The Original Vs. The Cover – “Blinded By the Light”

For this edition of The Original Vs. The Cover, we are going to explore the Bruce Springsteen song “Blinded by the Light” which was later covered by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. For Bruce, it was his first single in the U.S. off his 1973 debut album, Greeting From Asbury Park, N.J.  And…it flopped!  Manfred Mann’s version was released in 1977 and went all the way to #1 and I believe it was Bruce’s first #1 song and his only. It took someone performing his song for him to get a #1 song…interesting considering how much he is acclaimed as being The Boss.

The song was very auto-biographical for Bruce.  There were a ton of references to friends, his youth experiences and even him getting sick.  The song came about because the record company felt he needed a single.  So, sitting in his bedroom with a rhyming dictionary, Bruce threw so many words together and came up with this beast.  He went nuts with the words and threw everything in, but I don’t see the kitchen sink.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

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As I said, the song flopped in the U.S. and it was probably because it had so many words.  No person listening to the radio could remember all the words.  The chorus was catchy, no doubt, but it is a difficult song to get in to with the way it is presented.  Bruce vocals are done in a singing / speaking format rather than full on singing which is typical Bruce.

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The Original Vs. The Cover – “Africa”

For this version of The Original Vs. The Cover, we are covering a fairly new cover of the song Africa by Weezer compared to the original by Toto.  The Weezer cover has brought Weezer back in to the news, but it has also brought the band Toto to a whole new generation of music lovers which is always a good thing.

The song was written by David Paich and Jeff Pocaro of the band Toto and released back in 1982.  David came up with the song after watching a documentary about all the suffering in Africa.  It moved him, but so did the pictures of such a beautiful continent.  The song is a love song, but love for a place and not an actual romance.  The song did really well for the band and hit #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and #3 in the UK.

Now, 35+ odd years later, a fan on twitter kept asking Weezer to record a cover of the song which they did not do.  They did a cover of the song “Rosanna” to troll the people begging for a cover.  However, a few months later, the band finally released a cover of the song.  Their version only went to #51 on the Billboard Hot 100, but much higher on other charts.  To make it even better, Toto went on and released a cover version of “Hash Pipe” by Weezer,  We are not going to cover that song here.

Toto_-_Africa.jpg

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The Original Vs. The Cover – “New York Groove”

For this month’s version of The Original Vs. The Cover, we are tackling the 70’s hit, “New York Groove” that was made famous by Ace Frehley on his solo album in 1978.  However, the song was originally performed by the Glam band Hello back in 1974.  The song was written by Russ Ballard and if you don’t know Russ, he was in the band Argent, went solo, and was a songwriter who has worked with America, Roger Daltrey, Peter Criss, and Frehley’s Comet to name a few.

The Hello song did pretty well in the UK hitting #9 and #7 in Germany.  Ace’s version was the highest charting song of any of the Kiss Solo albums where it peaked at #13 in the Billboard Hot 100.

Russ Ballard wrote the phrase “back in the New York Groove” while on a plane headed to New York where he hadn’t been in a long while.  So, that became the theme of the song and eventually he would finish the song.

HELLO

Hello connected with Russ while he was in the UK and the band’s manager had reached out to Russ asking if he had any songs the band could use and boom, you get “New York Groove”.

Hello’s version opens with a hand clap sound (maybe a stomping/clapping sound), a harmonica riff and a great drum beat.  Right before the chorus, there is nice little guitar riff and speaking of chorus, the way they emphasized the word “Groove” in New York Groove was unusual and made it stand out.  It definitely has that 70’s feel to it and Bob Bradbury does a great job with the vocals.  It is actually a very fun song and I can see why they had a minor hit with it.

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The Original Vs. The Cover – “Nothing Compares 2 U”

Welcome to another edition of The Original Vs. The Cover.  This time we are going to compare the song “Nothing Compares 2 U” to the original and the best cover of the song.  The Original was performed by the band The Family and the Cover was famously performed by Sinead O’Connor.  The song was written by Prince and he did perform this song in 1984 or so and it was finally released in 2018 so I can’t count that as the original since it wasn’t released before The Family’s version.  Prince did release a version with Rosie Gaines in 1993 which was again after both versions

The Family? What?  You never heard of them?  Not surprising.  The band was a creation of Prince as another outlet for HIS music to be released.  He was very controlling and involved in every aspect other than singing and performing.  As a result, after they released 1 album, 2 singles (which this song was not one) and after only 1 show, the lead singer, Paul Peterson aka. St. Paul, quit.  He felt Prince was too controlling and he felt restricted.

