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June 27, 2007

Duck and cover

The J Train here.  Lindsay asked me to stop by and do some guest posting while she's away, and while I hate to have to do it under these circumstances, it's always an honor.

I should use the occasion to post on an appropriately weighty topic, but instead I bring you Retro Crush's list of the 100 Worst Cover Songs of All Time.  They've dug up some real gems of crap here, some that I just had to hear and others that made me thank the gods I hadn't heard them.  ("Under the Bridge" by All Saints?  Kill me now.  Why would anybody even try that?)

There are problems with the list, though.  First of all, Celine Dion's "You Shook Me All Night Long" is #15.  Friends, if I truly thought there were fourteen musical performances worse than this one in the universe, I'd jab a kebab skewer into each ear.  There are plenty of deserving stinkers in the top 15 (Faith Hill's "Piece of My Heart", Madonna's "American Pie", Counting Crows' "Big Yellow Taxi"), but none that come close to Celine's crime against humanity.

Also, I'd argue that the #1 worst cover--Eric Clapton's unplugged "Layla"--is not a cover at all, because by definition you can't cover yourself.  (I also have a soft spot for Unplugged, since it came out while I was in a huge high school Clapton phase, and I doubt there's an album I've spent more time listening to in my lifetime except maybe TMBG's Flood.)  Same goes for Elton John's unfortunate "Candle in the Wind" rewrite.

#2, Puff Daddy's "Every Breath You Take" (sic), is also not a cover, because it isn't an attempt to do the same song; it's a distinct song called "I'll Be Missing You" based on the Police track.  It's a crime against decency for its own reasons--it's the laziest example of sampling ever, and yet it's the one song that always comes up when you're trying to defend sampling as a legitimate artistic practice against people who have never heard of DJ Shadow or Paul's Boutique.  But I wouldn't call it a cover.

Those criticisms aside, it's a fun piece of musical recreational outrage.  Are there any deserving covers they've missed?


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Well, hell. Mariah Carey's cover of Harry Nilsson's cover of Badfinger's "Without You" should be in there somewhere -- it's arguably no better or worse than anything else Carey ever recorded, but it's one of the most unnecessary covers ever.

That sounds pretty awful.

Unnecessary covers are a whole different kettle of fish. That's what I'd call Gnarls Barkley's "Gone Daddy Gone", since it isn't bad, exactly, but it adds absolutely nothing to the Femmes' original. It seems to me that if half of your act is a DJ--especially a damn good one like Danger Mouse--it's exactly the sort of thing you should avoid.

See also the The A-Teens, who would have made sense if recordings of the actual ABBA hadn't still existed.

"Layla" was recorded by Derek and the Dominoes, which only included Clapton. So there could be a legitimate argument that it's a "cover."

The ones in the low-20s are all contenders for the top spot. But the brutality of rating Kylie's cover of "The Loco-Motion" as worse that the Grand Funk Railroad version casts the entire list into doubt.

Celine rates near the top mainly because of that Vegas video; it's not exactly something that got airplay, the way the Madonna or the Faith Hill did. (Yes, I would put Mrs. McGraw at #1: turning Janis Joplin/BB&tHC into P.A.T. Benatar should be given its due.)

This list is worthless. Not a single mention of any song from the 1978 Sgt Pepper's debacle. That album by itself should have been #1.

But ... nice to see the Spock album mentioned. We used to play cuts from that late at night on our college station to see if anyone was listening.

Pat Boone's 1956 covers of Little Richard songs were crimes against Rock and Roll. The term "cover," with its original racist implications intact, was practically invented for Boone's soulless tragedies.

I think it's a pity that retroCrush singles out the "In A Metal Mood" album (#63), which was a tongue-in-cheek play on Boone's ability to emasculate any song, however badass, without mentioning his genuine musical atrocities.

Also, I'd argue that the #1 worst cover--Eric Clapton's unplugged "Layla"--is not a cover at all, because by definition you can't cover yourself.

Fair enough...maybe it deserves a category of its own, though. My proposal: "If Constipation, Self-Importance and Sheer Laziness were made flesh, and then got together and formed a band, what would it sound like?"

Sting's version of Hendrix's Little Wing is atrocious. Take a song that was perfect the way it was, rearrange it, and put in a soprano sax solo.

oh man, that sucked.

This sort of list almost always seems to be flamebait, and I stopped reading when it said that Bowie's "Heroes" was "pretty dull in the first place". Screw that.

They don't seem to be aware that some of these are actually covers of covers, and that in some of those cases the obscure originals are tons better than the more famous covers (e.g. "The Tide is High" by The Paragons and "Piece of My Heart" by Erma Franklin)

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