Every one loves a cover.. and by everyone I mean the collective anyone.
Everyone will individually tell you how such and such a track/song has been savaged by some no talent muso unscrupulous record producer duo but at the same time.. .put something on at a club, with a hint of something that everyone knows and you can pretty much be assured that the ‘everyone’ will get into it.
So what makes a decent cover? All along the Watchtower… decent cover. In fact it’s so good that most people don’t even realise it is a cover (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Along_the_Watchtower) .. well, one way to do it is to do the cover when the original wasnt that big.
But what if it is big.. big and timeless … and .. much loved.. like American Pie. Some tracks just shouldn’t be covered. Any track that a nation has decided to identify with at a cultural level is probably best left alone.
So for today I wanted to look at a track that was .. and still is.. huge, timeless and very well known .. and a cover of it that … well I think, is pretty good .. and perhaps why.
Guns N Roses released sweet child o Mine on their debut album Appetite for Destruction in 1988. I’m not going to paraphrase wikipedia but it’s all here if you want to read it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_child_of_mine) – everyone knows it, most people like it and if they don’t they can appreciate its simple musicality and warm lyrics.
in 2007 a (relatively) unknown group called Flat Pack decided to give it a crack.
and in my opinion (it’s a blog, of course it’s my opinion) they have done the cover justice.
how? primarily they bothered to do their own take on it, borrowing from the best parts of the song and then breathing in its own life around it.
For me good covers are not unlike good ideas… typically any good idea is actually an improvement on an existing idea. I use the word ‘improvement’ here to mean making it more relevant to whoever it’s intended for. Here, flat pack (and mylo to some degree, seeing as his remix is the best one on there) have borrowed from the central idea .. and worked that into dance track. Enough is taken from the original so that anyone can make the connection, but fundamentally this is a dance track first, cover second… and therein lies the problem with most covers. They try to re-invent them in the genre they were first done in.. American Pie, ballad, Thunderstruck, 4 to the floor rock.. and they are thus compared directly to the original, which as ‘everyone’ knows.. is always better.
Only by moving far enough away is the opportunity for people to listen to the track on its own merits afforded it would seem. It’s an ironic juxtaposition that we crave familiarity but inherently despise blatant mimicry.