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:

This story of how a book inspired a song was forwarded to me by a friend. I found it moving:

Part 1
Part 2

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.


Glyph is worse than some and better than others. He believes that life is just one damned thing after another, that only pop music can save us now, and that mercy is the mark of a great man (but he's just all right). Nothing he writes here should be taken as an indication that he knows anything about anything.


  1. It’s a rare cover that impresses me. Mostly because they are typically rote retreads aimed at getting an easy hit single. Just to stir up some bees, i’ll call out Van Halen for their cover of the Kinks- You Really Got Me. Lame ass pretty boys just trying to get an easy hit.

    In a live show a good cover can be a ton of fun though.

    REM–great band. Great live shows. I must have seen them a dozen times.

    • The Indigo Girls cover of Dire Straits’ Romeo and Juliet is just dreadful, like they had no idea what makes that such a great song. And I say this as a Girls fan.

      • Yeah…its bland and a copy, not an interpretation. Then again it may have sparked someone to go on a “ITS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE JULIET AND JULIET” rant, which would be priceless.

        • Yeah, it’s supposed to be sung by a band made up of five guys!

          • Reminds me of junior high and HS, when there was a lot of heckling of new wave/synth-pop stuff by the rock / metal guys, for being “gay”.

            I bet they were so sad when they found out about Freddie Mercury and Rob Halford.

          • Hee hee. You shoulda seen the reaction when Elton John came out.

          • Was that a surprise? (I honestly can’t recall not knowing that.)

          • I knew some people who were surprised by both; Freddie I feel like I always knew about; Halford, I didn’t, but was in no way surprised when he came out – it was like, yeah, that makes sense.

            I had a friend who was really, really into metal in the 80’s and he confided to me at that time that there was a *lot* of hush-hush homosexuality there, for all the reasons you might suspect – overt machismo, coexisting with deeply theatrical tendencies (most of that 80’s pop-metal stuff is really, fashion-wise, descended from the more sexually-ambiguous glam-rockers – as is goth, for that matter) – so for every gay rocker we know about, there were/are many more closeted.

            Punk/hardcore was also an area where there was a lot of closeting. I had absolutely no idea, for example, that Bob Mould was gay until he came out. Didn’t change the fact that the man is a danged guitar hero, or how I viewed him (=a legend); but at the time, it had just never occurred to me, at all, that such “aggressive” music wasn’t “straight” by default (whereas, I kind of just incorrectly assumed for a long time that everybody in Depeche Mode, who I also loved, was gay).

          • Were people willing to be oblivious about Sir Elton? Sure. While there were lots of snickers about his “new beard,” lots of other people were willing to accept his marriage to a woman in the 1980’s as “proof” that the “rumors” about him being gay were false.

          • @Mike: no it wasn’t obvious to everyone. This might be TMI, if so, try to skip a bit as Brother Maynard ought to have done…

            I went to a boarding school where I was sexually assaulted, repeatedly, by one of the older boys. I was not believed and it was me who was punished. My homophobia, well, let’s call it what it was, my hatred was pretty firmly rooted until I entered the US Army, where I was befriended by a gay man. It was a rum squad in a rum platoon: we were more united than brothers. I kinda got talked out of my homophobia by this man, who introduced me to another gay man in the platoon. Two of the wisest and kindest men it’s been my privilege to know.

            Anyway, over time, we’d hang out. They clued me into a good deal of gay culture. Somehow it never seemed to matter that I was straight. They knew Elton John was gay. I had no idea.

          • Blaise,
            I just… wanted to thank you for sharing. So many don’t, and it leads to victims feeling alone.

      • Those last two links are reversed.
        The original is in place of the re-recording, etc.

          • NM, I see what you mean now. Your original comment was in moderation, so I thought you were referring to the OP, not yr own comment.

    • Eh, I don’t mind the VH/Kinks one; but that’s because it’s a great song and a great band (DLR-era, anyway).

      Sometimes you just gotta play “Louie Louie” and get that party started.

      I know I linked this recently, but it’s genius, so I’ll do so again:,90900/

      Speaking of covers and live shows, Replacements were pretty famous for lots of covers. Whether they had ever practiced said cover before, or were sober enough to remember it, was always up for grabs, but when it worked, it really worked.

