Covered

Covered: “Since U Been Gone”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original. If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

After reading all these articles about the omnipresent-yet-invisible songwriter Max Martin, as well as seeing Tokyo Police Club perform a version of the song, I have now thought about the song “Since U Been Gone” far more in the past few weeks than at any other point previously in my life.  It is definitely one of the modern pop songs that bothers me the least, though that is in no small part due to the fact that I was able to avoid hearing it repeated ad nauseam during its initial lifespan.  The fact that it is also a well-constructed song also works in its favor, with a great dynamic contrast between the soft verses and loud chorus, as well as that big hook in that memorable chorus melody.  There must be a reason why indie rock fans would cop to liking this song…

Oh yeah, that reason would be because Martin in fact looked to indie rock for songwriting inspiration.  Not only did he co-opt that trademark Pixies loud/soft contrast, but he reworked a previous hit song, “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  He even admits this was his intention.  From The Atlantic, paraphrasing from John Seabrook’s recent book, The Song Machine:

They are listening, reportedly, to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps”—an infectious love song, at least by indie-rock standards. Martin is being driven crazy by the song’s chorus, however, which drops in intensity from the verse. Dr. Luke says, “Why don’t we do that, but put a big chorus on it?” He reworks a guitar riff from the song and creates Kelly Clarkson’s breakout hit, “Since U Been Gone.”

It is hilarious that Martin misunderstands that the drop in intensity was an intentional maneuver on the part of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and helped strengthen the impact of the lyrics.  In a nutshell, that explains the difference between the approaches to songwriting in pop and indie rock–why be subtle when you can shout your intentions at the top of your lungs?  In this case, both ways worked.

But we should give kudos to Ted Leo for spotting the similarities between the two songs years before it was confirmed, and smoothly blending the two into a seamless whole.  The “Since U Been Gone/Maps” mash-up ends up being a good primer for the Ted Leo novice, as it shows both his vocal range and guitar chops (even with a minor flub at the end of the bridge taken into consideration), which helps elevate the cover above the standard “fans playing a favorite song in their bedroom” that can be found all over YouTube.  And it is proof once again that Ted Leo is the fucking coolest dude on the planet.

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Covered: My Morning Jacket (Special Edition)

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original. If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

Normally, we highlight a specific song for this feature, but this week we are instead celebrating a group’s history of creating fantastic covers.  Over the years, My Morning Jacket has demonstrated an amazing aptitude at covering classics from a variety of genres, from classic rock to metal to pop to R&B.  They have done songs from the likes of The Velvet Underground and Black Sabbath and Lionel Richie, and those are just selections from a couple of shows that I attended.   Each member is a remarkable musician, and Jim James possesses a unique voice that is not only remarkably powerful and emotive, but one that is incredibly versatile as well.  However, no matter how many covers the band may play in a set, each song retains the definitive character of a My Morning Jacket track, which separates them from your typical decent bar band (though they do make for a great wedding band).

One of My Morning Jacket’s most celebrated covers is their take on Eyrkah Badu’s hit “Tyrone”, an early recording that still occasionally pops up in the band’s setlist from time to time.  Instead of analyzing the similarities and differences between the cover and the original, we are merely going to share the video of the time that the two artists joined together to produce a memorably thrilling performance.

Covered: “Africa”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original. If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

No one should have to listen to Toto’s “Africa” for any reason whatsoever in the year of 2015, so I apologize for the embedded video above.  It is a song that exists purely as a punchline, whether it be from digs by amateurs like you or in the hands of professionals like Patton Oswalt.  The only reason why anyone from my generation would have anything besides ill will for the song is due to a misplaced sense of nostalgia, from the time when you would catch a snippet of the chorus for one of those 80’s compilation discs on those commercials they would run on a daily basis.  Which makes sense, because if you cut the song down to about three seconds, it is tolerable.

I would not bring the song up if it were not for the release of Low’s brilliant new album Ones and Sixes last week (of which you should expect a review in the near future).  However, this provides the opportunity to bring up the time that Low covered “Africa” for the AV Club’s Undercover series.  As mentioned in the video, the song was not really the band’s choice, but that did not stop them from doing an admirable job in creating a memorable cover.  True to their style, the band does an elegant, mournful take on the original, giving the song far more weight than otherwise necessary; were it not for the recognizable chorus or the unusual organ tone in the keyboard, it would seem to be a natural fit in the band’s traditional setlist.  Their spare version provides a nice contrast with the bombast of the original, while also emphasizing the strength of the melody.

