Tag Archives: leonard cohen

Ms. Mix & Bitch’s Rant: Are Rock Stars Too Smart for Scientology?

 

Scientology didn’t give Katie Holmes quite the career boost she was counting on, now did it?

So earlier in the week, film director Paul Haggis – a long, devoted Scientologist – disavowed himself from his pyramid scheme of a religion, mostly due to the organization’s lack of action against anti-gay legislative initiatives.  And my first reaction was “that’s what finally got him to jump ship and not all of the other bat-shit crazy stuff the cult  proclaims?” To each his own, I say. 

You know, I expect actors and directors to fall for the over-the-top declarations of a meglomaniacal science writer who’s been quoted as saying the best way to make some money is to start a religion…they live in Los Angeles for Christ’s sake…where even alien-inspired immortality is possible (L. Ron Hubbard’s words, not mine).  I’m not entirely convinced that some of them haven’t sold their souls to the Horned One/Tom Cruise in order to further their careers.  Beats having to blow Harvey Weinstein, that’s for sure.

So color me incredulous, but I expect more out of my rock stars/musicians than to fall for the likes of Scientology.  I guess I think of those in the music business as being a bit more jaded and savvy, and therefore not as likely to fall for L. Ron Hubbard’s dianetic debacle of a faith.  But I was wrong.  So wrong.  Take a look at the following in the music business who claim to be – gulp – Scientologists:

Ok, some of them you already know like…

Lisa Marie Presley (they can have her. No big loss)

Isaac Hayes (who’s dead and gone – guess he didn’t get high enough in

the organization to achieve Immortal Status, hmm?)

But did you know that Chaka Khan is one?

And Brandy?

Along with Dave Davies from The Kinks? THE KINKS???

Scientology can also lay claim to Rob Thomas, Doug E. Fresh

And last – and the one that breaks my heart the most….

Beck.

Sigh. You’re just too cool for Scientology. And supposedly, too intelligent and hip and funny to fall for a raging lunatic’s delusion of grandeur scheme. 

There were others before you, Beck, who had fallen for the Dianetic Diatribe, but came out the other side.  Here’s a list of former musician Scientologist who just….who just….stopped taking drugs long enough to realize what they’d gotten themselves into….they are:

Liz Phair

Leonard Cohen

Gloria Gaynor

Courtney Love (and psst, if you know that Scientology was too crazy for Courtney Love, then MAN, it must be WHACK)

Al Jarreau (what’s with all the black people in Scientology? Do they get a discount on auditing sessions or something?)

Lou Rawls

Van Morrison (yep. Really).

Hey Church of Scientology…you can keep all the rest of them, but please, not Beck.  And one last word on the subject…

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I Gotcha Covered: Top 20 Cover Songs of All Times, Part II

10. “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)” (Original By: Kate Bush) (Cover By: Placebo)

Originally titled, “A Deal with God”, Kate Bush’s record company was leary of releasing the song for fear that us Bible-beating Americans wouldn’t play it on the radio.  Frankly, I never heard this song on mainstream radio even with its altered title, so perhaps it had less to do with title and more to do with a lack of taste in popular culture. Anyway, because her previous album, The Dreaming, had done so poorly in the charts, Bush relented and changed the title. Even then, the tools at Capitol/EMI didn’t want to release it, but Bush successfully convinced them to release “Running Up That Hill” first, citing that it was the first song to be written for the album, and felt that it better represented the broader feel for Hounds of Love.  Well, thank God she did, because it may have gotten lost if she hadn’t been so insistent.

