September 7 – The Turntable Talk, Round 6 : If It Sounds Good To You…

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! As by now, regular readers know, that’s when I have several interesting guest writers sound off on one topic related to the music that we look at here daily. This is our sixth round of it, and if you’re new here, I recommend taking a look back at some of the earlier topics we’ve covered like why the Beatles are still relevant, or “did video kill the radio star?”

This time around, we’re calling it “Shock Rock.” But wait, there’s a twist – it’s not about Marilyn Manson and his contemporaries…unless our writers want it to be. Rather, its more about what some would call “guilty pleasures.” Songs or records that you like that would “shock” most people. Ones that go against the grain of most of what you listen to. I once asked a well-known radio DJ who loved new music, alternative and artsy rock if he had a musical guilty pleasure and he responded that he’d always liked “Moonlight feels Right” by Starbuck… a ’70s piece of laid back yacht rock with a xylophone solo! (Hey, we like it too!) Not his usual fare, but a song that he loves regardless. Maybe the heavy metal types have a soft spot for a bit of late night opera. Or an “all-60s rock” person loves Bruno Mars too. You get the idea.

Today we wrap up this topic, with a few thoughts from yours truly about, “shock rock.” As always, I thank the others who’ve taken the time to contribute and let us see their darkest musical secrets, LOL.

Our guest contributors in the past week have shared some of the music they love that would surprise many who know them… a “country” artist hard-rock officinado Deke likes, a song by a rapper that appeals to “power pop” Max, for instance. I think it all highlights how music is a personal thing and it’s unfortunate that we’re so quick to label music to make it fit one easy-to-define genre or box. I’ve been guilty of that at times, but it’s something driven by the music industry itself. Look at Billboard magazine and you’ll find their Hot 100 that lists albums of all sorts based on sales and times streamed and so on…but also an array of weekly charts like “country”, “alternative rock”, “mainstream rock”, “urban contemporary” and on and on. Radio follows that largely and it all ends up making it rather easy for music we might love to slip through the cracks unnoticed. And there’s also the personal memories – many people have a song they love merely because it brings back memories of a great date when they heard it in the car, or a song that was playing in the hospital lobby as they went in to give birth to a baby. Songs that otherwise might have elicited yawns would then bring back a flood of good memories…and make that song important to them.

I don’t know that there are many examples of music that I like that would be surprising to many who know me. I have a definite love of Beatles, ’70s “AM pop” that I listened to as a kid, ’80s alternative/new wave that I listened to as a young adult and intelligent singer/songwriter types with a smattering of country, old standards and new music thrown in for good measure. One type of music I really tend to dislike though is opera. The booming, over-dramatic voices tend to grate on me, even if they are technically great. It doesn’t help that they’re generally in a foreign language so I can’t tell what’s being sung, but even English attempts tend to make my ears displeased. So one song that I like a lot might “shock” some people is “Miss Sarejevo”. People know U2 is one of my favorite bands, but also that they’re known for jangly guitar rock with political statements. Not arias worthy of tuxes and tails. So mixing them with Luciano Pavarotti was a risky proposition. Even Island Records thought so. So much that they originally put the song and its album out under the pseudonym “The Passengers”…they felt if they labeled this left-field album by Ireland’s most popular act as “U2”, it might kill of their career! To top it off, Bono and the Edge performed the song for the very first time as guests of Luciano Pavarotti in one of his operatic concerts, with a full orchestra replacing their usual guitars and drums. Only in later years did Bono get to tack the song on with various compilation albums clearly labeled “U2”. Yet surprisingly, it worked.

At least it did with me. The booming Italian voice kicks the song into gear and provides a great counter-balance to the understated delivery of Bono and the band; perhaps a fine metaphor for the emotions in war-torn Bosnia at the time, which the song was about. I’d be hard-pressed to sit and listen to a whole Pavarotti show, fine as his voice might be, but somehow I find this track very listenable. Many U2 fans didn’t, even if Bono himself has called it his favorite song in their catalog .But  that’s the beauty of music.

My friend, radio DJ David Marsden often says “there are only two kinds of music. Good and bad.” And if something sounds good to you, makes you feel more deeply or improves your day, whether ifs rock ( mainstream, alternative, classic…), pop, country, jazz, folk, opera, ambient country-rap… you name it. If it makes you feel better…that’s Good Music.

September 6 – The Turntable Talk, Round 6 : Cracklin’ Through Those ’70s Airwaves

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! As by now, regular readers know, that’s when I have several interesting guest writers sound off on one topic related to the music that we look at here daily. This is our sixth round of it, and if you’re new here, I recommend taking a look back at some of the earlier topics we’ve covered like why the Beatles are still relevant, or “did video kill the radio star?”

This time around, we’re calling it “Shock Rock.” But wait, there’s a twist – it’s not about Marilyn Manson and his contemporaries…unless our writers want it to be. Rather, its more about what some would call “guilty pleasures.” Songs or records that you like that would “shock” most people. Ones that go against the grain of most of what you listen to. I once asked a well-known radio DJ who loved new music, alternative and artsy rock if he had a musical guilty pleasure and he responded that he’d always liked “Moonlight feels Right” by Starbuck… a ’70s piece of laid back yacht rock with a xylophone solo! (Hey, we like it too!) Not his usual fare, but a song that he loves regardless. Maybe the heavy metal types have a soft spot for a bit of late night opera. Or an “all-60s rock” person loves Bruno Mars too. You get the idea.

Today we have Paul from Once Upon A Time In The ’70s, a British site he co-runs that looks back fondly at…well you can guess the decade! Paul loves classic rock and cuts that might have been played fondly on early FM album-rock stations. But might he like any other fare from that time period? Well, he tells us:

According to psychologists, the term “Guilty Pleasure” tends to be associated with shame or embarrassment rather than guilt itself.
A Guilty Pleasure is something that we enjoy, but we know we’re not supposed to, because liking it, somehow says something negative about us.
It’s why to this day, there are certain tracks we don’t include on shared or public playlists but are happy to listen to in our own ear-space.
On reflection there were a raft of songs in the ’70s that I could never admit to liking at the time….
Who was about to risk what little credibility they had in the summer of ’75 to sing the praises of the Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delightwhen the popular topic of the day was Bonzo’s powerhouse drumming on Physical Graffiti?
Forty-seven years on I’m quite happy to admit that there’s several “Afternoon Delight” type tracks on my playlists now.

Maybe it’s nostalgia or maybe we just mellow with age, but there are artists I remember my dad listening to in his car on the 8-track, that over time have found their way onto my own music library.
I’m talking about classic easy-listening artists like Glen Campbell, The Carpenters, Bread and Neil Diamond, who’s song “Cracklin’ Rosie”, I was astonished to discover, is one of my top ten played songs – 222 plays to date, according to i-Tunes.
I loved “Cracklin’ Rosiebut it was a covert romance, you see Diamond wasn’t very cool with our tribe, although, cut forward to 2022 and “Sweet Caroline” has become a UK anthem and Diamond has attained national treasure status.

