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the only sound that's left after the ambulances go

Cover Story: “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” April 15, 2013

Hey, after over a year, I finally got around to posting a second “Cover Story”.  This time, it’s “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself”, which I chose because its title perfectly describes how I feel about my life right now, although for different reasons than those detailed in the song.  This oft-covered break-up song was written by prolific songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and was first recorded in 1962 by Tommy Hunt.  Whom I’d never heard of until doing research on this song, but you learn something new every day.

 

 

Probably the most famous version of the song (at least for pre-millenials, but more about that later) was recorded in 1964  by Dusty Springfield.  Who, if you are one of those young’n’s who aren’t as oldies-literate as yours truly, was basically the Adele-meets-Florence-Welch of the 1960s.  She was frickin’ awesome, mmkay?  Springfield sang the hell out of this song, which peaked at #3 on the singles chart in her native UK, but never charted in the US.  Two years later, Dionne Warwick released her own version of the song, which made #26 on Billboard’s Hot 100.  Warwick’s version is very similar to Springfield’s in sound, if only a tiny bit slower and softer.

 

 

 

In 1968 yet another version of the song was released by Dionne Warwick’s aunt (and Whitney Houston’s mother) Cissy Houston.  This version never did anything in the charts (I’m not sure if it was ever even released as a single), but I have to say, this version really stands out to me with its faster tempo and more upbeat sound (not that the lyrics are any less melancholy).  This is probably the most unique-sounding version of the song I’ve yet encountered.

 

 

The following version of “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” I decided to put here mostly because I know my mom reads this blog and that she is a big fan of Elvis Costello (and, well, so am I) and seems to be fond of his interpretations of other artists’ works.  It also just happens to be an awesome version of the song, a slinky new wave renditions with a nice creeping bassline.  Elvis Costello & the Attractions released this in 1978 on their Live Stiffs Live album.

 

 

And finally we have  the White Stripes’ cover of “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself”.    Released on their 2003 album Elephant, this particular version is what you might call “stripped down”, using Jack’s guitar and Meg’s drums as the sole instruments and throwing out about half of the song’s original lyrics.  It is probably my favorite version of the song, as it is the first version of the song that I ever remember hearing (which is actually pretty surprising, considering I’ve been raised on oldies music since before I can remember and only really started listening to The White Stripes in 2009), and there’s just something about the jangly repeated guitar riff and Jack’s over-the-top falsettos.  And, well, obviously, those who have read this blog before should know by now how much I love The White Stripes.  Depending on how far back you’ve been reading this blog, you might also have some idea of how much I absolutely loathe the video that was made to go along with this song.  So for this song, I’m deliberately including a clip of it being performed live.  But it’s not just because I think the music video is dull unimaginative poop that doesn’t deserve to ever again see the light of day.  It’s also because, frankly, this song as interpreted by The White Stripes is best appreciated as it’s performed live, in all its jangly, falsetto-y, vibrato-tastic glory.

 

 

There are like a gazillion other artists who’ve covered this song as well, including (but not limited to) Isaac Hayes, Linda Ronstadt, and even Gary Puckett (whose version is surprisingly not as nauseating as I’ve come to expect from him, but that’s probably because “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” doesn’t have the words “woman”, “girl”, or “lady” anywhere in its lyrics).  Those that I mentioned on this post are merely those that I found to be particularly noteworthy and/or enjoyable.  If you have a favorite version of this song that wasn’t mentioned here, please feel free to comment (or even if you just feel like commenting on this song in general.  And definitely leave a comment if you’ve got any suggestions for future “Cover Story” songs I might feature.  But I would really appreciate some feedback.  It gets lonely here sometimes).

 

