To Cover or Not to Cover
Has the band run out of ideas?
Do they need to fill time in their set?
Are they disrespecting their fans?
No, maybe, and no.
I bet you didn’t even know that All Along The Watchtower was a cover. See what Jimi Hendrix did there? He transformed Bob Dylan’s original and made it his own. In fact, he made it more popular than the original. When Johnny Cash recorded Hurt by Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor said that it “wasn’t my song anymore”. Hell, everything on The Voice (I’m not linking to that!) is a cover song. Sometimes the singers make the song “their own”, and it really works well. I recall someone doing a cover of Mad World by Tears for Fears (an amazing band in their own right), on American Idol. It was amazing! But when it fails, it fails big and the singer usually gets the boot as a result.
Are covers like this better than the original? That’s up to you! “Better” is subjective and who knows, maybe some of you prefer Dylan’s version! But that’s beside the point.
At 3030 we did a cover of Joy Division‘s Digital. A relatively unknown, really fun, somewhat simple song that carries a lot of energy. Surprisingly, a real crowd-pleaser! I’d hazard a guess that 1/10 people in the audience that night had ever heard Digital before, let alone knowing who Joy Division was. No matter, we had fun playing it and entertaining the crowd. And there’s the rub…
Sometimes it’s fun to play another artist’s music, break away from the norm. We all grew up listening to music by someone else, wouldn’t it be fun to play those songs? Try to capture some of the magic that was laid down on tape so many years ago? Or pretend you’re, oh I don’t know, David Bowie or Kurt Cobain for just a few minutes? We all take inspiration from different sources. My drumming is my own, but I’ve been compared to Kenny Aronoff and Chad Smith. Maybe it’s the bald head, or the velocity with which I hit the drums that strikes the similarity that was heard? It’s a flattering comparison to be sure, and I wish I was 1/2 as good as those guys. I was also happy to hear that as I have drawn influence from those amazing drummers, as well as Will Calhoun from Living Colour, and of course Neal Peart (click that link, it’s the very reason I started drumming!).
When we played Digital we pretty much ripped it off, but we had a lot of fun doing it.
Will we do it again? Yep!
Did we make it our own? No.
Will it be different next time? Maybe. Should we change it up?
Did we run out of ideas? No. There is plenty more you haven’t heard yet!
Did we need to fill some time in our set? Maybe, but we’ll never tell!
Did we disrespect you? We sure hope not.
So what’s my point? Some of the best art is that which has been copied, transformed and mutated into something completely different yet somehow retains the essence of the original. I hope that someday, someone covers a Hello Companion song. That would be the ultimate form of flattery.
See you on stage.