Monday, January 25, 2010


"The follow-up to a massive hit can go several ways, but the main possibilities include: 1) an almost exact simulation, a lucky strike turned into a formula or 2) the hit is used as a springboard to go deeper and weirder, with the added confidence caused by unexpected success. The results in the latter case can be explosive: just think of the Kinks' All Day and All of the Night." Jon Savage, The Guardian, 1/25/10.

Savage has a nice article today on a Soft Cell single I'd never heard before, and his description above of the creative dilemma of the second single is spot on.

Monday, January 18, 2010


The Smiths/Morrissey fansite Passions Just Like Mine, an exhaustive summary of the borrowings of an allusive master, in an SftD must-read. The site reveals Morrissey as a songwriter set on filtering what he heard (and saw) through his own voice. Especially interesting is the section on the plays of Shelagh Delaney, whose A Taste of Honey and The Lion in Love are a veritable Rosetta Stone for the Smiths' early material.

Here's a line (from a song which the Passions site says may refer to Delaney) reworking Bowie...

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Yesterday's post looked at the covers from Nirvana's Peel Session. A few weeks later the band recorded with BBC DJ Mark Goodier and recorded this adrenalized, "New Wave" remake of "Polly"...

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Nirvana did two sessions for the BBC just as Nevermind was breaking in the U.S. (Several of the songs were released on Incesticide.) The first was with John Peel and included these Devo and Vaselines' covers...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Jay Reatard died yesterday. His last release was this track from a tribute album for New Zealand musician Chris Knox, who suffered a stroke last year. (The original by Knox's band Toy Love can be heard here.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


A lot of dubstep washes over me with little effect... here's a track that is shadowy and disorienting, an example of everything that does work in the genre. The vocal sample works hard here, disembodying Diana Ross and leaving her lonely with no hope of resolution...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I caught Scratch on Pitchfork TV this week. Pretty much every DJ cited GrandMixer DXT and "Rockit" as their original inspiration. Usually I would want to A/B the source and the transformation—DXT is mixing some record—but here it seems besides the point: the original has been obscured beyond recognition

On the other hand, here's another track mentioned in the movie whose purpose is to call specific attention to traditional DJ source material.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Saturday, January 9, 2010


"Dancing Days" is here again...


Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" minus the Fab Four equals the Pavement unity... (Sick of passing over the Beatles—still not easily available online for sampling—I've decided to give some attention to Booker T. & the MGs' 1970 Abbey Road covers, Mclemore Avenue.)


...All the reviews noticed Buddy Holly in "Silent Kit" except Matt Diehl's Rolling Stone which offered the following list of allusions, some clearer than others. (I can honestly say I never heard "Raspberry Beret" in "Cut Your Hair"!)

"Sly and the Family Stone's 'Everyday People,' Free's "All Right Now" and Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction" are all touched on in the opener "Silent Kids" – before the first chorus! Elsewhere, "Cut Your Hair" offers a more-than-passing resemblance to Prince's "Raspberry Beret," "5 – 4 = Unity" incorporates the guitar line from the Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," and "Range Life" ends audaciously with the riff from Billy Squier's "Everybody Wants You." -Matt Diehl, RS 2/24/94 [via].


All the reviews of Crooked Rain mentioned the similarities in the verse melodies of these two songs...


Pavement loved the Fall and Mark E. Smith noticed. Here are the two songs which are most frequently cited for their similarities to the Fall, the first striking, the second subtle.


"Here", two ways...

Gold Soundzes

This week Pavement announced a greatest hits release for March. It's a good time then this weekend for a SftD look at Pavement, their influences, and so on. Today, the influences, tomorrow the covers.

This will only scratch the surface of a band who were constantly reworking the past. Add anything else you hear in the comments. (Scratching the surface, by the way, is a literal description of the album cover design for Watery, Domestic)

[Album cover via Matador Records]

Friday, January 8, 2010


When reading up on the SftD #4 Top Sample of the '00s, "Bitter Sweet Symphony", I came across "Copyright and Music: A History Told in MP3's" on the the Illegal Art website. A nice summary of the major legal cases involving sampling, musical imitation, etc.

