Monday, February 11, 2008

Harvey Danger coverage

I've got my next rock vacation lined up. Come March 6th and 7th, I'll be bussing down to Seattle to go see Harvey Danger play a 2-night stand at the 300-seat Triple Door. In the late-90's they attained one-hit wonder status with Flagpole Sitta from their debut album Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?. I remember hearing the song in a commercial and scouring the p2p networks trying to find it. Problem was I couldn't remember any of the lyrics and for some reason I thought it was Oasis (don't ask), two big detriments to my search progress. A year or so later I re-discovered the song in the middle of a Weird Al polka and frantically looked over the liner notes to finally find out the song's name and artist. Flagpole Sitta. By Harvey Danger. Gee, why didn't I think of that? And who is this "Harvey Danger" person?

Two founding members Jeff Lin and Aaron Huffman were classmates at the University of Washington with the band's name coming from some random graffiti written on the wall of the student newspaper office. The full story (rise/fall/resurrection) of the band is officially summarized here. I think I borrowed that first album from the library but barely listened to it before having to return it. In 2000, by which point I was actually working at the library, I picked up a brand-spankin' new copy of their 2nd album King James Version straight from cataloguing/processing. Admittedly, I borrowed it on a whim and a shiny case thinking "Oh yeah, I sure liked that Flagpole Sitta song". I still remember coming home and casually putting it in the CD player. Whatever I was planning to do, washing the dishes or something, I simply stopped and stood there in the kitchen listening to the rip-roaring opening track Meetings With Remarkable Men (Show Me the Hero). Than I sat on the couch with the liner notes and listened to the rest of the CD, reading along with the lyrics (which are phenomenal, by the way). I don't have too many big rock epiphanies, but this was one. I am Harvey Danger fan for life. Now 8 years later I am finally ready, geographically speaking, to see them for the first time.

In honour of the 10th anniversary of their first album Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?, over two nights they will be playing all three of their albums in their entirety. It'll be an epic doozy of a first live Harvey Danger experience. The big highlight for me will be hearing King James Version live, start to finish one of my favourite albums ever. Last year I saw Roger Waters perform Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety (amazing) and let me tell you I'm equally excited, if not moreso about watching/hearing/experiencing King James Version, not to mention the opportunity to hear them pull out rare tracks, b-sides, and covers. To quote lead singer Sean Nelson, "Indeed, it would be prudent to assume that some of these songs will be (unofficially) retired after these shows".

Last summer I was expecting to be in the Caribbean in January rocking it up on a cruise headlined by Ben Folds along with special guest Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls... a dream trip to be sure. I was all booked, rearing to go when it was unceremoniously cancelled last June. Somewhat ironically it's actually Harvey Danger of all people who ended up jumping on a ship with the Barenaked Ladies a couple weeks ago on a cruise to Jamaica put on by the same company, Sixthman. As much as I would have liked to, the cost would have been a bit too much, a sentiment shared by even hardcore fans. When asked by fans why they'd be participating in the cruise anyway, the answer was pretty simple: it was basically a paid vacation and the idea of playing on a cruise ship was appealingly ridiculous. Getting out of a frigid Seattle in January was a nice perk too. By all accounts it sounded like a great time. One enviable session to have attended was the Barenaked Ladies' frontman Steven Page teaming up with Harvey Danger's Sean Nelson for a 'Songs of McCartney' session. Gah! I'm told it was Steven who met Sean in Toronto recently and invited the band on board.

Pretty much since the inception of this blog, I've been repeatedly plugging Harvey Danger. Right now if you're not a fan already, you might need some convincing. In general, my cover song philosophy is that hearing a band you're unfamiliar with perform a cover is the most directly accessible way to digest their music. You can tell when there's more to the band than just the cover, which leads you to seek out their other music. Tainted Love was my intro to The Living End and Young Americans to Danny Michel, two of my favourite artists I've discovered through covers. I really can't say the same thing about, say, Alient Ant Farm or The Ataris (sorry!). Though for all I know those bands are like someone else's Harvey Danger. So let's get to some covers, shall we?

Harvey Danger - Save it for Later [originally by The English Beat]
Harvey Danger - Is There Something I Should Know? [originally by Duran Duran]
**song title corrected... thanks Kel]
Harvey Danger - Oh! You Pretty Things [originally by David Bowie]

Harvey Danger - I've Got a Feeling [originally by The Beatles]
On New Year's Eve 2006, Harvey Danger and guests played an epic show where they covered side 2 of the Beatles' Abbey Road from Here Comes the Sun to Her Majesty. Before jumping into that, they kicked it off with this Beatles gem from Let it Be.

Sean Nelson - Gotta Get Up [originally by Harry Nilsson]
Sean Nelson - Daddy's Song [originally by Harry Nilsson]
A great but unreleased album is languishing somewhere... Sean Nelson's tribute to Harry Nilsson called Nelson Sings Nilsson (the title in turn refers to Harry Nilsson's tribute to Randy Newman, Nilsson Sings Newman). There are some demos on Sean's site and some full versions on myspace. He played sold out Nelson Sings Nilsson shows and the 15-track CD was completed I believe in 2006. For some reason it never came out. Copyright issues? No publisher? No one seems to know. It's number 1 on my lost albums list because the quasi-released stuff is fantastic. At the very least, it introduced me to Harry Nilsson who had flown under my radar for years. Go here to watch a youtube video of Davy Jones dancing and singing ridiculously to Daddy's Song in the 1968 Monkees film Head. Stay tuned to the end of the video where Frank Zappa gives Davy some advice with his talking cow... and I should mention the film was co-written by Jack Nicholson. Those wacky Monkees!

