Monday, December 7, 2009

A little something about cover songs

Fustercluck!!! is our first album with cover songs -- not counting, of course, the unlicensed covers from the CD-R albums I did years ago, alone, as Elastic No-No Band (you can download mp3s of most of the songs from those albums on this page on our website [just scroll down a bit] and enjoy their semi-inept wonderfulness).

I decided to include covers on the album, because I like doing cover songs -- it doesn't feel like a cop-out or anything, especially if the tunes fit our style. And it's nice to pay tribute to songs you like. (Tangent: I didn't think of it before, but Bob Dylan's Self Portrait -- which was a conceptual inspiration on this album -- has a lot of covers of songs that inspired Bob and that he just liked to play. So that kind of fits. Sub-tangent: No, I'm not going to take up time defending Self Portrait right now if you happen to hate it.)

A lot of people I know from the antifolk scene can be expected to throw a cover or two on some of their albums, but these folks only sell CD-Rs and don't expect to sell more than a handful of copies at shows -- so they, ahem, don't pay royalties or anything. After all, the kind of paperwork and fees and so on that comes along with putting a cover song on your album in a fully legal way can be kind of daunting.

But I always intended to make Fustercluck!!! available in the Big Brother-infested world of online music sales. So I had to find the least painful process for getting legit cover songs out there. The 2 EPs I made between our last album, My 3 Addictions, and this new one were meant to be the cautious toe dipped into the water of cover-song-selling. The first EP, The Meow Bits, has been pretty successful. The solo acoustic cover of The Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" on the EP is currently our all-time best selling download ("Let's Fuck" remains our bestselling original-song download -- ugh). The second EP, Every Elvis Has His Impersonators, is made up of 7 Elvis Costello covers -- and it's selling OK (I'm paying much more in processing fees to Harry Fox, the agency that "represents" the songs, than I am actually recouping in sales; the EP is good, though, so I'll keep it up for at least another year in hopes some folks will find it and enjoy it before I decide that I'm tired of losing money).

So anyhow, here's a little rundown of the covers on this here record (in album order):

*It's Different For Girls - I pretty much covered the story behind this one in my entry about collaborating with Nan Turner.

*Poor Jenny - This song was written by The Bryants for The Everly Brothers. I originally heard this on a 4-song 7-inch record of Everly Brothers covers by Rockpile's Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds. Later I picked up an Everlys anthology and thought the tune really suited ENB's half whimsical/half dark/weirdly funny attitude. There's an alternate version of the song where the party in the song ends at ten o'clock, but we went with the harder-edged "one o'clock" version.

*Daddy's Song - The story is here.

*I Bought Me A Cat/There's A Hole In The Bucket/Go Tell Aunt Rhody/New River Train - I explain these in the Debe Dalton entry.

*Goodnight Irene - This "urban folk" classic was first a big hit for The Weavers in the late '40s and has since been covered 17,513 times on record -- including a recent version in Tom Waits's popular Orphans box set. I had been playing the song myself a lot during my time busking in the New York City subway, and I liked the way I made it sound, so I recorded it with my friend Pat Trejchel playing a little backing electric guitar in his friend's basement in Perrysburg, Ohio. I later added some backing vocals when I got back to New York City, as is my wont. The lyrics I use are the ones from the pre-Weavers Lead Belly recording, which are a little bleaker and less whitebread.

*Go Away (Goodbye Southern Death Swing) - This gem about breaking up was written (and originally performed) by our producer Major Matt Mason USA for his first album, Me Me Me. I originally wanted to do this as a punk-ish full-band rock tune (in contrast to Matt's original dirge-y country waltz version), but the band could never get the song to a place where they liked playing it and I wasn't going to force it. This song also is a part of my New York City subway busking repertoire, and I tried my best to reproduce the quality of the performances I do of it in the subway with just me and the guitar, on the final recording. I think I succeeded. (Also, because my version takes the "swing" out of Matt's song, I changed the main title to "Go Away" and put his original title in parentheses.)

*I'd Love Just Once To See You - I tell the story about this one in the entry about Toby Goodshank.

I hope you like our covers and -- if you don't know them -- I hope you check out the originals too.