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The shame in singing covers

GUEST,Michael Pender 14 Jun 14 - 11:36 PM
Mark Clark 15 Jun 14 - 12:05 AM
GUEST,Guest - Lin 15 Jun 14 - 12:05 AM
Joe Offer 15 Jun 14 - 12:37 AM
Gurney 15 Jun 14 - 12:59 AM
Larry The Radio Guy 15 Jun 14 - 01:16 AM
Dave Hanson 15 Jun 14 - 02:01 AM
GUEST,Erich 15 Jun 14 - 02:22 AM
GUEST,Musket 15 Jun 14 - 02:58 AM
GUEST,Marianne S. 15 Jun 14 - 03:05 AM
GUEST,Michael Pender 15 Jun 14 - 03:12 AM
Megan L 15 Jun 14 - 03:21 AM
GUEST,Marianne S. 15 Jun 14 - 03:29 AM
GUEST 15 Jun 14 - 03:30 AM
GUEST 15 Jun 14 - 03:38 AM
GUEST 15 Jun 14 - 03:46 AM
GUEST,DMG 15 Jun 14 - 03:47 AM
GUEST 15 Jun 14 - 03:47 AM
GUEST,Allan Conn 15 Jun 14 - 04:03 AM
DMcG 15 Jun 14 - 04:05 AM
MGM·Lion 15 Jun 14 - 04:13 AM
GUEST 15 Jun 14 - 04:18 AM
DMcG 15 Jun 14 - 04:19 AM
Acorn4 15 Jun 14 - 04:35 AM
Tootler 15 Jun 14 - 04:49 AM
Sir Roger de Beverley 15 Jun 14 - 05:06 AM
Ole Juul 15 Jun 14 - 05:12 AM
MGM·Lion 15 Jun 14 - 05:20 AM
DMcG 15 Jun 14 - 05:23 AM
MGM·Lion 15 Jun 14 - 05:39 AM
Leadfingers 15 Jun 14 - 06:40 AM
GUEST,Fyldeplayer 15 Jun 14 - 07:07 AM
Johnny J 15 Jun 14 - 07:13 AM
Joe Offer 15 Jun 14 - 07:23 AM
Nick 15 Jun 14 - 07:31 AM
JHW 15 Jun 14 - 08:01 AM
Backwoodsman 15 Jun 14 - 08:57 AM
Bat Goddess 15 Jun 14 - 10:01 AM
GUEST,# 15 Jun 14 - 10:12 AM
Jamie McC 15 Jun 14 - 10:34 AM
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Larry The Radio Guy 16 Jun 14 - 08:00 PM
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Big Al Whittle 17 Jun 14 - 12:17 PM
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Musket 17 Jun 14 - 03:17 PM
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PHJim 17 Jun 14 - 07:32 PM
GUEST,Stim 17 Jun 14 - 08:57 PM
GUEST,Desi C 18 Jun 14 - 02:40 AM
Larry The Radio Guy 18 Jun 14 - 04:24 AM
Big Al Whittle 18 Jun 14 - 04:39 AM
Tattie Bogle 18 Jun 14 - 05:07 AM
Howard Jones 18 Jun 14 - 05:25 AM
Musket 18 Jun 14 - 05:30 AM
GUEST 18 Jun 14 - 06:30 AM
Nick 18 Jun 14 - 08:54 AM
GUEST,Stim 18 Jun 14 - 09:40 PM
Jeri 18 Jun 14 - 10:25 PM
Big Al Whittle 18 Jun 14 - 10:29 PM
Larry The Radio Guy 18 Jun 14 - 10:52 PM
GUEST,Stim 19 Jun 14 - 01:47 AM
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Hrothgar 19 Jun 14 - 06:30 AM
GUEST,Stim 19 Jun 14 - 08:17 AM
Big Al Whittle 19 Jun 14 - 10:13 AM
Big Al Whittle 19 Jun 14 - 10:23 AM
GUEST,Stim 19 Jun 14 - 11:04 PM
PHJim 19 Jun 14 - 11:26 PM
Ole Juul 20 Jun 14 - 12:57 AM
Tootler 20 Jun 14 - 01:26 AM
PHJim 20 Jun 14 - 02:06 AM
Don Firth 20 Jun 14 - 03:07 AM
Musket 20 Jun 14 - 03:35 AM
Big Al Whittle 20 Jun 14 - 05:36 AM
Musket 20 Jun 14 - 07:12 AM
GUEST,Stim 20 Jun 14 - 08:00 AM
Musket 20 Jun 14 - 08:03 AM
Big Al Whittle 20 Jun 14 - 10:54 AM
Musket 20 Jun 14 - 11:37 AM
PHJim 20 Jun 14 - 11:50 AM
Big Al Whittle 21 Jun 14 - 06:11 AM
Doug Chadwick 22 Jun 14 - 05:49 AM
Big Al Whittle 22 Jun 14 - 06:04 AM
Doug Chadwick 22 Jun 14 - 07:12 AM
Johnny J 22 Jun 14 - 07:42 AM
Big Al Whittle 22 Jun 14 - 08:55 AM
Musket 22 Jun 14 - 03:32 PM
Ole Juul 22 Jun 14 - 03:43 PM
Big Al Whittle 22 Jun 14 - 04:06 PM
GUEST,Desi C 23 Jun 14 - 05:01 AM
GUEST,John P 23 Jun 14 - 08:00 PM
GUEST,Desi C 24 Jun 14 - 08:29 AM
PHJim 24 Jun 14 - 09:23 AM
GUEST 24 Jun 14 - 01:32 PM
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Don Firth 24 Jun 14 - 03:47 PM
Vic Smith 25 Jun 14 - 01:35 PM
Big Al Whittle 25 Jun 14 - 04:41 PM
Vic Smith 26 Jun 14 - 07:33 AM
GUEST,Peter 26 Jun 14 - 07:53 AM
Musket 26 Jun 14 - 10:26 AM
Big Al Whittle 26 Jun 14 - 08:56 PM
Rob Naylor 26 Jun 14 - 11:01 PM
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Subject: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Michael Pender
Date: 14 Jun 14 - 11:36 PM

I get really pissed when I hear performers singing covers. Cover versions are like photo copies and to watch someone perform a cover seems to be a fraud. No one lauds painters who only copy the work of other painters! If you can't write your own material don't pretend to be a musician.

Mike


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Mark Clark
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 12:05 AM

That's one of most ignorant opinions I've ever seen expressed. Throughout history there have been composers and performers. Some performers spend years of study and practice just to be able to do justice to the music of composers. Some composers are also skilled musicians but many composers have spent successful careers writing music that they hope others will want to perform. That's the dream of a composer; to have everyone want to perform and record his or her music.

Or maybe you don't mean "composed" music. Maybe you mean "folk" music that is handed down through generations of musicians. What would happen to folk music if people limited their performances to compositions they'd personally written?

Wake up and smell the roses.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Guest - Lin
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 12:05 AM

I understand to a degree what you say about people singing covers.
I think what bothers me more is that most covers are songs that have been sung to death like Joni Mitchell's, "Big Yellow Taxi."

Not everyone has the talent or ability to be a writer but I feel that it doesn't mean that they are pretending to be a musician if they do covers. I think it would be much better if singers doing covers would do covers that are not very well known by an artist. There are many songs on albums by well known artists that are not the well known songs. Another example, John Denver. There is a song that John Denver recorded called, "Rhyme & Reason" Not especially a very well known song - but a truly great song! Yet everyone covering John Denver's songs will sing, "Country Roads" and other extremely well know songs.

So these covers get "sung to death." I just feel it would be better for singers to seek out the much lesser known songs to cover - the ones that for the most part are not very well known by most people.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Joe Offer
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 12:37 AM

Gee, it's kind of a dangerous thing to condemn "covers" on a Website that emphasizes traditional singing.

I tried singer-songwriter "folk" music in the 1990s, and found it unsatisfying. Most of the time, I'd buy a CD and get one or two songs I liked and find the rest boring. Traditional music is tried and true, songs shared over generations and often over centuries. And every singer does each song a little differently. What's more, I can sing along because I know the songs.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Gurney
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 12:59 AM

The thing about covers is that they are good songs, and that is why they ARE covered.
On the other hand, the vast majority of self-penned numbers may not be so very good, or else they WOULD be covered.

This, however, is the wrong site to volunteer opinions like Michael's, since it is a folk and blues site, staffed and peopled by folks who perform and like music that often has some historical background.

I base my opinion on songs by whether I like them, and whether other people like them enough to cover them.
CDs by comparative newby's are everywhere these days, as opposed to the LP days, when it was difficult and expensive to get something released that didn't look as if it would sell!

All the songs that I wrote weren't very good, but I DID realise that.
Eventually.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Larry The Radio Guy
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 01:16 AM

If nobody sang other people's songs, all those songs would die.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 02:01 AM

Ever hear of ' traditional songs ' eh Mike Pender ?

So according to your opinion, we would never hear anyone sing another Woody Guthrie song or a Ewan McColl song or any of the great songs by songwriters no longer alive, jaysus what an oaf you are.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Erich
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 02:22 AM

Most of my favourite singers in the folk-world (Roy Bailey, Iain Mackintosh) do cover versions and very often they do them a lot better than the original writers. It's the same with authors who can write wonderful novels but are not able to read their books to an audience.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Musket
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 02:58 AM

It takes all sorts....

If you want to rant at me for singing Harvey Andrews songs, stop me playing Bach on my cello whilst you are at it.

Threads above the line are for those who are discussing music. This needs relocating to the bullshit section below.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Marianne S.
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 03:05 AM

You can only have covers if someone 'owns' a song. In traditional and classical music songs are free and can work for anyone! We don't do 'covers' we do 'versions'. People bring their own vision and interpretation to a song or tune. They go on doing this for years (in the case of Early Music, centuries) after the music was written.   The idea that a song is the property of the original performer and that any subsequent performer is merely copying arose when recording became possible.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Michael Pender
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 03:12 AM

Maybe I was too harsh in my last comment. There are many fine musicians who don't write their own material. What I get pissed with are people who copy a complete arrangement, even down to licks, phrasing and vocal accents. Sometimes to emulate a style or a particular performer is interesting but an entire performance copied from other performers is not art - it's akin to photo copying or plagiarism. If all you do is copy I can't see how you are musician!

