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Side by Side: An Examination of a Different Type of Cover

The “cover” song is a widespread phenomenon in the world of music, and one that not too many people are unfamiliar with. Covers are a tricky game, but they are almost always done in homage to the band that originally wrote the song, which makes listening to them even more fascinating for me. If I love a song chances are that I’m not going to like even the best of cover songs as much as I do the original (see any Beatles cover), but just as often I will hear a cover of a song I’ve never heard before and it will open up a new artist to my attention (like REM did with Lou Reed for me when I was a freshman in high school).

Side by Side will place cover songs next to their original. Not for analysis, but for consumption, comparison, and the general well-being of your brain.

In celebration of the fact that I’m seeing the Pixies, one of my all-time favorite bands, tomorrow, I thought for the first installment I’d use them as my first subject. And because of the rare fact that there are two covers of Pixies songs that I love every bit as much as the originals, this one will be a super-sized edition.

Here’s “Cactus” as performed by the Pixies and then by David Bowie:

And here’s the Pixies doing “Mr. Grieves” followed by the TV On The Radio cover:

  • Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, changed oil, painted houses, swept the floor of a mechanic's shop, worked on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed an independent children's bookstore. He now works in marketing. His latest book is Nothing but the Dead and Dying, a collection of stories set in Alaska. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife and two sons.

2 thoughts on “Side by Side: An Examination of a Different Type of Cover

  1. That was fun! Dig how they spell out “Pixies” in between the second verse and chorus and how Bowie spells out “David” in his version (during the break).

    Bowie’s vocals was an interesting echo of Black’s reedy fragility. While the production could’ve been less bombastic, it was texturally weird and offered something that The Pixies’s original didn’t.

    I like the amorphous rhythm on Mr. Grieves, the push pull tension of it, how it goes from a skank to a Country Western thing.

    TVR’s version is cool. Kind of a doo-wop thing. Clever.

    It’s funny how both of the covers are longer than the original.

    So what’s the word on the concert?

    1. Thanks, John. I think it takes a lot of skill to pull off a cover and these are two of my favorite instances. The TVOTR cover especially, sometimes I get surprised when I go back to the original version ’cause start to only think of the song in terms of that haunting doowop.

      The concert was amazing. The first time I saw them it was an outdoor show, and it was so much better to get to see them inside, closer, louder. Absolutely mindblowing.

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