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"Cover" Bands Rant


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I was listening to NPR a while back, and I never realized that the term "cover" is actually sort of a racist thing back in the 50s. It was what songs that were originally black people's music that white people "covered" - basically stealing music from the original artist. Whatever on this... I am not too versed in the history as I was born in the early 80s and this term was generated decades before my birth. Look it up if you are interested or in doubt.

 

So even worse today, "cover" bands... Not only is the term incorrectly used - sort of like waving around a Confederate flag at concerts like grade A citizen Kid Rock used to do not realizing what it truly stands for (Southern Pride or some crap like that he said haha!) - I cannot tell you enough how I just could never be happy playing in a band that plays entirely everyone's music and nothing original ever becomes of the group. I mean, if people want to jam these out at home, go for it. I don't like going out somewhere and being subjected to listen to a crappy living pop radio station. I want all music I listen to to be inspiring; life's too short to listen to crap IMHO. And if it's for the money, well that could have several dimensions to it... Point is I am simply expressing my personal distaste for "bands" that ONLY play other artists' music. I don't know... Is it lack of culture? Just afraid to be real artists and not give a F what others think?

 

I know there are original artists out there, but generally when I hear music in public, it's 99.9% of the time some other artist's music. I would prefer silence or conversation over noise pollution. I'm a little harsh, but every time I remember trying out for bands and they are these non-original bands who want to get money or have to play 100% others' music to get a gig, I'd rather stay home and make Garage Band recordings by myself. Not only is it hard to find enriching music around me, but finding quality musicians available is equally if not more difficult.

 

Oh well, that's my rant. Don't get me wrong here, I am NOT saying that learning others' music is ever a bad thing, just that playing the popular music where the songs are all the same 3 chords is BOOOORING! I choose to enrich myself in the history of great musicians/artists/composers and learn new music that inspires the soul. And again, I am talking about bands that play 100% non-original material. Playing some other artist's music is not always a bad thing. I suppose it depends on what song is being performed. And to add, I am not some musical genius who makes these spectacular riffs/passages/compositions, etc. that is a gift to this world, but I know when I hear high quality music. After all, I love playing piano and guitar and have been doing both for the better part of 2 decades.

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I was listening to NPR a while back, and I never realized that the term "cover" is actually sort of a racist thing back in the 50s. It was what songs that were originally black people's music that white people "covered" - basically stealing music from the original artist. Whatever on this... I am not too versed in the history as I was born in the early 80s and this term was generated decades before my birth. Look it up if you are interested or in doubt.

 

So even worse today, "cover" bands... Not only is the term incorrectly used - sort of like waving around a Confederate flag at concerts like grade A citizen Kid Rock used to do not realizing what it truly stands for (Southern Pride or some crap like that he said haha!) - I cannot tell you enough how I just could never be happy playing in a band that plays entirely everyone's music and nothing original ever becomes of the group. I mean, if people want to jam these out at home, go for it. I don't like going out somewhere and being subjected to listen to a crappy living pop radio station. I want all music I listen to to be inspiring; life's too short to listen to crap IMHO. And if it's for the money, well that could have several dimensions to it... Point is I am simply expressing my personal distaste for "bands" that ONLY play other artists' music. I don't know... Is it lack of culture? Just afraid to be real artists and not give a F what others think?

 

I know there are original artists out there, but generally when I hear music in public, it's 99.9% of the time some other artist's music. I would prefer silence or conversation over noise pollution. I'm a little harsh, but every time I remember trying out for bands and they are these non-original bands who want to get money or have to play 100% others' music to get a gig, I'd rather stay home and make Garage Band recordings by myself. Not only is it hard to find enriching music around me, but finding quality musicians available is equally if not more difficult.

 

Oh well, that's my rant. Don't get me wrong here, I am NOT saying that learning others' music is ever a bad thing, just that playing the popular music where the songs are all the same 3 chords is BOOOORING! I choose to enrich myself in the history of great musicians/artists/composers and learn new music that inspires the soul. And again, I am talking about bands that play 100% non-original material. Playing some other artist's music is not always a bad thing. I suppose it depends on what song is being performed. And to add, I am not some musical genius who makes these spectacular riffs/passages/compositions, etc. that is a gift to this world, but I know when I hear high quality music. After all, I love playing piano and guitar and have been doing both for the better part of 2 decades.