Mike


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Megan L
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 03:21 AM

singing, playing an instrument, writing lyrics and composing music are four separate skills someone may be good at one without being good at another. some may be good at a couple of those skills fewer at three and far fewer are Good at all four. Respect the skills people are good at.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Marianne S.
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 03:29 AM

Michael - yes, that makes more sense. Copying a complete performance is different. However - 'There are many fine musicians who don't write their own material.'. That sounds as though they should be writing their own, but we can forgive them. The idea that people 'should' be writing their own material is alien to both trad and classical music. We don't look at it that way. We are just looking after the music and then handing it on the next generation. Some of us will add to it by writing new material, some won't, and everyone I know who writes songs/tunes is delighted if someone else picks up one of their songs/tunes.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 03:30 AM

Qnyone heard martyn josephs covers of bruc3 springgsteen songs?


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 03:38 AM

Flossiwe malavialle just does othere peoples songs very well. None of her own. The modern singer songwriter who just does his/her own material is likely to sing some bad songs as well as good. Do they get the critical feedback they need to improve.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 03:46 AM

In some ways I agree with Michael P, and in others I don't. There are some audiences who want to see, let's say, the Beatles, but obviously can't. So they like to see the best Beatles Tribute bands, who typically try to be as much a 'photocopy' of the originals as they can, since that is specifically what the audience wants. And some of them are extremely good at it, which requires a lot of skills, including musicianship and acting ability, and also a certain amount of luck, such as looking vaguely like the person concerned.

Then there are those musicians who are forced into it, as it were. Taking an example from a completely different field, there is an Indian restaurant near here who tried for several years to sell authentic meals in the style of the various districts. No luck: all the diners wanted, really, was generic stuff exactly as you could get in 90% of the other Indian restaurants in the country, so in the end they had to admit defeat and go for "the standard menu". That happens a lot with musicians as well: getting gigs playing known and standard material is a lot easier than with your own stuff (Since I raised it, all the early Beatles material is like that.)

Then there is the fact, as someone alluded to above, that a lot of self-written material is simply not very good, or (less judgementally) is not something that transfers well from the composer to others. A frequent cause of this is when the song is about some personal experience that the composer had. Since others didn't have that experience it can be difficult for others to sing it well. It is, in my humble opinion, part of the reason most traditional songs are in the third person, whereas most pop music is first person.

So those are some of the reasons why I partially agree with Michael. On the other hand, I much prefer to hear/sing traditional music (whatever that means), or a new song "that speaks to me", rather than a cover.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,DMG
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 03:47 AM

Sorry, that's me just above. Cookie crumbled.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 03:47 AM

However tribute bands can be most annoying when they try to impersonate the original singer songwriter.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 04:03 AM

I don't understand the shouldn't sing other people's songs attitude. It's like saying an actor shouldn't act in other people's plays and say lines that other people have written!

I also don't understand the anti singer-songwriter thing you sometimes see from certain people on here. Of course not every song is going to be a classic but that is same in every form of art.

I don't mind people doing the exact same arrangement as a better known version but I do object to people (and you get them) who object to me not playing the song exactly the same as the original. There is one guy at our club, a really good player and singer, who will almost always comment. "It isn't in the correct key" being one of the most common complaints. Why on earth would I not fit a tune to a key I am comfortable in?


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: DMcG
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 04:05 AM


However tribute bands can be most annoying when they try to impersonate the original singer songwriter


That's certainly true, and it is why a good tribute band needs to be exceptionally skilful. A riff that is nothing like the original may sound perfectly acceptable. A riff that is almost the same as the original but with one or two notes altered will stand out like the proverbial sore thumb and will annoy the whole audience.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 04:13 AM

Agree with most of what you write, DMG; but don't think that your claim that

"most traditional songs are in the third person, whereas most pop music is first person"

will stand up either æsthetically or statistically.

For a start, just try and count the traditional songs that begin "Come all ye [whevs] ... I'll tell you..." Even when it's an ostensibly 3rd person narrative, the narrator has to introduce himself [the "I/me" 1st person figure] to authenticate it. & that's just one genre. Think too of all the mal-marriée girls lamenting their state; all those fighting men giving 1st person accounts of the battles they've been in... How many "I"'s walked out in the Streets of Laredo or down by the Royal Albion?

~M~





~M~

~M~


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 04:18 AM

Which covers, in your opinion, are better than the originals?


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: DMcG
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 04:19 AM

I agree, MtheGM, as far as the first verses are concerned. So many are scene-setting, before the song-proper begins. "I was walking and I saw ...", followed by the body of the song between the maid and the sailor, or whatever. "I" then either doesn't occur again, or only in the last verse, when "I" reflects on what happened.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Acorn4
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 04:35 AM

Anyone remember "Embassy Records" ? you could buy them in Woolworth's and they were usually attempted cheapo carbon copies of current hits that didn't quite come off. Suppose they were the original tribute bands.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Tootler
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 04:49 AM

Anyone remember "Embassy Records" ?

I was thinking of "K-Tel" who did the same sort of thing


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Sir Roger de Beverley
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 05:06 AM

I went to see Albert Hammond in concert a couple of weeks ago. He was on stage for 2.5 hours and wrote every song he sang - you would have recognised most of them as sung by other people. Although he has had a few hits under his own name, he is primarily a songwriter and is very happy that other people have "covered" his songs over the five decades since Leapy Lee had a hit with Little Arrows.

R


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Ole Juul
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 05:12 AM

I've heard a lot of covers of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. Still trying to find a copy of the original, but they seem to be rare in these parts.

Seriously, if the OP is going to rant against those who sing "other people's" songs. Then why not take it up a notch and complain about those who play the same thing twice. I mean, if it isn't improvised, then it's not original.

Even more seriously, let's just concern ourselves with wherein the music lies.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 05:20 AM

DMcG, that is indeed one of the many genres. But only one. Think of all the laments for lost loves; the "Sorry the day I was married" family; the "As we were a-sailing" ballads; the "I sit and mend shoes for a living" songs...

~M~


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: DMcG
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 05:23 AM

Well, we don't need to make a big thing of this, M - would you be happier with the suggestion that third person songs are far more common in traditional folk than pop?


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 05:39 AM

Well, OK. Tho I don't know on what statistics this may be based; and can't see quite what it's supposed to prove in relation to the theme of singing cover versions; which presumably applies to any sort of composed song, but doesn't really relate to traditional stuff at all AFAICS.

~M~


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Leadfingers
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 06:40 AM

Michael Pender - I notice you dont post a link to all the wonderful songs you must have written to come out with a comment like that !


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Fyldeplayer
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 07:07 AM

Leadfingers and I attend the same sessions and I can safely say his covers are nothing like the originals :-) and neither are mine. In that respect I agree with M.Pender, use the material but find a new approach.

We do have musicians who 'cover' songs to the nth degree, every riff, vocal mannerism ect. On some classic songs this is unavoidable, perhaps even required. I personally avoid Youtube, Spotify if possible when introducing song ideas to friends, rather learning and passing on a revised version. Its all subjective.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Johnny J
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 07:13 AM

Well, I prefer to use the term "interpretation" as opposed to cover.

Surely, people don't write songs or tunes with the express wish that no one should sing or record them other than themselves. Of course, they may have their own views on how these are interpreted by others and not always enjoy the result but that's a different matter.

If nobody else sang or played the songs and tunes, then they would die out along with the composer.

As for creating exact copies of a composer's work in terms of musical arrangements etc, etc, this, of course, is something which should be avoided. Everyone should interpret music and song in their own way.

However, until an artist develops their own style and and are learning their craft, they will inevitably be influenced by other musicians and singers. For instance, you can't become a traditional fiddler without checking out and practising at least some of the existing playing styles.
Of course, you may never need to study Donegal music, for instance, or old time American music to become a traditional fiddler especially if you are concentrating on Scottish music but the wider the influences are the better. You don't have to try to emulate all players or singers, of course, but nobody can learn to become experienced players and singers while living within a musical vacuum.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Joe Offer
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 07:23 AM

Michael Pender says: What I get pissed with are people who copy a complete arrangement, even down to licks, phrasing and vocal accents.

That, my friend, is what many of us would call "karaoke."


And we would join you in condemning it.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Nick
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 07:31 AM

Perhaps it's this Michael Pender

I very rarely write words so I don't have a repertoire of my own songs. I have quite a lot of tunes though just not the words to go with them.

Have to say that I have sat and listened to a lot of original songs which add nothing to what has already been written. But I suppose that they make the person who wrote it satisfied.

I play other peoples songs - some of them closer to the originals than others.

There is a song that I learned from the writer which I play very differently to the original. Have had negative comments from people who like the original 'as it should be' telling me off for doing it wrong. Luckily on tis occasion the person who wrote it approves of my version but it is an example of what people 'expect' of songs that they know.

I have sat in sessions where people do a version of a song and are then told how to play it properly - which can have some amusing reactions. Conversely I have sat and listened to people murdering songs by changing the tune and the words and the timing and ...

I am quite musical and been called a musician by people who I hugely respect as players (some who write their own songs) but I still play other people's stuff.

Perhaps I should stop as I am not worthy? *sniff* *wail* * weep*

I have a friend who wants to learn a particular song that they have been struggling with for years - perhaps I'll tell them not to waste their time!

It strikes me though that wanting to replicate a song is a huge compliment to the person who wrote it/arranged it/did the definitive version. It also perhaps reflects how difficult it is to re-arrange a song to give it a new and different life outside of the original that at the same time adds something to the original while still acknowledging it and being true to the song. I used to find it hard to envisage anyone doing 'Fire and Rain' other than how James Taylor did it. That's until I heard Richie Havens do it.

