her hair back and forth in her living room moments before her big mistake. This is another tapping the elevator rail, tongue-clicking, inside the car belting, cool rock cover. Did you know Neil Diamond was a pothead?
4. “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother” - Jerry Jeff Walker. KW: Here’s a real singalong anthem. I knew this was a cover, but I can’t find the original on Spotify. I don’t know that the original was recorded before Walker covered it, but I know it had already been performed and was a popular live song for the original songwriter (Ray Wylie Hubbard). But in this case the cover is the definitive version. I love that this is an anthem for real rednecks, anti-rednecks, real hippies, anti-hippies, and everything in between. This would probably be stuck in my truck’s tape deck if I had moved to Austin like most people I knew in high school. Also, this song seems like a catalog of bad mistakes, accidents of birth, poor planning, and degenerate groupthink. UP AGAINST THE WALL. OUT OF THE CAR LONGHAIR.
5. “Moonshiner” - Cat Power. JW: Here’s a redneck ballad for you. I enjoyed this song for years before realizing that it was a cover. And I knew the original. There are Bob Dylan songs that I think have gotten away from him. The first time I heard All Along the Watchtower was on U2’s Rattle & Hum. But you might as well say that that’s Jimi’s song now. Cat Power, however, has twisted and unwound her own melancholy syzzurp trip out of her pappy’s moonshine. It is nearly unrecognizable from the original. And I think it’s one of her best songs. KW: I like the Uncle Tupelo version a lot too. Also, it just occurs to me that Dylan didn’t write this song, it was public domain.
Interlude, from a chat:
KW: What's up with Neil Diamond's eyebrows?
JW: Industry secret... it's Hash
KW: Which is the cover really, when we're talking about "Red, Red Wine"?
The #2 hit from 1968, or the enormous smash hit from the 80s that dwarfed it?
JW: Please don't add that
KW: OK, everybody gets one.
Also, you started it with your ND song.
JW: I guess. Lay it on me.
KW: Clapton, "I Shot the Sheriff"?
No one should ever listen to that.
6. “Tears of Rage” - Jimi Hendrix. KW: There are thousands of hours of Hendrix recordings, probably sitting in a vault, wasting away in the name of monetization. Case in point, this Hendrix cover of a Bob Dylan / Richard Manuel Basement Tapes song, unreleased until 2010. Unbelievably good.
7. “This Wheel’s On Fire” - Siouxsie and the Banshees. JW: You’re gonna have to put these on your Basement Tapes Syllabus. Siouxsie actually has a few great covers. The Passenger and Dear Prudence among them. This beats the crap out of the Absolutely Fabulous theme song. KW: I own Twice Upon a Time and I am not sure if I have ever heard their version of “This Wheel’s on Fire.” Not sure how that is possible. My favorite Siouxsie stuff is what they did with Robert Smith (the album Hyaena). Mostly just “Dazzle,” “Dear Prudence,” and “Running Town.” Especially “Dazzle.” Anyway, this is a weird ass cover. I’m not sure how I feel about it.
8. “I Want You” - Madonna with Massive Attack. KW: Here’s what this made me think of. A weirdo, vaguely electronic, somewhat overproduced version of a classic. I thought I got into this because it was on the X-Files soundtrack, but that’s not true. I got into this because Massive Attack was involved. I’m not sure how I feel about this cover either. It takes me back to the time I lived in a Barnard dorm for part of a summer. It was hot there. A lot of bread got baked, no double entendre. A lot of Cure was on the stereo. I spent a lot of time in Riverside Park. I was heavy into Marvin Gaye, not so much into Madonna. The cover is almost great, isn’t it? But it fails somehow. [Note: this is only the first of multiple appearances that Madonna will make in this playlist. Same for Marvin Gaye.]
9. “Black Steel” - Tricky. JW: Let’s see if I can’t hit a trifecta. Tricky/The Cure(via Mark Saunders)/Soul(Gaye: Hayes). Plus strong male vocals covered by a female vocalist. Only difference, is that Martina Topley-Bird nails it. That ability to distort hip hop into something electronic and cerebral and dreamy is the hallmark of the best Trip Hop had to offer. But usually the manipulation was entirely about augmenting the beats and twisting the rest. Here, we twist the tempo, the instruments, the quiet empty space in the background. And on top of all that, the cadence and punch of her vocals inspired the type of modern, powerful, don’t take no crap, techno-heroine. Think Angelina Jolie in Hackers or Franke Potente in Run, Lola, Run. I picture Chuck D giving that Lola picture a grin and a head nod. KW: Really one of my favorite covers.