I also learned that there are a lot of people out on the internet that take Toto VERY SERIOUSLY, as evidenced by many of the exasperated YouTube comments.  I suggest that instead of getting worked up in a rage because someone did not apparently muster enough respect that the great musicians of Toto apparently deserve, that they sit back and relax by listening to one of Low’s slowcore masterpieces, like Things We Lost In The Fire.  Maybe then they could understand the full range of what “musicianship” entails.

Covered: “September Gurls”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original. If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

As the calendar switched to September today, the first song that popped into my head was Big Star’s classic “September Gurls” (sorry Earth, Wind & Fire–you will get your moment to shine on the 21st).  Though I never figured out the meaning behind the distinction between December Boys and September “Gurls”, I would argue that Alex Chilton’s bittersweet romantic ode to a lost love is close to being a perfect pop song.  Not only is the song filled with memorable melodies, including the immortal hook of “December Boys got it bad”, but it also features those sweet, chiming guitars that helped influence a generation of musicians into creating what would become known as “jangle pop”.  However, as is the case on the rest of Radio City, the secret weapon is the booming drums of Jody Stephens, who provides both a powerful foundation as well as brilliant and precise fills.
It is no surprise then that over the years since its first release that “September Gurls” has inspired numerous cover versions from a diverse group of artists.  Its straightforward chord progression and simple rhythm make it an easy addition to a band’s setlist, and the relatable subject matter and unforgettable melody makes it a natural crowd-pleaser.  Most versions tend to be faithful to the original, like this beautiful acoustic performance from Brendan Benson, but there are moments and opportunities that allow for an artist to add a personal touch or two.  For instance, though The Bangles’ cover adheres closely to Big Star’s version, the fact that the song is sung from a woman’s point of view changes the narrative dynamic of the lyrics, and the generally slick production tips off what decade their version was performed.  The Dum Girls provide another example, as their straightforward take nevertheless manages through a few slight modifications to bear the imprint of the group’s trademark sound, namely the heavy use of reverb and a switch to a classic garage rock drumbeat.

The version that sticks out the most in my mind, however, is the ragged version that The Replacements would bust out from time to time at their shows.  The wear and tear in Paul Westerberg’s voice is perfect for the longing that shines through the lyrics, and there is a certain restrained ferocity in the band’s attack that enhances the emotional pain inherent in the song.  Structurally, the band does not do much to alter the song, with any changes being purely incidental.  Instead, what sticks in my mind is the vitality of the performance itself, and how it is a perfect example of the ability of The Replacements to be the best bar band in the planet on any day of the week.  It seems impossible to top the original, but at least The ‘Mats show the way to make a memorable version of a new standard.

Covered: “Paint It Black”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original. If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

“I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes; I have to turn my head until my darkness goes.”

The heat is still relentlessly bearing down on anything that dares to venture outside, so now is as good a time as any to analyze one of my favorite “summer” songs.  Even in a career packed with hits, “Paint It Black” manages to stand out in my mind as among the Rolling Stones’ best work.  “Paint It Black” is nearly fifty years old, but it still sounds as fresh as it did when it was released in 1966, even after endless replays on radio and its inclusion from films that range from the brilliant to the ridiculous.

Many would point to the contributions of Brian Jones as being the key to the song’s success, and at first glance this would seem appropriate.   His composition of that simple but memorable melody, as well as his use of the distinctive tone of the sitar, stands out in most people’s mind when they recall the song.  The incorporation of Indian influences certainly distinguishes the song from the rest of the Stones’ catalog to that point and marked a watershed moment in Western pop culture, but the real power comes from a more subtle element.

