You either get it or you don’t. There are songs that, when you hear, will instantly bring up memories. One of those songs for me is The Kinks’ 1983 single “Come Dancing.” As a pre-teen, I don’t know that I had any idea who The Kinks were although I suspect that I may have known that at some point in that general era that Van Halen covered “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” on ‘Diver Down’. And, as I write this, I’m sure I was familiar with “Lola” and “Destroyer” (listening to this song now, memories come flooding back of thinking that this had to have been performed by a heavy metal band).
But, back to “Come Dancing.” We didn’t have cable in 1983 which meant no MTV. I imagine that I probably heard “Come Dancing” on the radio – my parents certainly weren’t fans of The Kinks, I had no older siblings to turn me onto music, and I don’t remember listening to The Kinks with my best friend who was definitely into music (thanks, in part, to having a sister in college and access to her albums) but I can’t imagine The Kinks slipped in among the many listens to Van Halen, Rush, Ozzy, and REO Speedwagon.
I heard “Come Dancing” this morning on iHeart Radio’s “I Love the 80s” channel and … bam … transported to a little league bench, after practice, talking to a teammate named Garrett. I remember two Garretts from my childhood and I think I played on teams with both of them at some point – when this memory strikes, I don’t remember which Garrett it was. Where we talking about the song? Was somebody singing it? Was I thinking about it after practice? Those are memories I can’t dial up but sitting on the bench, in my little league uniform, that’s as clear as day (it was a sunny day).
Back in those days, when shopping at a big box department store like Caldors or Bradlees, I’m sure I convinced my mom to buy me The Kinks ‘State of Confusion’ cassette just so I could listen to “Come Dancing” over and over and over again. As I look at the tracklist now, it’s safe to say that I likely never flipped the cassette over to side B and, honestly, none of the songs on side A other than “Come Dancing” even sound familiar so safe to say that my mom bought me the cassette for the sole purpose of listening to one song.
(This will likely be a continuing series as I’m always on the lookout for Bee Gees Covers)
Been meaning to check out Dirty Streets due to comparisons to bands like Grand Funk Railroad and when I pulled them up on Spotify, discovered they released a cover of “Stayin’ Alive” in October. Love how this takes the original and spins it in a bluesy twist – the lyrics are recognizable, the melody still there but it’s not a note-for-note cover.
At 2.6 million views, this isn’t a secret but, wow, how did I not know about this?
I don’t want fully-fleshed out covers with a full compliment of instruments. I want stripped down covers where the songwriting shines through.
Simple, simple, simple. Showcase the power of the song.
Dokken/Lynch Mob guitarist George Lynch has lived by the “quantity over quality” mantra the last 5 or so years – seems like every other month there is an announcement of a new project. Some are good, some are okay, many are forgettable. The tracklisting of a recently-released covers album, Heavy Hitters, with Dokken bandmate Jeff Pilson didn’t inspire confidence – “One of Us” (Joan Osbourne), “Music” (Madonna), and “KISS” (Prince) were among the songs that I wasn’t sure I wanted (or needed) to hear. But, much to my surprise, outside of the nearly note-for-note covers of “Ordinary World” (Duran Duran) and “Apologize” (OneRepublic) (thumbs up for the D2 cover, love the original, love the cover; thumbs down for the sappy pop radio hit “Apologize”), the hard rock spin on these tracks make them sort of fun to listen to.
The album kicks off with “One of Us” and had it been true to the original, I don’t know that I would have even explored the rest of the tracks but Lynch & Pilson put a dark twist on song.
And, come on, I didn’t expect Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” to rip the way this version does.
This won’t be in heavy rotation but it earned a few spins this past weekend.
Mastodon’s Troy Sanders is the shared band member between Killer or Be Killed and Gone is Gone, both hard rock super groups in their own rights. My 2020 tastes seem to have been leaning heavily towards Americana so as the year comes to an end, I knew I needed something heavier to balance it out. I started with the new solo album by ex-Dillinger Escape Plan Greg Puciato (Child Soldier: Creator of God), which brings to mind everybody from Nine Inch Nails to Faith No More to the Deftones.
It was a pretty consistent listen the first half of October and though I certainly am not done with Puciato’s solo album, I gravitated to the Killer Be Killed album, Reluctant Hero, which came out at the end of November. Killer Be Killed features Puciato, Sanders, Sepultura/Soulfly’s Max Cavalera and Converge’s Ben Koller. Good, old-fashioned, aggressive hard rock that, were we not in the midst of a pandemic, would be fun to see in a packed club with a bunch of other sweaty, middle-aged dudes in black t-shirts.
