Friday, August 25, 2006

Now for the sucky covers.....

In an earlier post, I had mentioned some cover songs that I actually like better than the originals. But now I'm afraid that I must discuss ... those singles. I'm not talking the ones that belong on the next version of "Golden Throats" -- horrid as they are, I *like* those in a weird way. I'm referring to the ones which managed to chart.... they instead belong on the Jukebox from Hades.

With barf bags at the ready, let us begin:
  • "Everytime You Go Away" by Paul Young. If you have EVER heard the original by Hall & Oates (off the Voices album), you will understand why. The first time I heard it was in 1982. Our pastor's daughter and I were riding around and she put it on and asked me what I thought. I was mesmerized. It was such a powerful song that I actually got misty. What blew me away was the organ work -- I felt like I'd been to church. When Paul Young released his single a couple of years later, I was underwhelmed. Not many people realized it was a cover song. And his cover was incredibly soulless. All the heartfelt pleading and emotional intensity had been washed out, and just the song lyrics and melody remained. They even took the organ out and replaced it with a tinkly synth. Well, you just can't do that to a song this meaningful. Paul went on to strip the soul out of other good songs like "Oh Girl" (Chi-Lites) and "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?" (Jimmy Ruffin).
  • "You Can't Hurry Love" by Phil Collins. Speaking of Motown ripoffs......... My dislike of Phil is pretty well known. I like some of his earlier stuff, up through No Jacket Required and a few songs here and there afterwards. What I didn't like was the constant mugging for the camera, the self-serving stuff -- really, did he have to play both locations of Live Aid, and do the same set at each? -- and especially the Serving Divorce Notice Via Fax. Anyhow, for all the good of "I Missed Again" and "Wish It Would Rain Down" there are the less-than-thrilling songs. This one isn't that bad, especially when compared to the overplayed, God-do-I-wish-every-copy-would-simultaneously-self-combust "In the Air Tonight" -- but it just grates on me nonetheless. Miss Ross and her fellow Supremes had a certain flair with this song that Phil just doesn't.
  • "Dancing in the Street" by Mick Jagger & David Bowie. Speaking of Live Aid..... yeah, I remember the premiere of this video. I was excited by it at the time. However, 21 years later, this rendition can't hold a candle to Martha & the Vandellas' original. And while God knows I love kitsch, this isn't cool kitschy, just saaaaad, man. Saaaaad. Especially considering the influence the song had on the Stones' "Street Fighting Man" .... if it comes on, I listen, if for no other reason than to remind me that Motown got things right. Stax-Volt did it more soulfully, but Motown did good!
  • "The Power of Love" by Celine Dion. I had totally forgotten that Laura Branigan did this song waaaay back in the 80s. The other weekend, I was listening to American Top 40 reruns on "80s on 8" (XM) and it was a long-distance dedication. I just about fell out. Not that I love this song by any stretch. But Laura Branigan's version had a certain vulnerability about it; a nice quiet power that relied on the lyrics to express it. Celine's got a powerhouse voice, certainly -- but it's a voice that doesn't caress or invite. It drowns. But then again, Celine has a history of doing sucky covers. Remember her godawful renditions of "All By Myself" ... and "I Drove All Night"? BLECH!
  • "California Girls" by David Lee Roth. I'm not a huge Beach Boys fan by any stretch. Pretty much everything they have done since Pet Sounds has sucked and is just a ploy for more dinero. But their earlier stuff was really good -- including "California Girls." Brian Wilson really was a genius, and I do wonder on occasion what might have been had he been perhaps a little stronger emotionally to handle the fortune and fame. As for his part, David Lee just turned it into another ploy to ogle chicks in bikinis and make a video about it. Solo career, but same ol' lecherous Dave.
  • "Break On Through" by Stone Temple Pilots. As a general rule, Doors songs shouldn't be covered. There was a Doors tribute album a while back, on which this song appears. STP should have spent more time listening to Aerosmith do "Love Me Two Times" -- that was a decent cover. Or even listened to Billy Idol's "LA Woman" (from the Doors movie soundtrack). Both fairly good renditions, faithful to the original, and yet not making anyone say "Jim who?" STP's was both a tragedy and a travesty.
  • "Funkytown" by Pseudo Echo. Travesty. Injustice. Pure sucktitude. This song is probably what spawned Butthead's immortal phrase: "Stop! in the name of all that which does not suck!" And speaking of Stop!....
  • "Stop in the Name of Love" by the Hollies. This isn't my idea, but I concur wholeheartedly. I forget which book I have, but the authors compare this one to the original by the Supremes as this (paraphrase): "The missing exclamation mark says it all." Yep.
  • "Free Bird/Baby I Love Your Way" by Will to Power. Will to Power sucked. Badly. You do not take a Frampton record, splice a little Skynyrd in, and serve it up. In the words of my dear pal Tal Gleck, "People BOUGHT this record???" This assessment also goes for any Will to Power song.
  • "I'll Be Missing You" by Whatever-the-Frick-His-Nickname-Is-Now; You-Know-The Rap-Guy. This song just draws my pure, unadulterated hatred. And if I had been Sting, I would have sued his pants off. Oh yeah. How original. Let me take a song that was a blockbuster and change it around to talk about a murdered rapper. Oooooooh! Brilliant.
Anyway, these are mine -- you are certainly welcome to add your own......

1 comment:

Talmadge G. said...

"Jukebox From Hades" is a trademawk of TOTR Enterprises.

"Everytime You Go Away" by Paul Young
I completely concur .... Paul's version is milquetoast when placed against the DH&JO original.

"You Can't Hurry Love" by Phil Collins
My opinion of Phil "Peter Gabriel Was Much, MUCH Better" Collins can be summed up in the title of another song from this same LP: I don't care anymore.

"Dancing in the Street" by Mick Jagger & David Bowie

"The Power of Love" by Celine Dion
I can't say I'm fond of either (ESPECIALLY Celine "Please Shut Up And Go Make More Babies" Dion). I hate that Laura Branigan was the last performer to lip-synch on the ABC run of "American Bandstand."

"California Girls" by David Lee Roth.
DLR and VH deserved what happened to one another. A beautiful example of God opening up a can of Whup-Karma.

I'm very mixed on the Beach Boys. The early "surf's-up-dude-hey-wait-a-minute-we-can't-surf-one-of-us-can't-even-swim!" period has long been burnt to a crisp ... and the later "nostalgic ch-ching" period do nothing for me (If I ever hear "Kokomo" again, I'll dig up Murry Wilson's grave and beat his bones senseless!), but there's a very brief period, 1967-70 where they made pure magic. IMHO, "I Can Hear Music" and "Heroes and Villains" are masterpieces.

"Break On Through" by Stone Temple Pilots.
Doors covers? That's a "door" I don't even want to be on the same front porch with. Ecch.

"Stop in the Name of Love" by the Hollies.
Funny, when this first came out (early Summer of '83), I noticed the omission of the exclamation point.

"...or by a comma when the feeling's not as strong."

People make bad covers for the same reason as we're buried in spam and phishing: P.T. Barnum was right.