It is the second instrument you hear, right after the the melody is introduced, that is the engine that truly drives the song; once Charlie Watts starts pounding those toms, the song belongs to him.  It has long been fashionable to diminish the importance of Watts to the group,* mainly due to the fact that he is not as flashy as the next generation of rock drummers that followed in his wake.  Though there are a significant number of musicians that will vouch for his technical expertise, his particular strengths will always make him an underrated member to the public at large.  If one takes a few minutes to analyze his part to “Paint It Black” however, it becomes clear how his beats help shape the sound of the Stones, as it is the tension between the mysterious, languid melody and Watt’s insistent, galloping drumbeat that gives “Paint It Black” its energy and verve.  The two parts are locked in battle, only to be released once the song hits the chorus, and the piece reverts to a more conventional rock form.  It is completely counterintuitive to normal compositional techniques to create a rhythmic complement to this melody that would incessantly push the beat in this manner, but it speaks to the genius of Watts that he would match an Eastern melody with a Western rhythm so seamlessly.

In the five decades since its release, “Paint It Black” has inspired countless bands to cover the song.  The incessant drumbeat highlighted above has made it a popular choice among punk bands, and that dark, menacing melody has made it a favorite of several metal acts.  It has also inspired some fascinating versions, two of which derive from the same artist–Eric Burdon first performed a cover with The Animals, emphasizing the song’s more ominous elements, and then developed an epic version with War that aside from a few brief moments hardly resembles the original.  Not only that, “Paint It Black” also inspired a revered group to fail miserably with their own original take.

Covers have long been a part of the repertoire of The Feelies, with most of their albums incorporating at least one.   The band does an excellent job in making their selections, choosing songs from revered artists that fit perfectly with the group’s style and strengths.  If the listener is paying attention, it is easy to hear traces of the original version with each take, but each cover integrates the band’s trademark jangly guitars and post-punk tendencies in such a way that they smoothly blend in with the rest of the album.  Without prior knowledge, the casual listener would have no reason to suspect that a particular song was a cover.

It is unlikely that there is anyone out there whose first encounter with “Paint It Black” would be The Feelies’ version, but it is remarkable how well the cover fits with the rest of their debut album, Crazy Rhythms, even as a tacked-on bonus track to the CD version that was recorded years later.  The cover is in many ways fairly reverent to the original, and in the live version it is clear how the band feeds off the pounding energy of the drums.  What is rather remarkable is how closely the guitars match with the Eastern-tinged elements used by the Stones, when The Feelies are merely using their traditional clean tone with a slight chorus effect.

In a vacuum, it could be argued that this is not a particularly remarkable cover; though it packs a lively punch (and would make a great addition to any live show), it merely accentuates what was great about the original rather than improves upon it.  However, it does illustrate the significance of selecting a song that matches a band’s strength.  At the very least, it is another chance for you to hear “Paint It Black” with fresh ears.

*See also Starr, Ringo.

Covered: “All My Friends”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original. If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

I am approaching one of those awful milestone birthdays, so lately I have been even more self-reflective than usual (hard to believe, I know).  As a result, as I pause to reminisce and take stock of my life, I have had LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” running in my head as a constant soundtrack.  That said, initially this article was outlined weeks ago and was prepared to be published during graduation season, so the case could be made that regardless of circumstance “All My Friends” is probably not far from my mind.  we have previously named it one of the best songs of the last decade, so as problems go, having it stuck on repeat in your head is not a bad one to have.

The foundation of the song is a simple two-chord progression, A and D, which can be most distinctly heard by listening to the bassline.  This I-IV progression creates a natural, unforced tension, as the progression makes sense when it moves from the I to the IV as well as from the IV to the I, but the way the chords are emphasized there is no real resolution.  James Murphy then exploits that tension throughout the song, constantly ratcheting up the tension as the listener expects either a resolving chord or perhaps some sort of modification to the progression; instead, Murphy layers on additional instruments and rhythms, including a memorable looping guitar line and that indelible, repetitive keyboard figure that amplify the lack of resolution.  The listener can sense an innate, organic build as the song plays, and this is the result of Murphy’s simple but ingenious sense of composition.  Murphy’s musical genius is complemented by his incisive and affective lyrics, as he perfectly captures the various anxieties of aging.  The mere fact that LCD Soundsystem created dance/electronic music with thought-provoking lyrics is to be commended, considering the history of the genre; practically every line in “All My Friends” is quotable, with each lyric dripping in both wisdom and humor.