Video of the Week: “Rock ‘N’ Roll” by The Runaways March 2, 2013

Today (or yesterday, depending on when this gets posted and what time zone we’re going by) starts Women’s History Month.  So I’ve decided to celebrate with this video capturing a live performance by one of the most badass bands of all time, The Runaways.  For some reason (probably that they were more or less seen as a gimmick or a novelty or whatever, which yeah, they were kind of marketed as), they were way more popular in Japan than in their native US (probably because being a gimmick/novelty does not hurt one’s street cred in Japan like it does in the states.  It might even be actively encouraged, or so I’ve been led to believe).  Which is a shame, because they really rocked hard-core.  Their image and musical style was very glam (check out frontwoman Cherie Currie’s Ziggy Stardust swagger in this video), but as far as attitude and sticking it to the man, they were just as punk as, well, their punk contemporaries (yeah, deal with it, Sex Pistols).  I mean, they were the biggest all-female rock band of their time, and just in case their name doesn’t ring a bell, surely you’ve at least heard of Joan Jett and possibly Lita Ford, both of whom got their start in The Runaways (Joan’s the one in the red jumpsuit, like I even need to point that out since her look still hasn’t changed much except for that brief period when she had the platinum blond buzzcut; Lita’s the one in the supershiny short-shorts).  That’s right.  Two guitar hero(in)es in the making here.  And the thing I love about this song is, it’s like those myriad songs about how rock ‘n’ roll had a profound impact on an impressionable youth (think “Shooting Star” by…one of those Paul Rogers groups or something…you know the one, about Johnny and how old he was when he heard his first Beatles song.  That one), but this one is about it affecting a young girl in that way, which is kind of unusual even today.   Enjoy.

 

 

Oh, and one last thing:  a few years ago, a biopic of The Runaways called (duh!) The Runaways was made.  The feature-length debut of music video director Floria Sigismondi (she did that weird Christina Aguilera “Fighter” video.  Also, she’s done at least one video for each of Jack White’s bands.  Which makes her pretty awesome in my book), the flick is worth a watch, even if you’re a bit skeptical of Kristen Stewart’s acting skills (I was/still kind of am.  But she was pretty good as Joan Jett in this movie, I thought) or wary of seeing Dakota Fanning in fancy lingerie (don’t ask.  For what it’s worth, it’s an iconic outfit that Cherie Currie really did wear in real life when she was about the same age, and she was more or less marketed against her will as jailbait.  Currie, I mean, not Fanning.  Oh, and just be glad you’re not watching Hounddog.  Yipes), or if you’re made uncomfortable by the occasional lesbian subtext (because Joan Jett actually is…I’m not entirely sure what, but she’s almost definitely not totally heterosexual, at the very least).

 

Video of the…er…Current Indeterminate Interval of Time: “I’m Shakin'” by Jack White February 21, 2013

Filed under: Jack White,Video of the Week — yourbirdcansing88 @ 12:25 AM
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If you’re a faithful follower of my blog (yeah, as if), you probably know that I love me some Jack White.  And if you recall the last time I posted about Jack White, you’ll remember that this was my reaction to his then-pretty-new music video for “Freedom at 21”:

SIX MONTHS DUNGEON!

THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!

(in case it isn’t obvious, the big angry sourpuss is supposed to be me. The handsome peppermint dandy is Jack. Because well duh)
 

I’m not even going to trouble myself with explaining once again why I had such an averse reaction to the video.  If you’re curious, you can read it all here (hint:  sexism and cliches beget such ugly babies).  Well, I want you all to know that even though I still consider the aforementioned video to be a pathetic disappointment, I’ve decided not to let that weigh too much on my opinion of Mr. White, because since then he’s done several things to remind me that he’s still absolutely wonderful.  And one of those things was his next video, “I’m Shakin'”, which came out back in October or whenever.  Yeah, I was going to write about it back then, but only a few days after I discovered the video, Sandy happened, and I was living in (okay, a really spoiled version of) the dark ages for several days.  Thus, my plans for this blog post kind of fell by the wayside.  The reason I’m writing about it now is because I’ve recently fallen even more head-over-heels back in love with Jack White since then, what with him performing on the Grammys a couple weeks ago, which actually gave me a reason to bother watching the Grammys, which I haven’t done since 2009 (back when Consolers of the Lonely was up for some awards but didn’t get anything, so I wasted a good two or three hours waiting to at least see the Raconteurs accept an award, but to no avail.  That’s right; Jack White is pretty much my only reason to ever watch the Grammys).  And well, that rekindled my love for the man all over again, to the point that I spent Valentine’s Day watching my DVDs of Under Blackpool Lights, It Might Get Loud, and Under Great White Northern Lights to celebrate my unabashed fangirl love for the man (I’m single and unemployed; what else am I supposed to do?).

If feeling this way about Jack White is wrong, I am neither willing nor capable of being right.

So here’s an illustration of my current attitude towards Mr. White. Yup, back to normal.