THE FAMILY

The Family’s version was never released as a single and you probably never heard this version before.  I hadn’t until I decided to do this song for the post.  I had trouble finding it and only found it on that Tube of You.

The is very stripped down.  It is mostly an organ playing with horns and keyboards.  No percussion whatsoever.  Paul Peterson’s vocals are really great and the backing vocals of Susannah Melvoin played nicely with Paul’s vocals. Paul had a haunting, painful feel to them which the song seems to have a lot of pain.

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The Original Vs. The Cover – “Respect”

For this installment of The Original Vs. The Cover, we are discussing the classic Aretha Franklin song “Respect” which is actually a cover of the song originally written and performed by Otis Redding just two years earlier.  The Otis Redding song was written for Speedo Sims and his band the Singing Demons, but they were unable to find the sound they liked and so Otis decided to sing the song.

The song came out in 1965 and went to the Top 5 on the Black Charts, but actually crossed-over to the pop charts where it reached #35.  It was one of a couple songs that crossed-over for Otis.  The Redding version is about a man’s plea to his woman to show him some respect for bringing home the bacon.  He could care less if she does him wrong, but just wants his due from her.

OTIS REDDING

In looking through his roster of musicians, he had a couple that stood out for me.  There were two keyboard players on the song, one goes by the name Booker T. Jones and the other is Isaac Hayes.  The rest of the band were all Booker T. & the MG’s band members except for the horn section, they were not part of Booker’s band.

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The Original vs. The Cover – “I Love Rock ‘n Roll”

For this version of The Original vs. The Cover, we are covering the classic song “I Love Rock & Roll” by The Arrows and by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.  We are not going to explore the cover by Britney Spears because, well it is Britney Spears and so not worthy!

The song was written by Alan Merrill and Jake Hooker of the band The Arrows back in 1975 and when it was released, it ran into a run of bad luck and never amounted to much on the charts thanks in part to a Paper Strike and no news was printed around its release.  The song itself was a reaction to the Rolling Stones song “It’s Only Rock & Roll (But I Like It)” according to an interview Merrill had with Songfacts.com…

“That was a knee-jerk response to the Rolling Stones’ ‘It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll.’ I remember watching it on Top of the Pops. I’d met Mick Jagger socially a few times, and I knew he was hanging around with Prince Rupert Lowenstein and people like that – jet setters. I almost felt like ‘It’s Only Rock and Roll’ was an apology to those jet-set princes and princesses that he was hanging around with – the aristocracy, you know. That was my interpretation as a young man: Okay, I love rock and roll. And then, where do you go with that?”

The band would play this song on Top of the Pops in 1976 and it was at that time, a young lady by the name of Joan Jett heard it while she was touring her band The Runaways.  She decided she wanted to record it, but The Runaways didn’t want to cover it so when she went solo, she recorded it herself.

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The Original vs. The Cover – “Get It On”

For this version of The Original vs. The Cover, we are covering the song “Get It On” by T. Rex and covered by The Power Station.  The song originally came out back in 1971 and went all the way to #1 in the UK, but only #10 in the US (only…like #10 is a bad thing).  However, in the States, the song was called “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” as jazz band called The Chase, released a song that same year called “Get It On”…completely different song though.

The Power Station released the song in 1985 and they did so much better as the song went to #9 on the US Charts and all the way to #22 on the UK charts..oh wait, that isn’t really better…oh well.  It still was very popular and helped sell a lot of albums for the band.

The song is a simple song which is basically about sex.  What?  That wasn’t obvious to you with the title.  That’s it, it is about sex.  I have nothing else to add.  There is no big story behind it, just sex.  I do know that a certain radio DJ of some fame by the name of John Peel really hated this song and as a result, his relationship with Marc Bolan became strained as Peel wouldn’t play the song on his show.  Apparently they were solid chums prior to this song.  Other than that, that is all I got for you until I speak of the song itself with each band.  So let’s get to that.

