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What does 'cover' mean?

Hollowfox 27 Dec 00 - 03:52 PM
Murray MacLeod 27 Dec 00 - 04:14 PM
Blackcatter 27 Dec 00 - 04:31 PM
McGrath of Harlow 27 Dec 00 - 04:45 PM
GUEST,John Leeder 27 Dec 00 - 05:03 PM
Hollowfox 27 Dec 00 - 06:17 PM
okthen 27 Dec 00 - 06:41 PM
Malcolm Douglas 27 Dec 00 - 07:44 PM
GeorgeH 28 Dec 00 - 10:53 AM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Dec 00 - 02:15 PM
Jed at Work 28 Dec 00 - 02:54 PM
Hollowfox 28 Dec 00 - 03:06 PM
GUEST,CraigS 28 Dec 00 - 03:08 PM
Whistle Stop 29 Dec 00 - 08:42 AM
Blackcatter 29 Dec 00 - 04:36 PM
raredance 29 Dec 00 - 07:18 PM
GUEST,John Hill 30 Dec 00 - 08:14 AM
raredance 30 Dec 00 - 08:24 AM
sledge 30 Dec 00 - 08:46 AM
GUEST,John hill 30 Dec 00 - 08:47 AM
John P 30 Dec 00 - 09:02 AM
Blackcatter 30 Dec 00 - 12:02 PM
MARINER 30 Dec 00 - 12:13 PM
GUEST,snuffy biffle 30 Dec 00 - 12:54 PM
Gary T 30 Dec 00 - 01:00 PM
Bernard 30 Dec 00 - 02:07 PM
GUEST,John Leeder 31 Oct 01 - 01:56 PM
53 31 Oct 01 - 02:03 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Oct 01 - 02:25 PM
53 01 Nov 01 - 12:32 AM
Blackcatter 01 Nov 01 - 12:42 AM
Mudlark 01 Nov 01 - 02:12 AM
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Subject: What does 'cover' mean?
From: Hollowfox
Date: 27 Dec 00 - 03:52 PM

At last, a sort of musical question. This past year or so, I've seen the word "cover" used as both noun or verb in reviews of various recordings. "She covered such and such a song", etc. Does this mean that a performer is singing a song that they didn't compose, that they're singing a song that was already made famous by another performer, or what? When did this start, what's the origin, and why can't the reviewer just use the verb "to sing"?


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 27 Dec 00 - 04:14 PM

Blame the Beatles and Bob Dylan. Prior to them, all songs were written by non-singing songwriters and performed by non-writing singers. Then they arrived and upset the apple-cart. Suddenly it wasn't enough to be a good singer, to be artistically accepted you had to write your own material too. Which opened the door to millions of so-called singer-songwriters who couldn't sing and couldn't write either.
Thank God for traditional songs and traditional singers.

Murray


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: Blackcatter
Date: 27 Dec 00 - 04:31 PM

Greetings Hollowfox.

As far as I know . . .

Generally, "covering" mean that someone is performing a song that someone else is known for performing.

here's a "for instance"

The song "Jamaica Farewell" was recorded by Harry Belafonte in the 1950's. It was written by Irving Burgie in 1956. Generally, Belafonte's performance isn't a cover, because he was the first performer of note to do the song. In 1990 (and before) Jimmy Buffett performed the song in concert and on an album. His was a cover of the song.

I hope this clears it up a bit - but once again remember that word definition is ephemeral - one person's definition is not another's

pax yall


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 Dec 00 - 04:45 PM

I don't think it's a word you'd ever use in a folk context, except maybe where it's a question of directly imitating a performance.


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: GUEST,John Leeder
Date: 27 Dec 00 - 05:03 PM

I believe, in the earlier days of the recording industry, if a singer had a hit with a song, another label would have the same song "covered" by a singer from their own stable of performers so there would be a version on their label.

And there was a more a more sinister version as well: a song made popular by a black singer would be "covered" by a Caucasian singer so as to make it acceptable to white record-buyers.

And, McGrath, I'm afraid I've seen the term used in folk music magazines. It sets my teeth on edge. It flies in the face of what traditional music is all about.


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: Hollowfox
Date: 27 Dec 00 - 06:17 PM

Thank you, one and all. McGrath, I'm afraid Mr Leeder is right, I've seen this in at least two folk publications. I'd bet a nickel that the black/white context is probably the origin.
I thought that I'd reasoned out the definition correctly from its context, but I've made a few spectacular mistakes doing that. The best one came from reading a folktale as a child, about a man seeing a mermaid. "She wore no clothes, and even her long hair could not conceal her comeliness."For twenty years I thought "comely" meant "naked".