BUT, wait, there’s more. Sanders also is part of Gone is Gone which features Queens of the Stone Age/Failure’s Troy Van Leeuwen, At the Drive-In/Sparta’s Tony Hajjar and Mike Zarin. Their new album, If Everything Happens for a Reason… Then Nothing Really Matters at All, came out in early December and Van Leeuwen’s influence can’t be understated – there’s some industrial/space rock vibes though it’s got this subdued heaviness that sneaks up on you. Three killer hard rock albums that – if I get around to a “Favorites of 2020” list – will likely earn a few spots.
Matador announced a 25th anniversary vinyl reissue of Bailterspace’s Wammo and it popped up in one of my social feeds. The name was familiar – back in the early-to-mid 90s when I writing for MOO Magazine, I’m fairly certain that Jerry (Moviola) wrote about Bailterspace, reviewed an album or even did an interview (I’ll dig through the box of MOOs I have in the basement and see if I can confirm this). Jerry and the rest of the MOO crew (who mostly also were in Moviola) represented the indie label side of the house while I gravitated more towards the major label stuff. There was some common ground (Pavement, Chavez, Guided By Voices, Ass Ponys) but this was pre-internet so unless the guys threw something in the CD player at MOO headquarters, I remained blissfully unaware of what these bands sounded like.
Looking back, wish I would have known about Bailterspace in the ’90s as the shoegazing style of music is something I liked back then (Swervedriver, My Bloody Valentine) and like now (Teenage Wrist, bdrmm). Bailterspace is a little noiser, a little more Sonic Youth than the previous mentioned bands, but I’m shocked that this last week was the first time I listened to them – the algorithms have failed in this case!
It’s always nice to discover that a long-lost band is still active and putting out new music. Much to my surprise, Bailterspace released an 8-song album in July which I discovered is available digitally on Bandcamp – I don’t believe there is a physical release at the time of this post.
I’ll only just skimmed the surface on my Bailterspace discovery but as we head into the end of 2020 and the hard break on new releases, I’ll be using the down time to keep going on this exploration.
In a nutshell, glad to have Alice In Chains back in my life again
When my friend Kim and I were seeking out alternative metal in 1990, we discovered Alice In Chains. I don’t remember if we saw the “We Die Young” video first or if we bought the Facelift cassette (released in August) but by the time Alice In Chains opened for Extreme (“More Than Words”) at the Akron Agora on September 27, 1990 we were fans.
Side note: I bought the Facelift cassette at Singing Dog Records in Columbus and remember that it sounded really bad. I was thinking to myself, “I know this is supposed to be alternative, but you can barely hear the vocals, the music sounds swampy, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to get into this” only to discover that I had gotten a defective cassette.
The show at the Akron Agora was great, pretty sure Alice In Chains scared a lot of the Extreme fans in attendance but Kim and I loved it. I have pictures of Extreme from that show but, for some reason, didn’t take any of Alice In Chains. After the show, as I did back in the day (and, well, as I often still do), I hung around by the backstage doors waiting for the bands to emerge. While waiting for Extreme, the guys in Alice In Chains did come out but, even though I was a fan of the music, they gave off a certain vibe so I didn’t approach and ask for an autograph or photo (yes, to this day I regret that).
Like most grunge fans in the ’90s, I became a big Alice In Chains fans and followed their career, buying every CD on release day and then spending hours and hours consuming the music. We all know what happened with Layne Staley and Mike Starr, and most fans should be aware that Alice In Chains reformed in 2006 with William DuVall on lead vocals and have released three great albums.
MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle) recently honored Alice In Chains with a prestigious Founders Award which recognizes artists whose “noteworthy contributions continue to nurture the next generation of risk-takers.” In this time we’re living, there couldn’t be an in-person celebration so a number of artists submitted recorded covers of Alice In Chains songs as a way to pay homage to the influential band. My favorite take was Fishbone’s horn-filled “Them Bones” cover.
The other two that I’ve gone back to many times to watch are Mark Lanegan’s gold-teeth cover of “Nutshell” and Mastodon’s dirty take on “Again”.
Irish artist Rosie Carney found a creative outlet while quarantining – covering Radiohead’s The Bends in full. And while none of the songs have been radically reinterpreted, it’s nice to hear a female voice presenting a different take on the songs, many of which have been burned into my subconscious over the years. Not sure if there is a universally-agreed upon favorite album by Radiohead fans (maybe Kid A?), but I’ve always been fond of The Bends, spent a lot of time with it when it came out and even interviewed drummer Phil Selway. Admittedly, it’s been a long time since I’ve listened to it in full (probably over a decade) so listening to Carney’s version was welcomed and something I plan on doing many times in the future. Currently available on streaming services like Spotify, hope it comes out on vinyl some day.