Sunday, May 10, 2020

Collective Responsibility Pt. 2

And now! The post literally no-one was waiting for! Let's keep it as short as possible, hey?. Lucky we only have thirteen to get through this time. Lucky... hmm...

Side Three

 Birthday - Bruce Willis - I'm with you, Cybill. It's a song called "Birthday" by the most successful and famous pop group in history, you might think you'd hear it more often but I listened to a bunch of covers and they were all unbearable so it's probably just as well people don't sing it at parties much.

Perhaps if it wasn't so incredibly shouty? Maybe then it might have had a shot at "Happy Birthday"'s record as the "most recognized song in the English language". How exactly did the Guinness people measure that, anyway?

Yer Blues - The Dirty Mac

Not sure this counts as a cover since the guy that wrote it is singing. Clapton, Keef, Lennon and Mitch Mitchell here, in an ad hoc supergroup thrown together for the Rolling Stones' "Rock and Roll Circus" TV special. You remember? The one where the Stones find themselves embarassingly upstaged by almost everyone, especially The Who, and decide not to let anyone see it for a few decades.

I know Yer Blues not from either of these versions but from the magnificent Live Peace in Toronto, John Lennon's finest recorded hour. Of course, what I really love about that album is Side Two, all seventeen glorious minutes of Yoko screaming through her twin masterpieces, "Don't Worry Kyoko, Mommy's Only Looking for her Hand in the Snow" and my personal favorite, "John John (Let's Hope for Peace)".  You think I'm being ironic. I assure you I am not.

Mother Nature's Son - Sol Liebeskind and Andres Rotmistrovsky  - Another surprsingly difficult song to cover, if YouTube is any guide. McCartney made something of a speciality of this kind of meandering country/folk in the years immediately following the split. It's often the quality of his voice that makes those songs work. I like a lot of his seventies material, much of which positively purrs with domesticity. Most of the covers seem to flatten out the tone or abrade it but this one keeps the soft, woolen texture.

Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey - The Feelies - As someone comments in the thread, The Feelies make The Beatles sound like The Velvet Underground. Okay, that might be a stretch. The Modern Lovers, maybe? Not The Beatles, anyway, that's the point.

Sexy Sadie - The Unthanks - The Unthanks are supposed to be a traditional folk group as far as I can make out but they have a very experimental/art rock/indie edge to them. This reminds me strangely of the Langley Schools Music Project. It's also all but unrecognizeable from the original.

Helter Skelter - Alec Castillo - I think we've been skating around the elephant in this particular room long enough. If you want to hear the best cover, Siouxsie's over here. Meanwhile, settle down for a history lesson.

Long, Long, Long - Giulia's Mother - Not entirely sure what this is. Sounds suspiciously like Italian prog to me. I could imagine this lot opening for Uriah Heep in 1975 but in fact it was only recorded a couple of years ago.

Side Four

Revolution No. 1 - Alice Cooper (feat. Johnny Depp) - Two people you really wouldn't expect any better of, I guess. At least it's preferable to The Thompson Twins singing flat at Live Aid with Madonna on tambourine.
Honey Pie - Barbra Streisand - I think it's fair to say I never expected Barbra to make an appearance on this blog. I won't bother making a tag for her. I don't imagine she'll be back.

Savoy Truffle - They Might Be Giants - 1960s rock bands often showed a frightening nostalgia for the music-hall tropes they presumably grew up listening to on their parents' '78s. I hated it then and if anything I hate it even more now. Ironically, if nothing else, listening to something like this makes me feel a little better about present-day artisits covering The Beatles. Just so long as they don't cover The Beatles doing anything like this.

Cry Baby Cry - Kick The Robot - No, if you're going to do it at all, this is the way. All the feels, all the colors. It's all a little bit Britpop Beatles but there's nothing wrong with that.

Revolution No. 9 - Shazam - I always liked Revolution No. 9. Compared to some of the songs on The White Album it's tantamount to easy listening in my book. I was curious to see if anyone had covered it. I thought someone would have, if only for the challenge, but I didn't expect anyone to have done it live, let alone with an orchestra. There's always one, isn't there? The Shazam version seems to be a cover of the concept rather than the actual "tune" but it's pretty darn spiffy all the same.

Good Night - The Carpenters - Like a lot of people in my peer group, I had my ears opened to the magic of Karen Carpenter's voice by the mesmerizing Sonic Youth cover of Superstar. It was so ineffably, magically lost I had to go listen to the original to try and work out what they'd heard in this cheesy pop act I'd obviously been missing all these years. Everything as it turned out, but most especially context.