I pay Vincent Black Lightning 1952 and listened to Richard Thompson's version recently. He doesn't do it like me. We play a lot of similar bits but it isn't the same any more. When I started playing it it was closer but it seems to have wandered over time into something else. I also realise that I can probably play it in four or five different ways depending on my mood.

Off to a singaround this afternoon with a 60's theme so perhaps I'll do 'Needles and Pinsa' just in case.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: JHW
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 08:01 AM

Covers are not what we do. They surely belong to pop music and were as said what Woolworths did on 45 singles. Copying the Artist as well as the Song; to get on the bandwagon. In my scooter rallying days a band in Douglas IOM gave us superb copies of current hits. Unashamedly a cover band. Tribute unheard of back then, which I'd say is for emulating bands that we can no longer hear. Copying the sets of currently performing artists is cover and bandwagonning.

In a folk club I wince when someone gets up and proclaims he will treat us to a well known artist's* version of whatever song and I wonder why on earth would he not want to sing his own?

(* an allied niggle is those who propose to sing an 'artist name' song when that artist is not the writer)


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 08:57 AM

"Perhaps it's this Michael Pender"

Maybe, but I somehow doubt it. The OP talks about getting "Pissed with people", which is an Americanism. The British would say "Pissed off with people". "Pissed" without the "off" to a Brit means "drunk", of course.

Mike Pender is a Scouser, and would almost certainly have said "Pissed off".

IMHO.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 10:01 AM

There are some singer/songwriters whose songs and style are so dependent on the personality, identity, musical style, etc. that they really can't be performed by anyone else. I think some of Bill Morrissey's songs are like this. (Note this is MY opinion, not necessarily that of anyone else, although my late husband Curmudgeon also felt that way.)

If the songs can only be sung by the writer, they will die.

Linn


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,#
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 10:12 AM

Tribute bands--O, joy.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Jamie McC
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 10:34 AM

In the splendid 'Singing From The Floor' Tom Paxton says he wqs playing professionally for nine years before he did a whole show of his own songs. If it's good enough for Tom...

It seems to me perfectly valid to sing the songs you love. The original writers would generally seem to agree otherwise they wouldn't try and flog us the sheet music. And the whole notion of the writer/performer is relatively new - before the Beatles started writing their own stuff their was quite a division between the writers in Tin Pan Alley or the Brill Building or wherever, and the performers. It still made for a lot of great records.

I agree about carbon copies of recorded performances though - can't see the point unless it's a Bootleg Beatles sort of thing. I've enjoyed a few of those over the years but it's a different kind of experience, in some ways more akin to theatre, and really an exercise in nostalgia (for those who were there the first time round) or the the next best thing (for those who weren't). I do a lot of Jake Thackray songs because I love singing them and I think they should be heard (I share the view expressed earlier that a song is only truly alive if people are singing it). I don't do a Jake impersonation because 1) I don't have the talent or facility to do it, and 2) In any case it would just seem such a futile exercise - the very effort of impersonation would get in the way of engaging with the song itself and, for both audience and performer, the song, surely, is ultimately the thing.

As for covers that are better than the originals - give me Joe Cocker's version of 'With A Little Help From My Friends' over Ringo's any day of the week. A Beatle-fanatic friend of mine has also made a strong claim for John Tams's version of 'Girl'.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Jeri
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 10:46 AM

Not the UK, not the US.

What gets in the way of me enjoying a song is the feeling that the performer is just trying too hard. It can be deliberately trying to sound like the original, or deliberately trying to sound different from it by changing things. It's the "deliberate" part that gets to me. I think if someone sings another's song, they can't help sounding like themselves.

I recently went to a house concert, and the artist I saw did a song that was featured on the TV show "Nashville", which I haven't seen. I love the song, and I'm glad other people are singing it.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Jason Xion Wang
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 01:19 PM

Well, Michael, when I first saw your post I was shocked, because I suppose you were aiming at musicians like Pete Seeger, Odetta Holmes and Dave Van Ronk... Still I can't agree with you. I can't see why covering arrangement down to licks as something that should be condemned. On many occasions, a song should be divided into two parts - the vocal and the instrumental. Missing either would make it incomplete. To do a cover, you HAVE TO "copy" the arrangement down to licks.

Both Patrick Sky and Doc Watson have covered songs of Mississippi John Hurt - down to every single guitar lick. Happy Traum started a company called Homespun, where accomplished musicians teach people exactly how they played their songs. Pete Seeger, Jack Elliott, Roger McGuinn, Doc Watson, Bryan Bowers, Josh White Jr, John Hartford, Chet Atkins, Bill Monroe, just to name a few. It's obvious that those people would love to make others do their songs exactly the way they did - So, should all these musicians be next in line on your "pissing" list?

Regards from China, Jason


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Jason Xion Wang
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 01:36 PM

And, if you listen to Glen Campbell's rendition of "Time in a Bottle", you'll find it almost the same as the original, despite the fact that it's in a higher key. Actually, as a singer-songwriter Glen himself only wrote a handful of songs. Most of his songs are covers.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Musket
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 01:57 PM

I doubt I could condemn something that people are enjoying, regardless.

A tribute to Christy Moore does the pubs and clubs in County Cork. I've seen him. He's a bloody good night. Looks like Christy, sounds like Christy but the songs without the polarising politics in between. Enjoyed every minute.

It's nice to say people should adapt and evolve a song but one nice thing about singarounds is the spread from semi pro singers trying things out to a bloke with no voice and a sheet of paper. What I love is that a year on, the bloke with no voice has slowly got one. Peer group stuff. Wonderful.

But to tell some poor bugger with three chords and a strum on a catalogue guitar he should arrange Tom Paxton songs to be unique.... I congratulate him for getting up in the first place.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,DTM
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 02:12 PM

Michael caught a lot of fish with that fly.
Fwiw, I sing my own songs mainly cos I'm not very good at covers ;-)


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: PHJim
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 02:54 PM

Like Jason Xion Wang, I also thought of people like Pete Seeger, Odetta and Dave Van Ronk when I read the original post. Dave has a footnote in his autobiography about folks who belittle singers who don't write all of their own material.
I also think of folks like Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Joe Williams, who did wonderful things with songs written by others, in fact sometimes the performer shows as much , if not more, creativity as/than the composer. People don't seem to complain about Frank's "cover" of Paul Anka's My Way. Leonard Cohen has said that k.d.lang's version of Hallelujah is his favorite and he now considers it "her song". Pete Seeger has said that Peter, Paul & Mary improved If I Had A Hammer in their arrangement and he sang their changes to the song.
I am not a prolific writer and could never do a whole set of material that I have written myself, but have had a couple of recordings made by others of my songs and have adopted some of the changes made by others to my songs. I am always flattered when something I have written is played by someone else.
Others have already made the obvious point that if no one sings songs that they didn't write themselves, the songs die with the composer.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Amos
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 03:30 PM

One argument in defense of the Xerox school of covers is that it makes it easier to play with other musicians on an ad hoc basis if you are working from the same template as they are when you trot out "Down in the Easy Chair" or "Love Me Baby Like a Wagon Wheel". But like Michael I grow weary of those who adhere strictly and only to popular renditions which must be duplicated correctly.

I am a ferocious adapter of songs, and I make my own arrangements and tweak them until they suit me well. But I think it has to be said that 99% of folk music and its child forms are covers of songs done by another and written by another. There's no shame at all in singing such a song. It's just not something to get mesmerized by.

The poetry of a song is the thing that must be carried forward.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Jack Campin
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 05:45 PM

One argument in defense of the Xerox school of covers is that it makes it easier to play with other musicians on an ad hoc basis if you are working from the same template as they are when you trot out "Down in the Easy Chair" or "Love Me Baby Like a Wagon Wheel".

Both of those feature regularly in a session I go to. I've heard them many times and can easily play along with them in several different ways on different instruments - usually either C melody tenor sax or washboard played in a style like a drumkit. But I don't think I've ever heard the recording of either that made them hits, or even name the artists who did those recordings. As far as I'm concerned they're something from anonymous aural tradition - and if I want to put in a sax break, it's of no concern to me that there wasn't one on the vinyl.

The "Xerox school of covers" reaches its apotheosis in Highland bagpipe music. If you do a different D throw in bar 2 you better be able to explain that Donald Macleod did it that way.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Johnny J
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 07:01 PM

"Down in the easy chair"    or its correct title "You ain't goin' nowhere and "(Rock me mama like a) Wagon wheel" were actually Bob Dylan compositions.

However, the best known versions were by The Byrds and Old crow Medicine Show respectively. In fact, the OCMS actually completed the song and added new verses.

So, the cover versions are p4oba ly more definitive than the originals in the case of these songs.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Peter mudcat "Stallion"
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 07:02 PM

There are thousands of "singer songwriters" and few good ones, there are a lot of good songwriters with a voice not good enough to do them justice, it takes all sorts, having been around for a while I heard a guy sing "The Boxer" and with your eyes shut would swear it was Paul Simon, another guy we called Ralph Mc Mel, on balance I would rather listen to those two than a singer songwriter performing self penned drivel.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Joe_F
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 10:59 PM

"...I recently heard a friend say of someone who, like myself, is best known for interpreting material writeen by others, 'Oh, she only does "covers"!' I had a sudden vision of a CD titled _Pavarotti Covers Puccini_. Suffice it to say, Louis Armstrong did not do 'covers' nor did Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Edith Piaf, or Aretha Franklin. While none of these people were primarily songwriters, their interpretations were a hell of a lot more original than a lot of the 'original' songs being written on the current scene. Any music worth its salt depends as much on great interpreters as on great composers. What is more, in the absence of interpreters, songs will never be sung by anyone other than their composers, and I cannot imagine why anyone would wish that kind of planned obsolescence on their work." -- Dave Van Ronk with Elijah Wald, _The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir" (2005).