Franz Ferdinand managed to brilliantly reconstruct “All My Friends” as a post-punk dance track, an effort that is all the more impressive considering the quick turnaround that was required to create their own version, since their cover appears on the single LCD Soundsystem released just a mere two months after the release of Sound of Silver.  Franz Ferdinand’s music has long been characterized as a revival of the post-punk genre, but this is probably the first time that their sound recalls New Order instead of Gang of Four (though the coda provides a taste of those spiky guitars we have all come to love).  The band emphasizes groove instead of tension with their cover, and though this causes the song to lose some of its power, it provides for a damn entertaining listen.  There is the same attention paid to layering different instruments and musical ideas as found in the original, with guitars and keyboards floating in and out of the mix; if you listen closely, you can pick out a hint of the memorable piano riff from the original version poking through on the second verse.  To top it all off, Alex Kapranos delivers an impassioned vocal performance with his distinctive style that even if it is unable to capture the angst of the original still manages to thrill the listener.

In the course of researching for this feature, I came across Australian radio station Triple J’s recurring series “Like A Version”, which provides musical guests with the opportunity to play a cover.  Many of these covers straddle the line between passable and underwhelming, but there was one that stood out above the rest as a truly outstanding performance.  I had never heard of the band Gang of Youths before, but their cover of “All My Friends” convinced me that I need to correct that problem immediately.  Unlike Franz Ferdinand, Gang of Youths attempted a more straightforward cover, and do an excellent job of mimicking the feel of the original (though the use of chorus effect-laden guitars provides an interesting bridge between the FF version and the original).  They push the beat with their insistent drumming and tap into the song’s inherent tension, and by emphasizing these components, the band is able to transfer their energy and restlessness into creating a memorable performance.  It is clear that the group has a deep love and respect of the song, and that this is not a mere exercise in burnishing their indie credentials.  Their passion really comes through in their performance, and is a key part of what makes this such a wonderful cover to listen to again and again.

Covered: “Some Things Last a Long Time”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original. If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

Beach House first came across my radar back in 2010, when their album Teen Dream was released amid heavy buzz and to great acclaim.  I instantly became a fan of their gorgeous melodies and lush music; the band chose a perfect album title, as “dream” truly encapsulated their style.  Beach House’s delicate guitar lines and luscious synths, topped off by Victoria Legrand’s dusky vocals, provided the ideal soundtrack for a beautiful, carefree day on the coast.  I soon worked my way back through their discography, and grew to love those albums as well, including the splendid Devotion, which included all the elements essential to the success Teen Dream but with the added charm of more intimate production.

Devotion has some of my favorite Beach House tunes, including “Wedding Bell” and “Gila”, but there was a track near the end of the album that often stuck with me.  There was something about this song that got stuck in my head, but it was not just the catchy melody; I had the feeling that I had heard the song before, but I could not place it anywhere.  It was not until months later that I realized what spurred that reaction.

While I have long been a fan of Built to Spill, I usually skip over their early work when it comes up on shuffle, preferring to stick in the post-Perfect From Now On sweet spot.  Therefore it makes sense that it took me a few months to realize that I heard the Beach House song in question first as a Built to Spill track; it also did not help that Beach House had shortened the title to “Some Things Last” from the original “Some Things Last A Long Time”, making the process of connecting the two versions in my mind more difficult.  Built to Spill’s version pops up in a few places, though I think it is more likely that I was listening to the “Car” single than the compilation The Normal Years when I pieced the mystery together.  I thought it was pretty remarkable that Beach House would cover a Built to Spill song, considering the vast differences in their styles.  This spurred me to do some research, and it turns out that I had missed a crucial step in the process.

It turns out that both Beach House and Built to Spill were performing covers, and that the original “Some Things Last a Long Time” was a Daniel Johnston song.  I had only a passing familiarity with Johnston, mainly due to reading reviews about the documentary that was made that covered his struggle with mental illness, The Devil and Daniel Johnston; I knew that several of my favorite musicians had held him in high esteem and respected his work, but had never heard his music for myself.

Both Beach House and Built to Spill put their own personal stamp on their versions, so it is easy for the listener to assume that they are the original versions. Beach House emphasizes the deceptively simple melody and gives the song a dreamlike atmosphere, though unfortunately they decided to shorten the song by cutting off a few verses, while Built to Spill’s take adds a buzzsaw-edged guitar that doubles the basic melody and throws in a few intriguing sound effects to the proceedings that makes the song sound like a product of its times, namely the early-90’s.  Each version has its merits, but Beach House in their prime wins out over early-period Built to Spill in my mind.

