Mixtape Friday (On Saturday!): Kick-ass Covers of Kick-ass Songs

The owners have no idea how perfect their shop name really is.
The owners have no idea how perfect their shop name really is.

I’m a stickler for originals. I can’t resist a first edition printing of a favorite book (even if I already have four different copies sitting somewhere on one of my over-stuffed bookshelves), and I’ve made some serious dents in my wallet on eBay just to nab first pressings of my favorite albums (for her birthday last year, I bought T an original Dark Side of the Moon LP, and I’m just gonna go ahead and reveal right here [in a declarative, romantic, grand gesture kind of way] that if I ever finally find a first edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, she can expect to find it promptly on her bookshelf (I LOVE YOU, T!)…oh, and that I’m currently on the hunt for the Stooges’ Fun House album so if anyone’s selling, holler). I can’t stand all these super-hero movie remakes, and the Star Wars prequel trilogy DOES NOT EXIST TO ME! (Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, and especially you, George Lucas – THE GRUDGE I BEAR BURNS WITH THE FIERY DENSITY OF A THOUSAND SUNS AND I DO NOT FORGIVE YOU!) So when it comes to covers of my favorite songs, I’m kind of impossible to please (especially in regards to covers of, “I Walk the Line;” when it’s Johnny Cash, don’t. Just don’t).

Every once in a while though – after I’m done scoffing and smirking pretentiously and making a big show out of my hesitance – I’ll come across a cover that surprises me: one that I can not only just tolerate, but genuinely appreciate, whether it’s for a different lyrical arrangement, for a risk-taking genre cross-over, or for a startling new perspective the artist has managed to lend to the original. My choices here, of course, are dictated by my musical tastes, but I like to think the following list of covers is one that you can trust, from a girl who’s a notorious champion of all things original. (And if there’s a cover I’ve overlooked that you believe should be on here, send me that shit!)

1. “Girl From the North Country” – Lions

T and I (but especially T) are suckers for songs about people never EVER getting over their one true love, and this song captures that ache, that longing, that ever-present and ever-torturous question of, “What if?” so perfectly. What’s even better about having these two versions side by side (and out of all the songs on this list, this is the one where you should DEFINITELY give both the cover and the original a sequential listen) is having two different forefront emotions coming from the same experience: Lions brings this “kick myself in the face forever and ever for being such an idiot” kind of frustration, and Bob Dylan gives us the quiet despondency of someone who is resigned to his regret.

Original, by Bob Dylan (singing here with Johnny Cash, because Johnny Cash rules and there need be no other reason)

2. “Wish You Were Here” – Lia Ices

This is my favorite Pink Floyd song of all time, so you can imagine my consternation when I saw this track on a tribute mix put together by Mojo magazine back in 2011. But what I absolutely adore about Lia Ices’s version is that she finds the perfect balance between staying true to the track, and bringing her own aesthetics into the mix. I love what it does to the lyrics when they’re sung by an airy female voice, and I love that said voice experiences an abrupt and PERFECT change in tone when she sings my favorite line, “Did you exchange a walk-on part in a war for a lead role in a cage?” But above everything else, I love that you can still recognize the song. Gilmour’s opening chords for “Wish You Were Here” are among the most recognizable not just in Floyd’s catalog, but in music in general, and I tip my proverbial hat off to Lia Ices for finding her own way to pay homage to them.

Original, by Pink Floyd

3. “Simple Man” – The Deftones

This song is one of the few I can remember being constantly played in my house when I was a child, and I’m pretty sure it’s subliminally shaped my taste in men because to this day the man the mother in the song is encouraging her son to be, is the kind of man I admire. Chino Moreno’s voice is among my favorites in alt-metal and it does not fail me in his rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic. It’s hopeful where it needs to be, and achieves a different texture in the sound from its Southern rock counterpart.

Original, by Lynyrd Skynyrd

4. “Making Believe” – Social Distortion

I experience most of my emotions through anger first (go figure), which probably explains why, even if the sentiment of the song is as wistful and melancholic as “Making Believe,” there’s something about Mike Ness’s angsty version that I find infinitely appealing. He starts slow and sad at first, and for a second you think that maybe this shit is going to be some kind of rare Social D ballad. But then – oh, but then – he starts in on a wild, awesomely erratic spree, and you just KNOW this dude is pissed as fuck that, 1) he’s still sad about this chick, 2) that this chick is out with some douche-lord, and 3) that he is cursed to spend the rest of his life fantasizing about everything they could’ve been together. In other words, a total 180 from Kitty Wells’s earnest original, and I fucking love it!

Original, by Kitty Wells (written by Jimmy Work)

5. “Happy Together” – Filter

Okay. So there’s anger and frustration, and then there’s borderline psychotic. Love, as the old adage goes, makes people do crazy things, and in this particular song Filter is the guy who regularly adds to the collection of stalker photographs he has of you up on his bulletin board (and in his wallet, and on his phone, and on his computer in some obscurely titled file like “Taxes,” and on the hidden wall inside his closet). He is the guy with the night-vision goggles who will follow you around every second of your life and sleep in the bushes outside your window. BECAUSE YOU MUST LOVE HIM AND HE WILL MAKE YOU. DO YOU LOVE HIM YET. WHY IS ALL THIS STALKING NOT WORKING. This insane perspective shift is what makes this cover so great (that, and the intense-as-fuck vocals) – and hilarious, too, when you compare it to the happy-go-lucky Turtles version.

Original, by the Turtles

– Jayne

3 thoughts on “Mixtape Friday (On Saturday!): Kick-ass Covers of Kick-ass Songs

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