Anyway, more about this video:  it’s basically the most badass Doublemint gum commercial that never happened.  There’s two Jack Whites in this video (because the only thing that could possibly be better than one Jack White is two Jack Whites), one fronting each of his two backing bands, the all-male Buzzards and the all-female Peacocks (which I think is a weird name for an all-female group, considering peacocks are, by definition, male peafowl.  But peahens are neither as well-known, nor nearly as pretty as their male counterparts, so whatevs.  I’d say birds are weird that way, but it’s actually humans who have all the weird ideas about gender presentation).  Yay for pretty much equal representation of men and women!  And yay for badass women rockers!  Special mention also goes to Jack’s two female backup singers, who, along with Jack, get to perform with both groups, which means that the ones performing with the Buzzards get to wear some snazzy suits.  Not stripperiffic versions of male uniforms, either; I mean suits that are maybe tailored a bit more to the female body, but otherwise just like the suits the dudes are wearing.  They even got hats.  Now the only thing that would make this even more perfect is if one of the Jacks was wearing a kilt (he’s been known to wear kilts on occasion, or at least back when he was in The White Stripes and The Raconteurs.  He’s part-Scottish and everything, too), but hey, the photo-negative-y suits he wears are awesome enough (and for me, kinda reminiscent of “Daddy’s Song”).  Plus, the two dancers who are in the video for no discernable reason beyond just being totally awesome (I’m especially impressed with the male dancer’s moves.  Holy crap).  And then there’s  that little wiggle Jack does at about 1:50-1:53 which is the most adorable thing in the whole wide world.  Well, that and the way Jack pronounces the word “nervous” in the song (I’d say it was in a “Joizee” accent, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m from New Jersey and know better.  But I’ve been in love with that pronunciation of “nervous” ever since I heard Mae West say it in She Done Him Wrong).  So anyway, enjoy.

 

 

In infinitely awesome news… August 9, 2012

Filed under: Rants and Raves,The Monkees — yourbirdcansing88 @ 3:19 AM
Tags: , , , , ,

(note for all you cynical types who think that just because a band got together in a way that was less than organic and at least partially for the purposes of “selling a product” other than music automatically negates any kind of musical talent or cultural merit:  I fart in the general direction of your elitism.  That means you too, Jann S. Wenner)

The Monkees

The Monkees: a guilty pleasure for some; for me, just a pleasure.

The (three remaining) Monkees have announced that they’re going back on tour!  Yes, even Nesmith (who, contrary to popular belief, wasn’t so much opposed to joining previous Monkees reunions as he was insanely busy at that time being a multimedia renaissance man and coming up with the prototype for MTV)!  Of course it won’t be quite the same without Davy Jones, but I’m sure their departed bandmate will be anything but forgotten on this tour.  There ought to be many a moving tribute in his honor, I’d imagine (just so long as they don’t do one of those creepy duet-with-a-holographic-dead-guy numbers).

 

What is this Crap? August 8, 2012

Okay, so, like, a few weeks ago, Jack White, a man for whom I’ve made my appreciation quite clear on multiple occasions from nearly the beginning of this blog, came out with a new music video, for the song “Freedom at 21” from his solo album.  Predictably, Rolling Stone magazine, a publication I have an ambivalent view towards but continue to subscribe to and still take some sort of masochistic joy in flipping through, has nothing but praise for the video in the “Playlist” section of its latest issue (August 16, 2012).  Less predictably, the same video has utterly failed to impress me.  Which means that Rolling Stone magazine would actually bend down further to kiss Jack White’s ass than I would.  And it’s not just because I’m significantly shorter than the average adult journalist, either.

 