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: okthen
Date: 27 Dec 00 - 06:41 PM

I thought to "cover" was to "have sex with"

does this mean that to "cover" a song is to f*ck it up?(m'excuse, I don't generally like swearing as I feel it bruises the language)

cheers

bil


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 27 Dec 00 - 07:44 PM

A "cover version" of a song is basically a copy of somebody else's arrangement of it.  A lot of recordings of traditional songs made by revival performers are cover versions in that sense, rather than "versions" (by which I mean, variant forms in their own right, informed by a genuine understanding of the tradition involved).

Paul Simon's recording of "Scarborough Fair" would be a particularly obvious example of a "cover", if we were to ignore the little poem of his own that he joined on to it.

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: GeorgeH
Date: 28 Dec 00 - 10:53 AM

Yes, I'm with Malcolm on the sensible use of "cover" in a Folk context. And, indeed, it's not always a bad thing . . . there are a couple of "covers" of Nic Jones performances I've been delighted to hear (given that hearing Nic do them himself is no longer an option . . )

G.


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Dec 00 - 02:15 PM

Well, I don't read "folk music publications" as a rule. Especially not the ones that are all reviews and interviews with recording artists and so forth.


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: Jed at Work
Date: 28 Dec 00 - 02:54 PM

Murray is right-on! Malcolm too.

I believe that cover was meant to mean that you are performing a song the way someone else performed it. I only hear it used today in deceitfully derogatory terms - meaning that on else performing a song that one did not write, the implicatio being that one is somehow diminished as an artist. I know a lot of people don't mean to use it that way, but that has been the conotation for some time, in the modern music vernacular.

As Murray says, I've heard it used by many "so-called singer-songwriters who couldn't sing and couldn't write either" - but found a way to both enhace their own artistic contribution and diminish the talent of other perfromers, by implying that 'covers' are done by the less gifted.

It's too bad the word has been so abused, because it is foolish to think that a musician should only play his own pieces - and most of us who write, also play many many favorites from many many songwriters.

I use the word very sparingly myself, now-a-days. I saw a band in Dallas; very talented, who described themselves as a "Beatles Cover" band - and in fact, they purposely played the Beatles songs, with the popular Beatles arrangemnets, and even tried to imitate the Beatles harmonies and instrument sound. That was an appropriate use of the word cover. I know there are top 40, country and classic rock 'cover' bands - who purposely emulate the sound of the original pop song. This is a special talent in and of itself, and deserves the title 'cover.'

If I sing Bob Dylan, Kris Kristoffersen or Bryan McNeill songs, my own arrangement, my own chord structure and accompaniment, and even my own lyric or melody modifications. If I sing traditional songs or song my friends wrote - I always make them my own. These are not appropriately described as covers, and when they are, it is merely an attempt to put them down.

Do I sound like this issue is a hot button with me? Sorry; I guess it is! Like Murray, I have found it rather annoying to see the term abused by thise of limited ability, in order to aggrandize themselves, and put down others!


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: Hollowfox
Date: 28 Dec 00 - 03:06 PM

I stilll like "sing" better.


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: GUEST,CraigS
Date: 28 Dec 00 - 03:08 PM

While I agree with most of what has been said above, as I understand it the phrase originates in the days when transatlantic travel was more difficult - European artists would record exact copy arrangements of songs which were hits in the US, to increase the global cover of the song. Incidentally, the Beatles had one big European "cover" hit, as the Isley Brothers version of "Twist and Shout" did not get released in Europe.


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 29 Dec 00 - 08:42 AM

Wow! I'm surprised at the intensity of some of these comments. It's just a word, with a more-or-less established meaning. Like all words, people use it because it's useful. I don't understand why it should carry so much baggage.

In my band, we generally think in terms of three categories -- originals, remakes, and covers. The distinction between the last two terms is that a remake is one where we take the bare bones of the song and make our own thing out of it, whereas a cover is a song we more or less play as people know it from recordings (there's generally one recording that plants the song in people's minds). It's not a "bright line" distinction, more of a gray area between the two -- at some point the arrangement of a song may change enough that it becomes more of a "remake" and less of a "cover". But it's nothing to get obsessive about.

To restore some balance, I will answer Murray by thanking God for the singer-songwriters, who tend to take a lot of undeserved knocks on this forum in my opinion. Sure, you may like some more than others, just as you may like some interpreters of traditional material more than others. But I see no reason to be exclusive about it -- it's perfectly acceptable to see the value in both. In addition to playing some traditional material, I am a singer-songwriter, and proud of it.


