My name is Ryan Davey and I am an enthusiastic music fan born, raised, and residing in Toronto, Canada.

I want to pay tribute to the music I love and am still discovering, so this site is for sharing my thoughts, memories, and playlists of the bands, genres, and songs that have meant so much to me.

And yes, this site is named after my lifelong favourite song, “Ceremony” by Joy Division and New Order.

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General disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not represent those of any people, institutions, or organizations I may or may not be associated with in any professional or personal capacity.

Cover Songs: Volume 2

Cover Songs: Volume 2

Click below on the streaming service of your choice to listen to the playlist as your read along.

This is the second installment of a continuing series of posts exploring the art of the cover song. In the first volume I discussed how this series will allow me to shed light on great works of tribute and reinvention of others’ work, and non-original work that isn’t usually included in the Ceremony profiles. I also outlined the various types of cover songs (Straight-up; Modernization; Tempo Change; Genre Change; Reinvention) which will provide context for my discussion of the songs. So if you haven’t read the intro to the first volume, it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.

The Playlist- Song \ original artist (year) & cover artist (year)

  1. A New England \ Billy Bragg (1983) & Kirsty MacColl (1984)

  2. Tainted Love \ Gloria Jones (1965) & Soft Cell (1981)

  3. I Want to Touch You \ Catherine Wheel (1992) & Piney Gir (2006) – not on YouTube

  4. All Tomorrow's Parties \ Velvet Underground (1967) & Japan (1979)

  5. Perfect Day \ Lou Reed (1972) & Duran Duran (1995)

  6. (They Long to Be) Close to You \ The Carpenters (1970) & Ethyl Meatplow (1993) – YouTube playlist only

  7. Molly's Lips \ The Vaselines (1988) & Nirvana (1992)

  8. Only Love Can Break Your Heart \ Neil Young (1970) & Saint Etienne (1990)

  9. I Heard it Through the Grapevine \ Marvin Gaye (1968) & The Slits (1979)

  10. Hang on to Your Ego \ The Beach Boys (1966/1990) & Frank Black (1993)

In this volume we’ll look at a few of the most legendary modern rock cover songs, some of which are so well known many may not be aware they were cover songs. A couple are also songs that have been covered many times, but we’ll focus on those that set themselves apart both as the definitive of the early/original recordings as well as the cover versions. Since we so rarely listen to the originals alongside to the covers, I’m enjoying this chance to line them up together and study the contrasts directly. I hope you enjoy it too.

A New England \ Billy Bragg (1983) & Kirsty MacColl (1984)

This became Kirsty MacColl’s best known and most successful song and is one of the best known cover songs of the new wave and modern rock genres. She took Bragg’s song from only one year prior and converted his stripped down version, typically delivered in his electro-folk style, and turned it into a full-blown new wave disco song. MacColl’s success also made it one of Bragg’s best known songs.

Bragg’s song wasn’t a cover but was inspired by other artists. The first two lines, “I was twenty one years when I wrote this song / I'm twenty two now, but I won't be for long,” are taken from Simon and Garfunkel’s song, “Leaves that are Green.” Bragg has also acknowledged that the melody was inspired by Thin Lizzy’s “Cowboy Song.”

I think it is more common for cover songs to take a fast tune and slow it down, so this went against that trend by speeding up a slow song. MacColl’s song blended new wave with sixties pop and Beach Boy harmonies (a regular technique for her due to her fondness for them) to deliver a delicious and incredibly addictive song. It was a favourite of mine as a teenager and still gets cranked when I listen to it. The extended version was also a rare gem for that format by extending the wonderful intro (YouTube playlist only).

