The Late Movies: Cover Songs I Didn't See Coming
By Matt Soniak
Sometimes you can see a cover coming a mile away. I know "Twist and Shout" was the first song Bruce Springsteen learned to play on the guitar, so when the E Street Band plays it live, I'm not exactly surprised. There are times when a musician or a band covers a song, though, and I'm absolutely flabbergasted. Sometimes it's because the song is played in a style far removed from the original. Sometimes it's because the two artists' music, style and personalities seem at odds. Sometimes it's simply because I didn't know that artist loved that song so much. While the Boss' rendition of "Twist and Shout" is pretty good, it's covers like these "“- the ones that come seemingly out of left field "“- that can really put a smile on your face.
"The Wizard" - Ahmet Zappa, Dweezil Zappa and John Tesh
John Tesh is a pianist and a composer and performer of pop and contemporary Christian music. He toured with Yanni. He played a Klingon in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He actually released an album called Sax on the Beach (and you thought that was just a Simpsons joke!). Making fun of him is sort of like unleashing the nuclear stockpiles of the United States and Russia on a single barrel of fish. He is, to say the least, a little uncool.
Every dork must have his day, though, and one night on Conan, Tesh got to sit at the cool kids' table and jam on some Black Sabbath with Frank Zappa's boys. The keytar finally makes sense to me.
"Romeo and Juliet" - The Killers
Brandon Flowers is correct on two points here: Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet" is one of the most beautiful songs you will ever hear, and his band probably could not do it justice. I'll tell you what, though. Never in the Killers' jittery, 80's-style alterna-rock did I get a whiff of the kind of deep, abiding love for the Dire Straits that they're talking about here, and anyone who loves "˜em like that is alright with me. No one could do this song justice, but we can't blame the kids for trying.
"Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" - The Cardigans
There are three kinds of bands that come out of Sweden: Phenomenal death metal bands, terrible death metal bands and bands that remind you of ABBA if only because they're from Sweden and don't play death metal. The Cardigans are in the third category and are best remembered for their first international hit, "Lovefool." If you're in the vast majority of people that remember them only for this, then it might shock you that not only did the Cardigans make music before and after "Lovefool" and are actually still around, but they put a Black Sabbath cover on their debut album. It actually sounds pretty awesome with sugary sweet vocals and Rhodes piano.
"Oops! I did it again" - Richard Thompson
Richard Thompson has earned an Orville H. Gibson award for his acoustic guitar playing, an Ivor Novello Award for his songwriting and a lifetime achievement award from BBC Radio. He has never shaved his head nor shown his genitals in public (at least that I'm aware of). He's about as un-Britney as one can get, and yet, he makes the song his own.
"2 Become 1" - Paul Gilbert
Paul Gilbert is regularly included on those "Greatest Shredders of All Time" and "Fastest Guitarists of All Time" lists. It's true; he's pretty good. Like, mile-a-minute-fret-board-melting-OMG-how-many-hands-does-this-guy-have good. (Also: former member of Mr. Big, but we can see past these things). You really want to think that this Spice Girls cover going to be some self-indulgent technical exercise where he noodles all over the song, and it is, but only at the end (followed by a special surprise). For the most part, it's pretty faithful to the original, and the way he talks at the beginning of the video makes it seem like he genuinely loves the song, which is sort of endearing.
"Breakin' the Law" - The Supersuckers
The self-proclaimed "Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World" have been known to make occasional forays into country music. With this song, they drag Mr. Rob "the Metal God" Halford, kicking and screaming with them.
"Fat Bottomed Girls" - Oxford University's Out of the Blue
The fine young gentlemen of Oxford University "“- who, in my mind, still considered powdered wigs and breeches "casual attire" "“- recite the lyric "left alone with big fat fanny/she was such a naughty nanny/heap big woman you made a bad boy out of me" and all is right with the world.