Ironically, the song itself has often been misinterpreted. Kate Bush herself has said,

I was trying to say that, really, a man and a woman, can’t understand each other because we are a man and a woman. And if we could actually swap each other’s roles, if we could actually be in each others place for a while, I think we’d both be very surprised! [Laughs] And I think it would be lead to a greater understanding. And really the only way I could think it could be done was either… you know, I thought a deal with the devil, you know. And I thought, ‘well, no, why not a deal with God!’ You know, because in a way it’s so much more powerful the whole idea of asking God to make a deal with you. You see, for me it is still called “Deal With God”, that was its title. But we were told that if we kept this title that it wouldn’t be played in any of the religious countries, Italy wouldn’t play it, France wouldn’t play it, and Australia wouldn’t play it! Ireland wouldn’t play it, and that generally we might get it blacked purely because it had ‘God’ in the title.[1]

So I guess that means all of North American AND Western Europe are a bunch of religious, idiotic zealots, right? I always thought of the song as an argument between lovers who couldn’t see the other’s point of view, but then again, I have a master’s degree in Gender Studies. So pat on the back for me for getting it – right?

So onwards – alternative-rock band, Placebo, covered “Running Up That Hill”, releasing it originally on the bonus disc of their 2003 album Sleeping with Ghosts (one of my favorites of all time). The song had a fairly low profile for some time before attracting further attention in 2006, after Placebo began to include it in their set whilst touring to promote Meds. Placebo’s take on the song is more downbeat than the original, and focuses more on instrumentation. It has been described by Q Magazine as ‘sound[ing] more like a pact with the Devil’ than the original ‘deal with God’. I concur wholeheartedly.

9. “Hurt” (Original By: Nine Inch Nails) (Cover By: Johnny Cash)

Now I do realize that having two songs by the same cover artist may seem irresponsible with so many excellent choices and so few slots in this countdown, but Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, they’re both too exceptional not to have their own places in on the list.I know for a fact that MANY will take issue with the following statement, but fuck ’em: I think Cash’s version is even better than ol’ Trent Reznor’s original. There, I said it. And I’m sticking to it.

8. “Toxic” (Original By: Britney Spears) (Cover By: Yael Naim)

Just when we were all ready to write Ms. Naim off as another sugar coated pop star with her Apple hit “New Soul,” you explore a little deeper down her album’s playlist to discover this unexpected mind-warp of a song.  I swear, Naim’s version is this Alice-in-Wonderland, creepy lullaby-ese number, sung more by the strange girl voyeur rather than by the can’t-get-enough sex kitten who actually gets to fuck the guy in the end.  It kinda freaks me out – and makes me completely forget about Brit’s original, which is the sign of a successful cover to me. I still think Ms. Spear’s version rocks hard (in fact, I think it’s the only song of hers that I like, even though my daughter keeps torturing me with her other diddys as well. Can a mom call Protective Services on her kid, with the charge of abuse by baaad music tastes? No? Shitballs…).

7. Tie Between “Everybody Knows” and “Little Wing” (Originals By: Leonard Cohen and Jimi Hendrix) (Covers By: Concrete Blonde and Johnette Napolitano)

If God or the Devil themselves appeared before me and said they would grant me one wish, I’d blow off world peace and other such Miss America answers and ask to sing like Johnette Napolitano. It would totally be worth burning in Hell for eternity. Better parties anyways…

My first encounter with Concrete Blonde came through my days as a DJ for my college radio station, WVUM 90.5 The Voice in Coral Gables, Florida.  Later I saw them live at the Miami Arena when they opened up for Sting (feel free to scratch head at this juncture) for their “Bloodletting” album. But most of you will probably remember their cover of Leonard Cohen’s happy-days-are-here-again classic (kidding) off the movie soundtrack “Pump Up the Volume” with Christian Slater trying to play humble and not-Jack-Nicholson at the same time.  If you haven’t seen the flick, trust me when I tell you that the cover was the highlight of the movie. Really.

As for “Little Wing” by the God-of-all-that-was-pure-in-60s-rock, Jimi Hendrix, I probably can’t begin to name all the artists that have covered this song, but here it goes anyway:

Derek and the Dominos (a.k.a. Eric Clapton)

Stevie Ray Vaughn

Pearl Jam

Sting

South Austin Jug Band (I swear this version almost made the list. It’s really good).

John Mayer/Toto – kinda the same thing, no?