I blame the Rolling Stones for being the World Greatest Cover Band of themselves. Just stop making albums no one buys. If you want an excuse to tour you really don't need one. You are the Rolling Stones, but I will never see them ever again. Once was a complete waste of my time and I do not need another.

 

But yeah a lot of Cover "Tribute: Bands play at the venues I see music at. I don't go. Didn't get to see Zep in their prime and I'm not going to see fake Zep do it. We already have Greeta Van Fleet or whoever they are.

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Well, a lot of my gigging friends bands are "cover" bands, they play in pubs on a Friday or Saturday night, it's a night out for them and they make a few quid doing it so it's a win-win situation for them. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't get any booking if they did their own stuff, people in pubs don't want to hear it, end of story, and given the diminishing number of venues that offer live music I think you'd be hard pressed to find any that would suffer anything other than cover bands, to them it's bums on seats and beer sold their not interested in your creativity at all.

 

To take this to it's logical conclusion every orchestra in the world is a "cover" band, if they weren't you would never hear Beethoven, Mozart and Tchaikovsky, even The Beatles! If music is going to be heard someone's got to play it, especially when the original creator has passed away. It's up to you whether you want to turn up or not.

 

 

Ian

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Well, a lot of my gigging friends bands are "cover" bands, they play in pubs on a Friday or Saturday night, it's a night out for them and they make a few quid doing it so it's a win-win situation for them. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't get any booking if they did their own stuff, people in pubs don't want to hear it, end of story, and given the diminishing number of venues that offer live music I think you'd be hard pressed to find any that would suffer anything other than cover bands, to them it's bums on seats and beer sold their not interested in your creativity at all.

 

To take this to it's logical conclusion every orchestra in the world is a "cover" band, if they weren't you would never hear Beethoven, Mozart and Tchaikovsky, even The Beatles! If music is going to be heard someone's got to play it, especially when the original creator has passed away. It's up to you whether you want to turn up or not.

 

 

Ian

Certainly nothing wrong when gigging to play a few covers, but he may be referring to the bands that tour and only play one bands music as a Tribute Band.

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A lot of it depends on the area you live in. Where I live, there's not many venues for bands that play original music. There's a lot more opportunity to play around here if you play covers.

 

I've played in several original and cover bands. Cover bands are what a lot of places want so their customers know the music that's being played, they dance, they eat, they drink and the bar makes money. A lot of times, people just like playing with other musicians and playing songs they like and songs that people know. When we "cover" a song, we'll play it a bit like the original recording but put our own feel to it. I'm just happy to be playing again, even if it's cover tunes. I see no problem with a bunch of musicians getting together and playing whatever songs they want, whether their own or someone else's.

 

With all of us in my band being 50+ years of age, it's not likely we're going to get a recording contract if we play original material but I'm not opposed into writing some, working on them and recording and playing them. I'm quite alright with playing covers and just having fun at this stage of the game. If it becomes "not fun" then I'll go elsewhere.

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I understand. I am not opposed to anyone enjoying playing the music of others artists if that's their thing. I suppose it comes down to the fact that to be able to play, it's "cover" band or bust. Just sucks if you ask me.

 

Yeah, back in the day, I wanted to write songs, record and play but in order to play anywhere, we HAD to play covers and work on our own stuff on the side. That's how this area of the country works. Larger cities have more of an original music outlet. When we were touring back in the late 80's and early 90's, we'd work in 8-10 of our own original songs and since they were similar to the covers we were playing, the club owner rarely knew it since people kept dancing and drinking. That's all a lot of the club/bar owners care about. They want to sell drinks, food, and make money. If having a band in there that plays their own songs makes people leave, then they don't want it. And, quite frankly, I've heard a lot of bands do their original songs and some of them aren't all that great. However, I applaud their efforts. For me, playing covers of songs we all like is fun and people love it. It also helps me stretch as a musician if I'm playing songs and styles I haven't played before. "Can we do this Tom Petty song?" "Sure, there's two or three guitars on the recording but only one of me. I'll make it work."

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Out in my neck of the woods, if you want to make some cash, and you are NOT playing covers, Good Luck Charlie.

 

it is kind a like what Michael says..

