Hey Pals, remember a bit ago when I started on the long trek of comparing truly great songs with truly bad songs? Well, I never abandoned that project, and decided today to bring a few more to the front and center of Philadelphia's foremost rock blog. No, no, not Dan Deluca's site, but BRP! Here we are, with the latest iteration. Let's start with remake songs.
Awful Remake Song: Cherish, The Association and then David Cassidy
Good Remake Song: What’s So Funny (‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding), Nick Lowe and then Elvis Costello
Comment: Let’s start with awful. Cherish is a sappy pop song that was sort of harmless enough when The Association did it. It’s a little too over-the-top for me in terms of its “longing and loss” lyrics. And then we thought it was over and we didn’t ever have to hear it again. Along comes David Cassidy, fresh off the cover of Tiger Beat, who was a big enough star in his day that his remake probably got a lot more airplay than the original. And it wasn’t as good as the original, but still as cloying and ear-worming. And DC? Well, I hope he rests in peace and takes Cherish with him.
And then there is the great. Nick Lowe wrote a song that has been done over and over by many artists. It’s about an aging hippie, sort of pathetic, who is watching the world turn and wondering whatever happened to the summer of love. The tune is great, the song more heartfelt and caring than Nick probably knew when he penned it. His original version is terrific. But Elvis Costello took that tune, amped it up, sang it in his deep voice, and added angst and deep emotion to it. It is, by far, my favorite version of this great tune, and my favorite song done by EC. Given his catalog, that is really saying something. It’s fantastic.
Let's move on. The next two are going to compare the great and the awful from the same artist - it happens much more than we would like to think. Let's start with Paul Simon.
Good Paul Simon Song: Mrs. Robinson, Simon & Garfunkle
Awful Paul Simon Song: 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Paul Simon
Comment: Like Paul McCartney, Paul Simon wrote some classic songs that are rightly adored by all those who have not been lobotomized. Mrs. Robinson is bouncy and catchy, has Art G. singing with that achingly beautiful voice of his, references Joe Dimaggio, and was prominently featured in The Graduate. It’s iconic.
And then there is 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. Just get off the bus, Gus? Make a new plan, Stan? Drop off the key, Lee? If you saw those lyrics in a display case at your local middle school – you know, where budding middle school musicians display their first self-penned tunes – you would chuckle and think how immature they are and, well, there is a lot of room for growth. But secretly you hope that the kid’s other classes are going better because music clearly won’t be their life’s calling. But to realize that those lyrics come from one of America’s musical legends, you just shake your head and agree with those who say that this country has seen its better days. (Oh, and don’t get me started on the Sounds of Silence – I’m actually trying to keep my dinner in my stomach.)
Ready for some more? OK, one more and then I succumb to the bull whip of The Man once again. Let's go San Francisco this time.
Good Jefferson Airplane/Starship Song: Somebody To Love, Airplane
Awful Jefferson Airplane/Starship Song: We Built This City, Starship
Comment: It’s hard to say that Jefferson Starship is the same band as Jefferson Airplane. But there are enough key personnel that straddle the two bands that they are forever linked in the minds of rock listeners. JA had some great sixties-era songs, the best being Somebody to Love. Grace Slick's powerful singing, a fantastic opening line ("When the truth is found/to be lies"), and a driving rock tune all make this one of the 60s truly great contributions to rock.
And then there is We Built This City. I googled that song and the original title was This Song Is Shitty. Regardless of the title, there is no stupider song out there (well, maybe, we do have many more songs to go, and Barry Manilow remains on the horizon). Sometimes bands have nothing left to say after their original creative eruption. But they say things anyway. And they have enough swagger to get the radio DJs to play them over and over. Thank the lord for the Jefferson Airplane and for Somebody to Love. Curse the devil for the Jefferson Starship and We Built This City.
OK, youngsters, Simon Legree is calling. I gotta run. I hope you are feeling good, happy that the Eagles found redemption for Philadelphia, and loving/hating me for putting these great/awful songs into your day. Rock on! I'll see you soon.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.