To accentuate the stigma further, on its release in November 1970, “Cracklin’ Rosie” shared the UK singles chart with Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, Deep Purple’s “Black Night” and “Voodoo Chile” by Jimi Hendrix, so in the ongoing struggle to maintain kudos with your peers Neil Diamond was never going to be the artist of choice on any jukebox I was putting my hard-earned pocket-money into.
Here’s the kicker though – according to my personalized i-Tunes data, “Paranoid”, “Voodoo Chile”, and “Black Night” have racked up 55 plays between them whilst Mr ‘forever in blue-jeans’, “Cracklin Rosie” has 222…. go figure!
I still stand by the fact that “Cracklin’ Rosie” is a great pop song… a breezy, upbeat track with a great melody. Just under 3 minutes long and with the backing of the exceptional ‘Wrecking Crew’ – the famous L.A. session players who played on almost every big hit of the 60s/70s.

I just listened to “Cracklin’ Rosie” (up to 223 plays now!) and I still get a rush of nostalgia taking me back to my youth-club days and my dad’s car.
Funnily enough, it’s exactly the same vibe I get when I hear Smokey’s “Tears of a Clown”, or the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”. Two other, sub-3-minute pop classics from the same era, the big difference being that there’s no guilt attached to loving Motown greats….

Inspired by the topic I have rustled up my top 10 guilty pleasures from the ’70s on a playlist.
Looking down the list, they are all perfectly good, well-constructed, melodic, pop songs, but in context of what I was listening to and purchasing at the time, unlike today, none of them could be discussed, purchased, or even hummed in the ’70s – please don’t judge me!

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1PZCOroDKbqwV8DAwhxmfY?si=f7d242e6cfee49c1


September 5 – The Turntable Talk, Round 6 : Don’t Forget About Power Pop?

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! As by now, regular readers know, that’s when I have several interesting guest writers sound off on one topic related to the music that we look at here daily. This is our sixth round of it, and if you’re new here, I recommend taking a look back at some of the earlier topics we’ve covered like why the Beatles are still relevant, or “did video kill the radio star?”

This time around, we’re calling it “Shock Rock.” But wait, there’s a twist – it’s not about Marilyn Manson and his contemporaries…unless our writers want it to be. Rather, its more about what some would call “guilty pleasures.” Songs or records that you like that would “shock” most people. Ones that go against the grain of most of what you listen to. I once asked a well-known radio DJ who loved new music, alternative and artsy rock if he had a musical guilty pleasure and he responded that he’d always liked “Moonlight feels Right” by Starbuck… a ’70s piece of laid back yacht rock with a xylophone solo! (Hey, we like it too!) Not his usual fare, but a song that he loves regardless. Maybe the heavy metal types have a soft spot for a bit of late night opera. Or an “all-60s rock” person loves Bruno Mars too. You get the idea.

So, today we have Max from Power Pop Blog. There he looks at a slice of pop culture that interests him, primarily music. We know he’s a big fan of the British rock that emerged in the ’60s…he’s the guy to go to if you want to know about The Who or early Rolling Stones. But does he like anything more modern? Well…

When I heard this song I thought it was an older song. That was put to rest when I heard the uncensored version that is titled “F*** You”. When I heard it was CeeLo Green…I was shocked. It’s so catchy and I liked the video. I knew CeeLo Green as a rapper and I’m not a fan of that genre. Modern Country, death metal, and rap just don’t appeal to me very much.

The surprise came when I heard this Motown-sounding song over the radio back in 2010 by him. Uncensored words like that don’t really bother me at all but the shock came from it being CeeLo Green and modern…he sings this really well. 

I had to laugh when I heard the other version but I try to keep my post a little tame so we will go with “Forget You today. But…if you want to hear the other version be my guest. They never thought about releasing a clean version until a little later and it was a surprise hit. Here is a live version with Daryl Hall that is really good. 

This song peaked at #2 on the Billboard 100 in 2011. The songwriters were Bruno Mars, CeeLo Green, Philip Lawrence, and Ari Levine. The song has a good pop hook and it has a few different styles thrown in.

You may have thought the inspiration for this song was from a breakup but Green said the hit came about as a result of creative differences with his label, Elektra Records.

CeeLo Green: “I did ‘F— You’ to be an a–hole, to be spiteful toward the label,” “Because it had taken about three years to do The Lady Killer, and I just felt that after recording almost 70 songs I could not please them.”

Bruno Mars: ‘I wanna work with CeeLo Green.’ We came up with the title and sung the chorus for him. We were a little nervous about it cos we didn’t want it to be like a skit. He said, ‘That’s incredible, let’s go.’ We wrote it in two hours.”

 

 

 

September 4 – The Turntable Talk, Round 6 – Keith’s Sunday Morning Offering

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! As by now, regular readers know, that’s when I have several interesting guest writers sound off on one topic related to the music that we look at here daily. This is our sixth round of it, and if you’re new here, I recommend taking a look back at some of the earlier topics we’ve covered like why the Beatles are still relevant, or “did video kill the radio star?”

This time around, we’re calling it “Shock Rock.” But wait, there’s a twist – it’s not about Marilyn Manson and his contemporaries…unless our writers want it to be. Rather, its more about what some would call “guilty pleasures.” Songs or records that you like that would “shock” most people. Ones that go against the grain of most of what you listen to. I once asked a well-known radio DJ who loved new music, alternative and artsy rock if he had a musical guilty pleasure and he responded that he’d always liked “Moonlight feels Right” by Starbuck… a ’70s piece of laid back yacht rock with a xylophone solo! (Hey, we like it too!) Not his usual fare, but a song that he loves regardless. Maybe the heavy metal types have a soft spot for a bit of late night opera. Or an “all-60s rock” person loves Bruno Mars too. You get the idea.

So, today we have Keith from Nostalgic Italian. There he writes about his family life in Michigan and at times about some of the music that’s moved him. You may remember recently we ran an interview with him regarding the years he worked in radio. Well, despite working in classic rock and country music radio, Keith might have a different type of favored listening on Sunday Mornings. He tells us:

So far, the topics here have ranged from very easy to thought provoking. This time around, I find it truly thought provoking.

What Could Possibly “Surprise” You?

I have almost 5000 songs on my iPod. I have a CD collection that fills at least three storage totes, and 4 carrying cases. My external hard drive is loaded up with almost half a terabyte of songs. What ONE song would surprise you? This was my dilemma.

I had three songs immediately jump out at me. The more I thought on them, I just wasn’t sure which one to pick. As I am writing this, I still question the one that I chose. I will stick with it because it isn’t something I would normally post, and it is more of a personal song. So how in the world did I narrow it down?

