Writer’s Block: Cover me

Bullet list first: My first choices, not a comprehensive list:

  • “Across the Universe” (Lennon-McCartney) as done by Rufus Wainwright.
  • “Superman” (The Clique) as done by R.E.M. on Lifes Rich Pageant.
  • “The Dutchman” (Michael Peter Smith) as done by Steve Goodman — Michael plays it in concert pretty much as Steve recorded it, nowadays.
  • But “City of New Orleans” (Steve Goodman) as done by Arlo Guthrie.
  • “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” (The Band) as done by Joan Baez.

I read many other people’s lists already. There are three tunes that keep popping up. You can probably guess them, so I won’t mention them here.*

A lot of respondents picked modern-day versions of songs that are 20-40 years old. A good example of this (that I haven’t seen mentioned) is Smashmouth’s cover of “I’m a Believer” from the Shrek soundtrack, which the Monkees had a hit with and Neil Diamond penned. Smashmouth didn’t do much to the song’s arrangement, but being almost 40 years newer meant the instruments (more electric guitars) and production (louder/compressed) were different. It’s a more modern sound, style-wise, and I kind of discount that as a reason the cover version is “better.” It’s not quite the same category as Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin remaking “Hurt” in such a radically different yet hauntingly effective way.

Postscript: Special mention is made of an instrumental version of “Across the Universe” by the classical guitarist Göran Söllscher on his recording Here, There + Everywhere. No singing, but the song has a great tune, and it’s so well played on an 11-stringed guitar (which has several lower strings than the standard guitar, and it resonates, like, forever).

* But I did mention one at the end of the next ‘graph.


About songdogmi

I'm a longhaired almost-hippie stuck in the inner suburbs of a major rust-belt metropolis who's thoughtful, creative, and kind of geeky. In exchange for a paycheck I run around in a cubicle maze most days. When I escape, I play music, hang out in coffee houses, dink around on the computer, take naps, and think I should be off in the woods somewhere. Every once in a while I get in my car and drive far, far away, though I've always come back so far.
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5 Responses to Writer’s Block: Cover me

  1. *waves*

    re: Across the Universe, had to comment..Rufus’s version is great (as is his cover of Hallelujah) but Laibach’s trippy version does it best for me…

  2. vaneramos says:

    Oh, I like that Rufus Wainwright, too, though I’m afraid to tell people I like it better than the original.

    • songdogmi says:

      I guess there’s a bit more wistfulness in the Beatles’ version, which fits with the song. But it fits Rufus’ voice really well, especially how well he sang it. On some other songs, I think his delivery isn’t quite right, though I’m having problems finding the words to describe what I don’t like at the moment. But with “Across the Universe,” I have no quibbles at all—he nailed it.

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