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: PHJim
Date: 16 Jun 14 - 12:15 AM

Thanks for that Joe. I have loaned out my copy and so couldn't quote it.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,LynnH
Date: 16 Jun 14 - 04:17 AM

"Love will tear us apart", Joy Division vs June T & The Oyster Band. There is, on the Joy Division website, a long list of bands who have covered the song. June & The Oysters are almost certainly the only people on the list who don't try to imitate JD.

Or.... Richard Thompson, " Whoops I did it again". Not a note for note, riff for riff copy of wossernames original.

I seem to recall a comment from RT concerning a punk version of "Vincent Black Lightning" which was, if I recall, "If it works for them, great! I'd far rather people find their own interpretation than imitate me."

Or, going back in time, Bob Davenport singing "Memphis Tennessee"...acapella!

The problem is that most of us are probably solo musicians accompanying ourselves mostly on guitar, which automatically invites comparisons with other musicians. I can't play guitar like Richard Thompson, Martin Carthy, Nic Jones and the rest of them so I have to find an accompaniment that I can get my fingers around and which I'm happy with. I also try not to perform a song as soon as I've learnt it but rather leave a period of months for it to 'bed in' and so water down any quirks I might have unconsciously picked up from the musician I learnt it from. The same applies to my own songs.

Leaving the 'tribute bands' aside, what really annoys me are, on the one side, those pedants who perform a song exactly as somebody has recorded it, even down to text blackouts(!) etc. and put down all other interpretations, and, on the other side, those who make changes merely for the sake of it, adding nothing whatsoever to the song. There are some changes which perhaps work as a one-off gag - I've done "The Wild Rover" as a one-off hip-hop number- but they remain unrepeatable one-off gags. I'm not condemning changes per se, they just have to be convincing, adding to, and perhaps opening up another take on the song in question.(see Richard Thompson above)


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Musket
Date: 16 Jun 14 - 05:07 AM

Listen to Martin Carthy singing Slade's Cum on Feel the Noize (sic)

Stunning....


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Michael Pender
Date: 16 Jun 14 - 06:10 AM

I guess I have learned something from this thread. Many people share my thoughts but can express themselves very well without using inflammatory comments. I get very tired (must not say pissed) of hearing straight copies. Music is about art, expression, creativity, and a million other things but never about copying.

Thanks everyone for you comments.

Mike


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,John P
Date: 16 Jun 14 - 09:41 AM

Even worse than copy-cat covers are people who make blanket judgements and who like to tell other people what music they should play and how they should play it. I'll listen to a well-played cover any day if it means I never again have to listen to someone tell me - or anyone else - that we're playing the wrong music or playing it in the wrong way. Or have to listen to someone say, "If you can't do such-and-such you shouldn't call yourself a musician."


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 16 Jun 14 - 10:33 AM

Music is about art, expression, creativity, and a million other things but never about copying.

I wouldn't even say that, Mike. There are some copies that bring great joy to people. Ever been to the Matthew Street Festival (Now international music festival) in Liverpool? All tribute bands. How else would we get to see the Beatles or Buddy Holly live? The people that perform these tributes are artists in their own right and to decry them as being un-musical is, in my opinion, very unfair.

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Elmore
Date: 16 Jun 14 - 01:10 PM

Battlefield Band has none of its original members which means they're their own tribute band.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 16 Jun 14 - 01:35 PM

Ignorant rude uninformed pathetic opinion, not woth even a full comment by me


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Elmore
Date: 16 Jun 14 - 02:40 PM

Just a little joke Desi. Didn't mean to offend anybody. In fact, I think the current configuration of Battlefield Band is quite good. Incidentally I swiped the offending joke from Tanglefoot, an excellent, but now defunct Canadian group, who were referring to themselves.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Tattie Bogle
Date: 16 Jun 14 - 02:59 PM

Not so Elmore: the Batties are constantly producing new material, not just doing covers of older songs and tunes.

As for covering songs: there's this saying about "making a song your own": that doesn't necessarily mean radically changing it. but it does mean not slavishly following every little nuance and riff done by the original artist - or in the case of a traditional song of no known composer - following the so-called definitive archive version.

Quoting from Jeri above: agree with that entirely!
"What gets in the way of me enjoying a song is the feeling that the performer is just trying too hard. It can be deliberately trying to sound like the original, or deliberately trying to sound different from it by changing things. It's the "deliberate" part that gets to me. I think if someone sings another's song, they can't help sounding like themselves."


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Johnny J
Date: 16 Jun 14 - 03:13 PM

I'm not sure if Desi was replying to Elmore or the OP.

There's no need to for him to get so upset though as Elmore was only joking while the OP has clarified his original statement and already mellowed his opinion somewhat.

Jeri's comment is good though.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Elmore
Date: 16 Jun 14 - 03:54 PM

Johnny J.: Actually I'm not sure if Desi was addressing me either. That aside, three of my favorite singers who perform "covers", and do them justice are Priscilla Herdman, Martyn Wyndham-Read, and Roy Bailey.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: TheSnail
Date: 16 Jun 14 - 05:24 PM

Elmore, I'm intrigued to know in what sense you think that Martyn Wyndham-Read performs "covers". His voice seems to me to be entirely his own.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Don Firth
Date: 16 Jun 14 - 07:22 PM

I started singing folk songs in around 1952 or '53, and the first folk songs I learned, I got from a little drugstore paperback entitled "A Treasury of Folk Songs" compiled by John and Sylvia Kolb. I also got a copy of a folio of twenty songs sung by Richard Dyer-Bennet and a copy of Carl Sandburg's "The American Songbag." I learned a couple of songs from Claire, the girl I was going with at the time, whose interest in folk songs pretty much ignited mine.

I also learned a mess of songs from Walt Robertson (CLICKY), who I hit up for lessons. Along with songs he sang himself, he had me working out of The Burl Ives Song Book, the Lomaxes' Best Loved American Folk Songs. And a potful of songs from LP records by Burl Ives and Richard Dyer-Bennet in particular, later from Theodore Bikel, Joan Baez, Ed McCurdy, Guy Carawan, and bunches more.

Along with other singers I was around all the time, who also learned songs from me.

It never occurred to me that I was singing "covers" of other people's songs. Because, among other things, they were NOT other people's songs. They were public domain and it was rare when anyone knew who had written them originally. "Greensleeves?" No, not Henry VIII. "Barbara Allen?" Who knows who wrote it originally. And I could go on and on.

Also, songs I learned from Richard Dyer-Bennet or Burl Ives records. How could I be "covering" them when they are both tenors and I am a bass-baritone? I have to sing them in different keys and this means my guitar accompaniment can't be the same as theirs.

Covers? Who am I covering?

Dumb idea.

Also:   "If you can't write your own material don't pretend to be a musician."

Really!!???

Are interpretive artists NOT musicians?

I wonder how many operas Luciano Pavarotti, Jan Peerce, George London, or Rene Fleming, Cecilia Bartoli, or Maria Callas have written? Or how may symphonies Eugene Ormandy has written? Or how many piano sonatas Claudio Arrau has written? Or how many works for the violin Itzhak Perlman has written? Is it the case that Leonard Bernstein is a musician when he is playing or conducting his own compositions, but NOT when he is conducting a work by, say, Beethoven?

(Shall I go on?)

And here all this time, I thought these folks were real fine musicians. Silly me!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Larry The Radio Guy
Date: 16 Jun 14 - 08:00 PM

"Cover" was originally a term coined to describe white pop singers who would be given songs recorded by black artists----which weren't generally played on the radio. They'd usually do 'homogenized' versions......which were more 'compatible' with middle class white audiences, and turn them into hits.    Pat Boone was one of the most notorious cover artists.

I personally don't like using the word 'cover' for anything that is less than an attempt to turn some other unplayed version of a song into a 'hit'.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 16 Jun 14 - 08:19 PM

i don't actually have an opinion on this subject - but i didn't want to be left out completely


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 03:34 AM

Actually I was referring to you Elmore. It just seemed one of those ridiculous sweeping statements, I suspected a bit of a wind up. I do own songs and covers. But most covers, if not all ,are old time Country and Irish trad. There are very few people doing the ones I do and in 99% of cases the original artists are long departed, many of the songs almost forgotten. But I would agree there are a lot of folk just doin bland covers/copies of 'popular' songe. I.E If I hear another bland Copy of the awful Hotel California or The Lakes Of Ponchertrain, I'll wrap my guitar round the offenders neck! They are not just over done but done to death. It's one thing to follow the fine Folk tradition of keeping the songs alive, enother thing entirely to make the audience heart sink and whisper "not that bloody song again" You know who you are!


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Strummin Steve
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 05:12 AM

Have the best of both worlds & do a bit of both, in a live situation it's also a performance/mood that counts..


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Andrew Murphy
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 05:14 AM

I suppose Mike Irish traditional musicians are all just talentless pretenders?


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Teribus
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 07:19 AM

" GUEST
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 04:18 AM

Which covers, in your opinion, are better than the originals?"


Anything by Bob Dylan


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Detroit Bob
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 07:51 AM

Seriously, you people have too much free time on your hands...which is why you've had time to learn so many cover songs!

If you took away cover songs, there goes half of the Led Zeppelin output. Do you really think their version of "Nobody's Fault But Mine" is a carbon copy of the original by Blind Willie Johnson?

And as for copying paintings, make me a copy of a Vermeer that looks exactly like the original. Sure, that's easy!

Has anybody discovered the Child Ballads by Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer? All covers of traditional English ballads, and it's been stuck in my CD player ever since I got it.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Will Fly
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 07:54 AM

D'you know, I don't give a toss.

I shall continue to play and perform anything I want to, in any style I choose to, whenever I can.

If people like it, then that's my good luck. If they pay me, then that's a bonus.

But the point is to play as you like.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: PHJim
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 08:59 AM

" GUEST
Date: 15 Jun 14 - 04:18 AM
Which covers, in your opinion, are better than the originals?"