Grab my iPod and there is just about every genre of music on there. There is pop music from every decade from the 1930’s to the 2010’s. There is country music – classic and modern. There is a fair amount of R&B, Soul and Motown. I’m not ashamed to admit there are some disco favorites, too. You will also find Big Band and Swing music, Jazz, standards, and plenty of Classical music. There is Christian music and plenty of oldies. There are some favorite Christmas songs on the play list and songs that I played when I was in high school band that I downloaded from YouTube and other sources.

Going through the iPod, there were songs that I thought were “oddball” that I could write about. For example, I have almost every Weird Al Polka Medley on there. I also have music from the Shrek soundtrack, music from The Muppets, and music from the cartoon Phineas & Ferb. There are also plenty of songs that are on there that my kids used to listen to when we would be in the car from some of their favorite kid shows. Oddball, indeed.

All that being said, anyone who knows me or has read my blog before knows that I have a wide range of musical tastes. It would be easy to feature any one of the “oddball” songs mentioned in the above paragraph. Instead, there was one song that stood out for me. It is a song that I never skip when it comes on the iPod (there are only a few of those). It is also a song that I have debated posting on my blog as part of a “music Monday” or some music feature. I kept holding back, probably because it is such a personal song for me. Will you find it “shocking?” I doubt it.

Untitled Hymn” – Chris Rice

Readers of my blog know that I am a Christian. While I don’t care for much of the “modern” Christian music, I do like many songs. I cannot recall when I first heard Chris Rice’s “Untitled Hymn,” but it hit me immediately. It was a song that I shared with one of the guys at church, who worked it up and sang it on more than one occasion.

To those who are not of the Christian faith, there will be no connection whatsoever to the song. To me, however, it hits me deep every time I hear it. I am reminded of who I was before and who I am now. It also reminds me that when my life is over – it isn’t over. I am aware that not everyone believes what I do, and that is ok. I’m ok if you just scroll on by this blog.

The song begins with a lone piano and then the vocal. The lyrics of this song speak of the journey of a Christian. From sinner to saved. Singing praise. New life in Christ and life’s struggles and looking to Him in those struggles. Feeling the love and joy that comes in this new life. Finally, the “end” of life on earth for the Christian and the beginning of the afterlife.

The vocal and the piano blend so perfectly. The inflection of the vocal through the dynamics of the song conveys the lyrics exactly how they need to be conveyed. Rice rerecorded the song for “A Collection of Hymns” with a more up-tempo piano and more instrumentation (strings, guitar, etc…) and vocal harmony. Personally, I prefer the original recording over the newer version. I feel it is more powerful.

Hear the original via above link;  the lyrics:

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
Oh, raise your head for Love is passing by

Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live

Now your burden’s lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain

So, sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live

And like a newborn baby
Don’t be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk sometimes we fall

So, fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain

Then cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live

Oh and when the love splills over
And music fills the night
And when you can’t contain your joy inside

Then dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live

With your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side

And fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live

Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live

In Closing

Does it shock you that I picked this song? I guess it is a bit different than the songs I have posted in the past. Isn’t that what I was supposed to do? At any rate, Dave asked us to explain what makes this song so “appealing.” All I can say is that it appeals to me because I relate to it. Outside of the last verse, I have lived it. It is a song that strikes a chord (pun intended) every time I hear it. Depending on what is going on in my life, I either smile and sing along or cry and sing along. To me, that makes it one powerful song.

Thanks for allowing me to participate, Dave. I look forward to the next edition.

September 3 – The Turntable Talk, Round 6 : Is Christian’s Pick Daft?

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! As by now, regular readers know, that’s when I have several interesting guest writers sound off on one topic related to the music that we look at here daily. This is our sixth round of it, and if you’re new here, I recommend taking a look back at some of the earlier topics we’ve covered like why the Beatles are still relevant, or “did video kill the radio star?”

This time around, we’re calling it “Shock Rock.” But wait, there’s a twist – it’s not about Marilyn Manson and his contemporaries…unless our writers want it to be. Rather, its more about what some would call “guilty pleasures.” Songs or records that you like that would “shock” most people. Ones that go against the grain of most of what you listen to. I once asked a well-known radio DJ who loved new music, alternative and artsy rock if he had a musical guilty pleasure and he responded that he’d always liked “Moonlight feels Right” by Starbuck… a ’70s piece of laid back yacht rock with a xylophone solo! (Hey, we like it too!) Not his usual fare, but a song that he loves regardless. Maybe the heavy metal types have a soft spot for a bit of late night opera. Or an “all-60s rock” person loves Bruno Mars too. You get the idea.

So, today we have Christian from Christian’s Music Musings. There he introduces us to a wide array of new music every week. He’s known for his eclecticism, so is there anything he likes that might surprise? Well, he says:

Thanks, Dave, for inviting me back to share my thoughts for another round of “Turntable Talk” – given the topic, hopefully, this won’t be the last time! 😊

Since I feel I’ve been pretty transparent about my music taste on my blog and in comments, I really needed to figure out how to tackle this topic. Yes, I’m mostly a ‘60s and ‘70s guy who likes blues, British invasion, classic rock and soul. But on more than one occasion, I’ve also revealed preferences that clearly fall outside my core wheelhouse, which probably have surprised some readers.

For example, I’ve acknowledged I dig a good number of songs by Bon Jovi and Journey, bands I know are not particularly popular among some of my fellow bloggers. Additionally, I’ve admitted I like some disco, a genre that can make many rock fans break out in hives. I’ve also expressed positive sentiments about certain electronic/new age music artists like Jean-Michel Jarre and Klaus Schulze – something you could argue contradicts my general mantra that “good music” should be played with “real” instruments instead of synthesizers.

Given the above, I asked myself the question what I could say that might surprise readers who know my music taste based on my blog. At first, I had contemplated writing about ELO’s 1979 studio album Discovery, which has a bunch of disco/dance-oriented tunes I like. I also considered doing a post on Klaus Schulze’s Timewind, his fifth album from 1975. But based on what I noted at the outset of this post, I don’t think any of these choices would have been particularly revealing.

In the end, I decided to highlight three songs I like by artists who may surprise you. Warning: Some of you may be shocked!

Let’s start with something gentler. In February 1982, British trio Imagination released what would become their biggest hit: “Just an Illusion.” While it’s not disco, it’s definitely dance music. Wikipedia characterizes the album In the Heat of the Night, on which the tune appeared, as post-disco, funk and soul. And, nope, it’s not an illusion, I think this is a pretty groovy and catchy tune. Are you still with me?

Moving on to my next pick. How many of you would have thought I dig a tune by two French electronic music dudes who performed in robot outfits and concealed their faces with helmets? Yes, it’s Daft Punk, baby! And I’m talking about a song that became an international sensation in 2013. Not only did it top the charts in France, but it also hit no. 1 in Australia, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland and the UK. In Sweden and the U.S., it peaked at no. 2. Aptly, it was titled “Get Lucky and featured Pharrell Williams on vocals and Nile Rodgers on guitar. Like Just an Illusion, it’s really the groove that won me over. The latter is due to Rodgers’ seductive funky guitar sound. I also like Pharrell’s singing.

