Uncovering the Cover

Whether you love or hate cover bands, they are a necessary part of the culture and economics of live music. They help beginners develop skills and keep professionals in their top form. More importantly, cover bands keep the idea alive that live music is important and show the next generation that it is possible to make a living (sort of) playing music. As you know, we have to keep local live music alive because that’s where we find recruits who may be strong enough to fight the Swedish Menace.

Some may complain that cover bands are stale and boring, and that’s sometimes true. But there have been bands and artists who brought such original interpretations to covers that the songs became something entirely different. Today we will take a look at a couple of bands known almost exclusively for covers, or “un-covers” as I like to call them.

Some of you may remember the Flying Lizards, best known for this cover:

This one charted at #50 in the US and at #5 in the UK in 1979. That chart position got them onto Top of the Pops, where their lip-syncing is so bad I think it was supposed to be some kind of protest.

The Flying Lizards weren’t around long. This version of “Then He Kissed Me” from 1984’s Top Ten is my favorite. I always thought the original by The Crystals was creepy. It seems more like propaganda than a love song. The emotionless vocals in the cover seem to be a better fit.

And then there is Nouvelle Vague. Lounge covers were big in the US in the late 90’s, but it took the French to perfect the lounge cover a few years later. The bossa nova beat and heavily accented vocals are oddly appropriate for this Joy Division classic.

The band took its name from both the type of music they cover and the fact that bossa nova means “new wave” Portuguese.

If you want to hear more from them I recommend this cover of The Killing Moon. It’s just about the most French thing I’ve ever seen.

I welcome posts of uncovered covers in the comments.

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