K-Chuck Radio: The “cover band” phase of popular bands

Understand this.  I put up with Weezer’s cover of Toto’s “Africa” for as long as I possibly could.  I get it, it was a faithful cover of the classic “yacht rock” hit.

Today, I discovered that Weezer took their swing at another classic 1980’s hit – the a-ha new wave classic “Take On Me.”

No, seriously.  They even mixed in the black and white pencil animations in their tribute video for the track.  See for yourself.

Yikes.

Rivers Cuomo … um … er … well, at least he’s a better singer than Andrew Cuomo, amirite? 😀

I guess what this means is … Weezer has now fallen into that category of classic rock bands who now mine the Top 40 vaults for cover songs to help energize their careers.  Or, in Weezer’s case, if it worked for “Africa,” let’s see what else we can mine from the early days of MTV.

This is not unusual.  I can show you several examples of great bands from the 1980’s, 1990’s and 2000’s who have turned to the cover song to try to jump-start their careers.

Here’s some examples.

ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK
Dream Of Me

Yes, one of my favorite synth-pop 1980’s bands took the classic Love Unlimited Orchestra song “Love’s Theme” and built their own song upon it.  It’s a great track, for sure – but it kinda takes me away from what I used to love about OMD – its creativity and vibrance.

HEAVEN 17
Don’t Fear the Reaper

No.  No no no no on NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!

No way can this be the same Heaven 17 of “We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thing” and “Let Me Go.”  Oh my God this is sacrilege.  SACRILEGE, I SAY!!  And while we’re at it … where’s the god damn cowbell?  At least can’t you sneak a digital sample of a cowbell into this tripe?

DURAN DURAN
White Lines

I want to know what coked-up record company executive thought it would be a good idea to have Simon LeBon and Duran Duran cover this classic Grandmaster Flash (actually Grandmaster and Melle Mel) track.  Not only that, but they sucked out all the social angst of the song – where the original “White Lines” was an anti-cocaine smash in the vein of other GMF5 songs like “New York, New York” and “The Message” and the like … this track sounds more like a boy band horsing around in the studio.  Please no.  Never.

STYX
I Can See For Miles

Look, I get it.  This is really about 2/5ths of the classic Styx lineup.  But even 2/5ths of the lineup would include James “JY” Young and Tommy Shaw, and I still can’t believe they’re reduced to an album of classic rock covers.  JY and Tommy better find Dennis DeYoung and patch things up right now.  Look, I’ll even forgive “Mr. Roboto” and “Music Time” and some of their mid-80’s clunkers, just don’t put out any more trifle like this ever again.

THE SMITHEREENS
I Want To Hold Your Hand

Okay, this is kinda goofy.  I get it.  The Smithereens recorded the entire US version of “Meet the Beatles” in their own classic New Jersey power pop style.  And I do enjoy it.  Although I’d rather here “Behind the Wall of Sleep” or “Blood and Roses” or “A Girl Like You” – but at least these sorta sound like the Smithereens rocking with some classic tracks.

And these are just a start.

The other end of this is when artists cover their own classic hits and re-release them as singles and promoted tracks.

Like …

OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN
I Honestly Love You

This 1998 version of her classic 1970’s ballad … man, can the track get … any … freakin … slower?  Actually, I shouldn’t complain that loudly … heck, a longer song means I get to stare at Olivia Newton-John for a longer period of time … so it balances out, amirite?

So if you feel the way I feel … that you want to dust off these artists’ original records and listen to them again … I’m good with that.  But I’d rather hear new material from these artists, when possible (unless the lead singer of the Smithereens is recording from a heavenly studio), than to hear them go for cover tracks of songs that really don’t fit their styles.

Yeah, and I’m still looking for aspirin after hearing that Heaven 17 cover of “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”  Migraines … migraines…