November 2, 2006

Second Hand Songs

Today, cover songs are fairly common in music. But fifty years ago, it was a different story. Back then, what was known as "black music" was the popular genre. But record companies, and the older generation didn't feel that black musicians should rule the pop charts. So they took a black song, and re-recorded it using a white musician. If a song started to climb the charts, it was released under a white artist. The new recording would sell millions and the old black recording would be forgotten. Of course, that was before copy write laws became as strict as they are now. What they called a "remake" back then, we call a cover today.

Today, the cover song is something very different. It is still a copy of a well known song, but it not longer holds a racist purpose. Many covers are a sign of respect towards the original artist. Many artists play covers at their concerts, but every once in a while you will see a cover on an album, or even entire cover albums. Recently I heard of a series of albums called Punk Goes ___. The Punk Goes Nineties album, it's an entire album of covers of nineties songs by today's punk artists. Some of the songs are good, but they all have a punk feel to them. I think that is my favorite part of cover songs; getting to hear them in a different context or musical genre. Some bands are so big that they have their own cover, or tribute, bands. The Tripping Billies are a tribute band for The Dave Matthews Band, and the Beatles have American English as well as others. Some bands likeMe First and the Gimme Gimmes only play pop-punk covers.

I know I've mentioned before that one of my favorite songs is Wonderwall by Oasis. I on my iPod I have around 14 different versions of the same song (2 techno, 2 acopella, 1 jazz, and many solo artists). And I'm still missing even more that have been recorded. Some of them are good, and some are horrible. I have to say that my favorite cover is of the song Baba O'Riley by the Who. The cover is by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and was used in the movie Slackers. Another good one was the Queen song Under Pressure (with David Bowie) by My Chemical Romance and The Used.

Lastly I want to point out a cool website Second Hand Songs. This website is a "cover songs database". Just type in an artist or song and it will tell you who have covered that song. It's not perfect, but I believe it gives you the chance to add songs if you feel so inclined.

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