Okay, are you ready for one more shocker? Ready or not, here it comes, the one you may find a real stinker that may push you over the edge: “Waiting For a Star to Fall,” a top 10 hit in the U.S. (no. 5) and the UK (no. 9) in 1988 by Boy Meets Girl. There’s definitely more than one reason why I shouldn’t be fond of this song, including the outfit’s corny name and the lyrics. Waiting for a star to fall/And carry your heart into my arms/That’s where you belong/In my arms, baby, yeah…Not exactly Shakespeare. And yet I can’t deny I find this song pretty catchy. In fact, it’s been stuck in my brain since I remembered it when reflecting on the topic.

BTW, behind Boy Meets Girl are vocalists and songwriters George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam who at the time Waiting For a Star to Fall came out were a married couple. Now isn’t that sweet? But wait, there’s more. They also wrote two no. 1 hits for Whitney Houston: “How Will I Know (1985) and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” (1987).

So, what’s the main take-away to all of this? I guess there are two possible answers. Number one: I finally proved my music taste is terrible after all! Number two: Music doesn’t always make sense. Sometimes you like songs, even though they contradict your taste. I would argue that’s a good thing!

September 2 – The Turntable Talk, Round 6 : Earle Crossed Road Into Rock Territory

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! As by now, regular readers know, that’s when we have several interesting guest writers sound off on one topic related to the music that we look at here daily. This is our sixth round of it, and if you’re new here, I recommend taking a look back at some of the earlier topics we’ve covered like why the Beatles are still relevant, or “did video kill the radio star?”

This time around, we’re calling it “Shock Rock.” But wait, there’s a twist – it’s not about Marilyn Manson and his contemporaries…unless our writers want it to be. Rather, its more about what some would call “guilty pleasures.” Songs or records that you like that would “shock” most people. Ones that go against the grain of most of what you listen to. I once asked a well-known radio DJ who loved new music, alternative and artsy rock if he had a musical guilty pleasure and he responded that he’d always liked “Moonlight feels Right” by Starbuck… a ’70s piece of laid back yacht rock with a xylophone solo! (Hey, we like it too!) Not his usual fare, but a song that he loves regardless. Maybe the heavy metal types have a soft spot for a bit of late night opera. Or an “all-60s rock” person loves Bruno Mars too. You get the idea.

So, leading off today we have Deke from Ontario and his site Deke’s Vinyl Reviews & More. Deke is a fan of hard rock, old and new but could it be he might be just a little bit country… he tells us

Steve Earle first came up on my radar back in 1986-87 when I read about him in an issue of a Canadian Magazine called Music Express

Earle was selling a bunch of albums in the Great White North with his current album at the time which was Guitar Town . I thought it was cool that there was an American Country act who was selling more albums in Canada than their own country (Earle is an American).

Good on him I said to myself but I was still into my major Metal Faze(well I still am in 2022, so some things don’t change) but as a country act, Steve didn’t annoy me! LOL!

Fast forward to late 1988 when I was watching TV. Now TV was way different in ’88 than what it is now. If you are an old buzzard like me you will know what I’m talking about.

We had to subscribe to what they would call Pay TV. Basically, you had your 10 channels on regular but if you wanted another 20 channels or so at the time you had to pay extra for a box set top to access those 20 channels.

Fortunately, my Mom and Dad bought into the Pay TV concept at the time so I could get MuchMusic especially the Pepsi Power Hour. So one night I was surfing as there were 30 channels and nothing on when I came across the  NashvilleNetwork channel when I saw this long-haired fella being interviewed on a country show called Crook and Chase.

That fella was Steve Earle. My first thought was what’s a dude who looks like he could be in Guns N Roses doing on this Country Talk Show? Speaking of Gunners, Steve was wearing a Guns T-shirt!

Then during the interview segment they showed a clip of Steve’s lead single from the album Copperhead Road

Whoa this was no Hee Haw country stuff! This was basically a hard rock track done with a flair of country n’ rock mixed and it was and still is brilliant!

This kind of “Country” I can handle!

So I took the plunge and purchased Copperhead Road shortly after and it’s a great album, period!

First of all, look at the packaging of this record. The cover with the Skull and Crossbones gets the message across big time! The back cover as well.  

Opener Copperhead Road “ is still played today on our local crap radio station which is impressive as it’s on a rock station. It shows you that Earle had crossover potential .

Tons of great tracks on this album. Snake Oil “ with a riff that is right out of any classic rock track. “Back To The Wall” is another of my faves off of this album. Devil’s Right Hand as well. I mean what a four track opener for any album!

While Side 1 has more of a ‘rock’ sound attached to it Side 2 starting with Even When I’m Blue has more of that traditional country vibe in the tracks “You Belong To Me/Waiting On You” and Once You Love”.

While the Rock Guy in me so to speak prefers Side 1 there are times you need to hear some great introspective lyrics and songs and that’s where Side 2 comes into play!

Copperhead Road had the distinction at the time of its release by being a different kind of rock in my collection back in 1988. It didn’t matter to me as it was a solid album with an amplified mandolin cranked through a Marshall Amp!

August 1 – The Turntable Talk, Round 5 : Cover Songs, The Good, The Bad, The Unnecessary

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! By now, if you’re a regular reader here – and if you are, thank you, I appreciate your time here – you know how this runs. We’ve invited several interesting and talented music writers to sound off on the same topic. In the past we’ve looked at topics like why the Beatles are still relevant, whether MTV and the video sensation helped or harmed music and great debut records which took them by surprise. This time around, it’s “Cover Me”. Much of what we hear and love is songs which aren’t original to the artists we hear. So we’re asking what makes a great cover song? Are there any that stand out as being very good, or even better than the original? (I add that we’re restricting this to cover songs in which the original was fairly popular or well-known. Thus ones which are cover songs but where the original was obscure, like perhaps The Clique’s “Superman,” made a hit by R.E.M., wouldn’t be counted.)

Today, we finish off the topic with a few more thoughts from A Sound Day. We thank the six writers who took the time to share their ideas about it, as well as some great tunes, in the past week..

Cover songs. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re an integral part of the music of the past 50 or more years. And I think the safest thing to say is that it’s silly to uniformly “love” them or “hate” them. Each one deserves to be judged on its own merits. And whether or not you like a particular song, an artist is well within their rights to record a cover version, as long as they give the appropriate credit to the original writers. Even the worst cover of a song that you love the original of will help the first artist by earning them some money from the writing credits.