First of all, it depends on your definition of the word "cover". If it means a song the performer didn't write, then which version is "better" is often subjective, but some I like better are:
Billie Holiday's version of Body And Soul
Frank Sinatra's version of Fly Me To The Moon
kd lang's version of Hallelujah
Ramblin' Jack's version of Don't Think Twice

Many times the first version you hear, even if it's a "cover", becomes your favorite, because you feel that's how it goes. Many people feel this way about:
The Animals' version of House Of The Rising Sun
Roberta Flack's version of First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
We 5's version of You Were On My Mind
Neil Young's version of Four Strong Winds
Otis Redding's version of Try A Little Tenderness


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Hrothgar
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 09:07 AM

I take an opposite view. This is something that has been bothering me for quite some time.

Now, let's work from the basic principle that we have to have songwriters. Otherwise, the body of song would atrophy.

Similarly, we have to have singers who sing other people's songs. This spreads the songs (and the thoughts they might contain) fay more widely. It also ensures the survival of traditional song (although the way everybody seems to want to be a singer/songwriter these days, that could be at risk anyway).

The problem is that many of the songwriters are not very good. I sometimes have the feeling that it should be made law that songwriters can only sing their own songs after somebody else has sung them. This would have the winnowing effect we need.

It seems to me that too many songwriters are so wrapped up in themselves that they forget there is a real world our there. We then get stuck with people with very moderate song writing ability, poor diction (can't survive without a sound system, and intelligible even with that), and an overdose of angst, disembowelling themselves with a teaspoon.

If they had these songs judged by other people as good enough to sing, we would have far fewer, but much better songs (and singers).

The only saving grace that that most of them have is that they are capable with their instrument of choice.

There are many singer/songwriters whom I am prepared to listen to singing their own songs, and without their being sung yet by others, but they are a small and eminent minority - think of Paxton, Tawney, MacColl, Bogle, Dengate as examples just for a start. On the other hand, Dylan (genius though he might be) really needed Joan Baez and PP&M to get him popularity.

I was thinking of starting a thread on this topic, but I saw this and had to wade in.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Musket
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 09:45 AM

Detroit Bob wrote; "Has anybody discovered the Child Ballads by Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer? All covers of traditional English ballads, and it's been stuck in my CD player ever since I got it."

Ditto. I can honestly say I don't recall an album being played so many times in the first week as that one. I can't stop playing it. The only album to come close in terms of constantly playing it would be (a err.. long time ago) David Bowie's Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust.

Yes, I do my own cover of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars....


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,John Foxen
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 09:55 AM

Michael Pender writes:
I guess I have learned something from this thread. Many people share my thoughts but can express themselves very well without using inflammatory comments.

Well Michael, if you cannot express yourself coherently without upsetting people perhaps you should not even try writing your own songs but stick to singing other people's material.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Guest TF
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 10:52 AM

It's folk music. There are no covers and there is no shame.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,c.g.
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 11:53 AM

It's interesting that the OP. Michael Pender, says 'many people share my thoughts . . .' when everyone on here has been telling him he's wrong. Michael, it would appear no-one shares your thoughts.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 12:17 PM

man comes onstage sings - covers! covers! cov-ers! covers! not very original, I only sing covers.....


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Larry The Radio Guy
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 12:21 PM

I like Hrothgar's idea. 17 Jun 14 - 09:07 AM


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 12:40 PM

Exactly so!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Musket
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 03:17 PM

Here's a song I collected.

From a Fairport album.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 04:04 PM

I write most of my own stuff, or else arrange traditional songs in my own way. My hope for all my songs is that they will pass into the tradition and be sung and played by as many people as possible. Just adding a few drops into the well of the tradition.

It would be nice to hope (1) that the songs I worked so hard on are credited and acknowledged; (2) that people would try to make a really good job of singing them.

There would just be a big silence if no one was allowed to do covers and an awful lot of great music would be forgotten.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: PHJim
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 07:32 PM

Another "cover" that most folks think was written by members of the group Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show, is "The Cover Of The Rolling Stone".
This tune actually got Dr. Hook onto the cover of Rolling Stone, but Shel Silverstein, who wrote the song, has never appeared on the cover of the Rolling Stone.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 17 Jun 14 - 08:57 PM

Pedantic Point: Radio Guy, it certainly is true that many rock and roll and blues tunes were "homogenized" to make them more palatable to a wider market (or at least to the executives at the record companies), but from the early days of the recording industry on, it was common practice for labels to have their artists "cover" what ever music had become popular, in the theatre, music halls, and from sheet music, and later, the movies.

This was still true in the 50's, when no less than five separate artists had hit recordings of "Mack the Knife", which had recently become popular in an Off-Broadway revival of "The Threepenny Opera", which, as we all know, had originated in Berlin, 30 years before.

The principle is, when a popular singer records a popular song, you'll be able to sell a lot of records. It still holds true today.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 18 Jun 14 - 02:40 AM

Wel Detroit Bob, I imagine as you're against covers, the opposite must be true, you prefer own songs. I attend Folk clubs very regularly and often hear'own songs' 95% of which are dreadfully over long boring introspective dirges, that the writers SHOULD be ashamed to sing. But more often than not the singers, like yourself, are the most egotistical bores you can ever meet, usually getting on in years bitter and twisted that they've never been discovered (and never will be. I'm not remotely ashamed by my covers, I'm very proud of them all


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Larry The Radio Guy
Date: 18 Jun 14 - 04:24 AM

I don't think I'm being pedantic, Stim. I just think it's bizarre to call any song that the singer didn't write a 'cover'. It only encourages singers to write more and more bad songs.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 18 Jun 14 - 04:39 AM

talking of being ashamed of covers -Adam and Eve -what was that all about.

God doesn't like us using covers. He would prefer it if we went to folk clubs, naked and unashamed, singing nice songs like Jesus wants me for a sunbeam.

i'm not sure how he would feel about crotchless panties and peephole bras. as they don't cover much.

wearing a voluminous cover, like an Aran sweater, and singing songs glorifying depravity like the wild rover and whisky in the jar - the almighty will be after you.

and I, the lord thy god, am one angry dude. you have been warned.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 18 Jun 14 - 05:07 AM

Well said, Will Fly!

Oh dear, now we're getting all hung up on the definition of covers! Re Martyn Wyndham-Read, he did a superb album of songs by the late Graeme Miles, so in the broad sense he covered them. But yes, he has an unmistakable voice. And Graeme himself was not renowned for singing.

Diving for cover!


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Howard Jones
Date: 18 Jun 14 - 05:25 AM

What used to be the norm was that there were songwriters who wrote songs and singers who performed them. Neither was expected to be good at the other's craft. How many songs did Frank Sinatra write?

A few were good at both, and made their names singing their own songs. There are obvious financial advantages from this, as well as having a unique and personal repertoire. Somewhere along the way the idea took hold that this was somehow better than singing someone else's songs, and the singer-songwriter became venerated. This in turn has led to the idea that a singer ought to write their own songs, and as a result we have some dreadful rubbish inflicted on us.

What is important is to have a good song well performed. It shouldn't matter if the person who wrote it is not the person who performs it.

The issue of people imitating other musicians' performances is entirely different. The answer is not to write one's own songs but to apply more thought to one's own interpretation. However the fact is that many audiences prefer a familiar version, or something close to it, than an individual interpretation.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Musket
Date: 18 Jun 14 - 05:30 AM

"It's the singer, not the song."

Mick & Keef knew what they were writing there.....


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Jun 14 - 06:30 AM

If people didn't do covers at sessions here would be no cross-fertilisation, no exchange of ideas. But the difference is between the guy/guyess who comes along and does the same party piece they always do in the expectation of praise and acclaim, and someone who thinks - "see what they make of this; I wonder if anyone knows it?". There's also the common situation where yopu need to do a familiar song in order to keep everybody engaged. OP obviously a session noob.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Nick
Date: 18 Jun 14 - 08:54 AM

Detroit Bob wrote; "Has anybody discovered the Child Ballads by Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer? All covers of traditional English ballads, and it's been stuck in my CD player ever since I got it."

There's usually a little hole on the front which you can poke a straightened out paper clip or similar and it usually let's you get the CD out without using brute force.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 18 Jun 14 - 09:40 PM

Radio Guy-I wasn't saying you were pedantic, I was pointing out that my point was pedantic, and that point was that recording artists had been "covering" songs that others had made popular since the beginnings of the recording industry. I didn't even say it was a bad thing.

More whatever you want to call it-it's probably been discussed on Mudcat before, but the practice of "covering" popular songs came about because the early phonographs were not cross compatible and each manufacturer would have their artists record songs and sell them to the owners their machines.


It wasn't uncommon for recording artists contracted to one label to "cover" their hit for another label under an assumed name.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Jeri
Date: 18 Jun 14 - 10:25 PM

Phonographs not being cross-compatible...


Huh?


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 18 Jun 14 - 10:29 PM

I always like it when I hear about someone singing one of my songs.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Larry The Radio Guy
Date: 18 Jun 14 - 10:52 PM

Thanks Stim. Interesting history.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 19 Jun 14 - 01:47 AM

It's true, Jeri. Consider that in the first years, some companies were recording on cylinders and some on discs(Edison continued to make cylinders till 1929). Obviously, cylinders and discs couldn't be played on the same machine. And different machines played at different speeds. they didn't settle on the standard 78rpms till the 20s. Also, some discs were vertically cut, and some were laterally cut, which required different types of needle armatures.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Musket
Date: 19 Jun 14 - 03:18 AM

Too true Al. Mind you, when you come across one of your own songs on YouTube with a bloke in his bedroom and a wonky camera, crucifying it you tend to cringe a bit.

Then read that he claims to have written it.....

I was nicely surprised when they agreed to take it down. It reappeared credited to "I heard this a few times in folk clubs around Sheffield" which was an improvement I suppose.