Joe Satriani

The Corrs

Elizabeth Mitchell

Chaka Khan

Johnette’s rules them all and is just a hairs-breath away from being as good as Jimi’s. He first recorded the song on the 1967 album, “Axis: Bold as Love.”  “Little Wing” is played using the unique chord/melody guitar style that Hendrix developed during his early career stints in R&B bands. In this style, the guitar sounds as though it is playing two parts. This is done by simultaneously playing multiple complementary notes, often parts of chords, and then changing a note within the chord to create a melodic effect. The unusual flanging sound of the lead guitar part is a result of the Doppler effect which is created using a rotating speaker cabinet, or Leslie speaker. Cool, eh?

BTW, thank you Wikipedia for that tasty tidbit. Trust me, folks. I may love music, but I wouldn’t know what a flanging was if my life depended on it.  But I’m a research freak and like to share the wealth. So there.

6. “Proud Mary” (Original By: Creedence Clearwater Revival) (Cover By: Ike and Tina Turner)

This song is one of those covers that way exceeds the original in my opinion. Ms. Turner’s performance of “Proud Mary” is as raw and fierce as an open, festering wound.  Who knew that part of her fury eminated from the back of Ike’s fist. What an asshole…

Leave it to Tina to nam-myo-ho-renge-kyo her talented self away from the “pimp” (Keith Richards’ words, not mine) and onto superstardom. And along the way, she didn’t lose an ounce of kinetic energy or sex appeal (although I’m admittedly not so much into the pop stuff.) She doesn’t really cover this song in her live shows like she used to – at least to my knowledge – but it’s still a classic worthy of the Top Ten.

5. “Gimme Shelter” (Original By; The Rolling Stones) (Cover By: Patti Smith)

Known as the “Godmother of Punk,” Smith was part of the 70s, post punk, CBGB’s scene and is actually best known for her song co-written with Bruce Springsteen, “Because the Night,” –  a song beautifully covered by Natalie Merchant of 10,000 Maniacs (but sadly not on this list. Sorry kitten.) and is also well known for “Gloria,” which is actually about being raised as a (wait for it….wait for it) Jehovah’s Witness by her plant worker father and jazz singing mother (because, yeah, nothing spells out jazz singer to me than the The Church of Latter Day Saints). She’s a most able songwriter in her own right, and is also a poet, teacher, and activist.

Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 12, 2007 (’bout time) and she dedicated her award to the memory of her late husband, Fred, and aptly sang “Gimme Shelter.”

4. “Love Rollercoaster” (Original By: The Ohio Players) (Cover By: Red Hot Chili Peppers)

This song is hot. I love the original and I adore RHCP’s version too. It’s the kind of song that everyone knows only after they hear it (and who of you has heard of The Ohio Players).  I betcha didn’t know that there are some long-standing urban myths about this musical number. Here it goes:

During an instrumental portion of the song, a high-pitched scream is heard (between 2:32 and 2:36 on the single version); this is the scream of Billy Beck, but according to the most common legend, the victim’s identity varies greatly depending on the version. The supposed sources of the scream have included an individual who was killed at some prior time, his scream inexplicably recorded and looped into the track, or a rabbit being killed outside the studio whose scream was accidentally picked up by the band’s recording equipment (of all the explanations, this is the least plausible — professional recording studios are soundproof).

The most widespread version of the myth, however, tells that Ester Cordet, who appeared nude on the Honey album cover, had suffered permanent disfigurement due to the substance used to replicate honey for the photo; she interrupted the band’s recording session, so the story says, at which point she was stabbed to death. Another version is that she was in the booth next door doing the photo shoot for the cover and was on top of fibre glass, when she poured the honey on herself the honey fused with the fibre glass and her legs sticking her to the floor, as she tried to get up the skin got ripped off her legs, thus the scream, this put an end to her modeling career she then said that she would sue the band for everything they had, and,at this point, the band manager stabbed her to death. However this is also highly improbable as Ester Cordet is still alive and has never confirmed nor denied the myth.