 

the only places that PAY are the bars where the "circuit" is made up of 100% cover bands. I do think you can sneak a few originals in (not that any one would know, they're too busy talking to even care) So the deal is,, "round" here, if you are not playing what is recognizable, and popular tunes, you're gonna be playing for empty chairs and salt shakers and you aint getting another booking there..

 

The places that do cater to original bands are in the larger city areas, like for us, that would be Worcester or the Greater Boston area. But don't expect to get paid, cuz unless your the headline and have the crowd, you aint getting paid.

 

One thing to keep in mind as a working musician, we are hired to entertain, and we're mostly playing for people who A: Don't know a good band from a mediocre one, and B: they WANT to hear all the songs you're saying you don't want to hear.

 

I don't have any idea how many yeas you have spent gigging, but if you want an opinion from some who's been doing this since the late 70s,, here's a news flash.. and don't take me wrong here, I'm going for "Brutally honest"

 

As a musician in the crowd, you must realize by now that you are the vast minority, and I've seen you guys every place I've played since 1980. You sit in the back, with your arms folded across your chest, you don't buy a beer or a drink, you don't go near the dance floor, you'll mostly stay for 30/40 minutes, and tell your self as your leaving, "Sh*T I can do all that" How do I know? I was that guy too!! LOL!

No bar on the planet would survive with the majority of the clientele being guys like us!

 

We (Musicians) are are not the target audience that any of these bands who are up there making dough on a Saturday night are working towards pleasing. The guys who ARE working are getting booked because they ARE going to play Skynnard and Beatles, and CCR, and Old Time Rock and Roll, and all that other stuff that everyone gets up and dances to. THAT is what they are being paid to do and that's what 98% of the people sitting there want to hear.

 

That said if I never play Old Time Tock and Toll, Twist And Shout, or Mustang Sally again, it will be much too soon. However if you want to pack the dance floor, and people to enjoy themselves, then by all means play THOSE songs, and you shall get the dance floor hoping, Guaranteed

 

Some of these bands are really good at too. I was listening to a band down at the park across the street, they were playing America covers, and they were nailing it. I was impressed. But that's just me... :)

 

A lot of what I've written here is Tongue in Cheek so understand that... I'm not trying to dis any one, but this is what it is. If I hadn't spent the last 40 years doing this, I may have a different out look

 

Cover bands: Is it the best thing on the planet to do? nope.. I have been in an orginals band for about 20 years now. but to make a gig, we will mostly spin, guess what,, COVERS. And the dance floor rocks. We do toss a hand full of originals in, but we have to place them carefully and they have to be the ones that are upbeat, and "sound" like "classic rock".

 

it's a compromise. play your own stuff, play for free, play the classic covers, make some dough, but may be not where your heart is.

Edited by kidblast
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The Beatles used to play cover tunes for the reasons described above, they did it for a few years until they realized they were getting so popular they could start sneaking in originals. It got to the point they could fart in the mic and it was a hit. But they did their time playing covers.

Edited by Big Bill
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The Beatles used to play cover tunes for the reasons described above, they did it for a few years until they realized they were getting so popular they could start sneaking in originals. It got to the point they could fart in the mic and it was a hit. But they did their time playing covers.

The Beatles farted gold.

 

Rubber Soul

Revolver

Sgt. Pepper

The Beatles aka The White Album

Abbey Road

Let It Be

 

For a band that has not recorded new music since the end of the 60's or just into 1970 when they last recorded as a group if at the end that was what they were (opps 3 of them did those 2 songs for Anthology). They never got back together for a cash grab, and their music to still being played and listened to and discussed and still relevant and to be considered one of the greatest bands of all time, are some pretty good farts as far as I'm concerned.

Edited by LP Trad Pro II
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I don't play out anymore so not real sure what it's like now days, but when I played the bars the crowds wanted to hear what they considered their 'Standards'. we could play a few original songs AS LONG AS we played the standards and they were all covers. The songs that if you didn't play they didn't stay.

 

Chris- I just heard about a couple of girls from Traverse City playing original stuff in your area. Ever listened to The Accidentals?

Check them out on Youtube.

 

D

Edited by dReit1
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....I never realized that the term "cover" is actually sort of a racist thing back in the 50s....

 

I never heard that. Obviously to "cover" a piece has come to mean something different from its alleged original meaning.