The article includes two cases involving Elastica. The Wire case I knew, the Stranglers one I didn't, although the influence is hardly hidden.

The article doesn't mention this one specifically, but the similarities between these two songs has been much discussed as well.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mitchells (pt. 2)

Great producers unsurprisingly make great samples.


"The interpretations of country weepers by Hank Williams and Willie Nelson are definitive." Robert Christgau on Al Green's Call Me. Green's sound blends genres so easily and a large part of this is Willie Mitchell's production, especially the insistent hi-hat/snare that drive even his most laid back hits. Mitchell died Tuesday. Here are his two country "interpretations" from Call Me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Moneys (pt. 2)

Yesterday's post mentioned an updated electro-financial sound in the Flaming Lips' cover of "Money". I wonder whether there is a second influence at work. Flying Lizard's "Money (That's What I Want)" updates its Motown original in a similar way.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


The Flaming Lips—who had the SftD #2 Cover of the '00s—released a full-album cover of Dark Side of the Moon last week. Fun stuff, especially the recreation of the random interview snippets. Like the original, this is best experienced as a whole, probably with headphones on and red-laser drawings overhead, but the cover of "Money" has a clever angle that calls for special attention. Gone are the clinking coins, ripping receipts and cash-register ka-chings, replaced with electronic noises far more appropriate for the financial stresses of 2010.

Money [feat. Henry Rollins] - ...

The Lips answer for "How would you cover 'On the Run'?" is worth some extra songs today.

[photo via wikimedia]

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sunday, January 3, 2010


"I like using the TV as reality and part of reality. The images on TV just go by like time does, but in that flow like life, there are possible portraits... I like the way I realize I am taking a photograph of a frame from a film/video that shows a person who appears to have been seen only by me." Elaine Mayes on photographing musicians on television, like this 1983 portrait of Debbie Harry.

I was over at the Who Shot Rock and Roll exhibition last night at the Brooklyn Museum. Lots of great stuff. Any chance to see the Houses of the Holy artwork is fantastic. Lots of SftD themes come to the surface when dealing with music photography. One photographer, Elaine Mayes, in particular caught my interest. Her 1980s series "Portraits of Musicians on Television" captures a particularly nested artistic gesture—a picture of a picture of a performance of a song.

[photo via Morrison Hotel Gallery]

Saturday, January 2, 2010


A favorite "remix" from last year that didn't fit in either the top samples or covers list. Jon Brion seems to have kept the vocal track and re-recorded everything else. A beautiful simplification—he's even simplified the song's title to something more obvious.

Friday, January 1, 2010


Happy New Year! Here's a good illustration of what separates, in my opinion, versions from covers...

Here Relient K is clearly imitating the Beach Boys' version of "Auld Lang Syne", down to the spoken word "Thank you" in the middle. The Beach Boys are simply performing their version of the song.

Covers are imitations of performances, versions are imitations of songs.

Top Covers '00s: #1

Is this what Sufjan Steven's hears when he listens to the Beatles? Is it a serious attempt to challenge our assumptions about the Beatles? Is it an elaborate joke?

What we have here is the rock and roll version anxiety of influence. The Beatles are the ones to beat. Stevens makes a bold move and as opposed to most of the other covers on this tribute to the Rubber Soul, the Beatles walk away sounding like Steven's, not vice versa. "What Goes On" makes an easy target—it's not like he took on "Hard Day's Night" or "Hey Jude"—but it also ensured a decisive win. The song only is recognizable in flashes. The lyrics aren't changed but may as well be—"You didn't even think of me with someone with a name" sound wistful in a rock shuffle, but absolutely devastating in Steven's shuffled rock.

The Beatles' Rubber Soul took its name from a footwear pun so weak it has since been neatly set aside and forgotten. But if the joke was meant to suggest that the Beatles had stretched the definition of "soul," Sufjan Stevens stretches it beyond recognition.