For those that don’t recognize it, the video (but not song, which is “Ken” by Ex-Cops) above is a “cover” of a(n) (in)famous music video – “Bastards of Young”, by The Replacements. Perhaps apocryphally, the story goes that Warner Bros. felt that maybe these legendarily-boozy Minneapolis fish-ups could have a hit with this (anti-?) anthem off their 1985 album Tim, if only they could overcome their stubborn resistance to utilizing the music video as a marketing tool.
Supposedly, the video below is what the ‘Mats turned in to their unhappy corporate employer, its message unmistakeably clear – listen to the freaking song! – and MTV reputedly broadcast it exactly once; though in later years, once the video achieved its storied middle-finger status, I believe it got some repeat late-night showings.
(Note: for some reason the song appears to be pitched/sped up slightly; not sure if this is accidental or if Warner Bros. thought it would make the song more appealing).
The Replacements – Bastards of Young:
For some reason, I find myself annoyed about Ex-Cops’ video “cover”. Normally, when a song or artist I love is covered, no matter how badly-handled, I find myself mentally giving the covering artist some small amount of credit; because even if it’s a botched experiment, outright butchery, or a rote retread, I still feel like on some level the covering artists are paying tribute. Songs are meant to be handed down, and today’s artists should know their roots.
Why don’t I feel that way about Ex-Cops’ video? Is it because the original video was such a singular, perfect statement? What is gained by repeating it, with no significant alterations? Do we think of “visual” or “literary” covers differently than we think of “audio” song covers? Is there a point being made by Ex-Cops that I am missing? Leave aside legalistic questions of copyright, fair use, and monetary compensation; think in terms of artistic integrity, honoring your inspirations, and adding to the cultural conversation.
Here’s a Replacements song cover I don’t love, but don’t mind; the covering artist is attempting something a bit different:
Kindness – Swingin’ Party (Replacements Cover):
Here’s the much-sadder original, which remains superior in my book:
The Replacements – Swingin’ Party:
BoingBoing recently featured a version of REM’s hit “Losing My Religion”, on which software has been used to convert minor scales to major, leaving the recording otherwise intact. This has the effect of changing the dominant mood from mournful/elegiac, to somewhat more hopeful.
REM – Losing My Religion, Major-Scaled:
REM – Losing My Religion, Original:
Feel free to hold forth in comments about: the amount of originality any artistic tribute should contain (no politics!); the ‘Mats or REM or the Cure; whatever happened to MTV, man; or anything else that strikes your fancy.