- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Sterling (October 3, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1454922508
- ISBN-13: 978-1454922506
- Product Dimensions: 8 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time Hardcover – October 3, 2017
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“Ray Padgett . . . offers up the inside track on the stories behind the 20 most iconic cover songs of all time, and the artists who turned them into classics.” —Parade
“Music publicist and blogger Padgett (covermesongs.com) delves into the world of the cover song by compiling interviews, archival photographs, and reproductions of disc labels to highlight 20 well-known tunes covered by artists ranging from Elvis Presley and the Who to Adele, giving each a chapter tracing the song's history, production details, and other versions when appropriate. His explorations of the reasons artists choose to record covers are astute, and while some of the original performers (perhaps more obscure to current listeners) were not always pleased to have their own versions superseded, others were honored that someone valued their work enough to take on this challenge. The especially useful bibliography cites both sources contemporaneous to the time of the first recordings as well as recent scholarship and relevant websites. VERDICT This engaging nostalgia trip is sure to appeal to discophiles and cultural historians. . . .” —Library Journal
“Fresh context and intriguing background to many of these songs. . . . Astute ruminations on evolving cultural perceptions of the cover’s place in the music canon.” —AV Club.com
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An interesting contradiction right out of the gate. The preface makes it clear to the writer that cover versions do not include 1950 era white artists doing a song by a black artist not written by the black artist or releasing it contemporaneously with the black artist's version.
So, the 1st entry is Elvis doing Hound Dog a few years after Big Mama Thornton's release. It was not written by Thornton [Leiber & Stoller]. Hard to view it as a cover, Not only for the reasons the author set out but because the arrangements are so foreign to each other and there are many variances in the lyrics. Leiber & Stoller admit writing it for Thornton and also proclaiming an initial dislike of Elvis's version. Of course, Elvis made them more $$. And they ended up having Elvis record a lot of their songs. (See Elvis Sings Leiber & Stoller [CD]- - 21 songs.) Elvis was renown for recording a song much like the version he listened to, This book intimates that it was a novelty cover of Hound Dog that attracted Elvis [by Freddie Bell & the Bellboys]. Not sure if the recorded version mirrors the novelty one. But we certainly know he did not troll Thornton. (Just discovered I have a Bell version. Don't know whether it was recorded 1956 or 20 years later though. So it's no help although similar to Presley's.) As with Hendrix below, Presley's is more a cover of the Bell release than Thornton's hence a cover of Bell.
#2: Twist & Shout. A true cover and the Beatles are good but I prefer the Isley Brothers.
Unchained Melody doesn't strike me of a true cover version. There were many versions throughout the early//mid 50s. None for which any true ownership was established. To me, a cover should make the listener immediately think of the universally known earlier version. e.g. Twist & Shout & With a Little Help from My Friends. It's automatic to think of the Isleys & The Beatles, though neither produced the original.
Next is All Along the Watchtower. Another true cover and Hendrix' version is far superior but there's a missing link in this book. No mention of The Alan Bown's version released earlier than Hendrix. It's quite similar to Jimi's (though not nearly as good) and not like Dylan's. So, like Hound Dog, perhaps a third party's influence is due some recognition since this is more a cover of the Bown version.
Aretha's Respect is somewhat like Presley's vs Thornton's Hound Dog though not as divergent. She had made changes to Redding's original.. Because of the changes and perhaps the atmosphere of the times, Aretha's is the far better known. Personally, having been an established Redding fan at the time of Franklin's release, I like his better. But that doesn't diminish Franklin's version.
With a Little help from my friends by Joe Cocker is a cover yet a different arrangement. Cocker's is bluesy while the Beatles is bouncy.
The Who's Summertime Blues covers Cochran as Elvis's compares to Thornton's but the Who do retain the lyrics. This is another instance where the cover may truly be of another cover. No mention here of the Blue Cheer version. Timing plays a role of course. Blue Cheer's charted 2.5 year earlier than the Who's and may well be the version that influenced the Who. This book makes it seem like the Who were playing this song live for years so it may pre-date Blue Cheer. But it was worth discussing due to the similarity.
Creedence's I Heard It through the Grapevine is similar to Marvin Gaye's but it is intentionally more rock and roll. At 11 minutes plus the book outlines this as their attempt at a Greatful Dead-like jam.
Next comes a song that really has no business being in this book; neither as a cover and certainly not a great cover. Gladys Knight & the Pips doing Midnight Train to Georgia. It was first recorded by the writer (Jim Weatherly) as an attempt to get his music heard by other artists who then might record some of his work. The song and the artist were virtually unknown outside of those in the industry at the time. To be a "great cover" most of us should have heard of the song being covered. Otherwise it is just like most songs sung successfully by a known recording artist.
The next 2 make sense but probably wouldn't make my list: Patti Smith's Gloria and Talking Heads' Take Me to the River.
Then it gets predominantly stupid. I think a "Great" cover has to achieve universal awareness by music listeners. Devo's Satisfaction and Weird Al's Polkas on 45 don't cut it. Satisfaction is barely know my many and weird Al's is a career salute. I'm forgetting or the moment that Satisfaction is quasi-terrible. Not only didit not chart, it didn't bubble under.
Lists are not wrong because readers disagree but they must make sense. This list doesn't collectively live up to the book title. To most, the most successful, thus needed on this list is Chubby Checker covering Hank Ballard's The Twist. Number 1 in the US 2 different times. It's not here. Whitney Houston's mega successful I Will Always Love You makes the list an it should. The Twist was a bigger success.
Only one remaining inclusion is a good choice---Johnny Cash's Hurt [Nine Inch Nails]
To digrees for a moment. I certainly agrees that white artists covering black artists in the 50s is largely lame. However, most R&R historians make the same exception. That exception is worthy of making a "great" covers list. That being the Diamonds cover of Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs' Little Darlin,.
Agree or not, I started out highly enjoying this book but that enjoyment was wiped out by the time I finished. Enjoy this book for it's dealing with the making of the covers; not the list. One more thimg. Although I enjoyed the Hound Dog selection, the story unfortunately follows the politically correct attempt to over play Big Mama with rock & roll.
It's a must read for any music fan.