I’m not about to call “Judas!” or anything on Mr. White, but what the hell?  Frankly I expected better from the guy who was allegedly unhappy with how the video for “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” turned out.  I mean, what is this?  Sexy lady writhing around on the hood of a car?  Oh, like that’s never been done before (okay, full disclosure here:  I actually really like the Rihanna and Whitesnake videos.  And no, even I don’t have any explanation for the Whitesnake one.  As for the QOTSA vid, it’s probably one of the most unique uses of this trope.  That being said, it’s also one of the most mind-screwy, plus the animation style kinda creeps me out).  Some kind of weird jailbird fantasy with sexy half-naked inmates?  Maybe not quite as cliché, but Gaga did it better (not to mention tweaked the script by making out with a fully clothed, non-heterosexual-male-gaze-targeting butch babe.  You know you’re pushing the audience’s suspension of disbelief when Lady Gaga’s videos start looking more true-to-life than your own.  How did Jack end up in a women’s prison, anyway?).  This isn’t even the first time Jack White’s busted outta the big house in a music video (see “Hands” by The Raconteurs.  Which is, in my humble opinion, better than “Freedom at 21” in every conceivable way.  Also, it’s an abundant source of warm fuzzies).  And no, I’m not about to let you off easy just for putting a woman in a position of authority, as the police officer who chases Jack down, pulls him over, and informs him that he’s under arrest for (from what I can tell, anyway) being a very, very bad boy.  And that’s fine (and not completely dissimilar to some Jack White-related fantasies I might have.  Hey, I’m only human).  But why is she wearing short-shorts when all the other (i.e. male) cops in the music video get to wear pants?  I mean, it’s not really fair that the guys get to be cops while the woman’s job as a police officer is secondary to her function as eyecandy.  And then you get to the jail scene and — oh, look who it is?  Apparently Officer Halloween Sexcop is from a set of identical triplets, and the other two just happen to be Ms. Prisoner O’Love and Lady Hood Ornament.  And they’re all allergic to pants!  Seriously, though, I’d maybe be the slightest bit more okay with all this superfluous ladyflesh if only Jack got more naked in this video.  And not just for my own perverted pleasure (although, well, I have needs too, y’know?), but because enough already with this double standard.  I’m sick of these tired, boring-ass music videos where women’s bodies are constantly on display while the men get to wear clothes and have some semblance of a personality, and who might be sexy but that’s just incidental to who they are as a whole, while women have to be sexy before they can be interesting, even in cases where they are the artist who’s starring in the video.  And sure, that may be enough to attract a certain demographic (i.e. horny entitlement-poisoned heterosexual male douchebags who can’t be bothered to think critically too much).  But the rest of us (i.e. the majority, believe it or not, of the music-consuming public) are going to get real bored real soon if this is all the already dwindling music television industry has to offer us.

 

Yeah, I know, I went off on a huge feminist diatribe once again, but this crap really irks me as a fan of music who is also a feminist, and who doesn’t understand why most of the music-related media (i.e. music videos; Rolling Stone and its ilk) continue to cater to the dudebro culture instead of the general masses of music lovers, most of whom don’t fall into that category and don’t care if our music and music-related media comes with a shiny pair of tits or not.  And while I’ll continue to love Jack White, I find his latest video to be a particular disappointment, because I expected much, much more from a man who has been in some of the most innovative videos of our time, has always been an extremely vocal supporter of women in the music industry, and was THE FIRST MAN TO GET HIS OWN COVER OF GODDAMN VenusZine, for fuck’s sake!  So I find it kind of difficult to comprehend why such a man (a certain man, who for the poor you can b— damn it, why doesn’t anyone stop me?) would ever stoop to involve himself in a video chock full of meaningless T&A and other tired tropes and that’s custom-made for the lowest common denominator (i.e. unimaginative douchewanks).  It just doesn’t make sense.  I will say this much:  I think the song rocks (I’ll let the iffy lyrics slide.  This time); I love Jack’s Mickey Mouse gloves; and the chromatic idiosyncracies here are kind of interesting.  It’s a shame they had to be wasted on such a dumbass video.

 

Signs point to today being a good day… March 14, 2012

Ya know why?  ‘Cause just a few minutes ago this morning, I tuned into Q104.3 just as my favorite song ever, “Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum was beginning.  Aaaaaaahhhhhh…good tunes…

 

Video of the Week: “Eighteen” by Alice Cooper February 16, 2012

This week’s video is dedicated to my kid brother, who’s celebrating a very special birthday today.  Happy b-day, bro!

