Wednesday, February 18, 2004

THE SOUNDTRACK to "50 First Dates" got me thinking about cover songs. Rock 'n' roll seems to have settled on three basic approaches:

  • The reggae or ska version, which is overused on that soundtrack and perhaps first hit it big when
    UB40 did Neil Diamond's "Red, Red Wine" (or was it when UB40 and Chrissie Hynde did Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe"?)

  • The dramatic change in tempo and mood, as in Joan Jett's energized "Love Is All Around" (the "Mary Tyler Moore" theme) or Tori Amos's calmed-down "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

  • The note-for-note imitation, perhaps most egregiously represented by the Lemonheads' version of "Mrs. Robinson." I sort of like the Ataris' recent remake of "The Boys of Summer," though. I always mistake it for the original at first, but it speeds things up just an eensy bit, to good effect.

    Best cover song? Many would nominate Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower," but I got cozy with the Dylan version first and somehow I still like it better.

    My nominee: Romeo Void's "Wrap It Up." The Sam and Dave original, the Fabulous Thunderbirds cover and even the Eurythmics cover all sound basically the same. On the Romeo Void version, the tempo is faster, the arrangement is revamped and Debora Iyall's phrasing is so breathtakingly original that you wouldn't know it's the same song if not for the matching lyrics.

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