I'm not sure even Karen can salvage this one but hey, we could have had Barbra again so count your blessings.

Goodnight everyone. Let's not do this again. At least, not with The Beatles.


  1. I hadn't heard Helter Skelter before. My BF was astounded that I didn't know much about the Beatles at all, and made it a point to put the CD in my car so I'd be forced to listen to it. I'm not sure why it was such an important song back in the day. And for Mother Nature's Son, I always thought it was a John Denver song when I was a kid. I didn't know the Beatles did it. But I grew up in the 70s and not the 60s so the Beatles just weren't a thing at the time. But John Denver very much was.

    John Denver, by the way, face planted his experimental airplane into Monterey Bay when I was living in Monterey. It was a really big deal at the time.

    Some time in college, I got introduced to British prog group "Yes". Their "Fragile" (but not THAT fragile) album, the Yes Album, etc. I found their first album on cassette, I think, somewhere in some discount bin, played it, loved it. Two songs stuck out for me, that I thought were truly wonderful and led the way into what Yes would become: Every Little Thing, and Something's Coming.

    I found out last year that Every Little Thing was actually a Beatles song (and last night finally got around to listening to their version. The Beatles' version sucks compared to Yes').

    A couple months ago, my son was watching West Side Story on TV. I'd seen bits and pieces but never the whole thing, so I watched it, enjoyed it, until the male lead suddenly began singing "Something's Coming".


    1. Apart from the whole Manson Family connection, there's this thesis that with helter Skelter The Beatles invented heavy metal. I mean, I could blame them for a lot of things but I think that's going too far!

      I actually thought it sounded more punk when I first heard it back in the very late 70s. Then, when I was putting these posts together, I kept coming across people suggesting in all seriousness that The beatles invented punk rock (American version) with "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey". There's a whole demographic that wants to give The beatles credit for every innovation in music over about half a century - it's the musical equivalent of believing World of Warcraft was the first MMO.

      I was a huge Yes fan in my early teens but I don't think I've ever heard their first album. Thanks for bringing it up though. I just looked on YouTube and there's an amazing clipa of them doing Every Little Thing and Something's Coming in 1969, with the original line up. And Every Little Thing uses the guitar riff from Day Tripper, just to muddy the waters even more!

  2. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around someone actually listening to Revolution #9 and saying "Yeah, I think I can do a cover of this song." That's easily the most acid-trip song on The White Album, and that's saying a lot.

    I suppose it's inevitable that in my household growing up, where I was exposed to Soft Rock on pretty much a daily basis, that I heard tons of The Carpenters. So when I grew up I pretty much tossed all of the Soft Rock into the "this is my parents' music" trash bin and went into just about every other genre except what is now known as "Yacht Rock". Coming back to listen to Karen Carpenter years later, knowing her desire to be recognized as more than just a singer but also a drummer --and her tragic ending-- has a completely different impact on me. I can't listen to a Carpenters song and not think about how totally gifted she was, and how nobody --not even her brother-- could stop her downward spiral in the end.

    FWIW, I think that once the Beatles got past Magical Mystery Tour, two of the next three albums weren't very good. Oh sure, there are some great songs on The White Album and Let It Be, but nothing so top to bottom good as Abbey Road. (I still think that Magical Mystery Tour was better than Sgt. Pepper's, but I realize that I'm likely in the minority here.)

    And no, I don't take the Stones' side in the perpetual Rolling Stones vs. Beatles war, because I think both bands have their place in rock history as well as both positives and negatives.

    1. In my teens and twenties The Carpenters weren't just dismissed as middle-of-the-road music for middle-aged people - they were held up as an example of the worst kind of empty, artificial corporate schlock. Looking back, I'm not quite sure why they were so strongly disliked by all stripes of rock fans - even taken at face value, there were plenty of more egregious examples.

      I kind of give myself a pass for not appreciating what a wonderful, rich, resonant, yearning voice Karen Carpenter had because, since I obviously never bought any of the records or heard them played by anyone I knew, my entire experience came via tinny transistor radios and the mono speaker of a black and white tv set.

      As for her tragic backstory, I didn't hear anything about that until after I heard the Sonic Youth tune, which must have been not much more than a decade ago. I wonder if I'd known it at the time the records were coming out, whether I'd have felt differently about them. Impossible to say. Still, better late than never.

      Abbey Road is a good album and I'm fond of let It Be but I could happily never listen to Sgt. Peppers again. I really think that's one that you had to be there for.


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide