Monday, April 14, 2014

The POWER POP COVER-UP Show #118 March 15, 2014

The Power Pop Cover Up is dedicated to Carol!

Carol (original version by Chuck Berry)- Hello Keeps Us Off The Streets
September Gurls (Big Star)- The Bangles Different Light
Closer To The Stars (Soul Asylum)- The Hold Steady Rags
Rock and Roll Love Letter (Bay City Rollers)- The Records Rock and Roll Love Letter
Sorry (The Easybeats)- The Three O'Clock Baroque Hoedown
Jetfighter (The Three O'Clock)- Spinning Jennies Stratosphere
Shake Some Action (The Flamin' Groovies)- Jenny Dee and The Deelinquents Keeping Time
With A Girl Like You (The Troggs)- Alex Chilton Top 30
^The Letter (The Box Tops)- Paul Collins King Of Power Pop
Dyna-Mite (Mud)- The Blondes The Blondes
Androgynous (The Replacements)- Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Greatest Hits
Another Girl, Another Planet (The Only Ones)- The Replacements All For Nothing
No Matter What (Badfinger)- Gary Charlson Real Live Gary
I Can't Turn You Loose (Otis Redding)- The Plimsouls The Plimsouls... Plus
*Hanging on the Telephone (The Nerves)- Blondie Parallel Lines
*When You Find Out (The Nerves/The Plimsouls)- Joe Algeri Faux Pas
*Walking Out On Love (The Nerves/The Beat)- The Yum Yums Singles 'n' Stuff 
*Paper Dolls (The Nerves/Jack Lee)- Rubber City Rebels Rubber City Rebels
*Zero Hour (The Plimsouls)- DM3 Garage Sale
*Million Miles Away (The Plimsouls)- Goo Goo Dolls Hold Me Up
All Kinds Of Girls (The Real Kids)- The Shods Thanks For Nuthin' 
Pretty Please Me (The Quick)- The Dickies Stukas Over Disneyland 
I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend (The Rubinoos)- Farrah Moustache 
Cruisin' Music (Raspberries)- The Rubinoos Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About
Misadventure (Squeeze)- Queued Up S/T EP 
He's A Whore (Cheap Trick)- The Biters He's A Whore 
That 70's Song (Big Star's "In The Street")- Cheap Trick That' 70's Show Presents That 70's Album: Rockin' 
Wake Up Little Susie (Everly Brothers)- Suzi Quatro The Wild One - The Greatest Hits 
Somebody Made For Me (Emitt Rhodes)- The Merrymakers Bubblegun 
>I Can't Let Go (The Hollies)- Sloan Recorded Live At A Sloan Party! 
Cycles Per Second (The dB's)- Lisa Mychols Sweet Sinsations 
Green Shirt (Elvis Costello)- The Tremblers Twice Nightly 
It's Easy (The Barracudas)- The Kwyet Kings Been Where? Done What? 
Ballad Of El Goodo (Big Star)- Matthew Sweet Big Star Small World 

^Power Pop Prototype:  The Letter by The Box Tops #1 Billboard Hot 100 8/12/67

*SacroSet:  The Nerves Cover Up

>Power Pop Prototype:  I Can't Let Go (The Hollies) 1966 

Cover songs are a double edged sword- with one or two
Scott Asheton 1949-2014
selections a band can share its musical influences, creating an even deeper relationship with fans.  I'd put The Dictators cover of The Stooges "Search and Destroy" in this category.  At the time I had a vague idea who Iggy Pop was, but The Dictators got me digging deeper for The Stooges and for that I will always be grateful (RIP Scott Asheton, the Stooges and Sonic's Rendevous Band drummer- he was a true original).

On the other hand, if a band chooses cover songs poorly it can be viewed as pandering or even worse, the dreaded "sell out."  In August 1968 The MC5 established themselves on the cutting edge of the counterculture as the only band that didn't puss out on playing at the Democratic Convention/Police Brutality Exhibition in Chicago.  Their reputation was further cemented with the release of the blistering live album Kick Out The Jams in February 1969.  Midwest department store chain Hudson's refused to stock the record due to the infamous "Kick Out The Jams motherf***er!" intro and more f-words in the liner notes.  The MC5 responded with this ad in alternative paper Fifth Estate (click to enlarge), thoughtfully including the Elektra logo despite the fact that no one at the company had approved it. Hudson's then pulled ALL Elektra product from its shelves and the band was thrown off the label.  

Their outlaw status confirmed, The MC5 signed with
Atlantic Records.  They went into the studio with future Bruce Spring -steen producer Jon Landau and made Back In The USA, a record of short, super tight R and B/early rock and roll influenced music that harkens back to the stuff the band was playing in 1965-66.  I LOVE the album; songs like "American Ruse" and "Looking At You" are the very definition of proto-punk, but the hippies and freaks who dug the free-form sonic onslaught of Kick Out The Jams were not amused.  It wasn't bad enough the record was named for a patriotic Chuck Berry song (they do a straight-up unironic version), Side 1 Track 1 of  Back In The USA is a cover of Little Richard's "Tutti-Frutti."  In 1970 that was probably about as reactionary as you could get and The MC5 never seemed to recover their fan base, even with third album High Time which was a return to the Kick Out The Jams sound.

