Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday 80s Flashback for February 11, 2011

[Covered] -- I decided to go in a slightly different direction with the Flashback today. Please be advised that this post might not be for the 80s purists in our midst. You see, I love cover songs. Sure, I feel there is something to be said for purity of an artist's vision for their own music. However, I also feel that one of art's most wonderful qualities is its capacity for reinterpretation. When an artist covers material from the previous generation, they show a love and respect for that material (there are exceptions for satire and spoofs, neither of which are the focus of today's Flashback). And a successful cover can prove a song's staying power and legacy. So, while a song may have been born in a specific decade and brought to life with certain music technology, it can enjoy new life and, sometimes, bring new attention to the original artist. Even if the original artist is forgotten in the release of a successful cover, the original song's innate glory is preserved. And somewhere, within some percentage of the listening public, there will be folks who do remember, and who can sit back satisfied smile and say, "Yes, so-and-so really was a skilled songwriter."

Are you ready to find out what artists have I chosen for their covers of great 80s songs? Read and hear more after the jump.

Flashback #1
"Go toora loora toora loo rye aye | And we can sing just like our fathers."  Our first flashback was originally released in 1982 by Dexys Midnight Runners. It's a Celtic-influenced, 80s classic that splits folks neatly into two camps: those who love it, and those who despise it. Save Ferris, a ska-punk band named for the title character in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), are definitely in the first camp. They covered the tune for their 1997 release, It Means Everything, releasing it as a single. In the Save Ferris version, the "Celtic" strings are replaced by horns and the overall tempo is sped up. This means some of the nuance is lost, but none of the energy. Oh, and I should mention that this news story about the baseball game in Ferris Bueller might have inspired this week's theme. Or, maybe I just remembered the story when this song came into rotation while my iPod was in shuffle mode. Either way, I hope you enjoy this cover of "Come On Eileen."

Flashback #2
"Are you OK, Annie?"  Our second flashback burst onto the charts in October, 1988. And I do mean burst because the late Michael Jackson sang it all the way to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. The music video -- really a short film -- featured Jackson's anti-gravity lean, which required a patented hitching device to achieve. Pretty smooth, eh?

Alien Ant Farm decided to cover it for their 2001 release, Anthology. Supposedly, the boys had used parts of the song to warm up for their own gigs, and this prompted audience requests to hear the song in its entirety. Eventually, the band decided to make their own recording and release it as a single. Alien Ant Farm's own video for "Smooth Criminal" contains references to numerous other Michael Jackson songs and video highlights. See how many you can spot and compare your findings with the complete list [list source: Wikipedia]. 

Flashback #3
"Days pass and this emptiness fills my heart."   Our third flashback today was previously featured in the movie-themed Flashback of October 8, 2010 (Making Movies). Coincidentally, it was the third flashback then, too. There is no need to rehash what I already wrote for this 1986 Peter Gabriel tune (look, I left a link for you), we can go right into the cover information. In 1992, Jeffrey Gaines recorded an acoustic live version of "In Your Eyes." Although it was the B-side to a single the barely charted, "In Your Eyes" received a healthy share of radio play in metropolitan markets. At the time, Gaines was not very well known, and I recall radio hosts talking about folks requesting "the other 'In Your Eyes.'" A few years ago, I saw Jeffrey Gaines live at the Sellersville Theater 1894 -- no band, just him playing acoustic guitar and sometimes accompanied by a pianist. It was a wonderful show, and everyone sang along with him when he played this Peter Gabriel cover.

Our final flashback today proves what I said about songwriting in the intro: A true songwriter can craft a song that rings true whether it has a full and dazzling accompaniment, or it is treated to the bare bones backing of an acoustic instrument. That is the power of true musicianship, and it is both rare and glorious to behold.

Even when dealing with covers of 80s music, the rule of three applies. I've made my three offerings, so that's all till next week, 80s-philes. But if you need more flashbacks, please visit the archives. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post.

I'll see you in seven!

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