May 31, 2009

Cover Meme

Ambivalent Academic tagged me with the cover meme running around: best and worst cover ever.

I was torn, oh, so torn. I mean, everybody knows that the best cover ever is a twofer: "Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go." Okay, a lot of people don't actually know that those were both covers. (Trivia: because Soft Cell released "Tainted Love" as a single with "Where Did Our Love Go" on the B-side, they didn't make any money off of all those sales. Money flows to the writer, not the recording artist for that.)

And of course, there are Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, who do mostly thrashed up covers of beloved classics. And the fact that there are very few Beatles songs I don't prefer performed by someone else.

In the end, it came down to the bad cover. As much as I love Satchmo, I firmly believe he did the world a great disservice when he jazzed up "Mack the Knife." Some things aren't meant to be pretty. Some people (and characters) aren't meant to be antiheroes. MacHeath is one of those. Kurt Weill knew that singing about something wasn't the same thing as endorsing it, but you'd never know that from the long parade of jazz covers.

Bobby Darin

That isn't the worst cover of the song, though. To create that, someone had to go back to the original intent behind the song and screw it up. That takes ego big enough to not understand your musical limits. That takes singing a pop version of a cabaret song. That takes:


So how do you not make this song glorify a sociopath? You take it even closer to its roots. Weill did not make pretty music, although he made some that was beautiful. And how do you not make it pablum? You give it to someone who will strip it down to its essentials and who isn't afraid of a little menace. Unfortunately, this video cuts the song short, but it's still lovely.

Nick Cave

The full version is well worth a listen. It's one of those songs that always lives on my Nano, no matter what else rotates on and off.

Now, who to tag. I'll have to go with Mike and Lou, Crystal and Muse, I think. And thanks, AA. This one was too much fun.


Mike Haubrich said...

Baby, let me follow you down.

DuWayne Brayton said...

You know, I heard today that you hate the Beatles...I hate them too and refuse to apologize for it. I say that to cushion the blow of the rest of my comment...

I actually won a competition in high school, doing "Mack the Knife," a rendition that you most assuredly would have hated - though it wasn't as bad as Bobby or Sting's. Speaking of, I totally take back my comment on my blog about Sting's pathological arrogance being justified. I'm sorry, but I'm not sure that all the great music he's produced can make up for that piece of crap...

Stephanie Zvan said...

DuWayne, it would probably be more accurate to say that I feel about the Beatles the way you feel about Dylan. There are lots of covers of their work that I like, but I'm not very fond of their arrangements.

Sting really is impressively bad in that, isn't he? I guess it shows the benefit of understanding your own strengths and weaknesses.

Unknown said...

I like. Great choices, great analysis. Also, I <3 Nick Cave. Have you read his novel?

Anonymous said...

Oooo, tagged. I'll do this tonight, have to think about this one! :)