Not often I get precious and once disowned a song I wrote as a teenager, but hey ho.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Hrothgar
Date: 19 Jun 14 - 06:30 AM

Thanks, Larry.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 19 Jun 14 - 08:17 AM

Oh, you play and write music, Musket? I had no idea.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 19 Jun 14 - 10:13 AM

well I don't really mind about the attribution business. it would be nice to get a few more shekels from prs - but I eat too much anyway. I think I get more pissed off when huge corporations don't pay me. there is nothing anyone seems able to do - certainly not the prs gang.

i'm old. I got more than enuff to eat. several decent guitars. a roof over my head - so no point in stressing about anything.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 19 Jun 14 - 10:23 AM

yes he writes and performs music. dunno how he fits it in with reviving the british economy, saving the health service, and taking a brave stand against Ake, the evil genius of the north. not mention ski-ing with his dog.....how Hello magazine has missed him, I will never know!

he comes from worksop, and who a thought all these years later, me and musket would be drinking our chateau de chatillon....mind you we had it tough..


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 19 Jun 14 - 11:04 PM

I had to look up a lot of the references in your post, Big Al, I know what dog is, but not the rest. I now know that Worksop once has sizeable coal seams, but would really like hear some of what's his name's music...


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: PHJim
Date: 19 Jun 14 - 11:26 PM

Sorry to hear that Gerry Goffin died today.
I've heard many of the songs he's written or had a hand in writing, but never heard him sing any of 'em. If not for covers, he'd never have been heard of.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Ole Juul
Date: 20 Jun 14 - 12:57 AM

All this talk about attribution reminds me of this:

A shopkeeper in London put out a sign: "Nephew of Baron Rothschild" which was not true. He received a letter from a solicitor demanding that he make a retraction, whereupon he put out a new sign: "Previously Nephew of Baron Rothschild".


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Tootler
Date: 20 Jun 14 - 01:26 AM

My understanding of the original meaning of the term "cover" in the present context was that it was a recording of a song other than the original that attempted to copy the original arrangement exactly. Several of the "homogenised" RnR/RnB versions of the late 50s pretty much fell in that category. Also, over here in the UK we would quite often get a cover by a local artist of a song that had been successful in the US. These copied the original arrangement as nearly as they could though most of the time, they didn't really get it quite right but became hits because of delays in releasing US recordings over here.

More recently, like it or not, the term "cover" has come to refer to any recording of a song, professional or amateur, that was originally recorded by someone else regardless of how like the original it is. I think it's a misnomer but that's language for you. If the meaning of a word shifts there is very little that individuals can do about it.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: PHJim
Date: 20 Jun 14 - 02:06 AM

Tootler is right. The original "cover bands" even copied the clams from the original arrangement.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Don Firth
Date: 20 Jun 14 - 03:07 AM

One of the first ballads I learned is "The Three Ra'ens" (Ravens), Child #26, from a folio of 20 songs sung by Richard Dyer-Bennet. Was the song as I sang it a "cover?"

Dyer-Bennet was a light tenor. I am a bass-baritone. Our voices are much different. So I had to change the key from the one Dyer-Bennet sang it in. This altered the bass lines and runs, and contrapuntal lines I played from chord to chord. So my guitar accompaniment sounded a bit similar to Dyer-Bennet's but it was really quite different. And considering the style of the period from which the song came, I ended it with a "Picardy third" in the final chord I play. An A major chord rather than an A minor. Dyer-Bennet didn't do that. He ended with the tonic minor.

The earliest (written) record of the song is Thomas Ravenscroft's Melismata, 1611.

Also, the song repeats the first line of each verse, and I felt that this cut into the dramatic impact of the song by making it unduly and a bit tediously long. So I telescoped two verses into one by simply not repeating the first line of each verse

Instead of
There were three ra'ens sat in a tree
Down-a-down, hey down-a-down.
There were three ra'ens sat in a tree,
With a down,
There were three ra'ens sat in a tree,
And they were black as they might be.
With a down, derry derry derry down, down.
I sang
There were three ra'ens sat in a tree
Down-a-down, hey down-a-down.
And they were black as they might be.
With a down.
Then one of them said to his make (mate)
Oh, where shall we our breakfast take?
With a down, derry derry derry down, down.
Two verses for the price of one.

By telescoping like this, I came up a couple of lines short. So I looked at other versions of the ballad (and there are many versions) and added a verse from another version.

I did not write the song, God knows. It's a ballad at least four hundred years old, probably a lot older--and is found in several languages, Norwegian, Swedish, German,Hebrew.... I learned it from Richard Dyer-Bennet's song folio. And I heard his recording of it.

Was I singing a "cover?"

I don't think so.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Musket
Date: 20 Jun 14 - 03:35 AM

Can't have you listening to good stuff Stim, you'll end up learning something. That'll never do. We can't get rid of the all the entertainment around here...

I'm not from Worksop, but that's another matter. Lived there, worked there, but a Derbyshire sheep shagger at heart.

Anyway, this is about, according to the op, the shame in singing covers. It would be a shame if some of mine were sung by old men with beards, it just doesn't cut it.. Especially as over 90% are rock and punk songs, not what I would usually do in a folk clubs. I prefer to sing Al's songs in clubs, gives you something to apologise for other than the guitar going out of tune.......

Anyway, back to saving the world. Far better than sitting whinging about the world by the way. Château de Châtillon is something I see from the train when whizzing down for a skiing holiday in Tigne. The Savoire being my favourite part of France when it comes to ski, food and fairly quaffable local wine.

Far too good for the peasants, although the damn Russians are moving in around the valley at Val d'Isere. Keep going round and you get to some very exclusive slopes where only those who have made it such as songwriters of Al's calibre can afford to ski.

Oh, and the dog. He skis in such exclusive private resorts, hence Al knowing about the gold taps in his jacuzzi. I will excuse Al's lack of refinement all the same, as the taps are gold, not gold plated, peasant.... Mrs Musket and I eat gruel in order to keep that dog in jacuzzis, poodles and gravy bones. Where the hell the poodles come into his equation I don't know, because although he doesn't acknowledge the fact, he has had the swishing house bricks operation.

I may have mentioned in the past that his neutering explains everything you ever need to know about religion. He may not have balls, but he certainly still tries to lick them.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 Jun 14 - 05:36 AM

you see the problem Stim. Punk was never about disaffected youth and unhappy idealists like myself.

its all about snotty millionaires like Musket. you see the unsubtle way he tells us that he and his dog like cutting a dash. I think possibly he gets by on his good looks. but who knows perhaps pogo ing and gobbing at Musket along with all his devoted fans is your sort of thing. its crowded on the front row - the Queen, Tony Blair, John Major - the boys are back in town when Musket is up there gyrating.

didn't know that Heston Blumenthal and all those posh cooks like Musket, his wife and dog patronise had gruel on their menus.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Musket
Date: 20 Jun 14 - 07:12 AM

My dog does not go to restaurants where the rhubarb and custard tastes of garlic snails if you don't mind.

I don't know Al, being in a punk band on a Saturday night and playing at a folk club on the Sunday was a simple carry on. A poster I designed was printed in Melody Maker circa 1978 with the lines, "Here'a a chord. Here's another. A third one for good measure (cue drawing of Gmaj, Cmaj and D7.). Now form a band."

Worked in both genres as I recall.

The pogo? What, with my pit moggy knees? You must be joking. Had to work in order to pay the instalments on the Rickenbacker guitar I bought after seeing Paul Weller playing his at The Porterhouse in Retford, (or could have been Nelson Mandella Hall in Sheffield. I worshipped The Jam regardless and saw them umpteen times).

Anyway, can't spend all day reminiscing with you. I need to see if my bid for a crate of Chateau Reynella Merlot 1995 was successful. Look after the pennies and all that.

I'll be back after a session staring in the mirror giving thanks to Clapton for my good looks, talent, huge willy, stocks and shares and trophy wife. (Sorry dear, just playing to the crowd.). If you have any thoughts regarding songs for a gig at Blidworth Bottoms Al, you may as well make yourself useful.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 20 Jun 14 - 08:00 AM

I am long past learning anything, Musket. Not to worry on that account. as to ""It would be a shame if some of mine were sung by old men with beards, it just doesn't cut it.. Especially as over 90% are rock and punk songs," I have been looking around, and, though exclusively the music of young people, rock and punk seem to be dominated by old men with beards...


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Musket
Date: 20 Jun 14 - 08:03 AM

I'll blend in nicely then.

The bulge in my trousers is a bit of a giveaway, not to mention asking at the bar for champagne, but I can sing socialist nonsense with the best of 'em.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 Jun 14 - 10:54 AM

I can see that - late 70's - Clapton was telling everyone to vote national front, Weller of that period told all his fans to vote tory.

all you folks who sit and whine
should have been there in the winter of '79
                                  Tom Robinson


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Musket
Date: 20 Jun 14 - 11:37 AM

And there was me, a tiresome little trot, singing protest songs and promising to change the world with my guitar.

Don't mention Tom Robinson's motorway. The Loch Fynne Monster hasn't polluted this thread just yet, don't get him started.

If name dropping is in vogue, here's Ken Dodd. If you aren't a socialist at 20 you are a fool. If you are still a socialist at 30, you are an even bigger fool.

I like it, although it is about as reliable as his book keeping.

If you are the only one still reading this read, I may as well be honest for once. I had so many battle scars in that period and beyond, especially during the strike, that I stopped letting ideology lead me and started leading myself. I am neither a socialist nor a Tory. On balance, I have only ever voted Labour but that is going through the motions.

I'm a beer monster with a huge willy. That's about as political as I get. I advise government bodies, help hospitals improve and lecture to medical students on structured service improvement. Other than the academic bit, I don't even do that from the end of the month. I am trying out semi retirement and have ended my work. Scary but my family are having side bets as to how long before I get bored and start interfering again.

Writing songs is a hobby and diversion. I don't necessarily put my own views in them. Play to the crowd instead.

Oh, and sing lots of covers. Harvey Andrews is in my personal vogue at present, the other month it was Si Khan and in any event, most folk clubs I do mainly traditional ballads.