  2. The major-key Losing My Religion is… I didn’t like it. The major keys bring release to the tension of the musical phrases. Regret, frustration, loss — that’s the whole point of the song: he can’t resolve his problem. Minor keys are all about sorrow. Major keys are all about resolution.

    • I liked the major key rendition of “Losing My Religion.”
      Changes the character of the piece.

      • Yeah, I don’t know if I like it *better*; but I do like it, it’s almost like a totally different song.

  3. I saw these on Dangerous Minds yesterday, too late to shoehorn them in.

    2 classic punk songs which have been timestretched, so that their ambience goes from “blitzkrieg” to “glacial”; the first still retains its overall melodicism, while the second retains some of its dissonance:

    Also, this one is totally unrelated to the post, but it’s nice quality, for Mike:

    • so that’s how you make the ramones sound good! /ducks

      seriously not bad at all.

      i think i’m a far greater fan of destruction style covers than actual covers, though a few good ones stick out (i.e. cash’s take on i see a darkness, also will oldham’s take on big balls by ac/dc). but the gleefully dismissive chop jobs of the 90s and early aughts – too numerous to count – were often enjoyable, at least in the right hands. those hands being v/vm (especially the christmas album) –

      or kid 606

      i think we learn more from hate than worship. that said most “hate” is more like misaimed attraction.

      • Heh, I was waiting to see what you’d say on the Ramones one. It kind of sounds like Jesu or Flying Saucer Attack. I played that and the Pistols one quite a few times yesterday while I was working.

        What’s weird is when your brain starts to recognize the shapes of the original song (though I don’t think I would have been able to do this without being told in advance what the song was, it’s so radically deformed/smeared).

          • Listening to that FSA mix now (and that’s a neat site, I bookmarked it to check it out later), and realizing that of the 4 FSA albums that I can locate (“Further” seems to be M.I.A.) I only imported “Distance”, so I’ll be digitizing these other 3 forthwith.

            I don’t know if you ever listened to Astrobrite – in a way they sort of split the difference between MBV and FSA; the structures are really MBV, but they used a lot of low-fi 4-track recording & drum machines, so you get this sort of “MBV on a FSA (or GBV) budget” feel.


            Really nice packaging too if you can find the physical object.

          • i had not, but that’s pretty dope. and they have a bandcamp, which is a plus. flac is where it’s at.

            the wikipedia page is a wreck, but it’s the dude from loveliescrushing so that makes sense.

            i do enjoy this intersection of black metal and shoegaze (“shoegaze”) some bands have been staking out – namely servile sect and sutekh hexen in particular, though dreamless is a nice more trad mix as well. and an australian one guy outfit called moon:


  4. Replacements trivia – on the top right hand corner of the album cover of Let It Be, is a very small window. When the picture was taken, my friend Julie lived in that apartment.

    • I am jealous of Julie now.

      Replacements are one of my favorites (though Westerberg is, frankly, a bit of an a-hole). Hugely, hugely important, both to me personally – in some ways, an American equivalent of the otherwise completely-dissimilar Smiths (though their music and attitudes were quite different, both bands had a lot to say about being an introverted teenager and feeling out-of-place in the 80’s) and in the rock music world.

      You can draw a straight line from the lilting “I loved you, well, nevermind” in Big Star’s 1974 “September Gurls”, to the ‘Mats howled 1987 “Nevermind, all over but the shouting, just a waste of time”, to Nirvana’s mumbled 1991 “Oh well, whatever, nevermind” – heck – those grunge guys even took the ripped jeans and flannels look from the ‘Mats, even though Seattle isn’t nearly so cold as Minneapolis.

      And your alt-country guys (Tupelo/Wilco/Whiskeytown/97’s/ etc. etc.) all drew heavy inspiration from the Replacements’ flirtations with country, and bands like Guided by Voices followed in the tradition of keeping things…er…”lubricated” and loose, on-record and -stage.

    • Mike – You may hate it, and they are at the end of a probably 3-hour concert, so they are “wasted” themselves; but here’s GbV trying to make sure the kids will be alright:

    • Townsend has no idea what the words are to Barbara Ann. Moon is clearly having the time of his life singing falsetto. And Daltrey is practically pissing himself he’s laughing so hard.

