Beneath The Covers

November 13, 2018

Cover songs have been a topic of conversation in the hallways of Fast Horse recently. Our collection of musicians is preparing to take the stage at First Avenue on Dec. 6, as part of The Battle. The event is a local advertising and communications industry battle of the bands to raise scholarship money for diverse students interested in a career in our field.

There’s been much debate about what song to perform. Should it be a danceable pop number, something bluesy or a face-melting rocker? Maybe all of the above?

It’s fun to imagine what songs lend themselves to a different genre and how people might respond to an unfamiliar take on a classic tune. I spend a fair amount of time listening to the Covers Channel on Sirius XM Radio, so I know some remakes work brilliantly and some are absolute clunkers.

The Covers Channel is a place where you can hear everything from Florence + The Machine performing Beyonce’s “Halo” to Sting doing “Tempted” by Squeeze or even Fiona Apple’s take on “Across the Universe” by the Beatles. Unfortunately, you’ll also be subjected to U2’s version of “Fortunate Son” by Credence Clearwater Revival. Put that one in the clunker category.

What really catches me off guard is when a hit song pops into the rotation that I never knew was a cover. Did you know “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper was a remake? I didn’t. But it was first recorded by a guy named Robert Hazard in 1979. Here’s proof:

There are plenty more original versions I didn’t know existed. Check out this sampling of hidden gems that preceded the mega-hits the world knows:

“Jet Airliner” By Paul Pena, Not The Steve Miller Band

“Cocaine” By J.J. Cale, Not Eric Clapton

“I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” By The Arrows, Not Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

While these artists deserve plenty of credit, sometimes the world just needs a better version of a song for it to break through. So, what cover tune will the Fast Horse band debut at First Avenue on Dec. 6? And will it put such a fresh spin on it that the original will be rendered an afterthought? Grab a ticket to The Battle and see for yourself.