Bragg and MacColl in Billy’s video for 1991’s “Sexuality,” in which Kirsty provided backing vocals

Bragg and MacColl in Billy’s video for 1991’s “Sexuality,” in which Kirsty provided backing vocals

MacColl’s version also had several lyric changes, particularly to change the song from the male perspective to the female, which made sense given the gender change in the vocals. The lyric changes were in the first verse from Bragg’s, “People ask me when will you grow up to be a man / But all the girls I loved at school / Are already pushing prams,” to MacColl’s “People ask me when will I grow up to understand / Why the girls I knew at school / Were already pushing prams;” and then “Though I put you on a pedestal / They put you on the pill,” to “Though I put you on a pedestal / You put me on the pill.” The chorus was also adjusted from “I'm just looking for another girl,” to “Are you looking for another girl.” Finally, on Kirsty’s behest Bragg wrote an additional verse for her, which was the last verse of the song before the final chorus repeat. Bragg includes this version when he performs it now as a tribute to MacColl, who passed away in 2000.

This was a reinvention and a tempo change, as the song went from being a politically tinged song of love and estrangement from a man to a woman’s assertion of female power and lament from a women to a man. Musically it went from being course and bare to polished and sweeping (with thanks from Kirsty’s husband, producer Steve Lillywhite). It was a great translation of the song in both aspects.

This song was a good example how a cover can help a career, as MacColl’s profile increased significantly with this song. Ironically, she was on the other side of this equation when her 1979 song, “They Don’t Know,” was covered by Tracey Ullman in 1983, with the actress and comedienne having a top ten international hit with it.

Tainted Love \ Gloria Jones (1965) & Soft Cell (1981)

This was yet another example of how Motown and R&B songs from the ‘60s provided great fodder for rock and modern rock artists to update and share the great music of that original time. It was also another titan of the early new wave era that crossed over into the mainstream, and in which its success rendered Soft Cell a one-hit wonder despite the duo and singer, Marc Almond, having a long career.

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“Tainted Love” was written by Ed Cobb, recorded by Gloria Jones, and released in 1965. The song failed to make a mark but did catch on as part of the Northern Soul movement in the UK, becoming popular within that scene over the 1970s, which is probably how Marc Almond came across it. Almond and David Ball made up Soft Cell, an electronic pop duo that had been around for a few years and had one failed single when they released their cover of Jones’ song in 1981. It was a huge hit, going to #1 around the world and becoming the ‘song of the year’ in the UK. It also made their album, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, a success as well as, to a lesser degree, the follow-up albums and singles for the next few years but only in the UK. Eventually Almond went solo and the band was never able to repeat the huge success of “Tainted Love.” To add further insult, since the B-side was a cover of The Supremes “Where Did Our Love Go” (the songs were blended for the extended version, 12” single of “Tainted Love”) the royalties of the huge selling single paid very little to Soft Cell.

Electronic music often has success by taking R&B songs and simplifying them into a simple beat and synth line, with a replication of the melody through the vocals. This was a classic example. The original was classic Motown, with a quick, steady beat, horns, and strong, gospel-like vocals. Soft Cell’s version slowed it down, rode a simple electronic beat and smooth synth line, and Almond’s muted (but still expressive) vocal allowed the sublime melody and catchy, rhyming lyrics to shine through. It was a breakthrough hit for new wave since it had all the markers of a classic Motown song but delivered through the modern sound and genre. It was a great cover since it drew on many of the classic styles of a cover: tempo, genre, modernization, and reinvention; not to mention a gender change in the vocals.

I Want to Touch You \ Catherine Wheel (1992) & Piney Gir (2006) – Spotify and Google Play only

This was a very similar cover to “Tainted Love,” but with the original drawn from the not-so-distant shoegaze genre. Catherine Wheel was one of the better and more accessible acts from that era, and “I Want to Touch You” was their most pop-oriented and successful song, reaching #35 on the UK charts. The song came from the band’s debut album, Ferment, in 1992.