T. REX

T. Rex’s version is a straight up rocker with a great little guitar riff that Marc Bolan claims he took from Chuck Berry’s song “Little Queenie” which he also ended the song with the line “For the meanwhile I’m still thinking” from that song as well.  The song has a retro 50’s feel to it as well and the simplicity of the lyrics is also a shout out to that era.

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The Original vs. The Cover – “Zombie”

For this installment of The Original vs. The Cover, we are tackling the Cranberries song “Zombie and comparing to the cover by Bad Wolves.  The song was written by Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries back in 1993 and was released on their 1994 album ‘No Need to Argue’.  The Cranberries had pretty good success with the song, but the song was never released as an official single in the U.S. so it never made the Billboard Top 40. The song helped the album go on to sell over 7 million copies in the U.S.

The song was a very big political statement for the band.  It was about the IRA bombing in England in 1993 which killed two children, Jonathan Bell and Tim Parry.  The band is from Ireland and this hit too close to home for them.  For those that don’t know, the IRA is a militant group that has been trying for years to get the British troops removed from Northern Ireland.  Dolores wrote the song as an anthem for peace.  The song also speaks to the year 1916 which is how long the fighting has been taking place over this issue.

For me, I now look at the song differently.  I think the song was also talking about depression.  The lyrics do speak of war and fighting and it is obvious what the song is about, but with the lines repeated a lot “in your head / Zombie”, I looked at as the mental anguish the singer was fighting with herself as she did suffer from depression and sadly took her life on January 15th of this year, 2018. Maybe I am trying to read too much into it.

THE CRANBERRIES

The Cranberries song was a departure for the band sonically.  The band was an alternative rock band with some pop flare to them as well.  This song was more grunge sounding than anything they had done.  It was very dark, angry and Dolores’ delivery of the lyrics made you feel that anger and the pain of losing the children and the heartache the family’s must have felt.

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The Original Vs The Cover – “Higher Ground”

For this month’s The Original Vs The Cover, we are comparing the versions of the song “Higher Ground” originally performed by Stevie Wonder and then later covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Two great artists and two very different versions so which will come out on top.

The song was written by Stevie Wonder and it came out on his 1973 album ‘Innervisions’.  It went all the way to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart.  It was a very successful song for Stevie and in 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #265 on the Top 500 Songs of all time.  Not bad.

The song is possibly about two things.  One being second chances and the other is reincarnation (which could also be considered a second chance I guess).  Stevie wrote the song and recorded it in a span of 3 hours which to me is amazing.  According to Stevie, he felt a sense of urgency to get it done as if something was going to happen and he needed to finish it.  Just a few months later, he was in a car accident that put him in a coma for four days (3 days after the album was released).

Okay, let us get to the songs…

STEVIE WONDER

Stevie’s song is pure 70’s funk.  It has such an awesome little groove and that unique wah sound comes from a clavinet using a Mu-Tron III pedal.  What are those?  Here is a picture (thanks wikipedia).

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The Original vs The Cover – “Black Magic Woman”

When you hear the song title “Black Magic Woman”, most people immediately associate the song with Santana and that is because they have the most famous version of the song.  However, their version is actually a cover version.  I did not know that until a short time ago when I discovered that the original was performed by Fleetwood Mac two years earlier.  My world was rocked as I had no idea.  I don’t know if life will ever be the same.

The song was written by Peter Green who was the original singer for the Fleetwood Mac and he came from John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers where he originally replaced Eric Clapton on guitar.  There is whole story around that and the formation of Fleetwood Mac which we will have to save for another time as this post is about comparing the two versions of “Black Magic Woman”.

FLEETWOOD MAC

The Fleetwood Mac version of “Black Magic Woman” was  a real bluesy track, heavy on the drums and the bass with little guitar riffs thrown in.  Then there is a great guitar solo that comes in about a minute into the song and goes on for about 45 seconds.  It is really great and what would you expect from a guy that replaced Eric Clapton in another band.

Peter sounds great vocally as well and after listening to it, I realized I have heard the song many times before but probably thought it was the Santana song, of course it doesn’t have the same feel, but they aren’t completely different songs.

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