My Year in Cover Versions
by Michele Christopher
Welcome another new member of the FTTW cabal, NY musician Dfactor. His weekly column will detail his 2006 effort to record a rock and roll cover version each month. He relives the agony and the ecstasy here at FTTW.
Hi – I’m Dfactor, a NYC blogger/singer/songwriter
Faster Than the World has invited me to come in and write a bit about my 2006 recording project, the 12 Covers-12 Months series that I started in January 2006. I’ve been recording and singing for five years prior with my NYC pop outfit Anthemic Pop Wonder but as that tailed off in late ’04 I found myself in 2005 writing a bunch of news songs and learning a load of covers. So when I bought an inexpensive Fostex 8track recorder for Christmas 2005, I wanted to break it in a fun, creative way.
And what better way than doing covers? Everyone’s doing rock and roll covers these days. Rock is old - 50 years old in 2006, give or take. But its rollicking backbeat and crashing guitars still make it a joy to play and remember. Cover versions usually go in one of two ways – a faithful rendition, meant to evoke the original’s charm and excitement with one’s own take on it, or a reinvention rendition, where covers are completely deconstructed and popped back together with much more of the covering artists’ sensibility.
I’ve never quite understood the latter– why go to the effort to do a cover if you’re not going to invoke at least some of the timelessness of what makes it a great song?
January cover – The Seeds “Pushin’ Too Hard”
In the spirit of restarting my recording efforts back to the garage (or in my NYC apt dwelling experience, back to the bedroom) I started my series with the easiest song I know - a cover of the garage rock classic The Seeds “Pushin’ Too Hard”. It’s a pumpin’ snarly two-chord smash up that made waves upon its initial release, eventually reaching #36 on the pop singles chart in early 1967.
How cool is this song? Two chords all the way through (used later by The Modern Lovers to nearly similar effect on “Roadrunner”), chintzy organ and barely detectable drums, all fronted by Sky Saxon’s punk-laden vocals. One can’t get any better than that if you like rock and punk.
My older brothers had a garage rock basement band in the mid-late 1960s. Covers by The Cyrkle, the Lovin Spoonful, Music Machine, Cryin’ Shames and others you’ll find on the Nuggets box set filled their setlists. And I used to sit on the basement stairs,
From their record collection, I learned about 60s garage rock. And it hasn’t left me since.
I didn’t even know how to use my new Fostex when I started recording. I just laid up the mics, played my chords and guitar solo and used an old Casio I had laying around for the chintzy keyboard sound. I sure wasn’t trying to invoke the Summer of Love, but more of a Season of Fun.
February Cover – The Jam “That’s Entertainment”
Now after I’d finished and posted the Seeds’ cover, I enlisted my pal Mike I to help out with getting me set up on ProTools mixing software. We met and Mike walked me through Protools mixing essentials, and I think I was able to play with it a bit before recording my February
I’ve been a huge fan of The Jam, having seen them several times live as a young
punk in Chicago (Park West ’80 and Aragon Ballroom ‘82, an amazingly
fiery show that was duly noted with “SWITCH Chicago gig, brilliant!”on the
back of the Dig the New Breed! Live LP - it was!). Paul Weller always played as if his life depended on it. He was young, talented and cocky, and made a lasting influence on young’ns like Oasis’ Noel Gallagher.
I’ve tried to cover other songs by The Jam, but my guitar playing doesn’t sound at all like the slash and burn rhythmic stylings of Paul Weller, so I couldn’t really do justice to great rockers like “Private Hell”, “Thick as Thieves” or “Running from the Spot” and other mid-to-late period classics.
So I picked the easiest song by The Jam to play – “That’s Entertainment”, the classic slice of British life focused around the mundane, the tea cup, football pitch and drizzling
rain. Capo 4th fret (3rd?) and four or five chords. I used some wooden blocks to try to get the sound of echoes in the song’s background. And for the first time recording, I tried some backwards guitar, which came into play on my cover as well. Came out alright, methinks.
And just this week Paul Weller announced plans to play a 3-night stand at New York‘s Irving Plaza in January 2007 to play the music of The Jam, the Style Council and his solo music over the course for the three night stand. I’ve already picked up tickets and am very excited to reconnect with the Godfather of Mod.
– Edison Lighthouse “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Grows)”
Yummy pop fun! I had a blast recording this one – this 1970 pop song was created by studio musicians operating under different pop band umbrellas, with various pop hits to their credit.
With “Love Grows”, I wanted to rock this one up a bit, as the original is pretty pop smooth. Crank up the guitars and make ‘em a little rough. Again, I pulled out the Casio for the middle solo bit.
From this formative time period of my pop youth, I could’ve picked a number of similar sounding great pop songs – Badfinger’s “No Matter What” or “Baby Blue”, The
Raspberries “Tonight” or “Go All the Way” or others.
This song has great melody, cool guitar chords, a ‘truckers-chord’ cool key change near the end and a happy love song disposition. And since I’m a sucker for love, it works in my favor. It would be hard for me to cover angry emotional songs; it just ain’t me baby.
– Screams “Paper Dolls”
This cover of “Paper Dolls” is directly from my record collection. was a Midwestern hard pop rock band from the Champaign, Illinois region, a very fertile musical breeding ground in the 1970s. I must’ve
bought this LP when I was reading long-ago Chicago-area music mags like Triad, which exposed to me to a lot of underground music. Not that Screams was underground; they were very much in the Cheap Trick/Off Broadway mold of hard pop that I’ve enjoyed my whole life, and fashioned my early ’00 band Anthemic Pop Wonder around that sound.
The whole LP is good, but I was most fond of “Paper Dolls” and the way it takes off at the end. Nice chord change from major to minor in the verses, and a rollicking good
vocal. Banging the drums on this recording was a blast.
After this song went up, Screams original singer (and songwriter) David Adams reached out to me and congratulated me on the effort – he liked the way I used ‘alright’ in the intro as a count-off. He’s even posted the LP as MP3s on his business home page.
Dfactor will be playing at Pianos upstairs in NYC on Dec 6th at Pianos upstairs, doing the whole cover series.