Piney Gir (pronounced ‘gear’) is an American singer based out of London, England. She blends electronica and country with an alt-indie style. She has a strong voice that can be delivered in many different ways depending on the style of her music. This cover song appeared on a compilation, Never Lose that Feeling Vol 2, between her first album, which was electronic alt-pop, and her second album, which was country. The compilation was part of a series issued by Club AC30 in which current artists covered songs from the shoegaze era.

Gir’s cover was another simplified, slower, stark electronica cover – like “Tainted Love” – that hid the original and sprung a surprise when it suddenly became clear what it was. Performing a shoegaze, wall of sound song via a simple disco beat and light, twinkling keyboards, and the melody delivered by harmonized vocals made for an affecting reinterpretation. In shoegaze the vocals were buried in the mix, but in Piney’s version the vocals were the main attraction. In this song you could hear the variety in which she presented her voice, which kept it interesting despite the simplicity of the backing track.

I stumbled across this song thanks to recommendations and lists that crop up on streaming services, discovering it only a couple years ago, and it’s one of my favourite finds of the last while.

All Tomorrow’s Parties \ Velvet Underground and Nico (1967) & Japan (1979)

Japan was one of the most interesting bands of the post-punk era. Like so many bands of that time (and any other time, for that matter) they made a habit of paying tribute to the artists that had influenced them. They were a band that proved quite adept at cover songs, with some of their best known and highest charting songs being their covers. It was their second cover song (the first was on their first album and was “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from the musical Funny Girl) and appeared on their third album, Quiet Life.

Velvet Underground was one of the most legendary and original rock acts and probably the one that set in motion the sounds that would become modern rock. Therefore, despite a limited discography they are one of the most covered acts by modern rock artists, and this song in particular has been covered by many artists. Their first album, Velvet Underground & Nico, from which “All Tomorrow’s Parties” was included, was especially ground breaking for its avant garde sound during an explosive year for rock music (and in which most of the songs have been covered many times over the years). Led by the creative team of Lou Reed and John Cale, this was a Lou Reed composition marked, as the whole album was, by the flat baritone of Nico (Christa Päffgen), a German actress, model, and by then, singer. She and the Velvet Underground were the house band for artist Andy Warhol’s factory scene, and the psychedelic, droning, and somewhat chaotic vibe and lyrics of the song suited that crowd.

Japan’s take appeared on their landmark synth-new wave album, 1979’s Quiet Life. The song would be re-recorded and released as a single in 1983 and be included on their compilation album, Assemblage. The synths and David Sylvian’s voice captured the droning quality of the original while the guitar and bass offered a less chaotic but still affecting backdrop. Sylvian’s charismatic voice offered much more warmth and talent than Nico’s but the tenor of the delivery didn’t stray far from the original. A little sax gave the song more flavour. Overall it was a more stylish, contemporary, and accessible version of the song, making it a genre and modernization cover more than a reinvention. As a fan of both bands, it was a wonderful blend of both.

Perfect Day \ Lou Reed (1972) & Duran Duran (1995)

Let’s stick with Lou Reed, who after his time with the Velvets went solo and with his second release issued one of the most acclaimed albums of the early ‘70s glam rock era, Transformer. The album was produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, who by the time of Transformer’s release at the end of 1972 were riding high on the success of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, released five months earlier. A double-A side single was issued from Transformer with “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Perfect Day,” two lovely songs that, like the album, captured a more polished and soulful Lou Reed than had been seen with Velvet Underground. They are the signature songs of Reed’s career.

Perfect Day is one of those songs that would sound wonderful no matter who did it. It is timeless, right down to the lyrics which captured a day in Central Park for Reed and his girlfriend of the time, Bettye Kronstad (later his wife). It undoubtedly benefitted from Bowie and Ronson who contributed piano and keyboards and the string arrangements for the song, which were only the dominant aspects of the song’s beauty. It was a song with simple but affecting phrasing, delivered by Reed in an almost spoken manner, and captured seeming wonder and melancholy all at the same time. Reed’s song was popularised again in 1996 when it was used in the film, Trainspotting, and then used by the BBC for a promo featuring a variety of artists in 1997, a version that reached #1 in the UK charts and included none other than Reed himself.