This is about singing covers yeah?


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: PHJim
Date: 20 Jun 14 - 11:50 AM

It's hard to let a cool song sit idle just because you didn't write it. Here's what I consider an improvement on the original (even though I love the original)

Sarah sings Tom - Come On Up To The House


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 21 Jun 14 - 06:11 AM

it was abit the opposite with me Musket.

I was always in awe of artists. people who could write poems etc. I always considered myself to earthy a character, too uneducated to be a creative.
I was deeply influenced by Derek Brimstone - a singer who didn't ostensibly have any pretensions - but infact cared deeply about acoustic guitar playing, and had profound and clever thoughts about the true nature of folk music. not fashionable - all the pressure was to tune the guitar in DADGAD and assume a rustic/Carthy style of vocal delivery.

idealism snuck up on me. I developed pride in what I had done with my life. and an indifference to the official folk world


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 22 Jun 14 - 05:49 AM

... If you can't write your own material don't pretend to be a musician.

Taking it to the extreme, where would that leave song-writing duos?
                Music by ………….. Lyrics by …………..
If they were performing individually, would one of them get stuck playing instrumentals and the other have to read out the words as a poem? Even worse, if the lyrics were the result of collaboration, would the singer have to leave gaps when he got to the other person's lines?



I do agree, though, that hearing someone rip off somebody else's act is less than satisfying. In the area where I live, all we ever get is tribute bands. We don't even have a proper venue to bring quality acts to – just an auditorium which is supposed to double up as a sports hall. The trouble is that people who have been born and brought up here, have known no better and seem to find it perfectly acceptable.

... How else would we get to see the Beatles or Buddy Holly live? ...

We are not getting to see them live. We are getting to see a tribute act. No matter how good they are, don't fool yourself that you are seeing anything else. If you want to hear the original, then buy the record.

DC


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 22 Jun 14 - 06:04 AM

where's that Doug, where theres only tribute bands. most places there are one or two original people.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 22 Jun 14 - 07:12 AM

I might have been exaggerating when I said "all we ever get". We do have home grown talent, and very good it is too, but we are lucky if national tours by big acts come within 50 miles of us. Once we had the Cleethorpes Folk Festival but no longer. Last month we had the Cleethorpes Fake Festival with tribute bands Cold Placed, Kazabian (with a "z") and Blondied.

I am sure that, if people tried hard enough, they could find examples that prove me wrong but it is hardly a cultural Mecca and banners promoting tribute acts seem to be the norm.

DC


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Johnny J
Date: 22 Jun 14 - 07:42 AM

"... How else would we get to see the Beatles or Buddy Holly live? ...

We are not getting to see them live. We are getting to see a tribute act. "

Also, rest assured, if The Beatles, Buddy Holly or whoever were touring today they would either be playing new material or interpreting their old songs differently. It's very seldom that live bands faithfully reproduce their own hit singles note for note. Not the more imaginative acts, at any rate.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 22 Jun 14 - 08:55 AM

I used to play at that Irish pub on the front at Cleethorpes. people used to ask me why I wasn't booked for the Cleethorpes folk festival. I really didn't have an answer. I suppose I was one of the gang labelled not really a folksinger - so the local folk programmes on bbc wouldn't play us -so we didn't get to become a name. Tom |Lane in Lincoln played us - but Folkweave wouldn't.

folkweave has gone the way of the Cleethorpes festival. I suppose the truth is, they got the chance to have us play for nothing and they didn't take it.

where I live now - I get more festival invites and radio plays most weeks than I did when I was in your area. if you don't nurture talent - you will be stuck with tribute acts.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Musket
Date: 22 Jun 14 - 03:32 PM

I'm starting an Al Whittle tribute act. Might try a dummy run at The Brown Cow in Mansfield. My eldest lad lives 300 yd from the pub so I can have a sniff of the barmaid's apron and not have to drive.

I live reasonably close to Cleethorpes now, but it's years since I got to the festival. All I recall from the last time was we warmed them up for Les Barker.

Eyup Al. Derek was one of my heroes too. But learning Sir Quincy de Bas didn't quite make me an expert on Child ballads if truth be known... Put the old bugger up a few times though when we gave him his regular booking..

In the rock side of things, I certainly was pretentious and a bit rock & roll. Getting it out of my system allowed me to be a real me, warts n' all in folk clubs as we all tend to be. Pity I can't be normal on Mudcat. I'd just be too dismissive of some people when winding them up serves a far higher purpose.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Ole Juul
Date: 22 Jun 14 - 03:43 PM

I must say there's some nice writing in this thread, and I'm quite enjoying it.

Back to the core subject though, it just occurred to me that "covers" is all there was before we had recordings and radio. I've got a collection of Etude magazines from the first few 1900s. I'm sure many people here are familiar with those. You'd get the magazine, gather around the piano with mom (who could read music) and that was the radio. It's quite obvious that there was no other way to get the original composer/performer into your country, back woods town, or living room.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 22 Jun 14 - 04:06 PM

right to the end of Del's career, I heard club and festival organiser's pleading with him to finish off the evening, because some folk star didn't have enough oomph to provide a big finish to the evening. ususally -the star was on about ten times Del's money.

I am afraid you made the same mistake that many others did - you took him at face value. the comic songs were a minute if memorable part of his repertoire. check out the albums - most of the songs were of a serious nature - because he was troubadour and had thought of the meaning of each song - he could introduce them in a light hearted plus in a way that left the audience in no doubt as to the meaning of the song. in short, he could perform interpret folksong.

there was none of this croaking out some tripe and standing there and virtually calling the audience wankers because they didn't know the difference between a halyard shanty and bothy ballad.

Del always kept close counsel - I have seen him treated idiotically and disrespectfully - but never lose his cool - never anything but friendly and approachable.

he carried and imparted his great knowledge of folk music and his wonderful musicianship with like a gentleman.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 23 Jun 14 - 05:01 AM

I object to the title of this thread 'the shame in singing covers' This so called 'shame' is a figment of some demented mind with a superiority complex. Not every musician CAN write songs, but there's no rule that says they SHOULD, it doesn't make them any less musicians. There is NO shame in singing covers, the shame is that anyone thinks there should be!


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,John P
Date: 23 Jun 14 - 08:00 PM

It's interesting reading this thread soon after the "why do musicians work for free" thread. I have some friends who made their living for several years playing exact reproductions of famous rock songs. They toured glitzy lounges. It was their job. When they weren't at work, they played whatever they felt like, mostly music with little or no income potential -- folk, blues, jazz. They had a skill that allowed them to use their passion to make a living. So on the one hand they had the "shame" of playing covers (what a stupid concept!), but on the other hand they didn't have the "shame" of playing for free (another stupid concept).

In my case, I've tried to play exact reproductions just for the fun of it but have always failed miserably. I can get the notes right, but I always seem to insert too much of myself into the interpretation, and I can't bring myself to spend the time getting the electric guitar tones just right or the finding the correct synth voice. I also improvise a lot no matter what kind of music I'm playing and flights of fancy are usually much more interesting than the existing arrangement.

There is a real skill to playing exact covers, and it's one that many musicians don't have or haven't developed. Perhaps we should extend the OP to say that if you can't reproduce a piece of music you also aren't really a musician . . .

I've also heard that if you can't read music you aren't a real musician, if you always read music you aren't really a musician, if you can't pick up tunes by ear you aren't real, if you can't harmonize you aren't, if you can't sing you aren't, if you don't play an instrument you aren't, and that drummers aren't real musicians. These concepts are all as stupid as the OP.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 24 Jun 14 - 08:29 AM

: GUEST,John P Well Said John P, the only real sensible comments I've read in reply to this thread


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: PHJim
Date: 24 Jun 14 - 09:23 AM

GUEST,Desi C, Did you actually take the time to read all of the posts in this thread? I agree that Guest,John P made some good points in his post, but disagree that his were "the only real sensible comments...to this thread."
A quick skim turned up some sensible posts from Hrothgar, Joe F, Johnny J and I'm sure many others.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Jun 14 - 01:32 PM

I was reading a thread on Facebook yesterday, which started with a complaint by a contemporary songwriter who was displeased that a band (noone I know) had recorded her song with variations in the lyrics. She was agonising over whether to tell the band that they had gotten it all wrong or just let go. I suppose that from a songwriter's point of view, one may wish to hear the exact words as you wrote them. But in my view a song takes on its own life the moment other people cover or interpret it, and it would be very hard to control this process. I would venture to say it is also not the ideal to strive for. I happen to sing one of this songwriter's songs (not recorded) and I am sure that some of the words have changed since I started singing it. The meaning of the song - as far as my understanding of this song goes - remains unchanged; its just that some words scan easier or lend themselves more to singing for me. Now that I know that teh songwriter gets so upset about changes, it leaves me feeling unconfortable singing her song, which is a great shame. I don't aspire to sing a song exactly as it was written. I strive to give a rendition that feels true and alive.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Jun 14 - 02:58 PM

This is one of those interesting threads where there is a genuine case for every side of the discussion, just depends on personal preference and ability when it comes down to it.

I play material I've mostly picked up from other performers but I find most satisfaction when I go back to the original a few weeks/months/years after learning it and find how much it's evolved into my own. Occasionally I've moved very little from the original but I'll still preform it, my voice will always be different from the original anyway, sometimes it's just a bit harder to move away from the original guitar arrangement, probbaly because it was so good in the first place. Hopefully never 'karaoke' but I can live with the influence being apparent to the listener.

Just sing whatever you like and in whatever manner you like I say, there's enough of us around to keep everyone happy some of the time..


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Don Firth
Date: 24 Jun 14 - 03:47 PM

I agree that it doesn't take a musician for some pre-pubescent to sing a Justin Beiber song, doing his damdest to sound exactly like Justin Beiber. But—

Last night I was watching Classic Arts Showcase on television (a sort of MTV for adults) as I often do, and among many other things, I watched a bravura performance by young violinist Sarah Chang, of Zigeunerweisen, written, not by her, but by Pablo de Sarasati, and accompanied by the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Placido Domingo.