That said, here at A Sound Day, we agree with the sentiments several people expressed…namely that it’s redundant at best, almost insulting at worst, to merely duplicate an already well-known song. One example that was mentioned here by other contributors was Todd Rundgren’s “Good Vibrations.” I don’t like disparaging Todd; in fact regular readers know that we lobbied for his inclusion in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He’s a fine songwriter, performer and producer. That said, his take on the Beach Boys classic was so good it was bad. “Runt” set out to make a version as close to the Beach Boys original as he possibly could. He succeeded. In fact, if you’re not listening carefully or the record is on in the background in a store, for example, you’ll likely think it is the Beach Boys original. But therein lies the problem – it was utterly unnecessary. It didn’t do anything much different with the song. Even his voice comes close to the Beach Boys on it. And as it came out in 1976, it followed the “real” one by a little under ten years. Fans of Todd’s were by and large entirely old enough to remember the original version. Heck, they likely had the Beach Boys original in their collection. So, in the end, Todd’s little experiment was neat in a scientific sort of way – how close to the original could he come. But he should have done it for his own pleasure if he was so determined, and not wasted anyone’s time by releasing it.

Which leads me to the two reasons I think an artist can make a cover song which stands up and is entirely worthwhile. One, if it introduces a song to a whole new audience. Or two, if they take it and do something utterly different with the song, in effect make it their own…the sort of anti-Rundgren if you will.

Let’s look at the first one. Rundgren’s fault with “Good Vibrations” was probably picking a song so very well-known. Had he picked say, “I Know There’s An Answer”, a Beach Boys song from around the same time but one which was a little-heard album track, it might have been better. He could have still proved his studio prowess to those who cared, but he’d have been presenting a song to the masses that most didn’t know. So, if you’re going to pick a song to do a cover of, pick one that your fans probably don’t know by heart. Usually this would mean doing an obscure track, or a track from long ago, or one from a different genre of music altogether. If you’re a thrash metal band, doing a cover of a Hank Williams song would be an opportunity to do something different and in all likelihood, very, very few of your fans would know the original, even if it was once a big hit on the country charts. Van Halen followed that plan, to some degree on Diver Down that Deke wrote about. Even though some of their fans likely were Kinks fans on some level, they probably didn’t know “Where Have All the Good Times Gone?:. After all, it wasn’t released as an A-side to a single and it came out 17 years earlier. 14 year-old Dekes, and all those like him, took it at face value as a cool, new Van Halen song.

One more way to introduce a song to a new audience is to take a song which was a regional hit and record it for another market. We Canadians know something of that. 54/40 had many fans at home, and “I Go Blind” was well-known there and got a fair bit of FM radio play. But outside of the Great White North, essentially no one at all knew it. Except Darius Rucker of Hootie & the Blowfish apparently, who recorded a cover only three or four years after the original. It was an American hit with very few of their fans having a clue as to who 54/40 was. Ditto for Santana’s fine take on Ian Thomas’ “Hold On.” It was a U.S. top 20 less than two years after Thomas had the original on Canadian -but not other lands’ – charts.  The same holds true for other smaller markets. For every Men at Work or Crowded House we come to love worldwide out of Australia or New Zealand, there are scores of Hunters & Collectors and Mental as Anythings, fine acts with a great following – and good songs – there, but virtually unknown elsewhere. A good source of a quick, “new” song for internationally-loved artists and source of new revenue for the Aussie musicians.

But if you choose to do a well-known song, as Rundgren had done, the way to make it stand out and live on is to make it your own. Do something entirely different than the original, give it a whole new approach or even meaning with your presentation. Johnny Cash did that with the NIN’s “Hurt” written about yesterday by Max. So too, Devo with their whimsical, electronic version of the Stones’ all-time classic, “Satisfaction.” Everyone knew the song, but no one was saying “hey is that Mick Jagger?” . Perhaps the best-loved example of this was Joe Cocker, a man who made a big career out of doing little other than covers. His first big hit? A cover of the Beatles “With A Little Help From My Friends.” He released it in 1968, barely a year after the original.

To do that was astonishing. It took…well, let’s say “chutzpah.” To take a well-known song by the best-loved band in the world, from their opus which was still on the charts at the time no less, and put it out as a single so soon after the one the masses knew and loved. Imagine if some loud British prog rock act tried to put out their own version of “Stairway to Heaven” at Christmas, 1972…then multiply that a few times over. To do so risked not only having a flop, but something close to career suicide. Cocker ran the risk of winning the wrath of Beatles fans everywhere (which was much the same as saying “pop or rock fans everywhere” back then). They could have easily taken offense at his gall and received it as him – close to a new kid on the block – telling the world “I’m better than the Beatles. You don’t need them if you have me.” A similar actual comment from Terrence Trent Darby derailed his career almost before it got started two decades later. Yet Cocker ended up being lauded for his song, which went to #1 in Britain! Because he took the song and made it something different… heartfelt, bluesy, gritty, busting with emotion. A lightweight, poppy ditty was made into a blues number that tore at people’s heartstrings. Even its detractors – and yes there were a few (to be candid, yours truly among them) – had to admit, he made the song interesting and new. It didn’t sound like him saying “I’m out of ideas, so I’m going to copy a hit song you already know”. It was “this song has emotion and depth you never knew and it speaks to my soul.” And it spoke to many others too apparently.

As we wrap it up, although we’ve had a lot of great examples, well “covered” by our guest writers the past week, a few songs came to mind that hadn’t been mentioned but deserve some mention. Like “You Can’t Hurry Love” by Phil Collins (which was pretty true to the original but doubtless introduced some to the pleasures of early Motown) , “The Runner” – another Ian Thomas song – by Mannfred Mann and just about anything at all by the duo of Susanna Hoffs & Matthew Sweet. You could probably quickly come up with your own list of a dozen or more.

So there you have it. Cover songs. No right or wrong. Some good, some bad, some pointless…but if they make you happy, ultimately they’ve done something good.

July 31 – The Turntable Talk, Round 5 : Reznor, Rubin Didn’t ‘Hurt’ Johnny’s Rep

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! By now, if you’re a regular reader here – and if you are, thank you, I appreciate your time here – you know how this runs. We’ve invited several interesting and talented music writers to sound off on the same topic. In the past we’ve looked at topics like why the Beatles are still relevant, whether MTV and the video sensation helped or harmed music and great debut records which took them by surprise. This time around, it’s “Cover Me”. Much of what we hear and love is songs which aren’t original to the artists we hear. So we’re asking what makes a great cover song? Are there any that stand out as being very good, or even better than the original? (I add that we’re restricting this to cover songs in which the original was fairly popular or well-known. Thus ones which are cover songs but where the original was obscure, like perhaps The Clique’s “Superman,” made a hit by R.E.M., wouldn’t be counted.)

