Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published November 12th 2019
Not original but still good
Because of a birthday, I recently looked at the songs of the year 1998. In that column I indicated there would be another column about cover songs of the year. Well, here it is!
Now, as some of my regular readers may have noted, I have mentioned just once or twice various cover songs. While I am all for original creativity, there is sometimes just something about a cover version that is different and exciting.
Brief diversion. This is the second time I've looked at the cover songs of a specific year, out of quite a few years when I've looked at the best songs of particular years. What that tells me is that sometimes when a year does not seem to be that good in the pop culture stakes, maybe the artists themselves realise this and so go and seek inspiration from what came before to lead onto something bigger and better. And hence the number of cover songs in some years that are amongst the best music of the year.
Anyway, that's my take on it.
All right, with that out of the way, here are the best 12 cover songs of 1998 in alphabetical order of song. No songs from live albums, but one live song… what? You'll see.
Brian Setzer Orchestra
'Across The Universe' by Fiona Apple
This starts life as a standard Beatles cover song, but as it goes on, it lacks the John Lennon trippiness and stays in that down-beat state. There's slurred lyrics and when she sings "…nothing's gonna change my world…" it sounds like she's given up. There's no LSD here, but maybe some other narcotics are involved. It is a strange cover, but I like it, from the soundtrack of the film Pleasantville.
'Blue Monday' by Orgy
An industrial version of the song that ushered in the electro-pop 12-inch mix era of 1980s music. Just typing that makes it seem like a mix made by a desperate producer, but it works here. The tinny, hi-hat heavy original by New Order (and I don't mean that in a derogatory sense – it is a classic song) is given a real kick here. It is a good cover – not as good as the original – and it is different, which is why it stands out.
'Faith' by Limp Bizkit
Take the George Michael song, and then let a nu-metal rock-rap group have a go at it. It could have been a disaster of epic proportions, but it isn't. This was the song that blew them into the mainstream a little, before they really hit their stride a few years later. But I find it a weird and fun version of the song. Were they making fun of the song? Hard to tell… but maybe.
'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' by Sensitive New Age Cowpersons
Take the U2 classic and play it in the manner it was surely intended – bluegrass. No, seriously, come back. It works, partly because SNAC is made up of fine musicians, and partly because the song is so well-written in the first place. It still manages to even maintain some of the gravitas of the original. And live this is awesome.
'Only You' by Fiona Horne and Paul McDermott
From the duo that gave you the best song of 1998, and a song that has been forgotten by too many, I present a live song from the Good News Weekend TV show. This cover of the old Yazoo hit is a cheeky, happy little cover that is mixed with a cover of the old Mary Tyler Moore Show theme. These two have such amazing chemistry. Pity this song was never released as a single.
It feels like it might be a straight forward cover, probably based more on the Soft Cell version than the Gloria Jones original, and then the guitars kick in and it becomes a Living End song. I think this is my favourite version of the song. It works as a rock song so well.
'This Old House' by The Brian Setzer Orchestra
Another BSO cover, this time of the old Shakin' Stevens song. While it is pretty much a straight forward cover, it still sounds like they had fun recording it, and it is a great listen.
'Video Killed The Radio Star' by The Presidents Of The United States Of America
From the film The Wedding Singer comes this cover of the 1980 Buggles hit. Updated sound, but it is a straight forward cover, albeit one with slightly more grunt and some updated lyrics. I am not a fan of Adam Sandler, but this film was probably one of his very best, and a lot of that was due to the music used. And this song was a big part of that.
'Who Put The Bomp' by Cartoons
Cartoons were a retro European band that took the 1950s and made them… into the 1950s. I bought their album Toonage and it is a weird album. This is one of several covers on it, and it actually slows down the Barry Mann original a little. Still, I like it.
'Witch Doctor' by Cartoons
Another Cartoons track! This one is a more straight forward cover and is my favourite song off the Toonage album. The saxophones add something to it, and even that pervasive 90s techno beat doesn't detract, and I think it is on a par with the David Seville original.
'Working Class Hero' by Roger Taylor
Taylor was/is drummer for the band Queen and some of his solo work has been really good. The album Electric Fire is a strong one, and this cover song comes from there. It is not as good as the John Lennon original (then again, nothing really could be), but Taylor does give it a good shot. Fine performance here.
And so there you are, cover songs from 1998. Strange year all up, I'd say.