Death Cab for Cutie featuring Sean Nelson - Fortunate Son [originally by Creedence Clearwater Revival]
Harvey Danger's Sean Nelson sings lead on this CCR cover backed by Death Cab for Cutie. This comes from a Vietnam war benefit CD called Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again with lots of cover songs on it that I recently found in L.A.

Magnificent Tracers - Flagpole Sitta [originally by Harvey Danger]
Hairy Canary - Flagpole Sitta [originally by Harvey Danger]
(Just iTunes links for these ones! Listen to samples for a taste... but I recommend tracking down the original.)
There are not a lot of Harvey Danger cover songs around, though in a sense these are the very definition of cover songs: quick cash-ins on a popular hit put out by another company with the intent to mimic the original as closely as possible. In a horrible, bizarre twist of fate the Harvey Danger original is not even available on iTunes, but the preceding cover versions are. Yikes! The Magnificent Tracers-- even the band's name alludes to the fact that they are essentially "tracing" the song-- is from a K-Tel compilation called Extreme Sports. What's even more baffling is that the Hairy Canary version has a variety of techno, acapella, and percapella(?) remixes to go along with it. I was so tempted to buy the Hairy Canary "album", but I just couldn't bring myself to do it and I don't really encourage you to either. Probably the worst crime with these covers is that uninformed consumers actually believe these to be the original. I cringe when I've seen arguments such as "This is definitely I'm Not Sick but I'm Not Well by Hairy Canary!" or "Sorry to burst your bubble, but it's actually the Magnificent Tracers!" or "No, no, no, it's definitely Harvey Dangerfield..."

The Lounge-o-Leers - Flagpole Sitta [originally by Harvey Danger]
Not a particularly great cover, but it'll have to do until a big Harvey Danger revival in pop culture consciousness leads to an influx of HD covers.

Unknown A cappella group The UNC Achordants - Flagpole Sitta [originally Harvey Danger]
Generally I don't like posting songs of unknown origins... but it's a Harvey Danger cover, proving once again that there's an a cappella cover of virtually anything. Presumably it's a college a cappella group. Who? I have no idea, so give me a shout if you can identify it.
**UPDATE: Thanks to an anonymous reader, we now know this is the UNC Achordants from their 2007 album High Stakes Old Maid, available from their website.

Weird Al Yankovic - Polka Party!
Thank you Weird Al for introducing me to Harvey Danger! Spice Girls, Beastie Boys, Matchbox 20, Marilyn Manson, Third Eye Blind, and more get the ol' Weird Al polka treatment from 1999's Running With Scissors.

Everyone loves free stuff right? In this, my inaugural giveawway on Fong Songs, I would like to share my Harvey Danger passion with you. I have in my collection spare copies of Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone? and Little by Little..., their 1st and 3rd albums. So first prize will be one CD and second prize will be, uh, the other CD. No guarantees as to the condition of the CDs (this is free, mind you). I will send these anywhere at my own expense, cheapest shipping possible. If you want in on this free stuff, no strings attached, leave a comment with your e-mail and I'll pick winners on Friday next week. If I get pie in my face and only one person comments, he/she will take both prizes. If no one comments, I will cry myself to sleep or donate them to the library, both excellent alternatives. Depending how this goes, I may actually give away actual CDs with COVER SONGS in the future... *cough* veiled threat *cough* Don't forget Harvey Danger's third album Little by Little can also be downloaded for free at their site. The physical edition comes with a bonus CD of demos, alternate cuts, and extra songs so there's your incentive to win or buy your own copy. First album is available on Amazon (though not iTunes). And the great, underrated King James Version can be bought on iTunes or as a used CD on Amazon.

In parting, one of my favourite Harvey Danger originals:
Harvey Danger - Loyalty Bldg.


kel said...

The Duran Duran song is called "Is there something I should know".

Fongolia said...

Thanks. I don't claim to be a Duran Duran connoisseur and the track name was a misprint on an Unreleased Stuff bonus CDR the band distributed. Still sloppy on my part though.

Inigo Jones said...

Thanks for offering the Harvey Danger CDs. LITTLE BY LITTLE, with its bonus CD, sounds intriguing. Please put my name into the pot...


Anonymous said...

I'll put myself into the running for a free cd. Why not? I liked Flagpole Sitta, so hey. You never know.

My name is Jordan D. White. My AIM/AOL is Cracksh0t, with a Zero for the "0".

Kate said...

Hey! I'd like a shot at the cd. I have to admit I didn't really even know of Flagpole Sitta until I saw the Connected Ventures sing-along -

my e-mail is khicks422 at

Lewis said...

Free stuff is awesome, so I'll bite.

Tisa said...

Sounds fun - Please count me in too please! ~ :) Thanks!

Anonymous said...

love the blog and music! Please count me in the running for a prize.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to try for the prize:

Oval said...

I've always liked Harvey Danger, but sadly I have yet to pick up any of their stuff. Ima change that soon.

Go ahead and toss me in kaferman(at)gmail

Anonymous said...

The a cappella group who covered "Flagpole Sitta" is the UNC Achordants. Somehow, you've managed to find a sample of their not quite finished version of that song. The final edit reworked the percussion and added a few extra parts.

Visit their website to learn a bit more.

Fongolia said...

Hey thanks! It's really annoying not knowing the original artist and who to give credit to. As to where it came from... don't ask me, ask this guy! :)

Anonymous said...

I had no idea Harvey Danger had a studio version of 'Oh! You Pretty Things'
Would you be able to post a link to it again, or direct me to somewhere that I might be able to find it?

Fongolia said...

It's from their Little Round Mirrors EP, which is available on iTunes, Amazon, etc.