Today, we have Max from the Power Pop Blog. He’s taking a bit of a summer break there this month, but usually he’s posting stories of great tunes from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, as well as thoughts on TV, movies and more there daily. He isn’t alone in thinking a legend took a ’90s alt rock hit to a new level:

Trent Reznor: “That song isn’t mine anymore”

A good cover song needs to be somewhat faithful to the original but not an exact replica as in Todd Rundgren’s “Good Vibrations”. Rarely do I hear a cover song that transcends the original in popular culture. Jimi Hendrix did the trick with Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watch Tower” and Dylan does it in Jimi’s style even today. Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” adds a different layer to the song…and it works. 

Hurt” written by Trent Reznor seemed unlikely to be covered by Johnny Cash. The producer Rick Rubin convinced Cash to give it a shot and it worked. Johnny was a different kind of artist. There are only a few that can cross genres so easily. I think Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash belong in that category.

The song was born in a house that at one moment in time… was a real house of horrors. Trent Reznor, the singer of Nine Inch Nails, moved into a rented house at 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles. Nine Inch Nails recorded the EP Broken and The Downward Spiral album in that house. “Hurt” was on the later album.

The house was no other than Sharon Tate’s old home where Manson’s followers murdered Tate, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and Steve Parent in 1969. After Reznor met Sharon Tate’s sister…he realized he didn’t want to be looked at like he was endorsing serial killers, so he moved out. “When she was talking to me, I realized for the first time, ‘What if it was my sister?’ I thought, ‘F— Charlie Manson.’ I don’t want to be looked at as a guy who supports serial-killer bull—-.” Reznor moved out soon after that, but he did take the front door. It was demolished soon after.

The song deals with addiction struggles and isolation but in the hands of Cash it changes but remains true. This is the one song where I say…watch the video also. I don’t say that often, but it adds to Cash’s story. The video was shot in February of 2003. June Cash would die in May and Johnny would die in September. Cash conveys the agony of deteriorating in the song. Movie Director Mark Romanek’s video showed the museum “House of Cash” that had been closed for awhile and was in a state of advanced dereliction to parallel the state of Cash.

It’s a painful video to watch but it’s as close to a work of art as a video can be.

Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench from the Heartbreakers play on the track.  

Trent Reznor: “I pop the video in, and wow… Tears welling, silence, goose-bumps… Wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore… It really made me think about how powerful music is as a medium and art form. I wrote some words and music in my bedroom as a way of staying sane, about a bleak and desperate place I was in, totally isolated and alone. Somehow that winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically different era/genre and still retains sincerity and meaning — different, but every bit as pure.”

Trent Reznor: “I wasn’t prepared for what I saw, what I had written in my diary was now superimposed on the life of this icon and sung so beautifully and emotionally. It was a reminder of what an important medium music is. Goosebumps up the spine. It really made sense. I thought: ‘What a powerful piece of art.’ I never got to meet Johnny, but I’m happy I contributed in the way I did. It wasn’t my song anymore.”

 

July 30 – The Turntable Talk, Round 5 : 18 Out Of 19 Ain’t Bad

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! By now, if you’re a regular reader here – and if you are, thank you, I appreciate your time here – you know how this runs. We’ve invited several interesting and talented music writers to sound off on the same topic. In the past we’ve looked at topics like why the Beatles are still relevant, whether MTV and the video sensation helped or harmed music and great debut records which took them by surprise. This time around, it’s “Cover Me”. Much of what we hear and love is songs which aren’t original to the artists we hear. So we’re asking what makes a great cover song? Are there any that stand out as being very good, or even better than the original? (I add that we’re restricting this to cover songs in which the original was fairly popular or well-known. Thus ones which are cover songs but where the original was obscure, like perhaps The Clique’s “Superman,” made a hit by R.E.M., wouldn’t be counted.)

Today, we have Keith from Nostalgic Italian, a site where he looks back at his years in radio as well as other things worth remembering from the glorious time that was the late-20th Century. Speaking of his radio days, we’re pleased that Keith has agreed to talk about the radio business and changes he’s seen in it. Look for that sometime next week. In the meantime, he likes some cover songs: 

This blog is part of the next installment of Dave from A Sound Day’s Turntable Talk. This time around, the subject is “cover songs.”

So what cover songs work great for you?

Cover Songs

If you do a Google search on “cover songs,” there are plenty of links to articles containing lists of “the best” ones. There are also links to video’s that feature countdowns and lists of “best and worst” cover songs. Those lists, no doubt, will include: “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles, “Proud Mary” by Ike and Tina Turner, “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Last Kiss” by Pearl Jam, “Mony Mony” by Billy Idol, “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix, and many many more!

Many people are unaware that some of their favorite songs are actually cover songs. A lot of the early Rolling Stones and Beatles songs were actually covers of songs they loved by other artists. In a way, a cover song is the ultimate “hat tip” to a band’s early influence.

Personally, I tend to love cover songs. If you were to grab my iPod, that becomes very clear! I recall a time when I was married to my ex-wife and her iPod was dead. She wanted to go walk and asked if she could take mine instead. Upon returning home, she said to me, “How many different versions of a song do you need?!”

Cover Song Example

Dave asked “what makes a good” cover song? He also asked, “Do you like ones really faithful to the original, or ones that spin it in an altogether direction?

It is difficult for me to say what exactly makes a good cover song because I think it can be one that is faithful to the original, spun in a different direction, or a mixture of both of those elements. Take for example, the Rodgers and Hart song – “Blue Moon”.

The song was written in 1934. There were recordings made as early as 1935. One of the best known versions is the Doo Wop hit from 1961 by the Marcels. Dean Martin did a stripped down version with piano and drums that was performed as a slow ballad. Frank Sinatra’s version was more “swingy”. Sam Cooke’s “bounced” and in 1997 a swing band called the Jive Aces covered it as a bouncy boogie woogie sounding cover. Every single version I mentioned, I like for different reasons.

Some of My Favorite Covers

If I were to make a list of all the cover songs I have on my iPod and feature one a day on my blog, I would have enough songs to write about for about six months! Instead, I grabbed a piece of paper and off the top of my head started jotting down the cover songs that came to mind. I gave myself five minutes to do this and came up with about 18 songs. The reality is that I know that I will complete this blog and after it posts say, “Oh, man! I forgot (insert cover song here)!” That’s ok.

While it may be hard for me to tell you exactly what I love about cover songs, maybe by giving some examples of some of my favorites, the music will answer the question for both of us.

The first three I came up with are all from movie soundtracks. There is no shortage of cover songs in the movies. These covers will often give new life to old songs – examples include “Sweet Child of Mine” by Sheryl Crow from Big Daddy, “Hallelujah” by Rufus Wainwright from Shrek, “Hazy Shade of Winter” by the Bangles from Less Than Zero, “Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon” by Urge Overkill in Pulp Fiction, and, of course, “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard.

Johnny B. Goode – Marty McFly and the Starlighters

From Back to the Future, this is the song Marty McFly plays at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. In the movie, He goes off on a Eddie Van Halen type solo and the entire crowd looks at him stunned. On the soundtrack, however, there is a full version with an additional verse not in the movie. What I love about this version is the stripped down instrumentation, the saxophone and piano, and the whole feel of it. It really sounds like an “early” version of the song. It’s actually quite good.

