This is Tully. Say hi to the Music Court community, Tully. As I type this, Tully is nestled into a ball with his head on a soft, green pillow. He is adorable. The picture is worth more than my words.
As you might have deciphered from the opening to this post, I adopted a dog! Thus, I have been solely in a dog mood over the past few days. Musicians are often in dog moods. Whether it are songs about dogs or song titles/ideas that use “dog” in popular sayings or with different connotations, dogs often find their way into popular songs of all genres. Off the top of your head I’m sure you are already thinking of 1-2 songs you know that have the word dog in the title.
In line with my puppy mood, I bring you the first Music Court poll in months. There are a plethora of dog songs in the vast musical catalogue of life; what song is the best? First, let’s fetch some songs.
1. “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley
This is the version most are familiar with, and it is hard to argue that it is not the best recording of this Lieber and Stoller classic. Originally recorded in 1952 by “Big Mama” Thornton, “Hound Dog” has transcended decades and has garnered a long list of cover versions (included Elvis’ 1956 cover) and popular media references. Contrary to the lyrics though, I will certainly feed Tully!
2. (How Much Is) That Doggie In The Window by Patti Page
I had to. Tell me you don’t think of this song when you walk by the window of a pet store! Written by Bob Merrill (also wrote “Mambo Italiano”), the song was most famously recorded by Patti Page, and I first heard it through Kidsongs (my pre-kinder source for all music).
3. “I Love My Dog” by Cat Stevens
Because the song includes lyrics like the following:
“I love my dog
As much as I love you
But you may fade
My dog will always come through” (Note: I love Tully and my fiancé very much)
4. “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by The Stooges
Oh, Iggy and your Stooges. Recorded in 1969, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” is a quintessential example of the budding hard rock/punk movement that would sweep the music world for the next two decades (and beyond that if you count the 90s, 00s, and 10s). The song was produced by John Cale of Velvet Underground fame. The Velvet Underground is often cited as the grandfather of punk. No coincidence there folks.
5. “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin
Classic Zeppelin riff over lyrics inspired by a sexually promiscuous retriever that would amble around the recording studio. It also has the mark of a Zeppelin song that was not stolen. Haha. I kid. I kid. It’s a killer riff.
6. “Dog Days are Over” by Florence and the Machine
Florence Welch, otherwise known as the goddess (according to my sister), took a commanding hold of the Indie/Art/Pop genre with the release of her first two albums (Lungs and Ceremonials). “Dog Days are Over” is featured on Lungs, which is a tremendous first release.
7. “Martha My Dear” by The Beatles
Wild Card! This jaunty Beatles tune was written by Paul McCartney and most likely inspired by his sheepdog (named Martha), although it was probably about an old love interest. It, like all Beatles songs, is excellent.
There you have it. What is the best bark – I mean, song! Vote below.
There is nothing quite like the long drawl of hazy hot day in New York … in October. I wore a pair of blue jeans today, and my legs felt like they were covered in heating pads. I’m certainly not complaining, as inevitably the icy grasp of winter will soon chill the air and my steering wheel, but I do find weather’s mercurial nature odd. Since many others do as well, there is a term to describe a string of days like the one New York experienced today: Indian Summer.
In my brief search for best Fall song, I noticed that there are not many great Fall songs. Summer and Winter – the two polar extremes – dominate the music landscape. But seasonal songs are popular, and Fall does have a few good ones. I listed some in the poll and have chosen one from that list as my personal favorite Fall song, which, as the above paragraph suggests, is “Indian Summer” by The Doors, a subdued track off of the 1970 album, Morrison Hotel.
The song, like many songs by the Doors, is strange – much like a patch of Indian Summer. The lyric is punctuated by Jim Morrison’s sensual – almost uncomfortable – voice. It’s soothing in a creepy way. Typical Morrison! He sings:
I love you the best
Better than all the rest.
I love you the best
Better than all the rest.
That I meet in the summer.
That I meet in the summer.
I love you the best
Better than all the rest.
“Indian Summer” has the feel of a song that can drag on forever. It is hypnotizing. It has the feel of a hypnopompic hallucination. The skilled percussion, plucked guitar, and understated keyboard wakes me up, but Morrison’s voice maintains a lulling quality. In that way, it is almost mystical and ethereal. It is metaphor for an Indian Summer – hazy, drowsy, and unexpected. Excellent stuff.
Fall is a divisive season. Summer is almost universally loved because it provides warmth and winter is shunned (besides from the Holidays) because a trip outside requires a few layers of clothing and also usually features the freezing welcome to a icy vehicle. Spring is a season of rebirth. Fall, though, is technically a morbid season; everything is dying or burrowing in preparation for the winter. Now, of course, my small summary is only applicable for places where seasons are evident – which, in my case, is New York.
