“When U Love Somebody” by Fruit Bats
“When U Love Somebody” by Fruit Bats
“Crooked Piece of Time” by John Prine
A long February weekend in San Diego was all day-glow smoothies, hefty breakfast burritos, and Fleetwood Mac, maybe in that order. It’s not a beach vacation if you don’t listen to Rumours at least twice, preferably while accumulating sand in the tiny crevices of your toes, or chugging down the main drag with the windows down. And it’s not Rumours if it’s not stuck in your head for at least another three weeks, conjuring the smell of melting sunscreen and coconut surf wax as the wind cuts clean and cold against your cheeks. Summer is months away, but when it comes, listen to “Never Going Back Again” while tracing the edge of the ocean with your bare feet.
I wore my “Happy Songs” playlist down to the bone months ago, and I’ve needed a set of musical uppers ever since. “I’ll Come Running to Tie Your Shoes” by Brian Eno and “Swimming Pool” by Toy Love both do the trick, as does old favorite “Day Dreaming” by Aretha Franklin. My nerves have been fried and scattered like some strange delicacy lately; music puts them back on the mend. (Wasn’t it Frank Zappa, my spirit animal right now, who said “Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid”?)
Misheard lyrics abound—“Medicine Wheel” spun circles between my ears for a month at least, and I always thought the chorus was “Are you salmon, baby/under the bridge” instead of “Are you saddened baby/under the bridge.” “Dry the Rain” played a similar trick for years, when I turned it up and was convinced that they were saying, over and over again, “You will be all right” because I needed to hear that. “I will be your light” is still good though, maybe better. If we’re talking about the how and when of consuming songs, I recommend taking a long walk up big hills in San Francisco, and timing this six minute gem just right so that you reach the crescendo of your walk, peer out at the city, as the Beta Band chants “I will be your light.”
Remember when I made fun of Bob Dylan’s, well, Dylanyness this week? I felt bad. I contracted Bob Dylan guilt. Do you, Dylan, and I’ll promise to never see you in concert again and keep listening to you and half-heartedly defending you to haters. In the meantime, haters and non-haters, “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” is one of my favorite Dylan songs. It’s sunny and lovely and always reminds me to watch High Fidelity again if its been too long. It also pairs well with “Help Me Make It Through the Night” by Johnny Cash and June Carter.
Sometimes you’re sitting at your desk, rattled and riddled with racing thoughts, and the right song comes on. The right song, one you’ve never heard, one you absolutely needed. It’s a rare gift from the universe. Celebrate it. Cheers to The Belle Brigade’s “Loser” (which I had heard once or twice, but only paid a fraction of my attention to it each time), which appeared and filled my speakers when I needed it most.
“Benediction” by Thurston Moore
Ahh covers month—it has been a sprawling, really generous definition of a month here at Charm City Jukebox, and I swear for all you covers-haters out there (do you exist? I would find that totally fascinating—leave a comment), we’re almost done.
As covers month comes to a close, it’s time to talk about cover song ignorance. Know thy covers, friends—know who sang the original, so you can win all the trivia nights and avoid being the butt of jokes from your music snob buddies (not us, of course).
Embarrassed at your original vs. cover song knowledge gaps? I’ll get you started. Here are the top five songs that I didn’t know were covers. Leave yours in the comments!
“One More Cup of Coffee” cover by The White Stripes, originally by Bob Dylan
Everyone has a serious “how did I not know this was a cover?” song (I think the top two most common “How did I not know this was a cover?” songs are “I Will Always Love You” and “Son of a Preacher Man.”) While I just feel surprised by the other songs on this list, “One More Cup of Coffee” makes me blush. Bob Dylan and Jack White have many things in common, but one that sticks out is how often listeners who don’t like them point to their unconventional voices as the reason why. Jack White’s voice is perfect here—this is a great example of why and how his voice works. Bob Dylan’s voice…well, even as a Dylan fan, this is one of those songs where I really understand the dislike.
“Strange Little Girl” by Tori Amos, originally by The Stranglers
Sure, Amos purists, this should be obvious since it’s plucked off of an album of covers. But Amos covers “Strange Little Girl” with such authority and ownership that it seems impossible that it could be by another artist. It’s a natural fit, and her delivery of this song by The Stranglers sets the tone and creates the title for the rest of the album.
