Sunday, June 26, 2011

Uncovering a stinker

By Al Tays

When it comes to covers
our intrepid contributor
Al Tays has it covered.
Which is why we can't
in good conscience
provide links to a
very regrettable song.
Interesting confluence of history on this date: In 2008, Total Guitar magazine named Celine Dion's cover of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" as the worst cover ever. And in 1965, the Byrds went to No. 1 on the U.S. singles chart with their landmark cover of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man."

Now, I had never heard Ms. Dion's version of "You Shook me All Night Long," but in the interest of journalistic integrity, I YouTubed it. Wow. That's 4 minutes and 25 seconds I'll never get back. My eyes! My ears! Make it stop!

YouTube also has a video of Shania Twain doing this song live, and I've gotta say ... it was worse. Backed by the sublime Alison Krauss and Union Station, Twain countrified the song, which just emasculated it, as far as I'm concerned. It was almost as disturbing as Faith Hill's country ruination of "Piece of My Heart." You've probably heard Janis Joplin's classic version of this Jerry Ragovoy/Bert Berns tune, but to truly appreciate what a great piece of R&B genius this is, check out the original 1967 recording by Aretha Franklin's now-deceased older sister, Erma Franklin. Aretha wasn't the only one in that family with some pipes.

In fairness to Ms. Twain, she does have a personal connection to "You Shook me All Night Long." Her ex-husband, Mutt Lange, produced "Back in Black," the AC/DC album on which the song appeared. Still . . .

I like my covers to bring something different to the table, to take the song in a direction the original didn't go. You could say that Twain's and Hill's country versions of rock classics did that, but I don't like covers to rip the guts out of songs, either.

And this isn't an anti-country bias, either. I love me some country music. When it IS country music.

My favorite cover, by a wide margin, is of a country song - John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads." Check out the Toots and the Maytals version sometime. Now THAT's a cover I could listen to all night long.

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