(Don’t) Cover Me

In keeping with last week’s musical theme … So, those who are very familiar with my wife’s musical tastes, or who have been at the studio when one is played, are likely to know that, for the most part, she hates cover versions of songs. (Covers of Fleetwood Mac songs are the recipients of extra special hate.) I do not share this low opinion of covers; in fact, some of my favorite songs are cover versions.

Exhibit A:

One of my favorite songs: “Hazy Shade of Winter” by the Bangles.
The original “Hazy Shade of Winter” by Simon & Garfunkel

Exhibit B:

One of my favorite songs: “Across the Universe” by Fiona Apple (off the soundtrack of one of my favorite movies, Pleasantville)
The original “Across the Universe” by some band called the Beatles that you’ve maybe heard of

And, lest you think that I only like covers of old songs where the cover is the first version I ever heard, I present to you Exhibit C:

One of my favorite songs: “Every Breath You Take” by Juliana Hatfield
The original version of “Every Breath You Take”, by the Police

Sorry, guys. I just like the ladies’ versions better.

Anyway, given that I don’t have anything against covers, when the iTunes Store* informed me that an artist I like, Bat for Lashes, had released a new single called “The Boys of Summer”, my immediate thought was not “Ewww, a Don Henley cover”; it was “I wonder what her version of this song sounds like”. And so I played the preview to get a sample of it. Shortly thereafter, my wife materialized in the office.

Wife: “Did I just hear a cover?”
Me: “Yes, Bat for Lashes covered ‘The Boys of Summer’.”
Wife: “Ugh.”
Me: “But you like Bat for Lashes.”
Wife: “I do. But I don’t like covers.”
Me: “Well, here, listen to this one and see what you think.”

Cover version: “The Boys of Summer” by Bat for Lashes

Wife: “Yeah that’s terrible. I hate covers. Why would you want a cover when the original is a classic?”
Me: “Well, you know, people buy prints of famous artworks.”
Wife: “Those are still copies of the originals. Would you buy a print of someone’s inferior copy of a masterpiece?”
Me: “Ummm …”

Original Masterpiece vs. Inferior (and Literal) Cover Version

Well okay, maybe she has a point.

So will the Bat for Lashes version of “The Boys of Summer” be getting added to my playlist? Probably not, unless it’s included on an upcoming album of other songs that I pick up to get the other songs. I certainly don’t hate it, but it seems to lack the chill-inducing sense of loss and regret of the original, which, I would have to say, is indeed a masterpiece of the genre.

Incidentally, while putting this post together, I happened to discover (via this video, which was served up the other day by YouTube’s recommendation engine**) that a song by one of my favorite bands from the 80s, Berlin, had been covered by another artist. The song in question, “Like Flames”, is off Berlin’s album “Count Three and Pray”, which I think is one of the first albums I ever bought. On cassette!!!

One of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands: “Like Flames” by Berlin

The cover version is by Alannah Myles, another artist I like; I have her self-titled debut album, which I bought mainly to get the song “Black Velvet”***:

So naturally, having discovered that Alannah Myles had covered “Like Flames”, I decided to go have a listen, even though I suspected I was not going to approve.

NOT one of my favorite songs: “Like Flames” by Alannah Myles

And now I know how my wife feels when she hears somebody’s cover of a Fleetwood Mac song.

* Yes, I still buy music instead of streaming it.
** Some people get served up radicalizing political videos by the YouTube recommendation engine; I get served up 80s music, new editions of “Honest Trailers”, and foxes playing with abandoned dog toys that they find in peoples’ yards.
*** Remember when you used to have to buy entire albums to get certain songs? The dark ages!

7 thoughts on “(Don’t) Cover Me

  1. You think you had it tough? I still remember trying to drop the stylus in the exact spot on the LP to start a track on the first note. The trade off being that a good analog LP sounds better than anything digital.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love hearing a cover that brings something new to the song. One of my favourites is Johnny Cash’s cover of Hurt. Both it and the original are great but Cash’s just feels so painfully personal that it really brings home what Reznor was writing about.

    Liked by 1 person

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