All Shook Up – Billy Joel

From the soundtrack of Honeymoon in Vegas, which contains some very good Elvis covers. This one is my favorite. It has the feel of the Elvis version, with a little “boogie woogie” piano feel to it. Simple background vocals enhance the Billy Joel version. One addition I love is the bass drum hit after he sings, “I’m in love ….”

I’m Ready – Taj Mahal

I stumbled on this by accident. This cut was used in the movie Little Big League. I’ve always been a fan of Fats Domino, but this version is just so much better. It has “meat” to it. The driving bass line keeps it moving, the piano is still there, and those saxes in the background – LOVE them. Add the electric guitar and Taj Mahal’s vocal to the mix and it is just perfect! This is one that I find myself listening to at work when I need a “pick up”

Sea of Love – The Honey Drippers

Phil Phillips did the original of this, but how can you NOT love this version?! First and foremost, you have Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page as well as Jeff Beck in the group! Add a beautiful string arrangement and background singers to compliment them and you have a top 5 record!

Tainted Love – Soft Cell

Not many people are aware that this is actually a cover song. It was originally done in 1964 by Gloria Jones. The song was written by Ed Cobb, who was in the Four Preps, and was actually the B-side of a song called “My Bad Boy’s Comin’ Home”. The original had a “Motown” feel to it, while Soft Cell certainly has more of an 80’s feel to it.

Hard to Handle – Black Crowes

This one was written and recorded by the legendary Otis Redding. Otis’ version is already great, but I love this one equally. It certainly has a great feel to it. It doesn’t sound dated at all. It’s funky and a great jam!

You’re Sixteen – Ringo Starr

The original was done by Johnny Burnette, who was known for rockabilly, in 1960. It’s not that I dislike the original, I just think Ringo’s version is … more fun. For years I thought Paul McCartney was playing Kazoo in this, however, one article says, “Michael Verity has quoted the song’s producer Richard Perry as revealing that it wasn’t actually a kazoo: “In fact, the solo on ‘You’re Sixteen,’ which sounds like a kazoo or something, was Paul singing very spontaneously as we played that track back, so he’s singing the solo on that.” Ringo’s version remains one of the few No. 1 singles to feature a ‘kazoo-sound’ solo. (It sure sounds like a kazoo to me!) I also love the driving piano bassline in his version.

I’m Down – Aerosmith

Originally done by the Beatles, this is almost a carbon copy of the Beatles version. I like it because I think Steven Tyler’s vocal perfectly fits the song.

Look at Little Sister – Stevie Ray Vaughn

I picked this song in the recent song draft and you can read about it here:

Steamroller Blues – Elvis Presley

Elvis did his share of covers, and this is one that comes from his Aloha From Hawaii concert special. I have always preferred this version to the James Taylor version. To me, it is more “bluesy.” I love everything about this cut!!

Baby, I Love You – Andy Kim

This one was originally done by the Ronettes in 1963 and featured Phil Spector’s “wall of sound.” Andy Kim recorded his version in 1969 and had a top 10 hit with it. It mimics the “wall of sound” but if you listen in headphones, there is a lot of little stuff going on in the background – jingle bells, glockenspiel, castanets, and more. I remember hearing it a lot as a kid.

Since I Met You Baby – Dean Martin

This remake I stumbled on by watching MTV!! The original was done by Ivory Joe Hunter in 1956. I remember seeing the Title and Artist show up on the bottom left side of the screen when the video started and couldn’t believe that Dean Martin was on MTV. He recorded it for his The Nashville Sessions album and I love that it stays true to the original, yet is purely Dean.

Think – Joan Osborne

It better be good if you are covering the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and this one is! Aretha did the original in 1968 and then covered herself for a version in the Blues Brothers. I don’t remember how I stumbled on Joan Osborne’s version, but it is different enough that I love it. It has such a cocky attitude to it. Dig it –

Mustang Sally – Buddy Guy

Originally done by Wilson Pickett, this is one of greatest soul songs of all time! I heard this on the Blues channel on Sirius XM and fell in love with it. I’ve always dug Buddy Guy and while this stays pretty true to the original, it has a sound of its own!

Blue Suede Shoes – Elvis Presley

Carl Perkins seemed to have all of his songs covered and many times, his songs became associated with the other artist rather than him. That’s the case with “Blue Suede Shoes” – it is Elvis. Elvis’ version is so much better than Carl’s in my opinion.

Your Cheating Heart – Crystal Shawanda

Originally done in 1952 by the late Hank Williams Sr. this takes a whiney and twangy song and cranks it up about 10 notches. We had Crystal in for a show when I worked at the country station and she was fantastic. This was on her debut album. I’m not sure she isn’t a huge star. Her voice is amazing and she is very talented.

Dirty Laundry – Lisa Marie Presley

Written by and a hit for Don Henley, I have always loved this song. The content of the song is about mass media and how they exploit just about everything. Henley had a top 5 hit with it. I didn’t even know that Lisa Marie Presley had done this song until I heard it on some Pandora playlist. Her vocal is sultry and sells the content lyrically. A great cut!

As a bonus – here is a live and unplugged version:

Please, Please, Please – Delbert McClinton

A cover of James Brown’s classic! James has a hit with this in 1956 and it went top 10 on the R&B charts. I think Delbert McClinton is someone who just doesn’t get enough praise for all he does. He’s a singer songwriter who can play many instruments and has released many albums. This version comes from his Honky Tonk and Blues album, which is a personal favorite.

Call Me Irresponsible – Michael Buble’

Jimmy Van Heusen composed this song in 1962 with lyrics by Sammy Cahn. According to Mel Torme’, the song was written for Judy Garland to sing on her TV show. It was written as a parody to her well-known problems. Many people have done versions on the song – Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Eddie Fisher, Julie London, and more. Michael Buble’ used this as the title track for his 2007 album. It get’s me right from the opening “walking” bass lick. Buble’ has made a career out of covering so many songs from the Great American Songbook, as well as many originals. He has a great band backing him and he sings this effortlessly.

Ok – Just One That I HATE

Lean on Me – Club Nouveau

I love Bill Withers. he wrote and recorded this for his 1972 Still Bill album. It was a smash and was a number 1 song. I never cared for the cover version. Yes, it stayed very close to the original, but I just never cared for the arrangement at all. It’s almost annoying to me. It is actually playing in my headphones as I am typing this. To me, the whole 80’s synth sounds just sound out of place. Not to mention the whole “We be jammin” part – URGH!! One good thing about this was that it won a Grammy for Bill Withers as the writer for Best R&B song.

I reluctantly post the link to the video here ….

