I Didn’t Know That Was a Cover! Part 3

Have you ever been taken aback to discover a beloved or familiar song has roots in another decade, style, or incarnation? Did something you heard on the oldies station ever cause you to lose just a little of the awe and reverence you had for a particular artist’s creative proclivities?

In this our third installment revealing the relatively obscure original versions of familiar songs, we hope to open your eyes and ears once more with revelations about songs you didn’t know quite as well as you thought you did.

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carnes

“Bette Davis Eyes”-Kim Carnes

Carnes’ career-making “Bette Davis Eyes” topped the charts for nine weeks and won Grammy awards for Record- and Song of the Year in 1981. While its arrangement is heavy on the atmospheric 80’s synths, Jackie DeShannon’s 1975 original by contrast comes on like Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show band.

While both versions have merit, the contrast between the two is jarring.

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“Got My Mind Set On You”-George Harrison

What have we here? The legendary former Beatle (redundant I suppose, since you can’t be a former Beatle and un-legendary) teams with producer Jeff Lynne for a 1987 #1 hit that sounds like…a 1987 ELO song.

Again the contrast with the original (James Ray in 1962) is striking. Honestly in this case I can’t imagine a large number of people being fans of both incarnations of this song–making the case for studio production’s major role in a song’s appeal.

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riot

“Cum On Feel the Noize”-Quiet Riot

Although Slade’s 1973 original has a certain glam rock charm, it also demonstrates in unmistakable terms the relative appeal of glam here (where it peaked at #98) and across the pond where British fans made it a chart-topping single. Conversely, Quiet Riot’s version didn’t chart in Britain, while American fans made it a #5 hit.

To my (American) ears Quiet Riot’s cover is a lesson in how to make a rock song feel more like a punch in your face. Like other 80’s metal anthems (Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name”, Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, for example) it begins with the fist-pumping, anthemic chorus–not a verse–and is fueled by a much more pronounced backbeat.

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“Good Lovin'”-The Rascals

Felix Cavaliere and the Rascals (who still called themselves the Young Rascals at the time) broke through with the first of their three #1 hits in 1966, a cover of the Olympics’ #81 chart dud of the previous year. Honestly, though Cavaliere and Co. upped the energy level a bit, I’m a little surprised the earlier version didn’t break the top 40 itself.

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bowie

“China Girl”-David Bowie

Talk about your upgrades. Bowie’s slick, clean cover of Iggy Pop’s “China Girl” adds the  “Oh-oh-oh-oh” vocal hook and generally doesn’t sound like it was recorded in a garbage can. So it’s not a shock that it went top ten in 1983 while Iggy’s original has been heard by about seventeen people, including you if you played the above sample.

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“No More I Love You’s”-Annie Lennox

The Eurythmics lead singer’s 1995 #23 hit was a cover of a non-charting original from a well-regarded self-titled album by new wave duo The Lover Speaks.

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youngbloods

“Get Together”-The Youngbloods

“Get Together” peaked at #5 1968 for Jesse Colin Young and the Youngbloods and has considerable boomer cred as its plea for peace, love and brotherhood to triumph over fear is just the kinda shit hippies were into.

But it takes a true hippie to appreciate the song in its original incarnation. The Kingston Trio’s recording is perfectly emblematic of the genre of overly earnest 60’s folk so brilliantly pilloried in the film A Mighty Wind.

kingston

The Kingston Trio

 folksmen

Kingston Trio parodists The Folksmen

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2012/11/20/i-didnt-know-that-was-a-cover-part-2/

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2012/11/19/i-didnt-know-that-was-a-cover/

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