 

 

 

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The Beatles used to play cover tunes for the reasons described above, they did it for a few years until they realized they were getting so popular they could start sneaking in originals. It got to the point they could fart in the mic and it was a hit. But they did their time playing covers.

But the first few Beatles records were pretty much 50/50 covers to originals. Back then it was just not done like that. In the early 60 not many artists were doing their own stuff. A lot of performers had songwriter write for them. Then after a few albums, The Beatles never covered stuff again.

Edited by LP Trad Pro II
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A lot of it depends on the area you live in. Where I live, there's not many venues for bands that play original music. There's a lot more opportunity to play around here if you play covers.

 

I've played in several original and cover bands. Cover bands are what a lot of places want so their customers know the music that's being played, they dance, they eat, they drink and the bar makes money. A lot of times, people just like playing with other musicians and playing songs they like and songs that people know. When we "cover" a song, we'll play it a bit like the original recording but put our own feel to it. I'm just happy to be playing again, even if it's cover tunes. I see no problem with a bunch of musicians getting together and playing whatever songs they want, whether their own or someone else's.

 

With all of us in my band being 50+ years of age, it's not likely we're going to get a recording contract if we play original material but I'm not opposed into writing some, working on them and recording and playing them. I'm quite alright with playing covers and just having fun at this stage of the game. If it becomes "not fun" then I'll go elsewhere.

 

 

Boom. Right on. Every sentence of this post is so true and exactly what I think and experience.

I turned 64 last Friday and on Saturday was out with my blues band.

No original material and we did play "Old Time Rock n'Roll"..... [biggrin]

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The Beatles farted gold.

 

Rubber Soul

Revolver

Sgt. Pepper

The Beatles aka The White Album

Abbey Road

Let It Be

 

For a band that has not recorded new music since the end of the 60's or just into 1970 when they last recorded as a group if at the end that was what they were (opps 3 of them did those 2 songs for Anthology). They never got back together for a cash grab, and their music to still being played and listened to and discussed and still relevant and to be considered one of the greatest bands of all time, are some pretty good farts as far as I'm concerned.

 

Totally agree, been a huge Beatle fan my whole life. msp_thumbup.gif

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Three meanings to that term.

 

1) The unfortunate one where the White band covered the Black artist and had the national hit.

 

At least the songwriter got his/her royalties. And some of the do-wop groups listed all the members as songwriters so when the song was covered by the white group, everybody in the band made money. It was self-defense.

 

And.

 

2) The gigging cover bands.

 

I was in a gigging cover band in the 1960s and 70s. We were supposed to cover top 40 hits and sound as close as possible as the hit record. The only variation allowed was instrumental ad lib solos, and that depended on the song.

 

It was like being a tribute band to multiple groups/artists, Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Elvis, Orbison, Animals, Beach Boys, Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Yardbirds, and anybody else who had a hit record.

 

And if we tried to personalize the song, the agent would bark, "The ________ made a million dollars on that record, do you think you can do it any better?"

 

Then came Disco and everything changed.

 

3) Now a cover band still covers the song, but can personalize it.

 

I'm in a very lucky position now, we can cover songs similar to the originals, or radically change them and our audience still loves us.

 

Insights and incites by Notes

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My band does 90% covers and 10% originals, and that seems to both satisfy our regular audiences and also our personal desire to get our original songs out there.

 

When you play high school class reunions for guys and gals who graduated in the 1970's and 1980's it is a given that you are going to deliver the songs they remember fondly from their school days.

It becomes your stock in trade.

 

In our case, it's our mission to make the songs sound exactly like the original record.

When we can't do that, then we take artistic license, and create interesting variations on the original theme.

(Example, a smooth bossa nova jazz version of U2's Where The Streets Have No Name, or a rock/metal version of KC and the Sunshine Band's Boogie Shoes...)

 

When we play weddings, we ask in advance for a list of songs that the bride and groom really love, and those which they want to hear.

And we deliver.

 

At this bar or club, they want to hear classic rock.

At that bar or club, the management wants mostly country music.

And if you wish to get paid, you deliver.

 

If you ever get tired of playing the songs that people want to hear, you can spice things up by mashing them together in a run-on medley.

Examples include Werewolves Of London into All Summer Long into Sweet Home Alabama.

Patti Smith's Because The Night into The Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This.

Green Day's Brain Stew into Chicago's 25 or 6 to 4.