 

 

Video(s) of the Week (or, y’know, whatever): “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, etc. by The Darkness February 9, 2012

This week, I give you a trilogy of videos featuring British neo-glam-rockers The Darkness and their horseshoe crab-shaped spaceship of hedonistic fantabulosity.  First up is their most famous song/video, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”.  Being the bitter little Valentine’s Scrooge that I am, I wasn’t planning on posting a Video of the Week for a song that had anything positive to say about love this close to the dreaded holiday.  However, a few nights ago an annual event that, ordinarily, I also care very little for — that is, the Superbowl — reminded me of just how awesome this song is.  Admidst all of the expensive overblown crap that makes up the majority of Super Bowl advertising (the kind that has me screaming uncharacteristic obscenities at the TV such as, “godaddy.co?!  How ’bout gofuckyourself.repeatedly!”), there was this expensive overblown work of genius supposedly made to promote some product or other by Samsung (like I gave a crap about that), but actually was a celebration of universal joy and an official announcement for those who were not previously in the know that The Darkness are back!  I mean, it’s cute that Samsung believes they can convince the masses that some new…thingy…can generate that much excitement and merriment out of nowhere, but I’m pretty sure it was Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins’s sudden and unexplained materialization — complete with guitar and hot-pink-striped-jumpsuit — that was the real cause of the mass cavort-fest that ensued.  I know I was so excited, I was almost able to ignore the unfortunate new growth of hair Justin’s got attached to his face.  To be quite honest, though, I didn’t discover how awesome The Darkness were until around 2008, when VH1 mentioned them on an episode of I Love the New Millenium.  See, back in 2003, when the song and video came out, I was a lot younger and more prudish than I am today, and so a video that begins with a naked man emerging from a heart-shaped hottub and getting dried (fondled?) by a big ol’ towel monster in a room decorated with lesbo-erotic naked sculpture just didn’t appeal to me, no matter how awesome the rest of the video was (not to mention how adorable and cuddly that towel monster looks, nor how hot I would eventually find said naked man to be).  But at nineteen, at which age I was already in the middle of a glam rock obsession (T. Rex and early Bowie and the like), I realized what I couldn’t have known as a sheltered fourteen-year-old:  that this crap was amazing.  So without any further ado, here’s the pure, undiluted joy that is “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”:

 

 

Up next, we have the much lesser-known “Friday Night”, which picks up exactly where “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” left off.  Having defeated the dreaded Puppet-Cthulhu of Doom, The Darkness now find themselves crash landing in the middle of the ocean on good ol’ planet earth.  They eventually find themselves stranded in an episode of The Mighty Boosh (even though this video was made at least a year before “The Nightmare of Milky Joe” aired), where they are pampered by leftover extras from the most recent low-budget, poorly-researched production of South Pacific.  I’m not entirely comfortable with the whole appropriation/fetishization/stereotyping of indiginous island women, but otherwise, this video is tons of fun.  Particularly the incredibly fake croc/gator that appears during the “Tuesday gymnastics” line.  And the Bugs Bunny-type scenario that the band wind up in at the video’s end.   And yes, I know the song’s lyrics are quite silly.  Until you get to the line towards the end where he sings “‘Cause the way she moves moves me to write bad poetry,” which leads me to believe that’s entirely the point.  And anyway, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, The Darkness are kind of a silly band.  And somehow that just seems to add to their awesomeness.

 

 

While “Friday Night” was a direct sequel to “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, it’s a bit ambiguous where “Growing on Me” fits into the whole space oddysey narrative of the previous two videos.  My strongest guess is that it’s a prequel to “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, in which we get to see how The Darkness were conceived (apparently by pterodactyl-on-spaceship vo-dee-oh-do-do), and apparently hatched out of egg-type-sac-thingies laid by their mothership (haha, get it?! Mothership?!).  They grow fast from nearly-pubescent, helicopter-savvy boys to grown men who spend their days frolicking around a mansion in some dimensional intersection of the English countryside (circa 18-something) and fairyland.  Also, in case “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” didn’t give you quite enough of Mr. Hawkins prancing around in nothing but a pixel bikini, there’s even more of that in this one.  Y’know, if you’re into that kinda thing (like I know I am).  Apparently this song is about genital warts.  Which I thought was just an immature joke/speculation, but the more I listen to this song, the more I believe it’s true.  Whatever.  All’s I know is, the song frickin’ rocks.

