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I'm counting down 101 of my all-time favourite covers before packing this blog away in the attic.
Read my countdown preamble here.
Whoops, yesterday's post was accidentally numbered "#65 to 52", but I jumped the gun and we're just getting to #55 today! Gee, can you tell I'm doing these in the middle of the night?
55. The Polyphonic Spree - Lithium [originally by Nirvana]
I'm a big fan of The Polyphonic Spree and the ragtag choir/orchestra cult-like thing they've got going on. I'm still kicking myself for the time I skipped out David Bowie's 2004 show in Edmonton because I was worried that he would mostly play his new stuff (stupid assumption) and I was weary of $45 cheap seats (now $90 seems to be a standard "cheap seat" these days). I also couldn't convince anyone else to come with me and was not in the habit of concerting solo (yet). So I was crushed when I read the next day that he indeed played all his classics and The Polyphonic Spree were his opening act! Sadly I don't think Bowie has toured since and The Polyphonic Spree never ever came back to town. That lingering regret has more or less egged on on a lot of my concert-going ever since.
54. Hayseed Dixie - Holiday [originally by Green Day]
After starting their novelty career with a bluegrass tribute to their namesake AC/DC, the band expanded their repertoire to other classic rock anthems, a full album tribute to Kiss, and a handful of surprising cover choices like Outkast, Scissor Sisters, and Franz Ferdinand. This year saw their 8th full-length studio album Killer Grass, which actually followed an album of originals pointedly titled No Covers. My absolute favourite is their cover of Green Day's Holiday, which is geuninely great beyond its novelty value.
53. Gina Jeffreys - Creep [originally by Radiohead]
Gina Jeffreys is an Australian country singer who performed this beautiful acoustic Radiohead cover on Andrew Denton's Musical Challenge, an Aussie radio show that challenged artists to perform covers in a style that differed from their own. Creep has been covered so frequently it's practically a cover cliché, but I can always revisit this cover and not grow tired of it.
The TV Set
52. Lady & Bird - Suicide is Painless [originally by Johnny Mandel and Mike Altman]
Also known as the Theme from M*A*S*H from the film and subsequent TV series, Suicide is Painless was co-written by Robert Altman's son who was a teenager at the time and ultimately earned more from the song royalties than his dad did for directing the movie! There are several covers, with and without lyrics, but I'm particularly fond of this understated, poignant take from Lady & Bird.
51. The Blind Boys of Alabama - Way Down in the Hole [originally by Tom Waits]
This song is synonymous with The Wire, which used the original and four covers as its theme song for each of its five seasons. And is it the so-called greatest show in the history of the medium? After plowing through the whole show over a sleep-deprived month, I have a hard time coming up with worthy counter-examples. This phenomenal blues cover by The Blind Boys of Alabama is probably my favourite of a strong batch of covers that included The Neville Brothers, DoMaJe, and Steve Earle, who also had a small role in the series.
50. Deluxx Folk Implosion - I'm Just a Bill [originally written by Dave Frishberg; performed by Jack Sheldon]
Technically Schoolhouse Rock is before my time, though I'm familiar with many of the tunes via (surprise!) cover songs. It also shouldn't be that surprising that my first exposure to Schoolhouse Rock was through The Simpsons with their parody I'm an Amendment to Be which actually featured the original "Bill", Jack Sheldon. From the great 1996 Schoolhouse Rocks! Rocks tribute album, this irreverent but quirkily faithful cover by Lou Barlow's Deluxx Folk Implosion is absolutely priceless. Based on playcounts, this is my 19th most played cover and 66th most played song overall. So really this should be higher on the list, but like I said the rankings don't really matter until around the top 10.
Halfway there folks! Tomorrow the Fong Songs 101 countdown continues with Bowie! Reed! The White Stripes!