I love covers. At the height of the Napster Age I had more than 2000 Beatles covers in my digital collection. It is much less now, because of poor back-up skills which I still possess to this day. What I really love is when an artist is able to cover a familiar song, retain that original sense, but still make it their own in some unique and interesting way. They need to cover the song, but also add some personality so it can stand apart. Like when Earth, Wind and Fire covered Got To Get You Into My Life — a Beatles cover that I would argue is easily much better than the original.
I just have a strong belief that if a musician can take someone else’s song and make it something different, then that is real craft and art. Having said that, these are the artists that not only do that, they shake the paradigm up a bit in the process. Conceptually funny doesn’t hurt much, either.
It was the late 80’s and I was working for an Advertising Agency in Clearwater, Florida. Part of my job was running artwork back and forth from the office to a client on the other side of Tampa. Sometimes I had waiting around time and on hot days about lunch, I would just drop into a mall for the air conditioning and browse the book stores or the record stores. It was during one of these excursions that my life changed forever when I picked up Un-Led-Ed. It was everything I could’ve wanted — Elvis, Led Zeppelin, and Reggae. All in one. I ran back to the agency clutching that CD in my fevered hand and showed it to the Creative Director who was a musician. We bonded in that moment and my course was set.
My friend Mahatma Randy introduced me to this band not too long after I had found Dread Zeppelin. They had a brief spot of popularity in the 80s doing Doo-Wop covers of 80s hits. The same group of performers also did Benedictine Monk chant versions of 80s hits to some acclaim. But they really solidified their genius when they released this cover of the entire Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. It is sheer brilliance — there is no other word to describe it. Each song is done in the style of various 50’s hit makers like Buddy Holly, Johnny Mathis, and Jerry Lee Lewis. And the songs are faithful both to the Beatles’ originals and to the artists that they are mimicking.
RICHARD CHEESE & LOUNGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
My next big find was the very awesome Mark Jonathan Davis, better known as Richard Cheese. Most people’s first introduction to him was probably his version of the Star Wars Cantina. I think my first informed intro to him was his album Lounge Against the Machine. My friend Jamie Maxfield would have to fill me in on most of the songs that were being covered since I was still firmly in love with the Beatles and Prog Rock then and didn’t recognize any of the songs. I remember one time, after ordering Apertif for Destruction online, playing it for the first time in the car when my youngest son Nik was visiting, and having to pull over because we were laughing to the point of tears when the above song came on.
ME FIRST AND THE GIMME GIMMES
This next band I was introduced to by that same son that I shared Richard Cheese with. Nik emailed me a link to a song by the Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and I have to admit it took me a while to warm up to them. I generally cannot just jump onto a bandwagon. I have to find something that I can make a connection with at a personal level, it has to be more than the recommendation of someone else — even if that someone else is my own child. In this case it was this Paul Simon cover that I still listen to regularly to this day.
EASY STAR ALL-STARS
I have listed a lot of great and creative groups here so far, but this group is by far my favorite and their album Dub Side of the Moon is a perennial on most all of my playlists. My boss, Paul, noticed how much I loved covers and he mentioned this album to me in passing and I kind of dismissed it as crazy talk. But he one upped me by actually getting the CD and giving it to me. I have never stopped thanking him profusely from the bottom of heart — the place where all my music taste resides.
My co-workers and I were looking for interesting bands to possibly book for our annual Short Comedy Film Festival, or possibly even for our annual Geek Festival, and we (I think, it was Craig) stumbled across this little piece of awesomeness. Watching this band on YouTube for the first time was like getting a new bike for Christmas. In the 70s. When it was cool.
WASASQUATCH – THE BIGFOOT ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC EXPERIENCE
I am cheating a little on this one since the band is comprised of my co-workers and I was one of the main voices in deciding to do this video. However, still, a Bigfoot band that rocks 80’s stadium hits is a sure thing. And making this video is one of my favorite production memories. So much laughter. So much fun. And here is a shot by shot comparison with the original Journey Video embedded: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-quxvus70wg
RED HOT CHILI PIPERS
To be honest, I only found this band while I was writing this article. I googled “weird cover bands” and they were one of the first hits to come back. I think that is a perfect way for them to get the last spot on this list.