I’m riffing here on my friend Botross’ post about his theory that Rod Stewart covered “Downtown Train” by Tom Waits to hurt Botross personally. Rod is vindictive that way. It got me thinking about different varieties of cover songs. You often times have versions like Rod Stewart’s where the original song is a masterpiece and the covering artist doesn’t do the original work justice, at least in the opinion of some (possibly unhinged) people.
Sometimes you have a great song where the artist does the song justice but stays in the motif of the original. Think Maxwell’s cover of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work.” No insult to the original artist. Pleasant to listen to, but perhaps a bit too on the nose. It does the original justice, but it doesn’t break too much new ground.
Very occasionally you have a song that’s great to begin with and the covering artist makes it completely their own. The Magnetic Fields’ “Book of Love” is a wonderful song, but Peter Gabriel’s version makes it completely his own. I could listen to them both all day, but they hardly even register as the same song. Magnificent variations of the same fantastic work.
Then we come to something I hadn’t seen before: What if an artist who was showing great promise decided to cover one of the worst songs ever written. And then in the process they somehow made it worse? They took everything that was horrible about the original, things that you never thought they’d emulate, and threw in a few horrible notes of their own. By now you probably see where this analogy is going.
Bush created a song I thought would never be topped for horror. And maybe it’s just because Obama was an aspiring young artist who I thought was going to do great things, but his version sounds even worse. I still have the PATRIOT act, but now you can throw in naked TSA scanners and the explicit right of the president to assassinate US citizens. I still have two wars. I still have a governmental desire to control the media, but now I literally have the administration coordinating persecution of those who spread facts they don’t want known. Oh and did I mention the tax cuts?
I didn’t like this song by the original artist. I definitely didn’t want to hear it again.