10. “Stone Cold Crazy” - Metallica. KW: You don’t think of Queen and thrash metal together. But there it is, by way of Metallica’s cover of “Stone Cold Crazy,” which I heard for the first time in 1992 or thereabouts. There was a metal/hard rock radio station in Houston at that time (KKZR, “Z Rock”) that had a weekly Metallica show called The Mighty Met. Every week my brother and I would tape anything we hadn’t already heard. There was a lot of Metallica b-side stuff back then that was hard to get, so tracks like this one were legendary. I didn’t hear the original until many years later. Back then I couldn’t even imagine what the original sounded like, I always expected it to be wildly different, certainly not the blistering madness that it is. Leave it to Queen to innovate, surprise, and then move on to something completely different. This song obviously had a huge effect on NWOBHM bands and their spawn (e.g. Metallica).
11. “Buick Mackane” - Guns ‘N Roses. JW: On the Use Your Illusion Tour in what? ‘91? I saw Faith No More open up for Metallica/GNR. Would you believe Faith No More was the best? Remind me to tell you the story of how my friends ditched me with the only ticket that was in General Admission so I had to wander around that crowd by myself for 3 hours. I came out a Gandalf the White in leather jeans. There are songs I like more on this Spaghetti Incident album, but I like this original a lot and was pleased they included it. Also, (not to choke on Soundgarden too much) but when a band that is more established or established earlier than you covers your song, you’re definitely making a dent. That could be its own thread.
12. “Hot Rod Lincoln” - Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen. KW: I see your big dumb sex and I raise you racing hot rods. Fenders clickin’ the guardrail posts. There’s a live version where they talk about how the state troopers didn’t notice the cocaine in the glovebox, or the sixteen teenage girls sitting on the bumper, or the hashish in the trunk. Commander Cody was one of those things that would come on the radio late at night when you were driving somewhere and it would grab you with its dexedrine-addled monologue. Not quite the original, but also not really that different. Kind of analogous to how disconcerting the Flying Burrito Brothers were to the rednecks--it wasn’t that they covered Merle Haggard, it was the long hair and the Nudie suits with the marijuana leaves.
13. “Why Don’t You Love Me” - Red Hot Chili Peppers. JW: Nothing says Hank Sr. like some non-ska trumpet. That trumpeter’s name was Tree, by the way. But that’s neither here nor t’other. My hair’s still curly and my eyes are still blue. So why don’t you love me like you used to doooooo?
14. “Show Biz Kids” - Rickie Lee Jones. KW: I guess the Chili Peppers can really send a good song down a bad road when they want to. So, to flip that around, here’s an artist I’ve never been much into, turning a song I don’t like into something magnificent. After I listened to this just now, I put the original on and my daughter immediately started saying “bad! bad! I don’t like bad!” and kept on until I played something else. She knows.
15. “Spoonful” - Cream. JW: Is it me or do these songs sort of groove in the same way? If Splotify had Koko Taylor’s version of this, I would have played it. I want a t-shirt with Ginger Baker’s face on it.
16. “Across the Universe” - David Bowie. KW: The Lost Weekend! This is one of my favorite Beatles covers! I don’t care what the haters say! Nothing! Nothing! Nothing! Nothing’s gonna! Nothing’s gonna change my world! I was going to put Eric Clapton’s cover of “San Francisco Bay Blues” on next, but there wasn’t enough smoking guitar on it.
17. “Cactus” - David Bowie. JW: China Girl was there. It was right up in there. I was listening to it when I deleted it from the doc and put this in there instead. I just love it that much more. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “When Bowie covers your shit, you’re doing something right.” And Iggy after Bowie made me think too much of Velvet Goldmine and that was distracting me. KW: I really like Iggy Pop’s The Idiot. 1977 represent. “Sister Midnight” and “China Girl” were my jams back in the day, like two years ago. Also, I love the Pixies forever. Still probably the best concert I’ve ever been to.