 

 

Surely I’m Not the Only One Who’s Noticed… December 17, 2011

…that this year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductees are a bunch of white dudes, Laura Nyro (R.I.P.), and Slash?  Here’s the list of the lucky few:

  • Beastie Boys
  • Donovan
  • Guns N’ Roses
  • Laura Nyro
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • The Small Faces/The Faces
  • Freddie King (although he made the “early influences” category and not the main list of “performers” — i.e. the list of people actually deemed worthy of mention as inductees on the ray-dee-oh — so I don’t really know…but even with the inclusion of King, that gives us a grand total of three inductees this year who are not white dudes.  And only one of them — Slash — is alive to accept the honor)

Listen, I don’t deny that everyone inducted this year are great artists/groups, who all have at least one song that I enjoy (even the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who I respect as artists but never really got into personally, at least have “Under the Bridge”), and honestly, it’s about damn time Donovan made the list, especially since “Hurdy Gurdy Man” is basically what Led Zeppelin would have been if they’d had an elfin Scottish troubadour as their frontman rather than the virile golden god they ended up with.  But let’s take a look, for a second, at some of the nominees who didn’t get in this year…

  • The Cure
  • Eric B. and Rakim (who I admit I’d never heard of before, but according to the Hall of Fame’s website, they were a hugely influential hip-hop act from the mid-’80s.  Shows how much I know.)
  • Heart
  • Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (WTF — they’re not already in there yet?)
  • Rufus with Chaka Khan (Rufus being the name of the band Chaka got her start in.  Which I may have been made slightly aware of during an episode of Pop Up Video, but can’t remember.  Yet again, shows how much I know)
  • The Spinners
  • War (sing it with me now, “Low…ri…der…somethin’ somethin’ somethin’…doo-doo-doo-dadoo-doo-doo, dadoo-doo-doo-doo”)
  • Donna Summer

Yeah, so the list of nominees this year was not exactly lacking in diversity between races, sexes, and genres.  So it’s really quite odd that the select few who get to be inducted make up such a homogenous group.  It baffles me that acts like Heart, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, War (which is like a bazillion years old and definitely deserves some more recognition than “those guys who did the theme song for The George Lopez Show and whom Smash Mouth did a sub-par cover of”), and even Donna Summer (some arguments against Summer have been that “her music’s not rock ‘n’ roll, though”.  However, it’s clear that the Hall of Fame defines “rock ‘n’ roll” as “popular music from the birth of ‘true rock ‘n’ roll’ in the fifties onwards”, so Donna Summer’s inclusion would not be any less consistent with the Hall of Fame’s guidelines than, say, Madonna or the Jackson 5) have yet to make it into the Hall of Fame even when they’ve all been around quite a bit longer than Guns ‘n’ Roses, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, or the Beastie Boys (to be perfectly fair, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts as a band are only a few years older than GNR and RHCP, and are actually preceded by the Beastie Boys by at least one year.  However, Joan Jett’s career dates back to the mid-70s, and yet she’s completely absent thus far from the Hall of Fame.  So with or without the Blackhearts — who are those guys, anyway? — Joan Jett is way way way overdue for an induction, people).

Not that I don’t have more to say on the issue, but if I go any further I might never get this thing posted, and anyway this Hall of Fame thing is getting dangerously close to being old news now.  And frankly, I’m getting tired of making myself into a rage monster just thinking about the whole thing.  So for now, that’s all folks!

 

New Regular Feature: Cover Story December 5, 2011

After a few months of serious writer’s block, inspiration struck me one morning a couple of weeks ago.  It came to me on the car ride to work, in the form of “Dandy” by Herman’s Hermits.[1]  I’ve heard The Kinks’ version of the same song at least a dozen times, it being a track on my much beloved Kinks compilation CD set The Ultimate Collection.  However, until that morning, I’d been completely unaware that Herman’s Hermits had also recorded a version.  This was kind of a big deal for me because, despite my being less than a quarter century old, I’ve been practically raised in a vacuum of pop, rock, and folk hits of the ’60s, so it’s not every day I encounter a previously undiscovered song[2] from that era.  And so it got me thinking.

 

First of all, it got me thinking of the differences and similarities between the two versions.  For one thing, the Hermits version didn’t sound a whole heck of a lot different from the Kinks version, and yet the very subtlety of those differences only enhanced the feeling that two completely disparate moods were being expressed between the two.  Now I realize that part of this observation might be colored by my own understanding of The Kinks and Herman’s Hermits from the standpoint of someone who was born long after both bands ceased to be contemporary and whose views of each — i.e. Kinks =”rock” and Herman’s Hermits = “pop” — are therefore inevitably informed by modern-day popular opinion and the retrospective pigeonholing of once unclassified groups into newly invented and ever-narrowing categories or “subgenres.”  But to me, there’s a trace of venom in the Kinks version that the Hermits version seems to lack completely.  I’d even go as far to say that Herman’s Hermits aren’t capable of the acidity, of the subtle mean-spiritedness that’s so prevalent in The Kinks’ body of work.  The Hermits’ softer edge does not necessarily make an inferior version of “Dandy;”[3] if anything, it makes both versions more interesting, because why bother covering something someone else has done if you’re not going to put your own spin on it?[4]  Like I said, it might just be that Peter “Herman” Noone — or his musical persona, anyway — comes off as a much more benign and amiable person than Ray Davies does,[5] but to me, while the Hermits version comes off as the kind of playful taunting that could only a close friend of the eponymous good-natured playboy could get away with, Davies’ tone on the same song is anything but friendly; he can barely contain its contempt (or perhaps bitter envy?) for the womanizing ne’er-do-well.

