Sunday, December 9, 2012

Great Covers of Bad 70s Songs

I consider it an accident of birth that I came to musical consciousness during the early 70s. And because my parents bought me a (red!) Radio Shack handheld transistor AM radio (it looked exactly like this, swear to god) when I was in fourth grade or so, that musical consciousness was moreover shaped largely by the popular songs playing on local southeast Florida stations.

It wasn't until 7th grade that we all discovered FM radio, and it wasn't until high school that we began to realize what utter crap most popular 70s music was. But by then, the damage was done. Vast portions of my brain had been deeply and indelibly marked by the sounds of Sonny and Cher, Tony DeFranco (remember "Heartbeat (It's a Lovebeat)"?), the Carpenters, and Bread, and by songs like "Kung Fu Fighting," "Disco Duck" (people, this actually became a #1 hit) and "Car Wash Song" (and I'm talking about the Rose Royce song, not the Jim Croce one, although the fact that there were two really popular songs about working at a car wash in the 70s should tell you all you need to know).

Sure, there were alternative 70s sounds, and it would be nice if I could claim to have been listening to the Sex Pistols and Iggy Pop instead of John Denver and Helen Reddy, but I wasn't. People in my generation spent a subsequent decade in denial, quick to insult the songs whose tunes and lyrics we knew by heart. By the time I was in graduate school, I had decided to loudly commit myself to reclaiming all things 70s, the more embarrassing the better. But it's true that it remains easier to indulge this retro musical taste by listening to more recent covers of those songs--versions that subtract some of the cringe factor from my nostalgia, and sometimes even cover my shame with a deceptive patina of cool.

In that spirit, and in celebration of my approaching landmark birthday, I invite any and all additions to the list below of 70s song covers. All post-70s covers (even those that aren't really that great) of any 70s songs (even those that aren't really that bad) count. But there is a kind of implied calculus of inverse value here: the more dramatic the discrepancy between a song's original badness and its cover's greatness, the more points you get. Which is another way of saying that if you can find a good cover of Captain and Tennille's "Muskrat Love," you win.

In no particular order:

Dinosaur Jr. covers Peter Frampton's "Show Me the Way"
Shonen Knife covers The Carpenters' "Top of the World"
Redd Kross covers The Carpenters' "Yesterday Once More"
(could include the entire If I Were a Carpenter album here)
Replicants cover Paul McCartney's "Silly Love Songs"
Cake covers Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive"
Goo Goo Dolls cover Supertramp's "Give a Little Bit"
Big Mountain covers Peter Frampton's "Baby I Love Your Way"
KWS covers KC and the Sunshine Band's "Please Don't Go"

Ozzy Osbourne and Dweezil Zappa cover BeeGees' "Stayin' Alive"

And coming in as winner so far in the opposite category:
Paul Anka covers Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

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