Those Things You Used to Make out of Grocery Bags

I figured it made sense to start off with a sort of rehashing of an old article I wrote. It isn't so much a reworking as it is a big middle finger to general creativity. It goes something like this:
What turns sheets of paper into a sandwich and rarely sounds as good as the original? Covers. Now, look. I've done my research on Wikipedia and like the treasure trove of knowledge and accuracy that it is, I discovered something which I already knew. Covers, where an (con)artist records a song that has previously been recorded by another individual, have been around since the dawn of the recorded music industry, and just like today, they are used to squeeze money out of chumps who mostly have never heard the original version in the hopes that it will make this most often not as talented band or musician well known. And, of course, sell records. What better way to do this than take a certified hit recording that's twenty years old, give it some modern spanking and unleash it on the world like you actually did something? This lead me to only one natural conclusion, that the cover song, like it's origin's namesake, is like a blanket that hides these artists' total lack of original thought.
The game: The game has changed a little. Back in the days of covers being marginally acceptable, it wasn't seen as such a hack move. Many popular songs of the beginning of the twentieth century, up until the sixties and beyond, were written by professional songwriters who were not performers. There was a distinction between someone who could actually write an intelligible song that people would want to listen to, and the people who let those words come out of their vocal chords in front of people or onto a metal tape that then got pressed onto plastic that then people listened to with a diamond. Those days still largely exist, but we pretend they don't. That isn't the point. In the heydey of covers it was totally acceptable and, if you go back and listen, kinda fun to compare different artist's interpretation of a song. Hell, many of these covers came out the same year as the original. The main difference is that the recording companies owned all of these songs, and so each recording company would distribute the songs to artists on each of their independent labels, i.e. brands, and pimp the shit out of them. If only it were that cut and jerked today.
While musicians and artists have come a long way in terms of owning their own material and getting the money that aught rightfully come to them, many of these same artists and musicians grabbed hold of this opportunity to pay off their predecessor's with a fee so that they could capitalize on the inherent betterness of their music. While these covers weren't necessarily the core of their body of work, let's face it, they probably wouldn't have amounted to much without them. An example I'd like to bring up is the many times recorded "I Fought the Law". This was first recorded by The Crickets in 1959. Big whoop. This song again gets recorded by the Bobby Fuller Four in 1966. Okay, so seven years later this cover comes out, not exactly the same thing as the label pimping that has been earlier mentioned. Still, this version becomes a big deal and, to be perfectly honest, is superior to the original recording in pretty much every way. It defines the Bobby Fuller Four because you probably didn't even know that name but you damn well know that song. And if you know it from the band that recorded it thirteen years later, in 1979, well then you failed Introduction to Completely Useless Recording History Knowledge with Ph.d in Being a Pompous Jerk Off, Jonathon Wallace. That band was the Clash and they set out to completely destroy the beauty that was the second coming of a song that was pretty good. The madness doesn't end there. In fact, it goes on for a long, long time. Green Day covers this song. Yes, that Green Day. What's crazy about this cover, though, is that Green Day doesn't do an original cover going back to the original or even the Bobby Fuller Four version. No. In an act of total disrespect to self-respecting musicians everywhere, they cover the version that The Clash put out a full twenty years after the original. So here is what I have failed to wrap my head around since discovering all this about five minutes ago: Why on earth would Green Day, a band that was presumably already popular with their own particular brand of Not Punk (I don't know what year they recorded I Fought the Law because they aren't important enough for dates), cover a song that they probably never even heard the original of? My guess is to cash in on The Clash and the people who loved them. Did Green Day know that The Crickets were the ones who planted this particular rock seed? Doubtful. If any of the members want to come to my house and punch me out for this, well, that's a good way to get yourself on the new for a stupid reason.
Homage: Spoken in the Anglicized way, is the trend of the cover these days. Thankfully, bands have stopped trying to slip ones by us as frequently, and thanks to things like the internet, it is also a lot more difficult to just straight rip people off, even if you are paying them for the privilege. Instead, musical acts will take their favorite songs to the stage and impromptu style give you a little taste of the music that inspired them because it was so much better. I have heard many cover songs during my time going to shows. Okay. I heard one, and it was actually pretty good. It was some guy I can't remember who covered "Pale Blue Eyes" by Lou Reed. It was the only song I heard that night that I knew the words to.
I'm being negative. The truth is, I don't dislike covers altogether. I love the Bobby Fuller Four version of "I Fought the Law" as previously mentioned. Sometimes, just sometimes, there are actually more talented musicians who do these covers, harkening back to the days where the songwriters did the writing and the clowns clowned. In these circumstances you get what you couldn't possibly get in the first place: a great song performed by great musicians. In other cases you get bands that will play the songs of their peers. A great example of this (and because I'm determined to fit them into every article) is Best Coast. Count it. There are plenty of songs that have been covered by Best Coast, starting with the Lesley Gore classic "That's the Way Boys Are" to "I'm So Bored" by Wavves (the second being the peer situation).
The Best Coast example is an interesting one in that the band exists solely as an homage to girl groups from the fifties and sixties. There is absolutely nothing original about this band in terms of ingredients. The songs are about young love (although with perhaps a more overt personality disorder quality) with the nice inclusion of marijuana references. So it makes sense to play Lesley Gore. It makes sense to cover songs by the band with the songwriter that you are probably definitely sleeping with. It is an unabashed attempt at regaining a sound in an era that's way too cool for that sound even though they love that sound because they think they know the definition of irony when they totally don't. What I'm trying to say here is that if you hear a song on the radio that you think is really tits, first, check to make sure that song wasn't written by some middle-aged, balding man, and second, that it wasn't recorded before the performer of the version you are hearing was born.
I still am not sure why they are called covers.
Note: The Dead Kennedys also recorded "I Fought the Law" albeit with slightly altered lyrics. It is still better than the Green Day version.

 "That's the Way Boys Are" as performed by Best Coast


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