18. “Let the Good Times Roll” - Dr. John. KW: This is one of those songs that is infinitely coverable (like “Night Life” by Willie Nelson). I first heard this song as a cover, on Electric Ladyland. That’s an unbelievably excellent guitar arrangement and performance. It wasn’t until many years later that I heard the Dr. John cover, with its slinky bad self, around the time I became infatuated with New Orleans. And then more years passed before I heard the Earl King original with its New Orleans proto-rock R&B bad self.
19. “The House of the Rising Sun” - The Animals. JW: MAN! It’s hard to follow Dr. John. That guy is so strong. I kept trying to hit some N.O. standards, but no one wants to listen to Tipitina. Or a 26 minute, live, Dead version of “Turn On Your Love Light”. I love this song. I love Eric Burdon. I love the organ. Full disclosure, I had to look it up, but it has a distinguished history contributing to some very memorable songs. And arpeggios have become a LTBB list favorite. KW: I read somewhere about how Dave Van Ronk used to play this song and planned to record it, but Dylan heard Van Ronk play it and recorded it first on his own album. Van Ronk was pretty upset, and couldn’t play it anymore because people thought he was covering Dylan. But after The Animals did their Dylan-inspired version, Dylan told Van Ronk that he couldn’t play it anymore either for the same reason.
20. “Benny and the Jets” - Beastie Boys with Biz Markie. KW: But why so serious? New Orleans never ruined this poor girl. Neither did a little slurring. Or a lot of slurring. I’ve never been much into Elton John, but hey, he was tight with Lennon, so he can’t be all bad. But damn I dig the B-Boys version. It reminds me of “Netty’s Girl,” which is another B-Boys b-side favorite. B-Boys b-side B-B-B-Benny and the Jets.
21. “Lodi Dodi” - Snoop Doggy Dogg. JW: Forgive the first 30 seconds of skit. It was the 90’s after all. You haven’t really heard this song until you’ve heard it a cappella in the woods. This is one of those songs I liked for years before finding out it was a cover. Both sound remarkable.
22. “Burnin Up” - Mike Watt. KW: I am listening to the original for the first time right now. It’s actually pretty good. The first time I heard this I knew it was a cover, but I thought it was some seventies group. Then I found out it was Madonna, but I never sought out the original, I just assumed it would not be good. This was the first recording Watt did after D. Boon died and Watt quit music for a while. Not bad for reinvention.
23. “Kick Out The Jams” - Jeff Buckley. JW: Sonic Youth and “covers” pointed me to the Pump Up The Volume soundtrack. The album itself was very influential to me. But as I went toward Concrete Blonde’s version of “Everybody Knows”, I got bored and then remembered Bad Brains WEREN’T the original authors of that song. MC5 = badass, but to me that’s Bad Brains’ song now. But alas, Spotify doesn’t have that. Thankfully I had to poke around, and I realized how many other artists had covered that classic. Rage, Presidents of the United States of America, Blue Oyster Cult, and even Afrika Bambaataa! But I had never heard this Jeff Buckley version. Buckley is amazing, and this song rocks. And alternatively fits into this micro-thread of “never knew”. KW: This is where I drop in “Farewell Angelina” by Jeff Buckley, except Spotify doesn’t carry that one. Now I don’t know where to go. Aside: This version reminds me of Helmet. That’s an odd comparison.
24. “I Don’t Like Mondays” - Tori Amos. KW: This is from her covers album, which got a lot of press as a “covers album” because of her cover of Eminem, so I knew that this song was a cover from the outset. But I don’t think I heard the original until Spotify existed. I still prefer her version, and I prefer hearing this story told by a female narrator. It has been decades since this song was written, and a decade since this cover was made, and we still have school shootings. The U.S. is a fucked up violent wasteland.
25. “Sweet Jane” - Cowboy Junkies. JW: [Mickey:] "The whole world's coming to an end, Mal."
[Mallory:] "I see angels, Mickey. They're comin' down for us from heaven. And I see you ridin' a big red horse. You're drivin' the horses, whippin' 'em. And they're spittin' and frothin all on the mouth. They're coming right at us. And I see the future. There's no death 'cause you and I, we're angels."
[Mickey:] "I love you, Mal..."
[Mallory:] "I know you do, baby. I've loved you since the day we met."
