Sunday, May 4, 2008

They Did It Their Way: A and B

In an earlier posting, I mentioned my personal project that I call "They Did It Their Way." It's my collection of recordings done by people other than the performers who made the songs famous. So, for example, the Simon and Garfunkel recording of "Red Rubber Ball" can be included: Even though Paul Simon wrote the song, its popular recording was by The Circle.

The other criterion is that I must own a CD containing the track (or I must have purchased the album/track from iTunes).

So I'll trickle the listing into the blog alphabetically by artist name with info about where to find the tracks or some other commentary on the recordings.

So let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start):


Tori Amos - Angie
Tori Amos - A Case of You
Tori Amos - Famous Blue Raincoat
Tori Amos - Ring My Bell
Tori Amos - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Tori Amos - Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Maya Angelou - Scandal in the Family
Paul Anka - Jump
Paul Anka - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Louis Armstrong - Mack the Knife (duet with Lotte Lenya)


B-52s - Downtown

Bangles - Tear Off Your Own Head (It's a Doll Revolution)
Bauhaus - Third Uncle
Bauhaus - Ziggy Stardust
Beatles - Money (That's What I Want)
Beatles - Please Mr. Postman
Beatles - Roll Over Beethoven
Beatles - Till There Was You
Sandra Bernhard - Little Red Corvette
The Bobs - Helter Skelter
The Bobs - Psycho Killer
David Bowie - Alabama Song
David Bowie - Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
The Breeders - Wicked Little Town
The Brothers Four - Revolution
Kate Bush - Candle In the Wind
Kate Bush - The Man I Love
Kate Bush - Rocket Man
Kate Bush - Sexual Healing
David Byrne - Don't Fence Me In

Some of the tracks by Tori, frankly, get skipped when they pop up on my iPod on "Shuffle."

Maya Angelou's "Scandal In the Family" cannot truly be called a cover because she wrote the song. But since she is not now known primarily as a singer, I wanted to include it.

The Paul Anka numbers come from his album, "Rock Swings," which is largely a bunch of grunge and
metal songs done Vegas style. He also does "Black Hole Sun" on that album. Theoretically, the entire album could go into this collection, but I didn't want to over-represent the album on my iPod.

The version of "Mack the Knife" comes from a Lotte Lenya collection of theater songs (mostly Kurt Weill). It also includes an eight-minute uncut recording of the recording session for this track in which Louis Armstrong tries to explain to Lotte Lenya how to swing.

If you do not know "Tear Off Your Own Head," it's one of the best songs Elvis Costello has written in the last ten or fifteen years.

Including the Bauhaus tracks is almost cheating because they really did not do anything new to either of these two songs. They are virtually remakes of the originals, just a little harder and louder.

The Brothers Four track is from the "Golden Throats: Celebrities Butcher the Beatles" collection. It is, in some ways, one of the most perverse covers possibly of all time. It's one thing for Paul Anka to croon, "A mosquito, my libido." It's another thing for a Lettermen-style group to croon (in unison) "You say you want a revolution, Well, you know, we'd all love to change your head." The style of music is so directly and completely at odds with the song being sung that it's hard to believe that the singers (or at least the producer) had any sense of irony at all.

This also is the first occurence of a natural subset of any such collection: Beatles Covers.

The Breeders track comes from "Wig in a Box," the Hedwig tribute album. Again, theoretically, the entire album could go into the collection, but I just picked my favorite individual tracks.

The two best of the Kate covers are "Rocket Man" and "Sexual Healing". On "Rocket Man," she gives the song a kind of reggae beat, then adds very Irish fiddle and pipes. And it works surprisingly well. She also adds the fiddle and pipes to "Sexual Healing," but the song is different enough that I can forgive the duplicated effort.

The David Byrne track is from "Red Hot & Blue," the Cole Porter tribute/AIDS benefit album from 1990.

I think future postings in this series will have to be shorter....

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