Friday, January 20, 2012

Cover Me, Part 1 - Artists Covering Bruce



I am a huge fan of Sirius XM Satellite Radio. Maybe it’s the fact that I can listen to any sports game I want, or because I’m a big fan of The Opie and Anthony Show, but most likely it’s that the geniuses at the network decided to create a 24/7 Bruce Springsteen channel that has made me not want to ever go back to terrestrial radio. In addition to playing Springsteen‘s songs from his albums, “E Street Radio” plays full concerts, interviews, outtakes and B-Sides, and just recently they started a show called Cover Me.

Cover Me, cleverly named after the track from Born In The USA, plays bands that cover Bruce in addition to playing covers of other artists performed by Bruce. I love this show to see just how far Bruce’s influence goes as well as seeing who Bruce was influenced by. The last show of 2011 had them counting down their favorite covers of Bruce and their favorite covers by Bruce. This week I’ll be discussing other artists covering Bruce.

According to Cover Me, the top five covers are:

5. “Ghost of Tom Joad”- Rage Against The Machine



Rage is one of those bands that as I grow older I fail to see what I ever found so great about them. Zach De La Rocha’s voice is terrible, he doesn’t even sing. And while Tom Morello is an absolutely brilliant guitar player, he seems to be “too good” on the guitar. Seriously, can’t he just do a normal solo or riff? Does everything has to be some manipulation of the guitar strings? Rage will always be remembered for their political stances, and certainly that’s why they would be drawn to cover to this song but I can’t stand their version. It’s everything I can’t stand about the band, but Bruce seems to be a big fan of it as evidenced by the number of times Tom Morello has joined him on stage to play this song, so I guess I’m in the minority here but no way would this be one of my picks.

4. “Atlantic City” - The Hold Steady





I had never heard this cover before, but wow, I was impressed. This piano and brass instrument driven version of song really pays tribute to this Springsteen classic, while making it their own, at the same time. When Springsteen plays “Atlantic City” live now it is a full electric song with the E Street Band, that while certainly a great song, it takes away from some of the somberness from the original acoustic studio version found on Nebraska. This cover I think really combines the Springsteen’s studio and live version quite well. It illustrates the dire situation the protagonist finds himself in, as well as being a fun upbeat song that you’ll find yourself tapping your toes along with. Big thumbs up for this pick.

3. “Thunder Road” - Tortoise with Bonnie "Prince" Billy



Another cover I was not familiar with. This is definitely an interesting version. At first I didn’t care for it, but the more I listened to it the more I could at least respect it, if not be a small fan of it. It’s nowhere near as good as the Springsteen version, but I don’t think it was trying to be. It’s simply a different interpretation, and while it’s not exactly my cup of tea, I absolutely will give Tortoise credit for being unique. Not one of my picks but, kudos anyway.


2. “Growing Up”- Eddie Veder



Eddie Veder and Pearl Jam have covered Bruce countless times. Some of them I like, others I’m not too crazy about. This is one I’m not too crazy about. There’s nothing unique about it. It’s just Eddie Veder singing “Growing Up”. It’s not bad at all, but I just don’t find anything too special about it. Now, when Veder covered “My City of Ruins” at Springsteen’s induction into the Kennedy Center, that was impressive. I would have definitely picked that. But, to each their own.


1. “Because the Night” - Patti Smith



This isn’t really fair to put this on the list. Yes, Bruce did write this song, but he didn’t release it till 2010 on The Promise. Patti Smith made this song a hit, and certainly deserves the credit for it. I wouldn’t put this song on the list because of that technicality, but if you can get past that, then I have no argument with this being #1. My particular favorite version is Bruce and Patti singing this with U2 at 25th anniversary concert for the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.


My picks:
5. “Atlantic City” - The Hold Steady
4. “My City of Ruins”- Eddie Veder


3. “I’m Going Down” - Vampire Weekend


2. “Badlands” - Dropkick Murphy’s


1. “Atlantic City” - The Band



Let me know your choices for the best covers in the comments. Next week: the top five songs covered by Bruce.