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: Blackcatter
Date: 29 Dec 00 - 04:36 PM

Greetings

I just love the intensity of some responses to the various threads on Mudcat. Who would have thought that such a simple word as "cover" could illicit this much energy. (serious energy, that is - not just funnin' around).

I have no partiular opinion on the use of the word "cover". I don't really see a negative use of it - even in folk music. Of course it comes down to what your definition of "folk" is. If folk is primarily tradional "home-spun" songs - then it's hard to say I've covered a song by the great composer Annonymous. If folk includes songs written by people who are definately professional writers and performers who happen to work in the "Folk Idiom" - such as Tommy Makem or Pete Seeger - Then I am a cover kind of guy. Yes, I do tend to make their songs "my own" but I do sing them fairly straight. I don't sing Makem's "Lord Nelson" with a 12/8 beat accomanied by a sitar, for instance. hmmmmmmmmmm.

my $.02

pax yall


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: raredance
Date: 29 Dec 00 - 07:18 PM

This is interesting. I think I asked this same question 3-4 years ago and got no response. Maybe I have been lost to the world, but I really don't remember much use of "cover" in this context before the 90's. I remember Judy Collins and the Kingston Trio "recording" Ian Tyson's "Someday Soon", but it seems it wasn't until a few years ago when Suzy Boggus did it that it was "covered".

rich r


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: GUEST,John Hill
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 08:14 AM

A cover has to be an exact copy of someone elses arrangement or its not a cover... Its certainly not just singing someone elses song... The Beatles version of Twist and Shout was definitely not a cover as it was a different arrangement.
In the 50's and 60's English pop singers used to "cover" US songs that had "charted" there and try and beat its release here.... very often with success. But even in the States you could find identical recordings of the same song by different singers in the charts at the same time all vying for highest position.
I don't think its a term I would use with Folk Songs.


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: raredance
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 08:24 AM

John Hill, With that specificity, the term makes some sense and has usefulness. I just don't think it is used that narrowly any more.

rich r


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: sledge
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 08:46 AM

I think cover in its most recent form is best used when talking about the flood of crappy boy/girl bands manufactured by the bucket load these days.

The surest way for them to get a hit is to cover an already well known pop hit and improve it (joke), the listener then hears the old familiar but is told its a great new song by such and such, the sheep then rush out in their droves to buy because its new and improved.

BAAAAAAAAAAAA

Sledge


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: GUEST,John hill
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 08:47 AM

Hi Rich.. I'm sure you are right. On the other hand just because some folks misuse words doesn't mean we all have to go along with it. One word that really "bugs" me is when people confuse the german word "Dumm" (stupid) with the English word Dumb.. (And spell it that way) .. how on earth are we to know what the heck they are talking about?... sorry I'm deviating


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: John P
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 09:02 AM

I think the word "cover" originally meant doing an exact copy of an arrangement, but the definition has drifted in common usage to where it now means doing a song that someone else has previously done, regardless of arrangement. I have seen it used of traditional music when talking about a specific version of a song that has been done by many people, regardless of arrangement.

Strange how words drift in meaning. The word "gig" now often means any paid engagement in any field of endeavor, including a full time job. When I first heard the word, it always meant a specific musical booking.

John


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: Blackcatter
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 12:02 PM

greetings,

I think that Mark Twain's comment about the weather is also applicable to word definitions: Everyone always talks about it but no one ever seems to do anything about it.

Definitions go gaily forward, oft-times spiralling out of the convienent grasp of many people. You can use any definition for any word you like - but if you are in the minority, you will confuse the majority (but that's not neccesarily a bad thing). There are any number of words whose definitions have changed in the past 10 years let alone 30 or 50 years. Look at the terms that have been borrowed to describe computer inventions. My guess is that the traditional meaning word "virtual" will disappear because its new use is so common. Check out an unabridged dictionary some time and count how many archaic definitions there are on a typical page.

pax yall


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: MARINER
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 12:13 PM

Ialways considered The Beatles version of The Isley Brothers Twist and Shout to be a striaght cover version.Likewise The Stones version of The Valentinos "It's all over now". Now not all covers were inferior but most are. Johnnie Allens "Promised Land" is for me at least,a better version of the song than Chuck Berry's original. (I never thought I'd say that),likewise Steve Gibbons Band's version of "Tulane" knocks Chuck's into the hal'penny place.But then I suppose that the last two mentioned are strictly not covers, just better versions of the songs?. Can someone please tell why Ronan Keating bothered to record Fairytale of New York?. Shane and Kirsty, Now that's an original recording that cannot be bettered, especially by someone who's not used to singing songs for grown ups.