 

 

 

So that’s what the Herman’s Hermits version of “Dandy” got me thinking a couple of weeks ago.  But that’s not all.  It also reminded me of all those times I’ve thought critically (or maybe even not so critically) about cover songs, and all the times I’ve wanted to geek about the subject on here but never really had enough incentive to do so.  I’ve toyed several times with the idea of compiling a top-ten list revolving around cover songs, such as “Top Ten Cover Songs You’ve Never Heard” or “Top Ten Cover Songs That are at Least as Good as the Original.”  I’ve ultimately rejected such ideas for numerous reasons:  the tedium of choosing just a select few songs that I deem worthy out of an innumerable and ever-growing entirety of cover songs;[6] the presumptuous nature of phrases like “that you’ve never heard” or even “that are at least as good as the original”; the fact that “little-known cover” just as often means “song that is well known but, unbeknownst to many, is not the original version”;[7] the whole tricky question of, “if Singer-Songwriter A writes a song, Group B records it, and then, years later, Singer-Songwriter A decides to record the song themself, who’s covering who?”[8]  You get the idea.  So I figured I’m gonna make this a regular, recurring feature on this blog instead.  ‘Cause I’ve got a lot to say about different interpretations of songs, and one blog post isn’t gonna be enough to say all I’ve gotta say.  Plus, this’ll give me a lot more to blog about on a regular basis.  Y’know, between the infrequent and ill-named Video of the Week posts; tirades against sexism, stupidity, bad radio, and what used to pass for music television; occasional Top-Ten lists involving long-defunct bands that no one my age has any excuse to know as much as I do about; and geekfests over Jack White/Noel Fielding/Muppets/etc.  Oh, yeah, and that apology to Kate Moss I’ve been meaning to write.

 

Oh, and feel free to post in the comments section.  I’d be happy to hear whatever suggestions my readers (readers?  What readers?) might have about what cover songs they’d like me to…well…cover here.  Or anything else you’d like to say, as long as it’s not nasty or immature (I’ll take criticism as long as it’s not name-call-y or irrational).  It gets lonely here sometimes.

 

Edit:  I couldn’t get the footnotes to work properly because I’m not sure how to link to another place in the same document.  So when you see a number between brackets, [like this], it means that there’s a correlating footnote at the bottom, but you’ll have to scroll down manually for now to read because I’m not tech-savvy enough.  I was hoping the footnotes would be a good alternative to the parenthetical asides that always seem to clutter up my posts, but I guess I’ll have to go back to posting like that for now.

 

[1]   And I know that this particular version was by Herman’s Hermits because it was on satellite radio and that little title screen thing told me so.

[2]   Or, in this case, a familiar group’s unfamiliar rendition of a somewhat familiar song by another familiar group.

[3]   I, for one, will always think of “Dandy” as a Kinks song.  But then, I’ll always think of “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” as a Cher song, which has spurred arguments with friends who swear by the Nancy Sinatra version.

[4]   David Lee “Just a Facsimile Gigolo” Roth, I’m looking at you.

[5]   To put things in perspective, I’m pretty sure Ray doesn’t get along too well with his own brother.  Who was also his bandmate.

[6]   Compiling a list of top studio albums or music videos of a band that’s long gone:  tricky, maybe, but manageable.  Trying to pick a tiny handful of end-all-be-all essential out of an eternally-expanding wellspring of material:  impossible and futile.

[7]   See also “Cum on Feel the Noize”; “Tainted Love”; “House of the Rising Sun”; “I Shot the Sheriff”; “All Along the Watchtower.”

[8]   See also Kris Kristofferson; Carol King; Bob Dylan.