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Before those later versions, Duran Duran issued a version in 1995 as part of a covers album, Thank You. By then the darlings of the British pop and new romantic scenes of the ‘80s had fallen out of favour with declining sales and interest through the grunge and Madchester scenes in Britain. Their prior self-titled album (commonly known as ‘The Wedding Album’) in 1993 had helped resuscitate their career with songs like “Come Undone” and “Ordinary World” (and incidentally a cover of Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale”). It had presented a newer, more mature Duran Duran featuring lush arrangements, strong melodies, and a toned down Simon Le Bon on vocals. For those, like me, who had found the band a bit too much and Le Bon to shrill during their heyday, this was a welcome change and called for some re-evaluation.

The release of Thank You by the band in 1995 was a dubious prospect. Cover albums always seem like a cop out of sorts, an easy way to get new music out that will attract attention and garner sales without having to go through the challenge of writing (which may depend on the extent of reinvention of the songs). For Duran Duran, it was easy to see it as a play to re-build credibility and interest in their aging fan base. I say ‘credibility’ since their pop status had relegated them as a lightweight and style-based act during their heyday, pop stars not worthy of serious consideration by more serious listeners. Their first album had been a great new wave album, but the next two with their slick, high-budget videos and huge tours pushed the style ahead of the substance (over time I’ve come to admit some of those songs are pretty decent). So releasing an album of covers featuring songs from ‘70s icons (Reed and Iggy Pop), recent and original rap pioneers (Public Enemy and Melle Mel), and classic rockers (Sly & the Family Stone, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan and The Doors) seemed an attempt to link their legacy to artistic pioneers. Indeed, a benefit of covers can be to link an artist to the fans and reputation of another, which might broaden the appeal of the cover artist by exposing them to the fans of the originals’. Thank You was a bit scattered and hit and miss, and critics eviscerated it. Personally, I thought it was pretty good and enjoyed hearing them try their hand at such a variety of songs. It continued to force my reconsideration.

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The Duran cover of “Perfect Day” was straight-up, with a modernization through the slicker production and fuller sound. Le Bon’s voice, as on the prior album, was restrained and blended beautifully with the broad musical arrangement. His voice couldn’t hope to repeat the tenor of Lou Reed’s, but he thankfully stuck to the subdued, spoken delivery. The piano of the original was more synthesized and paired with a nice guitar interlude. A soulful female backing over the outro gave it a further flourish. Some would likely see it as over-the-top, but back to my first comment, it is pretty tough to make a bad version of this song.

Thank You failed to sustain Duran Duran’s renewed popularity and despite their version of “Perfect Day” reaching #28 in the UK chart, it has likely been forgotten due to the 1996 and 1997 popularizations noted above. The band managed some further, mid-charting hits over the years (e.g. “Electric Barbarella” in 1997), but has been unable to re-assert themselves as the chart toppers they were in their early career.

(They Long to Be) Close to You \ The Carpenters (1970) & Ethyl Meatplow (1993) – YouTube playlist only

This was another cover of a Hal David and Burt Bacharach song, a duo I featured in volume one per The Stranglers cover of “Walk on By.” Dionne Warwick, who had the original success of “Walk on By,” also recorded this song for the same album, issuing it as a B-side for her single, “Here I Am,” in 1965. The first release of “They Long to Be Close to You” was by actor Richard Chamberlain (the title of his version had no parentheses) in 1963, but it was The Carpenters version in 1970, backed by the famous studio collective, the Wrecking Crew, that became the definitive version and was a huge #1 hit for the brother and sister duo. It was classic Bacharach/David and The Carpenters, full of sweetness, piano, strings, and Karen Carpenter’s flawless voice. It has been a song covered often over the years, most notably for modern rock fans by Irish group, The Cranberries, on the 1994 tribute album, If I Were A Carpenter.