Final Thoughts

So what can we say about cover songs? Are they done as a tribute to the original artist? Are they done because it’s a favorite to perform? Are they done to “improve” on the original? Are they done because an artist feels it should be presented in a different way? Who knows, really!? One could easily ask the same questions about all the crappy movie remakes that have come about.

Some of my favorite concert memories are hearing the singer do a song that is totally unexpected. My favorite memory of the Billy Joel concert I attended wasn’t “Piano Man”. It was when he talked about loving the Motor City and breaking into his own version of “I Heard it Through The Grapevine!” Magical!! Aaron Tippin played a county fair for us and at one point he threw on a fedora and sang “Fly Me To the Moon”, which blew my mind! Very cool songs – never released – but covers, nonetheless.

In the end, a good song is a good song. I love listening to a great song done by many other singers. It says something about the song melodically and lyrically. I don’t always love the cover, but that’s ok. It’s fun to hear the artist’s take on it.

I want to thank Dave for allowing me to ramble on and on about this month’s topic. I’ve wanted to feature cover songs on my site, but just couldn’t figure out how to present it. I guess I better stop typing because the more I think about it … the more songs are coming to my head!

Thanks for reading!

July 29 – The Turntable Talk, Round 5 : Who’s Song Is It, Anyway?

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! By now, if you’re a regular reader here – and if you are, thank you, I appreciate your time here – you know how this runs. We’ve invited several interesting and talented music writers to sound off on the same topic. In the past we’ve looked at topics like why the Beatles are still relevant, whether MTV and the video sensation helped or harmed music and great debut records which took them by surprise. This time around, it’s “Cover Me”. Much of what we hear and love is songs which aren’t original to the artists we hear. So we’re asking what makes a great cover song? Are there any that stand out as being very good, or even better than the original? (I add that we’re restricting this to cover songs in which the original was fairly popular or well-known. Thus ones which are cover songs but where the original was obscure, like perhaps The Clique’s “Superman,” made a hit by R.E.M., wouldn’t be counted.)

Today, we have Lisa from Tao Talk, a site where she showcases her creativity sharing poetry, photos from around her Michigan home and thoughts on things ranging from movies to the state of the nation. Lisa looks at covers…which aren’t conventional ones:

Comfortably Numb,” by Roger Waters & Company on the In the Flesh Tour on June 27, 2000 at The Rose Garden Arena in Portland Oregon, featuring Doyle Bramhall II and Snowy White on lead guitars.

Instead of an essay on cover songs that gives a rationale of what kind I like or don’t like and why, I want to take it in another direction. What I want to talk about in today’s essay on cover songs is what I will dub a semi-cover or modified cover of an original, which I will define as a tune that is performed by at least one of the writers/performers of the song but the songwriter has a new line-up of musicians to perform it with. How often do we see where a kick-ass musical group records a mega-hit tune, the group breaks up, and wherever the songwriter ends up, they continue performing the song but with a new line-up? All of the time! Can it be called a strict cover? No; yet I still think it qualifies as one.

Unfortunately when these modified covers (MCs) are performed, often the new line-up’s names aren’t mentioned, only the name of the original star. I don’t think that’s fair.

The songwriter/musician and song I have chosen to chronologize and talk about is Pink Floyd’s song, “Comfortably Numb,” with a focus on Roger Waters, who wrote the lyrics. The plan is to talk about where it originated, where Roger took it, and the MC I chose to finish with.

Before getting into more, what I will call ritual in the live performance is that the guitar(s) doing the solos make a surprise entrance in an elevated position. Please keep that in mind as you watch the videos. To me, this symbolizes Pink’s mental state and the effects of the injection.

Comfortably Numb“ first appeared on Pink Floyd’s eleventh studio album, The Wall, which was released on November 30, 1979. The album is described as “a rock opera that explores Pink, a jaded rock star whose eventual self-imposed isolation from society forms a figurative wall.” Roger Waters reportedly conceived the album concept during a 1977 tour and based the character of Pink on both himself and former band-mate, Syd Barrett. “Comfortably Numb” was one of the three singles released from the album. The band toured supporting it for a couple of years and Waters wrote a screenplay for a feature film based on it in 1982.

“Comfortably Numb” was released as a single in 1980, with “Hey You” as the B-side. The music was composed by guitarist David Gilmour, and the lyrics were written by Waters. It is notable for its two guitar solos. In it, Pink, the protagonist, is medicated by a doctor so he can perform for a show. There are varying yet similar stories as to what inspired the lyrics. One is that it was when Waters was injected with a muscle relaxant to combat the effects of hepatitis during the In the Flesh Tour, while in Philadelphia. Another is that it sprang from Waters being injected with tranquilizers for stomach cramps, not hepatitis, at the same concert. “That was the longest two hours of my life,” Waters said, “trying to do a show when you can hardly lift your arm.” The song’s working title was “The Doctor.” Of course, in the context of the album’s concept, it takes on another connotation, and it can also be expanded beyond a single concert, to man’s existential struggle to maintain sanity in a world he feels has continued to be hostile to his dreams for happiness.

The first known MC of The Wall (including “Comfortably Numb”, of course) was when Waters performed The Wall: Live in Berlin at The Berlin Wall on July 21, 1990 (just over twenty-two years ago now) The Berlin Wall had fallen just months before, on November 9, 1989. Rogers created not only a commemorative musical marker for the occasion, but he assembled a musical cavalcade of stars to perform it with him. A live album – which I have – and a video – which I’ve seen but do not have – were released from the performance, both of which are excellent. On the Live in Berlins’ MC of Comfortably Numb, Waters sang lead, Van Morrison sang Gilmour’s vocal parts backed by Rick Danko and Levon Helm of The Band, with guitar solo by Rick Di Fonzo and Snowy White, and backup by the Rundfunk Orchestra & Choir. This MC is memorable and runs a close second to the one I want to highlight.

In 1999, Waters began a tour with music from his solo career and Pink Floyd material, called, In the Flesh. Both a two-disc album, called, In the Flesh: Live and a DVD were released from it. The material for the DVD was taken from a June 27, 2000 performance at the Rose Garden Arena in Portland, Oregon, which is the MC performance I want to highlight. From 1999 – 2000, Doyle Bramhall II and Snowy White (also one of the two guitarists at the Live in Berlin performance) stood in for Gilmour’s vocals and guitar solos and take the song to new heights, in my opinion. I have the DVD and have watched and listened to it countless times and am thrilled every time. (It was also my introduction to Bramhall’s talent and I’ve been a fan ever since. Thanks, Roger!)

I hope you have enjoyed reading, watching, and listening to this as much as I did putting it together. Thank you, Dave, for the topic to write on.

Youtube of the live performance of the song:

https://youtu.be/TkM_pEFViXo

Sources for supportive documentation:

top image link

The Wall album by Pink Floyd

The Wall: Live in Berlin

Roger Waters In the Flesh Tour

In the Flesh: Live album and DVD

The Wall Live Tour

Comfortably Numb