However, neither cover is able to capture the heartbreak of the original.  Johnston’s high-pitched voice recalls that of a child, which gives the vocals a tinge of naivete.  The verses are built on a straightforward four chord progression that the melody echoes, swooping up before resolving down in pitch; this pattern adds a sense of longing to each line.  Not much else happens for the most part, allowing the listener to focus on the lyrics; the simplicity of each statement is what first attracts the attention of the listener, but it obscures the sense of regret behind each verse.  Once you realize how Johnston is able to convey a sense of deep sadness in so few words, it becomes easy to see why he had such an impact on so many musicians.

Covered: “Touch Me I’m Sick”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original. If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

If you guessed that we selected this song for ulterior reasons, congratulations, you have seen through my ruse.  Today has been rather unpleasant, and any post published today should probably be reflective of that fact.  Inspiration eventually struck, as I remembered my favorite Mudhoney track, the delightfully scuzzy “Touch Me I’m Sick”.  It is certainly not the most adventurous pick, since their first hit is definitely their most well-known, but I have always loved the song’s ability to mine the common ground of Stooges-era punk with the abrasiveness and power of metal, providing the blueprint of what would become “grunge”.  Also, it is a hilariously ridiculously offensive song if you take it seriously, but you probably shouldn’t.

I had no idea if anyone covered this classic, but since it is a fairly easy song to learn as well as one that is ridiculously fun to play, I figured there was a good chance that a cover existed somewhere.  It turns out that Sonic Youth did an early cover of the song as part of a split single where Mudhoney returned the favor.  There is not much to recommend about Sonic Youth’s version beyond any mild curiosity one might have, aside from the mildly intriguing twist of having Kim Gordon deliver the fairly depraved lyrics, giving the song an unexpected feminist perspective in the process.  Otherwise, it is a fairly by-the-numbers take, with the band matching the shambolic punk attitude by barely playing the riff together after a cursory feedback-drenched intro.  The importance was more symbolic, as Sonic Youth deemed this young up-and-coming band worthy of attention, serving as another example of Sonic Youth’s willingness to embrace their role as a gatekeeper in the early days of when alternative music broke into the mainstream.

In the future, we will analyze Sonic Youth’s reinterpretation of an old classic that marked a better use of the band’s unique sensibility.  As for “Touch Me I’m Sick”, I would stick with the original, superior version.

Covered: “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original. If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

I’m not sure if you can call Nancy Sinatra’s classic hit “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” a good song per se, but it is definitely a memorable and fun one.   To its credit, “Boots” does an excellent job of evoking in present-day listeners the sound of the Swinging 60’s; filmmakers have relied on it as a retro touchstone for years, including in memorable scenes that range from Full Metal Jacket to Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.  It’s a fun piece of trashy pop, with a versatile pseudo-female empowerment message that can be interpreted either sincerely or ironically.  Musically, the most memorable thing about “Boots” is its hypnotic descending bass line, though I’ve always had a particular fondness for the particular tone of the cheap-sounding guitars as well.  However, the song fails to do anything with the fact that the legendary Hal Blaine behind the kit, and those ridiculous horns that end the song are best used as fodder for potential edits due to time restrictions.

The cover that inspired this edition of our regular feature was the version done by Parquet Courts for their second album of 2014, Content Nausea, recorded under the moniker of “Parkay Quarts”.  Their take on the song (titled on the album as “These Boots”) straddles the line between serious and mocking, sticking close to the original for the most part musically speaking while vocally alternating between not-giving-a-shit and caring-just-enough.  The group made sure to include that amazing bass riff as well as for doing a reasonable facsimile of the original’s guitar tone, and even did a better job with the horns by adding a nifty supporting part to the verse.  Courts/Quarts also improve upon the ending by ending everything in a giant haze of guitar squall and irritating feedback.