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There was one cover version relatively unknown due to the obscurity of its artist, Ethyl Meatplow. You’ll only find this on the YouTube playlist since their only album isn’t available on streaming services. There have been few acts like Ethyl Meatplow, whose sound defied categorization other than just ‘alternative,’ though the aggressive beats and heavy keyboards lent itself to an industrial classification. They were brash, aggressive in sound and attitude, profane, and outlandish in their appearance and shows, which usually included nude burlesque dancers. Their 1993 album, Happy Days, Sweetheart, was a wonderfully chaotic, disturbing, exhilarating, and fantastic listen. Song after song offered up a smorgasbord of thick basslines, pounding drums, strong vocals, and hook-filled songs of noise and beauty. It was a favourite of mine that year. Naturally, they came and went with nary a notice from record buyers, despite scoring slots on Lollapalooza and opening for the likes of Nitzer Ebb, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, and Front 242.

Ethyl’s cover was just titled “Close to You” and if you didn’t know it was a cover going in, it could take a few listens to realize it was one and the same as The Carpenters’ song. It had all the elements of an Ethyl song, making it truly their own in a complete reinvention. As sweet and light as the original was, this was as aggressive and dark. The lyrics were shouted, spit, screamed, and rapped by Carla Bozulich with backing from Biff Barefoot Sanders, while the song was catapulted along by thundering drums from John Napier. This to me, was everything a cover song should be.

Molly’s Lips \ The Vaselines (1988) & Nirvana (1992)

The Vaselines were a Scottish group that were helped in stature by Kurt Cobain, who cited them as one of his favourite bands. Over their short career Nirvana would release no less than three covers of their songs, including one, “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for A Sunbeam,” on their famous ‘unplugged’ performance. Their cover of “Molly’s Lips” is my favourite Nirvana track.

The Vaselines were led by Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee and only existed for a few years. Nirvana’s exposure to their music prompted a short reformation in 1990 and the band got back together for good in 2006. Between 1987 and 1989 they would issue two EPs and an album, with the two EPs getting some moderate chart success on the UK Indie Charts. “Molly’s Lips” was on the Dying for It EP in 1988 and was typical of their sound with raw guitars, a steady pace, and thin vocals. It included a horn such as you would hear in an old-fashioned clown show. Their recordings were sparse with poor production and their style bridged ‘80s bands like the Violent Femmes to the grunge bands of the early ‘90s. It was easy to see why Nirvana liked their sound as The Vaselines’ songs sounded like grunge demos.

Nirvana first covered The Vaselines on the Hormoaning EP, released only in Australia and Japan early in 1992 and shortly after the release of their massive breakout, Nevermind. The band was still a 3-piece and four of the songs on the EP were from a 1990 Peel Session recording for the BBC. Along with covers of songs by Devo and the Wipers were two songs from The Vaselines, “Son of A Gun” and “Molly’s Lips.” All the tracks would appear later that year on the Incesticide compilation. It was another cover that sped up the original, but its foundation was so pure that it simply begged for it. Cobain rode a tight, repeating, accelerating guitar riff that propelled the song at a breathtaking pace. Kurt’s usually rough vocal with the repeating lyrics, “She’d take me anywhere,” and the chorus, “Kiss, kiss, Molly’s lips,” gave it the right edge and energy to go with the riff, and at just under two minutes, culminated in a wonderfully infectious little punk song. It was a regular at my club of choice at the time, the Dance Cave (upstairs from Lee’s Palace in Toronto), and I always made sure to get out on the dance floor and hurl myself around to this tune.

As a cover this was mostly straight-up since it was roughly at the same time and genre as the original, and not much of a reinvention other than the better production, heavier guitar, and change in gender on the vocal. It was just a superior band taking a great song and giving it the treatment it deserved. Sometimes a straight-up cover by a better artist can deliver a result better than the original, and this was totally the case with “Molly’s Lips.” And if you liked this, for certain check out the other Nirvana covers of The Vaselines because they were great too.

