The F Word. An online column for Frank De Blase to pontificate, ruminate, placate, and salivate. We'll have reviews and previews, we'll discuss trends in local and national music scenes, and we'll try to do it as reverently as possible. Yup. Let's get started.
Going out as much as I do, I see my share of cover bands and bands slipping a cover tune or two into their set. Sometimes it's ironic, like a string quartet playing a Metallica tune. Sometimes it's a jazz artist's interpretation of a master, or a blues musician will throw in some borrowed notes and quotes into an original song.
In the past, I've been a fierce advocate for original music and I still am to some degree. That doesn't mean I won't dance at your wedding, but usually when I see a band live, I want to hear its story, even if that story is augmented with the occasional cover.
However, there are songs that have been recorded that are so perfect it would be a mistake to try and tackle them. Some songs should be left alone — there are ones that can't be approved upon, songs whose original performer nailed the performance. If you can't add to it, don't play it. It's that simple. It's actually a long list, but I've compiled a condensed version below.
Elvis Presley's version of "Mystery Train" — which is itself a cover of the Junior Parker tune.
Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" — sure there are better singers out there and maybe you're one of them, but that's not the point here.
Them's "Gloria" — a garage band staple all over the world.
Jimi Hendrix's "Star Spangled Banner" — just don't.
Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" — this also includes a handful of Berry tunes that recycle the opening riff.
Frank Sinatra's "My Way" — this includes the Sid Vicious version. I'm sure your way isn't quite like Sid and Frank's. Step away from the mic.
Patsy Cline's "Sweet Dreams" and "Crazy."
And here are a few that land on my ad nauseam list: once beautiful songs that shouldn't be touched at all, not just because they were recorded perfectly the first time, but because they've been driven into the fucking ground.
"Mustang Sally" — "The Commitments" almost saved this one, but still, let's give it a rest, just to be sure.
"Sweet Home Chicago" — take a blues song, change the key, the name of the woman, and the location, add in how many times you've been done wrong, and you've got a new song. Plus now you can call it an original ... Hey, I don't make the rules.
"Got my Mojo Working" — see above.
Anything by Led Zeppelin — you can thank WCMF for that one.
And the final nail in the coffin, the coup de grace, "Freebird" — it's a decent song, but just its title alone called out during a show fuels the urge to punch someone in the face.
Sometimes a song that isn't yours surprisingly mirrors your feelings. Or maybe it's an instrumental where anything goes lyrically in your head. Maybe it was playing on the radio when you met your next ex-true love (in that case you may have no trouble crossing it off your list of faves).
Songs are our truth and our soundtrack. It just gets sticky when you perform the ones that aren't yours as your own. So why not sit down and write a song, a salvo, a valentine. One thing is for sure: It'll sure beat hearing "Freebird" for the umpteenth time
I hope this helped. Share your own lists with me here.
Friday night was The Jon Lewis Band's album release celebration for its new "Get Wild Somewhere" which the band covered top to bottom on the Three Heads stage. Lewis and his crew lacked any pretense as they let the songs kick out the underlying — and overlying — jams. Pretty, pretty cool.
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