Friday, July 30, 2004

I want to write my riposte to The Purpose Driven Life: The Interrupt Driven Life. But i never can finish a sentence...

One book i’ll never write is a book on song covers--because the subject is endless. We tend to forget that, for popular music, covering other peoples’ songs has
been the norm except for a very few recent decades. I became interested in seeing how many versions i could find of some of my favorite songs (e g. “Harlem Nocturne”), as well as in collecting some of the more idiosyncratic cover bands (Swingle Singers, Spike Jones, the Ventures--everyone knows about the Ventures now, but you haven’t plumbed the depths of human depravity until you’ve heard them do Led Zeppelin--, The Three Suns, & of course [in classical] the great W. Carlos...). To use Stevens’s distinction, versions partake of both the beauty of inflection, & the beauty of innuendo (the song’s relation to its other covers). Also, preferring
a less famous version invokes one of my aesthetic strategies, jiaya (literally, ‘the B-side of a single’, or “the path less taken”). So without further ado, here’s an incomplete list i started putting together yesterday, of some of my favorite covers:

Ronstadt- I Will Always Love You
Joplin- Summertime [which was actually the first version i heard][Ella Fitzgerald's is wonderful too]
Hendrix- All Along the Watchtower
Manfred Mann- Blinded By the Light
Byrds- Mr Tambourine Man
Dakota Staton- Cry Me a River
Nina Simone- Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
Animals- House of the Rising Sun [though Odetta’s is also great, & Frijid Pink's]
Tomita- Night on Bald Mountain [among so many it’s hard to choose]
Tori Amos- Real Men
Heart- Battle of Evermore
Beatles- Twist and Shout
Who- Young Man Blues [which led me to Mose Allison]
Feliciano- Light My Fire
Kazumi Watanabe- Walk Don’t Run
Ventures- Apache; Love is Blue
Patti Smith- Because the Night; Gloria [i’m still looking
for “Secret Agent Man”--i know it’s out there]
The Pugs- Popcorn [a cappella!]
Roches- Hallelujah Chorus [a cappella!!]
Sinatra- Laura; A Very Good Year
Sarah Vaughn- Stardust
Roger Williams- Autumn Leaves [with Ferrante & Teicher, & Liberace,
these comprise a minor school of jazzy piano versions which are delightful in small doses, & intolerable in large; e.g. Valjean- Bonanza theme]
Joe Harnell- Harlem Nocturne [bossa nova!]
Perry Como- Fly Me To the Moon [plus all of Andy Williams’s movie songs, but i think most of them were the originals...?]
Oranj Symphonette- Experiment in Terror
Ruth Welcome- Over the Rainbow [zither!]
Vanilla Fudge- Windmills of Your Mind
Petula Clark- Bang Bang
Phranc- Ode to Billie Joe
Two Nice Girls- Sweet Jane [combined with "Anyone Who Has a Heart"; which
reminds me of a track by Oranj Symphonette that combines two similar Mancini songs--this ought to be a genre!]
Doris Day- At Last [it partakes of skewwhiff--’spiritual perversity’--to prefer this to Etta James’s...]
Brasil 66- Day Tripper [or Fool on the Hill--they make them the same song anyway]
Edith Piaf- Exodus Theme [--not to forget Lawrence Welk’s!]
Joan Baez- The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down [i also love the folksongs on her early albums]
Loreena McKennitt- Greensleeve [also i have to mention Leonard
Cohen’s agonizing anti-version--]
Santana- Black Magic Woman [an early Fleetwood Mac song actually, & one of the high points of rock guitar, even if it is over familiar]
Ramsey Lewis Trio- And I Love Her
Coltrane- My Favorite Things
Stevie Ray Vaughn- Voodoo Chile
Hendrix- Star Spangled Banner [i wrote a whole paper on this, for college]
Dean Martin- King of the Road [this & not Roger Miller’s was what
John Stevens was doing--& almost better--]
Dolly Parton- Stairway to Heaven [bluegrass!]
No Doubt- It’s My Life
Faith No More- War Pigs
...& “self-covers”: Elvis Costello’s live reggae “Watching the Detectives”...Dylan’s whole “Live at Budokan” thing (which i saw him on the tour of, when he
came to Ft Worth)...

The prevalence of tribute albums has led to a resurgence, but alas mostly of terribly undistinguished covers. I wanted to like Madonna’s “American Pie”
but she shortened the lyrics!

Requests: i’ve always wanted to hear Patti Smith & Iggy Pop do “The Beat Goes On”...

I could try to connect this to poets reading poems by other people,
but since most poets are such poor readers of their own works, what would be the point?

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