Only Love Can Break Your Heart \ Neil Young (1970) & Saint Etienne (1990)

This was an example of a band using a known song to help propel their career. It doesn’t always work but for Saint Etienne it did very well for them.

“Only Love Can Break Your Heart” appeared on Neil Young’s breakout solo record, After the Gold Rush, the success of which set him up for even greater heights with the follow-up, Harvest. After the Gold Rush was an amazing album with a variety of songs that allowed the Canadian performer to move capably through his many forms of folk, country, and rock. This song was the third on side one, following the title track and was the consummate sound of the album. It mixed acoustic guitar and piano behind his plaintive voice which harmonized throughout with his great band, Crazy Horse. The song had the typically affecting Young phrasing and hooks, so simply delivered yet such that they blazed a trail into your subconscious. Lyrically it wasn’t Neil’s strongest tune, but that helped because the words took a backseat to the music on this one. The song was the first single from the album and reached #33 in the US, his best showing yet until “Heart of Gold” took him to #1 the following year.

Saint Etienne’s cover was their first single and was so catchy it helped the band get signed to a label and lifted their debut album, Foxbase Alpha, to #34 in the UK charts. The single reached #95 in the UK (it would reach #33 when re-released a year later) and #97 in the US, also getting to #1 on the US Dance chart. The first album used a variety of singers, with Moira Lambert doing the vocals on this track. Sarah Cracknell would eventually assume the full-time job.

This was a wonderful cover that reinterpreted a folk-rock song into a dance track. Nothing in the music resembled the original, with only the vocal maintaining the melody from Neil’s version. By smartly keeping the phrasing and melody of the original it worked as a great hook along with the bouncing bass groove and catchy piano and breakbeat rhythm. It was the first example of the band’s penchant for mixing modern grooves with old-time R&B and pop melodies, a formula that did well for them over the following years. Neil Young is often covered, but this was one of the most original to come along and put Saint Etienne at the heart of the rising electronic dance scene in 1990s Britain. A British dance band covering a Canadian folk-rocker was an inspiring choice.

I Heard It Through the Grapevine \ Marvin Gaye (1968) & The Slits (1979)

Yet another great punk cover of a classic ‘60s R&B song. The juxtaposition of hearing Marvin Gaye’s song delivered by an all-girl punk band was as exhilarating as the song itself.

“I Heart It Through the Grapevine” was one of the biggest songs of the Motown era. It was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, a pair that wrote many Motown songs such as “War,” “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone,” and “Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)” (Strong was also the first performer of “Money (That’s What I Want)”). It was first recorded by Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1967 and reached #2 in the US. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and Marvin Gaye both released it in 1968 but over time it’s been Gaye’s that has become the best known take. It was such a great song with a strong melody and solid groove that it has been covered by a wide range of artists from various genres. Most notably for rock fans was Creedence Clearwater Revival’s eleven minute version issued in 1970 on their #1 album, Cosmos Factory. CCR released it later as a single in 1973 and again in 1976, both times to promote compilation albums.

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The Slits were one of the first all-female modern rock acts and a rare entity in the punk world. By the time of the recording of their seminal album, Cut, their raw punk sound was getting refined and they were mixing in ska/reggae sounds and developing a post-punk sound. Their cover of “I Heart It Through the Grapevine” was the B-side to their first single, “Typical Girls” (a song also later claimed as a favourite by Kurt Cobain), and included as a bonus track to later releases of Cut. The band employed a reggae dub to the song, a disco beat, and Ari Up’s accent-riddled, wild, and intoxicating vocal performance was the perfect foil to the music and completely reversed the impressions of the song from its Motown forebears. This is what was great about The Slits performance, it took a Motown classic and seemed to not give a shit about what they did with it, making it their own and along the way throwing anything in that suited their sound and made the song work – yet, the song holds true to the original melody and its addictive groove. You can totally hear the original, but this version bore no resemblance. It was a version of the song I fell in love with the first time I heard it.