26. “Three is a Magic Number” - Blind Melon. KW: My first choice was “The Pusher,” following the opiate-laced 1990s version of a 1960s classic thing. Blind Melon is underrated. They were a smoking band. The first concert I ever attended was Lenny Kravitz at the Woodlands Pavilion in Houston. Blind Melon opened and stole the show. This may be the part where we wonder out loud if Lenny Kravitz is, himself, a technically competent but mostly uninspired cover version of something. Stay on task, Ward. Get your shit together. I’m going to count to three.
27. “Day Tripper” - Booker T & the MGs. JW: T, is the magic number. Yes he is. The bridge here is a reach. But I guess it’s also reaching back across Shannon Hoon all the way to the Junkies. We all need a little more groove like this in our life. It harshes no buzz.
28. “My Favorite Things” - John Coltrane Quartet. KW: Oh man, picking the right version, difficult. I was always that guy who would put “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” from Paul’s Boutique on the jukebox just to get 15 minutes of awesome for one play. My first choice here was the 23 minute live cut from One Down, One Up. Awesome. But I’ll err on the side of brevity and go with the B side from the single. This guy. Changed the game. Here’s the game changing. And the game changed so damn smooth.
29. “Summertime” - The Zombies. JW: Smooth. Silky. Burning through your veins. Wait. No. Just dripping in your ear. Like this organ. No. Stop. Let’s just say the Zombies are psychedelia level up from The Animals. Summertime has been iterated many times. Best? I don’t know. But I like listening to this one.
30. “Say What You Say / Money Honey” - Dennis Brown. KW: The organ on this track is killer. So is the singing. I mean, everybody knows Dennis Brown could sing. But maybe most people don’t know Dennis Brown at all. I got into him because of the Mountain Goats song. This is a cover of Ray Charles’ song “This Little Girl of Mine,” except with different lyrics. It’s a real reinterpretation, only the chorus is the same. And the Ray Charles song is basically a rewrite of “This Little Light of Mine.”
31. “Burnin’ And Lootin’” - Bob Marley/The Roots/Black Thought. JW: Cover/Remix/Tribute, from a Rap Band. There’s a lot of script flipping here. ?uestlove’s beats are fast and syncopated, jazz-like, but built to be the back beat for agile rap cadence. He builds beats to be sampled, and then just plays them. And unlike Kanye who appropriates and makes the narrative about him, Black Thought crafts lyrics that are true to the original sentiment. It’s not a sample. It’s not a proper collaboration, or at least not a 2-way collaboration. But it fits nicely. This is part of a Tribute Album, Chant Down Babylon, which has a number of other great pairings. KW: I remember when this came out. This track was clearly the standout.
32. “Fever” - Junior Byles. KW: Monster track time. I didn’t realize for a long time the influence that American R&B had on Jamaican music. Kind of like how I didn’t know that Parliament was practically the same band that backed James Brown. Or how the Upsetter is behind like half of all the music you’ve ever heard from Jamaica in the 1970s.
33. “Bop Gun (One Nation)” - Ice Cube/George Clinton. JW: “1993. Much more by-y-younce, Ice Cube comin’ wit tha half-ounce.” I’ve written before about the indelible imprint P-Funk had on West Coast rap. They’re the nucleus, and all things radiate out from that. Kool and the Gang, Roger and Zappp, pretty much anything off the Boogie Nights Soundtrack. There’s a gap between the ethos of Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop and Fuck tha Police, but there’s strong funky bridge between them. Homophily!
34. “Take a Chance on Me” - Erasure. KW: Or did I just blow your mind?! I don’t know why these two work next to each other, maybe it’s kind of like how hypermasculinity gets kind of gay. Haters gonna hate. This is actually really good, even the weird rap that I’ve never bothered to decipher. Is this in Rap Genius? Probably not. I’d love to hear a George Clinton + Ice Cube version of this song that gets nasty at the break.
35. "Comfortably Numb" - Scissors Sisters. JW: I just took all those words, chopped them up, and reassembled them like Voltron. Also, I not so secretly hate on Scissor Sisters. KW: I can’t tell from what you just wrote--do you actually like this? I don’t like it. They could have done what they just did with any lyrics, why bother using good ones?
