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Cover Song Comparison Part 2
By Gloria Diaz
Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!
Fort Wayne Reader
Time for another cover song comparison!
Ain't That a Shame: Made famous by Fats Domino, made infamous by Pat Boone (the lack of soul on his version is disturbing) and recharged by Cheap Trick. The original version is great, and oozes an “aren't the 1950s wonderful, despite racial discrimination and air raid drills” vibe. Pat Boone's version is laughable—sort of the way William Shatner would have done it—over dramatic and just a tad operatic.
But Cheap Trick's version, especially from the Cheap Trick at Budokan version is probably the first time I heard the song, with possibily the exception of an excerpt of Domino's version on Happy Days or something. Bun E. Carlos's lengthy drum solo leading into the song raises the excitement of the song to all its head-banging glory. Cheap Trick's treatment is particularly memorable. I prefer this version over the original, but both are very good, and sort of express the period of music at the time—Domino's expresses the sock-hop optimism of the 1950s, and Trick's reflects the guitar rock trend of the 1970s, before those New Wavers and their synths changed everything. Boone's version, well, it's awfully bland. Is it pop? Is it kitsch? Whatever it is, it's not one of his finer moments. Advantage: Cheap Trick, Domino (close second).
Speaking of Cheap Trick...
I Want You To Want Me: Cheap Trick had two versions of this, but the one from Cheap Trick at Budokan is the one people remember the most, I'm thinking. When I think of Cheap Trick, I think of the drumming and guitar work. Both shine on this one, and I crank side two of my Budokan tape in the car, and it always wakes me up and gets me in a good mood. Incredibly energetic. Many artists, including Lindsay Lohan, have covered this, but the only other one I'm familiar with is the Letters to Cleo version I heard, which was an excerpt from a preview for Ten Things I Hate About You. I guess I don't like when wispy-voiced girls try to take on rockin' tunes. A huge part of the energy in this song is the live performance, and when thousands of people are shrieking like seagulls being murdered, well any studio version tends to pale in comparison. The Letters to Cleo version retains the drums and guitar, but the singer doesn't do it for me. Apparently though, people who hadn't heard the original liked this one well enough. Advantage: Cheap Trick.
Vogue: Depending on your viewpoint, Madonna borrows (or steals) a lot from other artists. Several photo shoots resemble stars from the past; quite a bit of her music sounds like stuff other musical artists have done. Malcolm McLaren had a song called “Deep in Vogue” that sounds quite a bit like the version Madonna put out, along with (according to Wikipedia) excerpts from “Love is the Message” and “Ooh I Love It (Love Break).” I think it's one of Madonna's best songs, if not THE best dance song she's ever done. Rhianna did a performance of it at a VH-1 fashion award show or something, and so it's a “live” version. There's some additional synthesizer and sound effects thrown in, and it's a bit edited so it's shorter. It's actually pretty good, but true to form (for me at least) the version I heard first was the original, so I like that one the best. Advantage: Madonna.
Rocket Man: Add William Shatner to anything, and you end up with a lot of cheese and enough over acting to cause both horror and hilarity. I'm listening (and sort of watching) his version at the 1978 Science Fiction Awards show (thanks YouTube!) Combined with 70s style music, Shatner's cigarette, his tuxedo, and special effects (probably quite radical at the time, but looking gimmicky in 2013) of Shatner rendered in triplicate, and you have real entertainment. Especially when his bow tie become untied at the end. It's bad acting plus lounge lizardry at its finest, and probably the only reason the audience didn't laugh out loud is well, it's Shatner. Of course, I heard Elton John's version first, but there's none of the over dramatic rendering. Just John and his piano, and a couple of sound effects and some back up singing. The recording actually achieves a space-like feel, without being corny. Shatner's made a career of ridiculousness, and I think he's an okay guy, but I can't take him seriously as a singer. Advantage: Elton John.
I sincerely hope that one of the laws that Obama is threatening to pass doesn't take effect. It would make it a felony to perform cover versions of popular songs and upload them to YouTube. Even though it's how Justin Bieber got his start, I don't think it should be a crime to do cover songs, even if you do them badly. Or you become some million-selling douchebag, like Bie...oh, never mind.