Hang on to Your Ego \ The Beach Boys (1966/1990) & Frank Black (1993)

For quite awhile I only knew this song as a great Frank Black (aka Black Francis) song off his first solo album after The Pixies original break-up. It was the second single off the album (after “Los Angeles”) and helped establish Black’s solo career. Snarling with typically grungy/Pixies guitar and great lyrical melody and phrasing, it seemed very much in the wheelhouse of its artist. I love a steady-paced, rockin’ tune, and this too fit my wheelhouse.

My brother-in-law, Pete, has been on a big Beach Boys kick recently, and in particular a fascination with their seminal album, Pet Sounds. His interest encouraged me to go back and listen to the album with a more critical ear. It is considered one of the greatest rock albums of all time after all, so it shouldn’t be a hard sell, but for a modern rock fan like me The Beach Boys are a stretch – I prefer the artists and sounds inspired by them. You can tell Pet Sounds was an album I didn’t know well given I didn’t recognize the association of Frank Black’s song to it. While reading about the album and listening to it I discovered the story behind the song that Frank Black covered, which was more interesting than my own circuitous route to it.

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Famously, Brian Wilson wrote (with Tony Asher) and recorded backing tracks for Pet Sounds after he stopped performing and the band was on tour in Japan. The experimental nature of the songs gave the other Beach Boys pause when they returned to California and heard the new batch of songs. Mike Love was particularly resistant to the new sounds and one song in particular, “Hang on to Your Ego,” which he felt was too related to drug use and LSD-induced, psychedelic trips. The idea of hanging on to one’s ego related to not losing oneself while on the drug (users thought this was the point, while people like Love feared it), so the lyric, “Hang on to your ego / Hang on but I know that you’re gonna lose the fight” suggested to Love a sympathy with the drug user’s viewpoint.

Mike Love and Brian Wilson debated the lyrics and Love threatened to boycott the song. Relenting, the song was changed first to “Let Go of Your Ego” and then to “I Know There’s an Answer,” which was the song that eventually ended up on Pet Sounds, with Love and Al Jardine assuming the lead vocals from Wilson, who had sung the original version but only provided harmonies on the final. The troublesome ‘hang on to your ego’ lyrics were changed to, “I know there’s an answer / I know now but I have to find it myself.” The song was originally credited to Wilson and the band’s road manager, Terry Sachen, but Love’s name was added as a co-writer after a court decision in 1994.

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The original recording of “Hang on to Your Ego” remained in the vaults until it was included as a bonus track in a 1990 re-issue of Pet Sounds. It was the same song as “I Know There’s an Answer” but with the original lyric and Brian Wilson on the vocal, so the harmonies of the changed version were gone. Otherwise it was typical of the sound on Pet Sounds, large, built on the vocals with a dramatic backing of intriguing combinations of instruments, including timpani drums, bass, a simple organ line, harmonica, banjo, tambourine, and sax. Black’s version was a modernization but far less complex and more direct, employing the energy and force of his typically thick and powerful guitar, a repeating synth riff, propulsive drums, and a rolling bassline. There are no Beach Boy harmonies, just Black’s typically direct vocal layered just above the mix. The treatment was straightforward with no significant change to the song’s structure, but again it was the less common speeding up of a song, a technique clearly favoured with those punk-minded.


So there is another batch of cover songs, some well known and some not so much. It’s another batch of inventive interpretations of songs that, by hearing them side by side, I hope are appreciated all the more. Stay tuned for more volumes since I have plenty to draw from within this topic.

The Gospel According to the Meninblack: a Retrospective of The Stranglers

The Gospel According to the Meninblack: a Retrospective of The Stranglers

Cover Songs: Volume 1

Cover Songs: Volume 1