      Rock and roll ought to be fun like that.

      • And Entwistle, in the midst of inventing a bass line that JS Bach would find intricate, just looks bored. God, I love those guys.

  5. There aren’t a lot of recorded covers that I like, but I’ve seen a lot of good covers live, not by cover bands (which tend to aim for straight copies), but by bands who just throw a cover or two into their set. I suppose it’s something about the energy and spontaneity of a live performance that makes for better covers (I should probably insert something from Adorno here, but I’m sleepy).

    • Can Adorno explain why I am in general a fan of song covers, but that video “cover” ticks me off? 🙂

    • I have enough songs that I love that I find were remakes of an obscure song that I have fully embraced the whole “cover” thing.

      Hell, half of Led Zeppelin I was cover songs.

      If I’m going to listen to Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You, I’m not going to listen to Anne Bredon.

      • I try now, in my library, to be careful to tag all cover songs “cover” when I am importing, so the songs end up in my “Covers” playlist.

        That playlist currently has 300 + songs; I am sure I have many more than that, that are mis-tagged.

        Yeah, I def. am a fan of “covers” in general.

        But it’s a pretty rare “remix” that I like.

        • The line between “original” and “remix” gets blurry in electronica. Sometimes they might as well be different pieces. Consider Ellen Allien’s Out, the Thomas Muller remix and the Audion’s Out for Infants remix.

          • The remix is definitely more common there, but even there it’s still rare that I find a remix that I prefer to the”source” track.

            It happens, occasionally – I think I’ve posted this before, adding a stripped-down dark electro beat really works:


            …but even here, she doesn’t quite know how to resolve the “song”, and just trails off into some boopin’ and beepin’. So much of electronic music is dependent on “structure” rather than “melody”, and if you monkey too much with the original tried and true foundation, the entire edifice can collapse.

          • Yeah. Electronica has always had a problem with endings and never meshes well with the traditional song format unless it veers strongly into pop. Some fadeouts are better than others.

          • That Eno track sounds really familiar to me…has it been sampled, or used on a soundtrack somewhere?

            Or is it just another case of, this is Eno, who has contributed so many innovations, and worked with so many important artists, that it just sounds familiar because the sounds are now part of the fabric?

          • Wire Shock has been remixed a million times and sampled twice as much. Moby did a remix of it.

          • And the Bonham is awesome, obviously. Just a stupidly-talented rock drummer. All the best ones started out with jazz backgrounds.

          • Ugh, Moby…

            I’m…not a fan.

            Though to be fair that could be as much for the outsized attention he seemed to get, which didn’t seem totally justified by the music (though some of it is OK).

          • Glyph, drummers have been the bane of my musical existence. Lord knows I’m not a prudish or uptight man. But when they turn up drunk for sessions, they’d better be John Bonham or out the door they go. Trouble is, they all bought Houses of the Holy and then bought their first bit of kit and now they think they’re John Bonham. Doesn’t work that way.

          • And then there was the time the original was left by a ghost on someone’s answering machine.
            … it got remixed before release.
            (not kidding on this one)

          • “Or is it just another case of, this is Eno, who has contributed so many innovations, and worked with so many important artists, that it just sounds familiar because the sounds are now part of the fabric?”

            i think with eno the answer is both – but i say this as someone who is a big big fan of ambient eno and a big big not fan of all other forms of eno.

            that said small craft on a milk sea was kinda bleh and i’m not even sure what the new one sounds like. i spend my beatless mind dollars for new music elsewhere.

          • The recent one is good… but it’s a movie soundtrack the same way his last couple of ambient soundtracks have been.

            You’ll finish it and say “dang, now I want to see that movie.”

          • You are an evil man, Glyph. I was driven to purchase my first drum machine and sampler after one particularly awful tussle with a drummer of this sort. I’d been doing MIDI capture and injecting loops from an Atari ST as backup for a while so it was a pretty good fit for me and the people I was working with at the time. I still have that Atari ST somewhere up north. All I really wanted from a drummer at the time was enough of a human touch to keep the loops from sounding like clockwork.