36. “Pink Moon” - Sebadoh. KW: I’m sure this track was hated by most Nick Drake fans for its bombast and screams. When I first heard it I was super into it. I had never heard of Nick Drake, and I don’t think I heard the original for several years. Listening to this now, I am struck by how Neil Young and Crazy Horse it feels. You might have heard this blasting out of my bedroom circa 1994. You might have heard the original blasting out of my bedroom circa 2004. Or now. Or 1998.
37. “Heart of Gold” - Charles Bradley. JW: I have no nostalgic connection to Charles Bradley. I was just introduced to him recently. He does an insane, funky cover of Nirvana, so he’s okay in my book. It sounds like Al Green/Got To Get You Into My Life/Ennio Morricone/Vegas lounge music. In the words of Raoul Duke, “There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.” KW: For years now I’ve been waiting for Al Green to cover “War Pigs.” This needs to happen.
38. “Don’t Do It” - The Band. KW: And we’re back to Marvin Gaye again. The Band smoked the doors off this cover as their closing number from The Last Waltz. This is a slightly less awesome version from Cahoots (because The Last Waltz is not on Spotify). I love how they turn Marvin’s R&B into a funky rock shouter. Listen to them sing their hearts out. The guitar is massive. The bass is funky. The drums are tuned down and aimed directly at your funky ass. These motherfuckers will jump in the river and drown if you don’t get your ass on the dance floor.
39. “One Way Out” - The Allman Brothers Band. JW: That is a hard act to follow. It literally took me hours to settle on this. I had been trying to match something whose drums swing this funky. Here’s a short list of the brilliant chaff that I touched and scrapped. Nothing felt right. Sometimes, you go fishing, and just hope that a song you like is actually a cover. It’s a strange and beautiful way to learn about a song. And I found this. So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.
40. “Key to the Highway” - Derek and the Dominos. KW: I was going to drop “She Caught the Katy” by the Blues Brothers, but it’s not available. Here’s one of my favorite tracks from Derek and the Dominos, with Duane Allman tearing it up. I’ve said it before: you can hear Eric Clapton playing for his life because he knows Allman is the better guitarist. It’s killer. And the love for the song itself, already a standard with many different versions, is apparent. They’re throwing everything they have at this song. It’s fantastic.
41. “Jump Into The Fire” - LCD Soundsystem. JW: James Murphy plays for his life, but he’s the only one threatening it. I wasn’t into LCD at first, I think my head was in a different place, and sorting through electrobands in the 2000’s was tedious. But I found my way back to them and put a some good work in. Then I saw them live. Holy crap. They somehow maintained all the intimacy and energy of a band playing a small venue. We stood right near the drummer and watched him pound that kit like a machine while still interacting with the rest of the band. Murphy is all over the place, switching instruments, walking over and playing unused drums on Patrick’s kit, talking to everyone on stage and off. To get a glimpse of this, I highly recommend you watch Shut Up And Play The Hits, the documentary about their last 2 weeks as a band and gearing up for their final shows. That’s where I first heard their version of Nilsson’s rock-your-balls classic. This is your hype music for any thing you’re ever nervous to do. KW: Props to Jon for getting me into LCD Soundsystem.
42. “Subterranean Homesick Blues” - Harry Nilsson. KW: I reckon other potential cover artists should just move along, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is shut down. Nilsson and Lennon beat the song into submission. Pussy Cats is fantastic, and also made greater by how anomalous it is compared to the rest of Nilsson’s work. I mean, he’s the guy who did “Coconut.” But he also rampaged. Pussy Cats is everything a great seventies rock album should be: beautiful and damaged, defective and glorious, un-fucking-hinged.
KW regrets the exclusion of the following fine tracks:
“Real Love / It’s Only Life” - Mike Doughty
“The Comedians” - Roy Orbison
“Trenchtown Rock” - Sublime
“Mr. Bojangles” - Nina Simone
“96 Tears” - Texas Tornados
“Ceremony” - New Order
“Rock Lobster” - Dead Horse
“Sister Ray” - Joy Division
“You Can’t Do That” - Harry Nilsson
JW regrets the exclusion of the following fine tracks:
“Spirit in the Sky” - Elton John
“Sam Hall” - Johnny Cash
“Bitches Ain’t Shit” - Ben Folds
“Asshole” - Tom Petty
“Iron Man” - UCLA Bruin Marching Band
“Easy” - Faith No More
“Memories Can’t Wait” - Living Colour
“Modern Romance” - TV On The Radio