The Content Nausea version also reminded me of the ridiculous take done by Operation Ivy, where they transformed the pop number into a bouncy ska romp as “One of These Days” for their album Energy.  They didn’t really care to remember any of the lyrics besides the chorus, and it’s just as well, since beyond the initial inspiration to add guitar strokes on the upbeats they didn’t bother to do too much to it musically either.  It does however fit in perfectly with the rest of Energy in that regard, and it’s only when you pay attention to the fact that Jesse Michaels is shouting those famous words in particular that you realize that this is a “cover”.  As a song in and of itself, it’s not particularly good, but as an example of the kind of we-working of pop classics by early punk bands, it’s not half-bad.

Neither of these cover versions are essential, but at least they’re fun.  They’re also perfect set-fillers that keep the audience engaged without demanding too much of their attention.  And no one has to really worry about impinging on the reputation of the original: while it is fondly remembered, no one is going to fight for the sake of Nancy Sinatra’s classic bit of kitsch.

Covered: “Come Together”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original.  If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

Growing up, I hardly listened to The Beatles, which puts me firmly in the minority of most people.  I grew up in an immigrant household with a mother that preferred the Rolling Stones and Bob Seger and a father who didn’t listen to popular music at all, so I missed out on that omnipresent background of Beatles records that make up the soundtrack of most childhoods.  My Beatles education came much later, but it was tainted by years of reading the endless stream of praise for how the band revolutionized music and were “The Greatest Band of All-Time,” which only set me up for disappointment when I went ahead and listened to all their classic albums.  So while I can appreciate on an academic level how the Beatles influenced rock music for decades, I personally never much of a connection with their music; I can understand how the vast majority of music that I do love was influenced by The Beatles and in many cases was a copy of a copy of a copy of their work, but that does not mean I have to enjoy the original.

Given this background, it is perhaps not a surprise that the first time that I heard “Come Together” was not when it kicked off Abbey Road, but when I heard the chorus used in a commercial.  I thought, “Hey, this is nice!  I wonder how the rest of this song goes,” though I never followed up on that desire.  So when I first heard the song in its entirety years later with the memories of its anthemic chorus still stuck in my head, I had anticipated “Come Together” to be more of an uplifting rocker, and was not prepared for the groovy verses or its low-key, bluesy feel.  However, once I adjusted my expectations, I could then appreciate Paul’s nifty and inventive bassline as well as Ringo’s perfectly-placed drumrolls.  Lennon’s lines about “toejam football” and “walrus gumboot” are all nonsense, but at least they stick in your head in a not-unpleasant manner, though I feel like the art of the non sequitur wasn’t perfected until Beck hit the scene.  It’s a groovy song, and I can see why people dig it, but it just ain’t my speed.

“Now this is more like it,” he says, knowing full well that this may destroy all of his credibility.

The Soundgarden cover has always been my favorite of all the various versions of the song because it fulfilled my simple desire of the “uplifting rocker” that I had initially expected: it’s loud and heavy and sounds like a goddamn dinosaur is stomping all over your stereo.  When analyzed with present-day ears, their cover sounds like a grunge-by-numbers take on the song, with its thundering drums, heavily-distorted guitars, and (perhaps overly-)emotive vocals. But at the time when the song was released (back in 1990 the pre-Badmotorfinger days for the Loudest Love EP/”Hands All Over” single), it was a much more innovative and imaginative approach.  Even if you’re unconvinced by that assessment, there is no denying that Kim Thayil’s guitar really wails on that fantastic McCartney riff and Chris Cornell  sings the hell out of those nonsensical lyrics, with everything working in perfect harmony for that memorable chorus.  Academically, it may not be genius, but it rocks.

For years I had been longing to have this cover on disc, but those particular releases were incredibly hard to find, even for a crate-digger like myself.  So when Soundgarden finally released their rarities collection Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path with a specific disc devoted to covers, I was beyond excited to finally having a copy of “Come Together”.  However, the initial price of the compilation was extremely high–it was quite a bit more expensive than the similar odds and sods Wilco collection Alpha Mike Foxtrot, even though the latter had a whole extra disc.  I eventually got my hands on a copy (after waiting a couple of months for the price to drop a bit and using up a gift certificate), and even on a disc filled with excellent covers somehow “Come Together” still holds up as Soundgarden’s best (though their version of “Big Bottom” comes close to topping it).

And now that I have a copy, I’m free to rock to this version and pretty much ignore the original, because I’m a total heretic [raises up a double-fisted rock-hands salute].