So, choose the wrong cover songs and its curtains for your band.  Or it makes you a one-hit footnote/joke (see The Lemonheads' version of Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson," or Alien Ant Farm's take on Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal").  Of course, go all the way and you become the much derided "Cover Band," scorned by musicians, critics and "serious" fans alike.  Check out these lyrics to Red Cross' "Cover Band" if you don't know what I'm talking about:

We're a cover band
We like boring songs
Solos that are long
We listen to KIIS
Top 40 hits
We're a cover band
We're a cover band

We can't write worth sh*t
'Cause we're illiterate
We listen to The Knack
We have Marshall stacks
We can't write worth sh*t

(short solo)  

We can't write worth sh*t
'Cause we're illiterate
We listen to The Knack
We have Marshall stacks
We can't write worth sh*t

Red Cross 1980: Ron Reyes (later of Black Flag),
Greg Hetson, Jeff and Steven McDonald

I've never been sure about all the words to this song, especially "we like boring songs, solos that are long" and "cause we're illiterate."  I also thought they were talking about the group Kiss and not the Los Angeles Top 40 radio

Steven McDonald Today
station KIIS-FM.  So, for this post I decided to go to the source and e-mailed the band on their website.  Within an hour webmaster Jon got back to me with the full lyrics.  Then the next day Redd Kross bassist Steven McDonald (who I believe is 11 in the photo above and doesn't look a day older) e-mailed me the lyrics from his iPhone.  How cool is that?

Ironically when original guitarist Greg Hetson left he brought "Cover Band" to his new group Circle Jerks, who "covered" it with new lyrics, changing the title to "Live Fast, Die Young."  (I like both takes on the song, yet for sheer snottiness nothing beats the version by "Red Cross," as they were known before a lawsuit forced them to change the spelling of their name.)  If that isn't enough irony for you, in
Teen Babes From Monsanto, 1984
1984 Redd Kross put out an all-covers album called Teen Babes From Monsanto with songs by Kiss (a killer version of "Duece"), The Shagri-La's, The Rolling Stones, The Stooges and David Bowie.  Proving they were in on the joke, the group also "covered" their own song "Linda Blair" from first album Born Innocent.

Like many of my strongly held opinions about music that "sucks," my attitude toward cover bands has changed over the years, largely due to the following factors:

  • For my 40th Birthday my wife Jaime threw me a party that included the debut of my cover band The Dadz.  I tell you, as much as I liked playing original music back in the day, there's a lot to be said for whipping up a dance floor of drunk 40 year olds with The Ramones' "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker," The Monkees "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone," and "Anything, Anything (I'll Give You)" by Dramarama.  How great was that night?  I still use a cut from the photo below as my profile picture.
Rick, Joe and James

  • The other reason I'm much more forgiving about cover bands is that live music is rare these days and outside of major cities there aren't too many places booking bands that play original music.  So, on a Saturday night in Sonoma you're probably not going to pass up a chance to see Misfit's cover band Braineater, while over at The Mystic Theater in Petaluma they are packing them in for House of Floyd, Zepparella, and AC/DShe (the latter two all-female tributes).

  • Finally, the DJ thing is out of control.  Neither of my kids has EVER been to a school dance with a live band.  They will never know the mounting anguish as the tempo picks up in "Stairway to Heaven" or "Freebird" followed by the rapture of realizing you are going to stay in a slow dance clench all the way through to the end.  Depending on the band, each of those songs could be 15 minutes long!  At the time I had never held a sweet-smelling pretty girl in my arms for that long.  What a rush!  My friends and I would mock the bands that played our school dances, usually made up of guys only few years older than us.  At the same time we couldn't help noticing how the attitude of girls in the audience changed after the band got offstage.  Once they'd seen him tear though "Barracuda" and " Smoke On The Water" on his Stratocaster, they never looked at the grease monkey from the Hall's Corner Exxon the same way again.  In any case, when live music is plentiful, hating on cover bands is to be expected yet I'll still take well played live music over a DJ any day of the week.
In closing, I'm going to share some photos of three new favorite cover/tribute bands that I've never heard but turned up in my Interweb research for this post:
The Misfats
I wonder if they hid the guy in back because he's too skinny and they didn't want to blow the concept.

Remember these guys from from the Super Bowl commercial they did with Full-Sized Kiss? (Maxi-Kiss?)

This London band plays Abba songs in the style of The Ramones.  Are you mad you didn't think of it first?  I know I am.

Finally, as a public service I present the following, in case you are considering a career in the cover band arts:

Who knows, this may be where The Misfats got their start....

Download link for the POWER POP COVER UP is below (Click to stream or to download, right click and "Save Link As")


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