My Year in Cover Versions – Part III
by Michele Christopher
I’m writing about my 2006 recording project, the 12 Covers-12 Months series that I started in January 2006. Here’s the final part of the rundown of rock and roll cover versions I did during the year, with this segment focusing on the last four months of the year September to December. Hope you like it. Read Part One here and Part Two here.
September cover – Guided by Voices – The Brides Have Hit Glass
So much to write, so little room to make it right. Guided by Voices is the band, and Robert Pollard the man, who inspired and reawakened my musical impulses in the mid-1990s after a long dormant spell (I had played in high school and college bands, but stopped playing soon after for a loooong time). After hearing GBV’s 1996 LP “Under the Bushes Under the Stars” in a Chicago record store, I became hooked on the band, joining the Internet mailing list Postal Blowfish, seeing the band live, and buying and listening to all things GBV. In 1997, while living in Ohio, I wiped the dust off my old guitars that had been stored in Mom & Dad’s basement, and bought an old 1980s 4track recorder that weighed a ton, and started recording my own mini-anthems. Amazingly, from that inspiration, it’s snowballed to here from that point.
Between 1998 and 2000, besides singing and writing songs in Anthemic Pop Wonder, I also drank, er, played in a GBV cover band with a group of about 5-6 other guys, all of whom I still call friends. Our collective, known as Gloomy Basement Vampires, Cold Michigan Basement Kids or Greg Brady Vanguard depending on the evening, learned so many of Pollard’s early classics like “Sensational Gravity Boy”, “Color of My Blade”, “Exit Flagger” and Rubber Man”. Videos of this amazing band exist, and one of these days we’ll digitize them and upload for posterity’s sake.
But I digress. “Brides Have Hit Glass” seemed a solid choice for a GBV cover as it wasn’t a rave-out rocker to simply bash out, and one that had some opportunities to bring out more of the melody and the lyric. The song resonated with me because of its mature theme of man-wife breakup, and the chords work well together.
Long live Robert Pollard – long may he rock.
October cover – The Replacements – Color Me Impressed
Another absolute classic band in my rock and roll canon – The Replacements were my early rock and roll champions. Thanks to my old university buddies Randy & Buzz for turning me onto the Mats early on enough, so we were able to see a bunch of early shows on the Mats’ visits to Chicago before I split for the great Northeast woods. It was another seven years before I’d see the Mats on their swansong tour of 1991.
I used to see The Replacements in Chicago clubs Exit, Cubby Bear, Tut’s (with Bob Stinson sporting dress and rolling around the stage) and elsewhere between 1982-1984.
One show in particular sticks out in my rock and roll memory – July 7, 1984 – R.E.M and the Dream Syndicate playing live at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom, and then The Replacements and the Del Fuegos playing later at Cubby Bear. Pete Buck and Michael Stipe showed up at the club gig (of course everyone expecting Pete to play with the Mats on Let it Be, which didn't happen), my friend and I chatting with Dream Syndicate's drummer on the merits of The Medicine Show vs. Days of Wine and Roses, and great atmosphere throughout the whole club. Cool night!
“Color Me Impressed” is impressive for several reasons – it introduced new Westerbergian lexicon to the English language, which is still in use today, and it’s the name of the best-known Replacements website.
Curiously, though, according to Pure Volume stats, this cover is among the least-listened to songs on my 12 Covers-12 Months page. Heavy.
November cover - Todd Rundgren – I Saw the Light
“It was late last night…”
“I Saw the Light” starts out with those melancholy words, and it turned into my recording manifesto for this song. Not wanting to take a power pop spin at it, and not having such a good grasp of piano, I decided to get all Ricardo Montalban on ya’ all for this and arpeggio my way across the pop universe with this old Todd track.
I’ve enjoyed strumming this one around the apartment over the past few years, and it came in handy when I needed a quick and easy cover when time was tight. Sweet diminished chords, a lovely relationship lyric and half-decent guitar pickin’ turns this great pop song into one of my left-field cover cuts.
December cover – Cheap Trick – Auf Weidersehen
“Bye Bye, So Long, Farewell…”
These are among the final words I scream and shout out to complete my year-long covers series! Auf Weidersehen by Cheap Trick, is a deliciously dark-humored anti-suicide ode from Cheap Trick’s “Heaven Tonight” LP.
I’ve always liked this raging rocker from Cheap Trick. It’s a song that dates back to its Rockford, IL and environs clubs days in the early to mid-1970s. But it’s much loved in the Cheap Trick fan community and the band still occasionally plays it live (here’s a short clip of Cheap Trick playing Auf Wiedersehen recently…). Anthrax covered this song in the 1980s, and here’s an mp3 of Chicagoans Local H doing a cover of it at my old college stomping bar Otto’s in DeKalb.
With my usual aplomb, though, I forgot a few parts in recording the drum and bass tracks and sharp-eared listeners will hear the band-aid vocal and guitar fixes I needed to do to wind up this song. It was a blast to record – loud, Louder and LOUDER.
All is all, I’m happy I tackled this year-long covers project – I’ve been living with these songs in my head for years, and it was fun to push them out on a unsuspecting public. Bringing the end to the series with my favorite hard rock pop band Cheap Trick seemed fitting, final and fun. Rock and roll, um, yeah, good stuff. Keep the energy alive.