Charles Dickens wrote in his poem “George Edmunds’ Song”:
“Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, lie strewn around me here! Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, how sad, how cold, how drear”
Clearly he enjoyed the season, right? But before the trees lay bare and the weather chills, Fall features variegated foliage and pleasant weather. There is apple picking, football, and festivals. While Fall is synonymous with melancholy – at least according to Dickens – I view it through rose-colored glasses. The season may not represent rebirth, but it is not all about death. Such a depressing view is insidious and it permeates through people. Fall deserves a better rap! Plus, at least in New York, while summer has passed it has not completely relinquished its grasp on the weather. It will be 83 degrees today!
Fall is a time for music at the Music Court. Well, every season is a time for music – it is a music blog. So … to celebrate the season, I’m asking you to tell me your favorite autumn song. Your favorite not on the list? Don’t be shy! Lambast my stupid selections in the comments and provide your favorite song. Voting closes on Wednesday. Have fun!
*Note: “September” by Earth Wind and Fire does talk about the 21st night of September. Close enough to Fall!
Need a quick song refresher. Listen to each song below:
Let’s start this post off on a positive note. There are a lot of good cover songs out there. The formula for creating a good cover song is simple. Take the original song, transform it minimally, and voila, recycled music. If you look at some of the greatest covers ever, you come up with a list of artists who covered other artists within the realm of a similar genre. There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but with said exceptions the cover artist is usually quite talented (i.e. Johnny Cash covering NIN’s “Hurt”) and the song itself can be stripped to its bare bones and sound good (i.e. Johnny Cash covering NIN’s “Hurt”). Or, on the other hand, a song already bare, with let’s say solo acoustic backing, can be spruced up a bit and made into a fuller, more extraordinary piece (i.e. “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix, from Bob Dylan).
With covers, though, one thing generally remains essential. The performer covering the song is not only talented, but also a multi-faceted artist. One-trick ponies perform miserable covers. So, when, for example, a screechy rock band covers a folk artist (see below) or a voluptuous country star covers a rock band (Dolly Parton doing “Stairway to Heaven”), things can go bad. And like spoiled milk, when a cover goes bad, it’s really bad.
And, despite the fact that most bands have been guilty of it (see song two sentences ago), we are not talking about musicians who steal music and rearrange it because of creative laziness, musical greed, or unconscious “My Sweet Lord” moments (sorry George). That’s not a cover. That’s theft.
With this all in mind, I am going to provide you with five examples of vomit-inducing music covers, and I want you to tell me what is the worst cover of all time. Are there other awful covers? Yes. Many. Including some truly miserable Miley Cyrus “inspiration” covers that includes one of “Smells like Teen Spirit” which is mind-blowingly terrible, but I am going to let that sit there and age a bit before we conclude whether that was just a bad joke. If you like a cover song on this list, I apologize for verbally defecating on a song you enjoy. This is clearly just my (and many other’s) opinion. But I urge you, tell me why the cover is good. Seriously, because I think it is awful and destroys the original. A full list of the songs with some unflattering descriptions is below the poll jump. Read and vote! What’s the worst?
Britney Spears (The Rolling Stones) – “Satisfaction”
You know, for the first 30 seconds of the song it isn’t that bad. Remember, we are talking historically bad here so not that bad is still awful. There just isn’t much there. In a way, it seems like she is going to turn the song into one of her modern-day libidinous sex-slave pieces that paint her out like she is a voracious nymphomaniac. And then the song passes the 30 second mark and, well, listen. Why? Britney? Why? Did Mick Jagger insult you? The cover eliminates Keith Richards’ uber-famous riff and turns the famous rock song into a pop debacle that is not even good for Britney Spears standards. Have you stopped listening yet? The song somehow is more than four minutes long. I’ll never know how it ends.
Madonna (Don McLean) – “American Pie”
Madonna and Don McLean go together like Cheerios and jalapeno peppers – they don’t – yet the pop diva with the hilariously fake British accent decided to take on this American classic. By take on, I mean burn. In a similar manner to Spears’ awful cover of “Satisfaction,” Madonna’s “American Pie” starts off decently, with only a slight echo effect on her voice. And then, what the hell is that synth. Look, I totally understand changing up a song, and you don’t have to sit down with only an acoustic guitar and bang out the entire hit, but a synth only makes a song that deserves so much more sound like an 80’s sunshine track mixed with creepy Eiffel 65-like echoes and monotone Madonna plugging away at only one damn verse and the beginning and ending. I guess we should be thanking the Kabbalah that she didn’t record anymore of this washed-down piece of a junk cover.
Limp Bizkit (The Who) – “Behind Blue Eyes”
This one is more difficult to hate on at first, because Limp Bizkit doesn’t ruin it until later. The song is one of the Who’s most raw works, and the initial shock that Limp Bizkit, who, if you remember correctly, told us to shove a cookie up our collective yeah, would actually cover a serious song is odd enough. But initially the song is quite stripped down and actually halfway okay. It’s not a great cover. The vocals are nothing special. Vocal effects make it sound better, but, hey, everyone does that now’a’days. And then 2:30 comes along and you just shake your head at what the hell the band was thinking when they decided to put a robotic voice over an eerie whistle. They actually destroyed their already pretty bad cover.