And as I understand it, the piece was not, strictly speaking, actually written by Sarasati, but is a collection of gypsy airs and dances which he arranged for the violin.

Sarah Chang began her violin studies at the age of 5 (her mother was a violin teacher), Sarah made her first recording at the age of 10 on EMI Classics, subsequently graduated from Juilliard School of Music in 1999 at the age of 19, and did her solo concert debut with the New York Philharmonic.

Placido Domingo is a renowned operatic tenor, generally considered by opera aficionados to be one of the world's finest tenors. Within recent years he's been adding couple of a new strings to his bow by orchestral conducting, which requires a thorough knowledge of music and the musical scores he conducts. He has been guest conductor for several well-known orchestras. He was also appointed General Director of Los Angeles Opera, and as he grows older and his voice deepens a bit, he is beginning to add baritone roles to his repertoire, including "Rigoletto," and Athanael in "Thais."

A couple of hours of watching clips on Classic Arts Showcase will expose you to many people who have devoted their lives to music, developing a knowledge of music indicating years of study, and a technique that can be acquired only through hours of dedicated daily practice over a number of years.

And these people do not write the material they play or sing.

And you, Michael Pender, are telling me that because these people did not write the music they perform, they are performing "covers" and are, therefore, not really musicians?

I snort in the utmost contempt! It is obvious that YOU know nothing about music and real musicians. Shame on you!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Vic Smith
Date: 25 Jun 14 - 01:35 PM

A friend of mine sings traditional songs to his own guitar arrangements. These are original without being flash. His accompaniments and his own way of approaching traditional songs brings out new qualities in the songs and makes him for me a really substantial artist and I never miss an opportunity to hear him sing.
One of his strong opinions is that singers of traditional songs have developed a 'ghetto mentality' and only perform their songs at folk clubs and festivals. He tries to make sure that as many of his gigs as possible are outside this comfort zone.
He sent a demo to the bookers for a well-established mainstream festival in the south of England. He received a fairly swift reply to say that his demo seemed to have hit the mark. Those who had listened had been impressed by both the songs and the performance. Just one question; the demo did not say who had written the songs.
My friend replied that they were all traditional songs and nobody knew who wrote them.
He received another fairly swift reply. This told him that the festival could not book him as they did not book artists who sang covers!


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 25 Jun 14 - 04:41 PM

yes that's a newish development ....clubs as well. first time it happened to mewas about five years ago in Weymouth - the bloke running the evening came up to me and checked - you do original songs...this is for songwriters.

well to honest I wouldn't have chosen to sing my own song - after driving miles to get there. I said okay, I wasn't going to start arguing with him - and tell him that I sung what I bloody well liked, seeing as it was a floorspot and he was getting mt for free.

still it went. okay and I played the place last month and next month

you know what they say Vic - sauce for the goose - traddy clubs have been regulating their performers repertoire for years. there was bound to be some sort of a reaction to it. neither stance makes much sense to my way of thinking - but I have heard both Richard Bridge and Jim Carroll go on about going to English folk clubs and never hearing a folksong.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Vic Smith
Date: 26 Jun 14 - 07:33 AM

Big Al Whittle -
"traddy clubs have been regulating their performers repertoire for years"


My personal experience is that this is not so. None of the many clubs and festivals that we have been booked at have ever made any suggestion that Tina and I regulate our repertoire in any way. Similarly in 50 years of running folk clubs, I have never made any demands on what guest performers should include in their performances - beyond the occasional request to perform a item that I particularly like.

Prominent on our website and on the club notice board was our policy statement which began
The events that take place every Thursday in the well-appointed upstairs room at the Royal Oak in Station Street, Lewes, East Sussex are intended to encourage the performance of traditional music and song. We operate throughout the year apart from August.
This is not a club as such; there is no membership, rather a number of like minds who come together to celebrate and enjoy a wide range of musical traditions in a convivial, socially conducive atmosphere. We believe that we try to make all newcomers feel welcome.
Guest artists are booked to appear virtually every week; we do have a very few 'Open Nights' during the year. Within our limited financial resources, we try to present artists from a range of musical backgrounds and experiences who are talented and display a love of their chosen music or styles......

I think that we were always aware of these statements in our booking policy. Certainly, I am not of the opinion, like many organisers, that folk music stops at Dover and looking through our records, I see that in our last ten years we booked touring artists from Australia, Canada, France, The Gambia, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland (very many), Mexico, New Zealand, Romania, Scotland (very many), Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sweden, USA (very many), and Zimbabwe.
We did not book very many British singer/songwriters because in the view of the managing committee there were few of these whose writing and performing were of the standard or nature that we were after. However, such varied songwriters as Leon Rosselson, Pete Morton, Dave Goulder, Reg Meuross and Adrian May were amongst the songwriters that we booked regularly.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Peter
Date: 26 Jun 14 - 07:53 AM

@Big Al Whittle
Could you provide names to support your claim about "traddy" clubs? The description doesn't match any that I have been to.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Musket
Date: 26 Jun 14 - 10:26 AM

As a teenager, I played violin in a youth orchestra and my personal favourite memories were Vivaldi's Gloria, Mussorgsky's Night on a Bare Mountain and Mozart's 40th.

Of course, you may disagree as we were playing covers.

Concerning Gloria, I recently purchased the John Eliot Gardiner adaptation of it, together with his take on the Handel Gloria. It tends to be a bit up tempo and using no modern instrumentation at all! Howsabout that for a cover!

I shall inform the police.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 26 Jun 14 - 08:56 PM

yes I could provide names having spent the last fifty years going to folk clubs. I am not going to as I don't go round fighting evil. I leave that to Spiderman. neither do I gratuitously insult or hurt people. people who run any kind of folk clubs are goodies in my book.

having said that, there are plenty of ways to make people as unwelcome as a fart in a spacesuit without writing it in the club rules. over the years I have witnessed most of them in traddy clubs. not always directed at myself - I know enuff trad songs and though I don't perform them to a professional standard - certainly well enuff to pass muster.

nowadays I don't play my own or contemporary songs if I visit a traddy club. its bad manners. people are entitled not to have favourite music evening intentionally screwed up - but it still leaves people who wander in out of the cold, and people who wouldn't know a traditional folksong from Barry Manilow - there are more of them than you would think.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 26 Jun 14 - 11:01 PM

Guest: I happen to sing one of this songwriter's songs (not recorded) and I am sure that some of the words have changed since I started singing it. The meaning of the song - as far as my understanding of this song goes - remains unchanged; its just that some words scan easier or lend themselves more to singing for me.

I think that's fine as long as it's changing of unimportant words for a specific reason such as easier scanning, but when words are changed through simple ignorance or mis-hearing, I'd diagree. Three that immediately come to mind are:

Ewan MacColl's "Joy of Living" where his description of a string of hills and mountains in the UK is often rendered "cool big Scafell" (implying one large chilly hill) rather than correctly as "Cul Beag, Scafell" naming 2 mountains, one in Scotland and one in England. This was even propagated in Mudcat until I corrected it a few years ago.

Donovan's "Catch The Wind" where the 3rd verse start is almost invariably sung as "When rain has hung the leaves with tears
I want you near to kill my fear" though the original lyrics are " When rain has hung the leaves with tears I want you near to quell my fear" which to me is a much more appropriate word. I sing "quell" when I do the song, but in the last 10 years I can't think of once when I've heard anyone else sing anything but "kill".

And another MacColl song, "Dirty Old Town", where almost everyone sings "by the gasworks wall" instead of "by the gasworks croft" which to me takes away from the "crafting" of the song as "by the factory wall" comes so soon after "gasworks" that it sounds plain clumsy to use "wall" twice, and does a disservice to the songwriter, IMO.


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 26 Jun 14 - 11:13 PM

Vic Smith:One of his strong opinions is that singers of traditional songs have developed a 'ghetto mentality' and only perform their songs at folk clubs and festivals. He tries to make sure that as many of his gigs as possible are outside this comfort zone.

I think that's true to a large extent. At various open mics I attend, which are generally not very "folky" I try to bring in traditional songs.

Songs I've done recently are "The Trees they do Grow High" and "Banks of the Sweet Primroses" which both went down very well...People are interested in them as they've not heard them before, and frequently ask "who did that then?" I usualy say something like "I think that was on the CD 'Now That's What I Call Music 1759' " which gets a bit of a chuckle.

On the other hand, somewhere like the Tunbridge Wells "Local and Live" festival is actually advertised as local bands, live, doing their own songs, so a covers band from 50 miles away would be unlikely to get a booking!


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 27 Jun 14 - 06:21 AM

Well PHJim Yes I did at least start to read the other posts, but as so often happens they soon go off in all sorts of directions which really have nothing to do with the original Subject/topic. And though you're right many of them may be sensible, the reference I made was re a post which commented on the original point i.e the ridiculous notion that performing covers is somehow shameful! Hope that clears it up for you ;)


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 27 Jun 14 - 01:37 PM

As the jazz song has it, "It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it...."

I live in Germany and play on acoustic nights at a local music club. I sing traditionals, songs by people like Richard Thompson and my own songs as well. Next month I'm giving a concert there which will be 90-120 minutes of my own songs, some of which, although 30-40 years old, have never been aired before in public. Not a question of 'quality', simply lack of opportunity. As a club member I'm not getting paid for the gig. During the interval the hat goes round and the money goes to swell the club funds so that singers like Colin Wilkie get a booking.

There's a nice story about a professional singer and the NTMC......but I'll leave it in the vault(!)


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Subject: RE: The shame in singing covers
From: Musket
Date: 28 Jun 14 - 05:23 AM

I once heard someone sing a song of mine to a slightly different tune on YouTube. I liked it and a few nights later sang it in his style. Have done ever since for that matter.

Cover me, I'm going in!


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