Casey Kasem reported the urban myth of the girl being killed in the studio recording booth while the song was being reported on his radio show, American Top 40, when the song was on the charts in 1976.

Jimmy “Diamond” Williams explained that the scream was nothing eerie or disturbing:

There is a part in the song where there’s a breakdown. It’s guitars and it’s right before the second verse and Billy Beck does one of those inhaling-type screeches like Minnie Ripperton did to reach her high note or Mariah Carey does to go octaves above. The DJ made this crack and it swept the country. People were asking us, ‘Did you kill this girl in the studio?’ The band took a vow of silence because that makes you sell more records.”

So there it is people…stupid is as stupid does.

    

3. Tie Between “Landslide” (Original By: Stevie Nicks) (Covers By: Smashing Pumpkins and Stacey Kent)

 I think Stevie Nicks is absolute, pure perfection. Period. Plus, she’s been wearing that whole witchy woman/girl, femme fatale Halloween costume for more than three decades now, and I’m still diggin’ it. So to actually claim that anyone else can come close to Ms. Stevie’s original is a tall order, let me tell ya.

That said, I think both Smashing Pumpkins and Stacey Kent’s versions are amazingly close.

I won’t rattle on and on about SP because I assume you all know enough due to their popularity. Stacey Kent, however, is not yet known and deserves to be. She’s a Jersey girl by birth, but moved to England to attend London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and then married tenor saxophonist, Jim Tomlinson. During this whole period, she decided to become a jazz singer and the duo have been at it ever since.  While well known in bloody ol’ England, she has yet to crack American consciousness. Hopefully, this will help a bit 🙂

2. “Easy” (Original By: The Commodores) (Cover By: Faith No More)

You knew I would need to put a San Francisco-based band on the list, now didn’t you?

Originally coined Faith No Man, the band went through a litany of characters in its line-up (including Courtney Love for, like, four gigs before she was fired) before settling in enough to release We Care a Lot in 1985 and became MTV darlings. However, in-fighting ensued to the point where the industry wasn’t betting if they would break-up, rather on when they would part ways.  Eventually, they found Mike Patton while he was attending Humboldt State University, which led to him dropping out, and to the band’s Grammy-nominated release The Real Thing and other such successes. 

Now I know there are those out there that would have picked their cover of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs over Easy, but sue me for being a closeted disco/funk child of the 70s, alright?? I love, love, love this cover, which is why it earns this most coveted position, except of course, for our #1 Cover of All Times, which is…

 1. “Such Great Heights” (Original By: The Postal Service) (Cover By: Iron & Wine)

 This song kills me everytime…and once again, this cover is so fucking good that most people don’t realize it’s a cover in the first place.

So, yes, you can find I&W’s version on our self-involved buddy, Zach Braff’s, Garden State movie soundtrack. It moves me enough to, once again, forgive its use in that M&M’s or Skittles commercial.  Many would argue that The Postal Service’s version is better…and so it be. Besides PS’ Give Up release was considered a happy fluke even to its record company, Sub Pop, who thought the collaboration between Dntel and Death Cab for Cuties’ lead singers would end up as a little pet project, and not sell millions like it did. Credit songs like Such Great Heights, along with We Will Become Sihlouettes, The District Sleeps Alone, and Clark Gable for helping that along.

And I don’t know about you, but Iron & Wine’s cover served as my gateway drug to his other musical creations, such as Our Endless Numbered Days, The Creek Drank the Cradle, and Woman King. He’s one of my favorites of all time…

So that’s it, folks. What do YOU think?

PS – My apologies in advance for the Mixwit mix. They didn’t have a lot of what I cited here. Argh….

