Take Cover! (The Art of the Cover Song)
I grew up listening to punk rock. Three chords. Sloppy, snarling guitars. The perfect soundtrack to an uncertain teenage life. And one notable hallmark of the genre is the heralded “cover song.” Even back to the earliest days of the genre, punk and covers went hand-in-hand.
So, as I get older and my musical tastes diversify, I still have a soft-spot in my grizzled heart for an interesting cover song.
I’m not a musician by any stretch of the imagination, so I can’t exactly break down the mechanics behind a solid cover in any sort of academic manner, but I do know what I like. I know what feels good.
Unlike karaoke, a song’s popularity doesn’t seem to matter. If a musician or band puts an inventive spin on an obscure song, it can instantly become something magical. This is the case with Nirvana’s cover of “In the Pines,” an American folk song dating back to the late-1800s.
Nirvana delivered a haunting rendition of it (alternately titled “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”) on MTV’s Unplugged:
So what is the magic behind a compelling cover?
First off, be FUN.
A prime example of this is They Might Be Giants’ cover of Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping.”
Or maybe try being EPIC…
Then again, dialing it down can work, too.
Or, in the best case scenario, get the original artist’s approval.
-Zep the Bear