Fun stuff like that.

 

I think those of us that get to gig with our bands are blessed.

I never take that blessing for granted, especially after having lost our best friend (our band's drummer) to cancer back in February.

 

Playing live music, in front of appreciative audiences;

It's the best stuff there is.

 

:)

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Back in the late 70's & early 80's some of my mates and I would play in two bands one doing original stuff and the other doing covers. The "original band" had a bit of a local following mostly kids our own age but we only ever got paid a handful of times. The covers band was out most weekends, got paid and were quite popular playing pubs and working men's clubs. I truly grew to hate Tie a Yellow Ribbon round the Old Oak Tree, High Ho Silver Lining and One Of Those Nights [crying]

 

At the end of the day, what's important is that you and your audience enjoy what your doing, myself now a days I just tend to play charity gigs but I can be a little more selective what covers I do and how I do them.

 

 

Ian

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I was listening to NPR a while back, and I never realized that the term "cover" is actually sort of a racist thing back in the 50s. It was what songs that were originally black people's music that white people "covered" - basically stealing music from the original artist. Whatever on this... I am not too versed in the history as I was born in the early 80s and this term was generated decades before my birth. Look it up if you are interested or in doubt.

 

So even worse today, "cover" bands... Not only is the term incorrectly used - sort of like waving around a Confederate flag at concerts like grade A citizen Kid Rock used to do not realizing what it truly stands for (Southern Pride or some crap like that he said haha!) - I cannot tell you enough how I just could never be happy playing in a band that plays entirely everyone's music and nothing original ever becomes of the group. I mean, if people want to jam these out at home, go for it. I don't like going out somewhere and being subjected to listen to a crappy living pop radio station. I want all music I listen to to be inspiring; life's too short to listen to crap IMHO. And if it's for the money, well that could have several dimensions to it... Point is I am simply expressing my personal distaste for "bands" that ONLY play other artists' music. I don't know... Is it lack of culture? Just afraid to be real artists and not give a F what others think?

 

I thought Pat Boone completely NAILED "Tutti Frutti". eusa_dance.gif

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Spent most of my life playing in "cover bands" and by that I mean we covered a certain genre. Whether it was Rock, Pop, R&B or Funk styles we often tried to take the well known version of the song and change it up a bit, make it our own. One of our fav things to do was take Motown hits and rock them up a bit more.

Over the years we wrote a number of our own songs we mixed in but people usually wanted to hear stuff they new. You could make some good money playing weekends doing just that.

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Spent most of my life playing in "cover bands" and by that I mean we covered a certain genre. Whether it was Rock, Pop, R&B or Funk styles we often tried to take the well known version of the song and change it up a bit, make it our own. One of our fav things to do was take Motown hits and rock them up a bit more.

Over the years we wrote a number of our own songs we mixed in but people usually wanted to hear stuff they new. You could make some good money playing weekends doing just that.

 

I prefer this method, both playing and listening. I cannot stand playing the same thing over and over again. Cant play "Last Dance with Mary Jane" as it is written, gotta spice it up, put the bands personality into it. Same goes when I go see a cover band, if I want to hear the original, I will buy the album. I want to hear their version and I want to sing along with them and have a good time.

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Back in the 1960s and 1970s we would cover plenty of blues tunes by Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, The 3 Kings (BB, Albert and Freddie), Willie Dixon, Huey 'Piano' Smith, Bobby 'Blue' Bland, T-Bone Walker, Chuck Berry and so many others, not to steal them, but because we thought they were great songs.

 

We didn't think that we were necessarily covering black music songs, because we covered Elvis P, Bobby Rydell, The Beach Boys, Beatles, Kinks, and so many other white artists.

 

It was just that either the song was popular, or we wanted to do it, or both.

 

I'm not much of a song writer. I don't have the talent for words. Everything I write sounds stupid to me. So I do songs written by other people. Whether it is Carole King and Gerry Goffin, T-Bone Walker, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, James Brown, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, David Porter and Isaac Hayes, Holland, Dozier and Holland, David/Bacharach, or whoever, it's a sign of respect for an artist to do a song written by another because he/she likes the song.

 

And IMHO some songs are better when not done by the song writer (Example: Dylan's Tambourine man by the Byrds).

 

So there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a cover version.

 

Notes

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