Guns N’ Roses (Bob Dylan) – “Knockin on Heaven’s Door”
Guns N’ Roses’ cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin on Heaven’s Door” comes to us with more than eight million views on YouTube and more than 30,000 likes. Statistics like that make me question my faith in our population of music listeners. I’ve talked about why Guns N’ Roses’ cover of Dylan is overproduced garbage in the past. Allow me to copy and paste my thoughts on this from an article I wrote that you can view here.
“In 1987, the prototypical hair metal band decided they would start using it in their live sets. The song was then poisoned by the melodramatic, hyperbolic fingers of Axl Rose and a song loved for its downtrodden seriousness became the toy of unnecessary and cocky bedizenment. Guns & Roses destroyed a perfectly good song. Rose’s horrendous voice is so drawn out and fake it kills the song’s wonderment. “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” is somber. Guns & Roses’ version is an arena rock hugger-mugger that is vomit inducing.”
Shakira (AC/DC) – “Back in Black”
Shakira’s “Back in Black” is one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. There, I said it. She gyrates her way to an over-indulgent, incomprehensible, sheep-like, faux-jazz to power rock anthemic version of AC/DC’s hit. Now, don’t get me wrong, AC/DC was every bit difficult to understand, but their rock saturated original is purposeful. Shakira sounds like she just took seven shots and got up on a stand-up table at a bar/grill to sing and dance without music while her poor friends stare on in pain. Well, there goes Shakira again – someone should probably tell her to stop stepping on the nachos. And every time she sings black she sounds like a lamb out to slaughter. Stop it. Stop putting on the fake quiver in your voice. Your vibrato sounds like a farm animal. If she is back in black, I want to be as far away from her as humanly possible.
Have any other horrible covers in mind? Let us know about them in the comment section!
Take the Rolling Stones top 500 albums list for what it is – a subjective list of “game-changing” albums culminating (like most all-time album charts) with Sgt. Peppers at top – but prior to discussing how a 3-seed defeated #1-seeded Pet Sounds handily in the finals, I want to talk briefly about the Rolling Stones list. After Sgt. Peppers, the list goes Pet Sounds (2) and Revolver (3). First, isn’t it extraordinary that three of the greatest rock albums ever released hit record stores in around a 13-month span of time? Secondly, perhaps I misjudged Revolver. I recognized it as an inspirational album that, like Pet Sounds, revolutionized the sound of rock n’ roll music and helped introduce a generation to psychedelic music, but perhaps I underestimated its true force and influence.
Revolver may be #3 on the Rolling Stone list, but, according to our poll’s small sample, the top two albums ever released should maybe go Sgt. Peppers followed by Revolver, which would be representative of how incomprehensibly talented the Beatles were. In 10 months the band released two of the greatest albums ever. This is unparalleled in music and it is tough to find an equivalent in any form of talent, creativity, or sport. Mozart in his prime. There is one!
I voted for Pet Sounds. So did three others. The Beatles won 8-4 after sliding through the entire competition. This means that they, according to Music Court viewers, released the best album in 1966 and 1967. So how did this 3-seed take down the uber-talented Beach Boys and their Pet Sounds. Both bands were experimenting with tape delays, creative instrumentation and recording techniques, manipulated vocals, and drugs. Both bands tapped into the minds of all band members to create a unified sound that translated into excellent music. What was the difference besides the roots of the bands (surf vs. bluesy beat)?
The answer is simple. Nothing. Yes, the songs do sound different because the two bands are, well, clearly different, but as for impact and experimentation, there is really no difference. Revolver and Pet Sounds are near perfect albums (I reserve the title of perfect for two albums – Sgt. Peppers and Dark Side of the Moon). The Beatles are more popular so they may have won because of that, but, supposing that is not the reason, I want to look at two songs that may have helped propel Revolver to victory.
“Eleanor Rigby” is one of the most known and popular Beatles songs ever released and I think one of the reasons for this (besides the fact that it is just an excellent song) is it is so different. The song is carried by the staccato rhythm of a backing orchestra that sounds like it is narrating a tense scene in a horror movie (at times – the orchestra was inspired by the compositions of Bernard Herrmann – “Psycho”). Besides this, the song is just Paul McCartney singing with the occasional harmony. The lyric, which was created in a conjoined band effort, is just perfect. It paints a sad and simple image of the “lonely” Eleanor Rigby and her life and death. It is an untraditional rock song, not featuring any other instrumentation, yet it is wonderfully melodic and incredibly popular. The Beatles were changing the ears of a listening populace.
“Tomorrow Never Knows”
This song is not anywhere near simple. “Tomorrow Never Knows” is an Indian-inspired composition that features several psychedelic effects like tape delay, oddly patterned drumming, reversed guitar, and droning vocals. The song features the psychedelic works. It is an LSD-influenced dreamy ending that leads right into Sgt. Peppers, an album that features even more of this musical experimentation (which is pretty much what this song is). But, because this is the Beatles, the song is excellent and highly listenable.
So what do you think? Does Revolver deserve the title? Do you want to see this game played next year (and with what year?) I’m eager to hear your opinions. Thanks for playing!