Sidenote: If you love covers (we do, have you noticed?), check out the entire Strange Little Girls album, which has some solid, sometimes strange tracks, and will make you wonder why we didn’t make a bigger deal about the original “Kim,” Eminem’s ode to uxoricide and domestic violence.
“I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” by Joan Jett, originally by Alan Merrill
Speaking of authority and ownership, how often do you think people compliment Alan Merrill on his Joan Jett cover when he performs this? Every version since Joan Jett has been a cover of Joan Jett, not Alan Merrill; we all know it. It doesn’t matter how loyal Jett’s version was to the original; this is her song. I can’t find the quote, but I swear I once read that Dusty Springfield ended up preferring Aretha Franklin’s more popular version of “Son of a Preacher Man” than her own. I wonder if Merrill feels the same way.
“Tainted Love” by Soft Cell, originally by Gloria Jones
I’ve definitely heard the Gloria Jones version before, but for some reason always thought it was a Soft Cell original. I prefer the original, not just because it’s a great recording, but because “Tainted Love” may belong on our long ago “Top 5 Songs Classic Rock Radio Has Ruined” lists. A great song, for sure, but it’s predecessor sounds fresher, less exhausted by years whirling around on car radios and in grocery stores.
“Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia, originally by Ednaswap
I think I bought Natalie Imbruglia’s album in middle school based on my unrequited love for this song, which haunted every kind of radio station for about two years straight. The fact that this is actually a cover deserves a sitcom style “Whaaaa?!” sound effect. (Found one!)
Imbruglia’s version is a pretty straightforward cover, except for some obvious pop glossiness. Is it weird that I feel a little betrayed? What other classic 90′s hits are undercover covers? Other than “Return of the Mack,” which everyone knows is by Patsy Cline.
“Two Thieves” by Compulsive Gamblers
“Time to Move On” by Tom Petty
“Young Adult Friction” by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Here’s the truth: So Hot Right Now posts are always hard for me to write. I play those 15 songs obsessively, plucking many of them out of thin air and promptly devouring them over the course of the last week of the month. That’s supposed to quell my wandering attention span, that batch of new songs. I line them up and play them on repeat, I pledge my endless listening devotion to them, for the next month at least. I slide one in next to the other, drag it down, rearrange tracks 7 and 15, then 12 and 3, then think about transitions. What sounds delicious? What bridge between two songs is so luscious and unexpected that it has to be honored? A few months ago Joshua slipped “Flowers in Your Hair” by The Lumineers right behind “Summer Breeze” by the Isley Brothers and that movement from one song to the next plucked an emotional chord. It sounded like the first buttery sunshine filled day of summer or the rosy cheeked heat of a new crush. It was perfect. It was the ideal transition. I wanted every transition on my lists to sound as good.
I am obsessive. There are all kinds of corners and knick knacks in my apartment that get fondly pinged by my passing fingertips several times a day. I often listen to a song more than ten times in a row. And that obsessiveness is sometimes fun, but when it comes to making mixes, it’s easy for it to get exhausting. One of my favorite songs last year was “Closer” by Tegan and Sarah. It’s almost unbearable to listen to now because I listened to it so many times. At this point it sounds like construction or a loud clock—that low level jarring kind of noise that pinches your nerves. I wear out so many great songs, I have to shelve them and come back to them months later, if ever (Seriously, after waiting for the new Tegan and Sara album for months, it’s disappointing to have to skip the excellent kick off that is “Closer” every time I listen to it). So Hot Right Now mixes are lists of songs I’ve worn down to the bone. I post them here, and I run as far away from them as I can.
The past week of this brand new month has been full of big emotions, good and bad. I kept meaning to post my original list, but it seemed like it expired on February 1st. I didn’t want to hear all the stuff I’d listened to last month. I wanted the comfort of songs that I loved, songs I could never get tired of. I wanted Tom Petty and Etta James and Liz Phair. I wanted slightly less familiar songs from albums I play often, songs like “Where I’m Waking” by Slow Club and “Again Today” by The Feelies. I wanted the relief of new songs that I’m still charmed with, like “Young Adult Friction” by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and “Golden Haze” by Wild Nothing. I didn’t want to sort them out because they sounded so perfect and right just where they were, all in a row, where I wanted them to be when I needed to find them.
In case you were curious, and because it was a very good mix, that mix I made and couldn’t listen to for another second, here’s my original So Hot Right Now for February. I hope you enjoy them both—let me know what you’re listening to this month in the comments.
“Shatter” by Liz Phair