I’ve been a DJ since the ‘70s. I’m also a bonafide music fanatic who gets a kick out of turning people on to stuff they’ve never heard before. For a long time, when cassettes were king and “mixtapes” were all the rage, one of my favorite past times was to fill up one of those long-ass 120 minutes Maxell’s with original and cover songs played back to back. I would really go out of my way to find obscure covers for very well-known songs, then I’d get my friends together and have listening parties where we would discuss the songs with each other for hours on end. Yeah, it sounds incredibly nerdy, but damn it was fun.
The other day, in a fit of nostalgia, I retrieved an old box of tapes that had taken up permanent residence in the back of my closet. So, who wants to play with me — Original Vs. Cover?
AND NOW I PRESENT TO YOU…THE FIRST THREE-WAY MATCH!
SONG: Do You Wanna Dance
ORIGINAL – Bobby Freeman – 1958
COVERS – Bette Midler – 1972 – The Ramones – 1977
You may remember this from the American Graffiti soundtrack. It’s a great example of a ‘50s song – a staccato piano, a booming acoustic bass, catchy guitar hook, and a familiar BossaNova beat (dig that Conga drum!) that’s perfect to do the Twist to. Bobby serves up a nice, soulful, not too sexy vocal. After a few listens, I think that the band was either woefully underrehearsed, or just not that good because they need a metronome at times to help them keep up, and you can tell there are some other missteps, but overall it’s 2:36 of early Rock & Roll fun!
Bette’s version is another fine example of what a cover should be…it does a complete 180 degrees from the original. “The Divine Miss M” turns a ‘50s Pop song into a slow bump & grind that crescendos into a full on orgasm!
The way she sings “Do you want to dance” – you know she’s actually saying “Do you want to make slow, sweet love to me. The piano, lush strings, the cooing backing vocals, the smooth and funky bass – it’s ‘70s Disco at its best. She packs a lotta punch in 2:45, because she sounds out of breath at the end.
And then we have The Ramones. They, as usual, do a crashing Punk Rock rave-up that echoes the original ‘50s feel, smashing cymbals, the nagging chorus, and of course, the signature guitar assault, all clocking in at 1:55
SO WHO DOES IT BETTER?
The winner of this first three-way is…BETTE MIDLER!
As I’ve already stated, the arrangement and vocal are so different from the original, and The Ramones echo Bobby in their trademark Punk Rock way, it’s not much of a stretch.
Do yourself a favor and listen to The Divine Miss M’s version right now…hopefully with someone you want to have sex with.
NOW YOU DECIDE!