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: GUEST,snuffy biffle
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 12:54 PM

when i say "cover" i mean doing an new arrangement of an older song while paying homage to the said older song.

a remake to me is doing the song verbatim, or whatever. i also agree with those who are saying folk songs can't be covered (even though what we do with them fits my definition of cover above very well--its the history and technology that forms the distinction there...but can you cover a "modern" folk song?)


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: Gary T
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 01:00 PM

For what it's worth:

Here's the definition found in one online dictionary: a recording of a song previously recorded usually by another performer. This is also the meaning used in the jams and song circles I attend. A song one plays/sings is either an original or a cover.

Historically, some songs have been covered not so much out of admiration for the song but in an obvious attempt to supplant sales of the original. One spate of this familiar to many was the covering of R&B songs in the 50's by white performers. Another example I have seen was a series of covers of 50's-60's chart hits that clearly intended to be mistaken for the orignals. In this case, the artist's names were deceptively close to the original (I recall "Clyde King" doing Claude King's "Wolverton Mountain"), and the arrangements, instrumentation, and vocals were virtually identical to the original.

The types of covers described above generally elicited a certain amount of disgust from those familiar with the originals, and a degree of outrage at the rather blatant and calculated attempt to garner sales at the expense of the original artist. Conversely, many covers appeared to be based more in an attitude of "That's a great song, let's record it." These don't seem to generate contempt for the covering artist (though they sometimes generate pity if the cover is feeble).

I suspect that the emotion attached to the despised covers has made the very close copycat versions stand out in some folks' minds, to where they associate the word "cover" with only that specific type of cover. I believe a study of the historical use of the word will support the more general meaning found in the definition above.


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: Bernard
Date: 30 Dec 00 - 02:07 PM

Just a thought...

As 'Do You Want To Know A Secret' was first performed by Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, 'I Wanna Be Your Man' by the Rolling Stones, 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da' by Marmalade (the list goes on!) does that mean the Beatles versions were 'covers' of their own compositions?!

'As Tears Go By' (Marianne Faithfull) and 'Out of Time' (Chris Farlowe) would also, then, be 'covered' by the Rolling Stones...

Funny old world, innit!?

:)


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: GUEST,John Leeder
Date: 31 Oct 01 - 01:56 PM

I discovered this old thread that I didn't follow up on, and thought I'd expand on my ideas a little. To me, the word "cover" implies that performing songs you've written yourself is the norm, and performing songs written by other people is an anomaly. This is the exact opposite of what traditional music is all about.

This attitude encourages a lot of really bad songwriting, when there are lots of perfectly good songs out there which neophyte singers could sing with much better results. In my opinion, substandard singing (especially when due to inexperience) is much more tolerable than substandard songs. Substandard singing *plus* substandard songs can be excruciating. Neophyte singers should be encouraged to sing good songs from other writers rather than trying to write all their own stuff right away.


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: 53
Date: 31 Oct 01 - 02:03 PM

some people who do cover songs do them better that the person who wrote it, so i don't see anything wrong with improving and existing song. BOB


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Oct 01 - 02:25 PM

The other term you have these days for singers/bands which directly aim to reproduce what someone else sounds like/used to sound like is "tribute" - you know, Beatles tribute bands, Stones, Abba, you name it. An honourable trade, and sometimes they can be better than the original.

So far as I can see that isn't a phenomenon that has come up in the folk world yet. No doubt it will in time. "Cute Noise and Samson" "Warty-Porterson"...I suppose you could say that Fairport Convention have been doing this for years.


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: 53
Date: 01 Nov 01 - 12:32 AM

1964 is a great tribute band to the beatles of 1962 thru 1966, they are so good, i've heard them 3 times and i have one of their cd's. BOB


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: Blackcatter
Date: 01 Nov 01 - 12:42 AM

Greetings all,

John, your definition would to seem to have a small hole in it - the concept of "cover bands" - bands who play nothing but covers of other groups.

take care


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Subject: RE: What does 'cover' mean?
From: Mudlark
Date: 01 Nov 01 - 02:12 AM

Granted, I live in a backwater, but usage of the word "cover" to mean "not original to the performer" seemed to suddenly appear in all the local college hip writing on the music scene about 2 years ago. Tho I was familiar with the older usage (i.e. white bread versions of black music) I'd not seen it used in such an indescriminating way before, nor to such a huge extent...suddenly every other WORD seemed to be "cover". This I couldn't help but take a dislike to it just because it seemed so trendy and suddenly "in." Seemed to me the music world got along without it for years just fine.

Still, it is just a word and more and more I'm beginning to feel like a crochet ("by cracky, we didn't need words like that in MY day!") so will try to be cool with it. Hey, I was hip when it was hep to be hip.


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