1. Placebo – Running Up That Hill  
2. Nine Inch Nails versus Bauhaus – Hurt (Originally by Nine Inch Nails)  
3. Leonard Cohen – Everybody Knows  
4. Jimi Hendrix – Little Wing  
5. Ike & Tina Turner – Proud Mary  
6. Patti Smith – Gimme Shelter  
7. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Love Rollercoaster  
8. Smashing Pumpkins – Landslide  
9. Faith No More – Easy  
10. Iron & Wine – Such Great Heights

I Gotcha Covered: The Top 20 Best Cover Songs of All Times, Part I.

I guess when you’re as annoyingly obsessed with music as I am, you surrender yourself to the chase: constantly looking for the new sound, the unusual “hook”, a piece of music which speaks to that part of your soul you rarely share with anyone.

You’re also looking to show off to your other rock snob friends, but I’m not supposed to admit to that part.

Anyhoo, I guess that musicians feel the same way. They discover a song so perfect that they wish they had written it. So they do the next best thing: they make a cover of their favorite song. Once in a rare while, an artist comes up with a version even better than the original.

This list is an homage to that most impressive feat.

Admittedly, trying to pick the Top 20 Cover Songs of All Times is a nearly impossible task. And I’m going to assume right off the bat that I’m going to forget a gem or two. In any event, here it goes:

20. “Satisfaction” (Original by: The Rolling Stones) (Cover by: Cat Power)

O.k., I’m not going to be foolish enough to say that CP’s version is better  per se, but man, it’s good. Her take plays out The Stones’ classic with a slow-drippin’, cool kitten sensuality, making the song more of a come-hither call versus Jagger’s teenage boy temper-tantrum version. It’s definitely a more sophisticated cover, one that never got the play it so deserved.

19. “Hazy Shade of Winter” (Original By: Simon & Garfunkel) (Cover By: The Bangles)

While I adore Susanna Hoffs’ voice (although she’s married to Austin Powers director, Jay Roach, but there’s no accounting for taste), I’ve never been a big fan of her Eighties pop band, The Bangles. Songs like “Walk Like an Egyptian” were moronic and I thought their cover of Prince’s “Eternal Flame” was a sappy, PMS mess of a song (and will NOT be seen on this list). But their cover of S & G’s “Hazy Shade of Winter” was pure brilliance, with hefty guitar riffs combined with spot-on harmonies. In other words, it kicks the original’s ass. For those of you who have never heard it, you can find it on the Less Than Zero movie soundtrack. Never heard of that movie? Then you’re a baby who needs to take a film class next semester 😉

18. “Hallelujah” (Original By: Leonard Cohen) (Cover By: Jeff Buckley)

 For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know my deep, deep love for Jeff Buckley. He was a truly elegant musician – with the ego the size of Texas, but whatev – and his untimely death will always leave us wondering what might have been.

Of course, Leonard Cohen was no slouch either. You’ll see MANY of his songs on this list because he is – by far – one of the kings of songwriting. I guess the reason why I prefer Buckley’s version is because his delivery seems more like a battlecry against lost love, and Cohen’s (like all his really) comes off more like the world-weary, almost bored requiem from a jaded, crusty old man. Not so appealing.

17. “Wild Horses” (Original By: The Rolling Stones) (Cover By: The Sundays)

Yes, this is the second song by The Stones on the list, but confession time: I actually am not that into them.  I never got Jagger’s performative appeal and I don’t know how much more phormaldehide Keith Richards can mainline in order to look as if he’s barely alive. But I think they’re decent songwriters, and putting “Wild Horses” into the most able hands of The Sundays illustrates that point. For me, it’s actually a tie between The Stones’ version and The Sundays…both are extraordinarily heartbreaking (in a good way).  But I’ve got to say, I adore Harriet Wheeler’s voice – so much so that I forgive their sellout of this song for a Budweiser commercial.

16. “Nothing Compares to You” (Original By: Prince) (Cover By: Sinead O’Connor)

About half of you who read my blog regularly are too young to remember her, but for all you Generation Xers still reading this, I’m sure you recall that voice, that face…Jesus, I still get knocked out by her video. In an age when video was king and exotic locales, pastel-colored suits, and vacant-eyed models were the standard, this kick-ass chick put a video out with her shaved head, black turtleneck, and a face close up. That was it. And trust me, that’s all she needed. There have been many others who have covered this song, but none have even come close to Sinead’s take. Even Prince – and he wrote the damn thing.

15. “Personal Jesus” (Original By: Depeche Mode) (Cover By: Johnny Cash)

Another confession: it wasn’t until the movie “Walk the Line” came out that I really got turned onto the brilliance that was Johnny Cash (June too, of course). The original was done by techno-pop divas, Depeche Mode. The group got the idea for the song from Priscilla Presley, who in a book described her relationship with Elvis as one in which he played a spiritual role. “Feeling unknown and you’re all alone, flesh and bone, by the telephone, lift up the receiver, I’ll make you a believer.”  Cash might appear to be an unlikely candidate to translate this staple of alternative airplay into his own brand of earthy country and western, but his “Personal Jesus” resonates with the Man in Black’s unique power. Cash did a series of recordings in the ‘90s with producer Rick Rubin, which helped him connect with a whole new generation of music lovers, and “Personal Jesus” appears on one of them entitled, “American IV: The Man Comes Around.”

Look further down the list for another diddy from this album.

14. “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” (Original By: The Beatles) (Cover By: Eddie Vedder)

Not only is Vedder’s version stunning in its simplicity – not that the original was some kind of frilly complex affair in the first place – but I admire Vedder for the way he uses his celebrity for causes he believes in. And he doesn’t do it in that prancing peacock, Hollywood sort of way – of sitting in an interview with sunglasses on and rattling endlessly about environmental awareness while being chauffeured around in a gas guzzling stretch limo.  Nope, Vedder throws his muscle around in a more dignified, subtler fashion – and for causes such as the anti-war movement, environmental awareness, and for women’s reproductive rights.  He’s a keeper, ladies…a guy with immeasurable talent that’s easy on the eyes and stimulating to the heart, brain, and spirit.

13. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Original By: Nirvana) (Cover By: Tori Amos)

While I still think that the original is better than any cover attempted, Tori Amos’ take on the early nineties grunge classic comes pretty damn close. I think Tori’s a rad chick…not just for humping a piano bench better than a porn star, but for putting out (no pun intended) some of the most intelligent rock music out there (if not, let’s admit, a bit out there at times).

12. “Tainted Love” (Original By: Gloria Jones) (Cover By: Soft Cell)

Okay, let’s be honest with each other.  You didn’t know that “Tainted Love” was a cover, right?  That’s okay pussycat, ’cause neither did I for the longest time.

Gloria Jones recorded songs for Uptown Records, a subsidiary of Capitol/EMI, since she was 14 years old. Included among these was “Tainted Love.” Marc Almond of the duo, Soft Cell, whose cover version of “Tainted Love” reached #1 worldwide, originally heard the song in a nightclub in Northern England. While most of us may not know a lot about her, so strong was Gloria’s following in England back in the day that she was proclaimed the “Northern Queen of Soul.

And it’s still one of the few songs that can make me sing at the top of my lungs in my car.

11.  “Me and Bobby McGee” (Original By: Kris Kristopherson) (Cover By: Janis Joplin)

One of the ways I lovingly tease my husband is to tell him he suffers from “Knight in Shining Armour” syndrome, which should be, but isn’t in the DSM-IV Mental Health Diagnostic guide.  I mention this because I am inflicted with waves of such aforementioned syndrome everytime I’m listening to one of my favorite, deceased-before-their-time, artists. You wish you could go back and save her. Hell, I wished I could have saved them all.

Her cover of Kristopherson’s seminal 70s classic was hers from the start. No one will ever be able to duplicate the intensity and vulnerability she brought to this song. And THAT, my friends, is the definition of the perfect cover song.

The only reason why it’s not higher in my countdown here is because this is one we all know and love. Time to bring some light onto some diddys you may not be as aware of…which brings us to our TOP TEN!

To Be Continued….