            Well, about that time I ended up working myself damned near to death on robotics and the music sorta died on the vine. I was writing things in the sequencer I couldn’t play.

            But when I get the time, I’m going back to do an electronic realisation of a song cycle by Fauré, L’horizon chimérique

          • I think my beef with Moby started early. His first big hit, “Go” in 1990, prominently utilized very-obvious samples from 2 things I really loved: “Twin Peaks”, and this:


            (I have the red vinyl 12” pictured).

            ToT’s “Go” is just a great, great dance track. It’s like “One Step Beyond”, or “Surfin’ Bird”, or “Rock Lobster”. Just relentless. So I wasn’t thrilled with Moby’s appropriation.

          • You are an evil man, Glyph

            Methinks someone didn’t check my bio. I thought I made my relative alignments clear.

          • I was working 3-11:30PM and had One Of Those Shifts where I wasn’t able to leave until 2AMish.

            On the drive home, I heard the song Find My Baby and it just kept getting better. I was turning off the highway when the vocals just started looping over each other and I was tired and entranced… and I spent the next six months looking for the song “Burn Down Baby”.

            I picked up Play on a whim. (It was on a lot of “best of” lists for 1999, if I recall correctly.) I played it and HOLY CRAP THAT SONG IS ON HERE. HONEY HONEY HONEY GET IN HERE THIS IS THE SONG I WOULDN’T SHUT UP ABOUT SIX MONTHS AGO.

            So I have a soft spot.

          • “Play” gets a lot of beef from many for getting so very very much…well, play. I mean, that thing was just *everywhere*. And it does seem sort of gimmicky, like it has just the one idea and kind of rides it all the way to the end.


            It does handle that gimmick/idea pretty well. I actually give “Play” a pass where many don’t. I don’t seek it out, but I don’t mind it too much either.

          • I have a dear friend who refused (REFUSED!) to play Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Why? Because he spent a year and half reading about the game in every gaming magazine and on every gaming website singing the praises of the most awesome game that has ever been made!!! 10/10! 5/5!!! *****!!!

            I, who never read nothin’, got the game and enjoyed the crap out of it.

            My only experience of Play outside of that time I heard it at 2AM was hearing Porcelain in EVERY SINGLE FREAKING COMMERCIAL FOR PARTY OF FIVE AND EVERY MOVIE TRAILER AND HALF OF THE CAR COMMERCIALS OUT THERE. But, other than that, I managed to avoid it, pretty much.

            So I minded it less.

      • (I admit that there is a line somewhere… I was out to eat with a friend and Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi started playing on the Restaurant Music Channel and he said something to the effect of “They’re remaking Amy Grant songs now???” and I found myself wanting to give a long rant. I restrained myself and only gave a short one.)

      • Hell, a substantial portion of rock’n’roll in the 60s was cover songs of either other early rock’n’rollers or blues/r&b songs.

        • But why is film/video different than songs (or is it)?

          Remember when Van Sant did that shot-for-shot “Psycho” remake, and everybody went, “why?”

          That’s my reaction to the video up top.

          • But you don’t mind watching Fistful of Dollars (or Last Man Standing) even if you’ve seen Yojimbo.

          • I think the American “Ring” is superior to the original; Carpenter’s “Thing” may also be.

            And yeah, those Kurosawa films made hella Westerns (and Star Wars, for that matter).

          • I think that there is a difference between a straight cover (see, for example, The Crewcuts version of Sh-boom Sh-boom which was created *ONLY* because of segregation extending to songs on the radio and adds nothing to the original) and a reinterpretation.

            Joe Cocker’s “With A Little Help From My Friends” providing the quintessential example of a reinterpretation improving upon the original.

          • If the original hadn’t been Ringo, maybe. But you cannot improve on a song that reveals that much of the singer’s soul. (You who else knew that he was the luckiest guy in the world?)

          • It’s a lot easier to paint a house than it is to build one. Ringo, indeed, shows us his soul and shows us that his soul is worth looking at. Heck, Ringo is such a nice/kind/good guy that I don’t think that anybody even particularly resents the fact that he’s the luckiest guy in the world. Well, other than Pete Best. (That’s probably a post in its own right.)

            But I still prefer to listen to Cocker’s.

          • I like Cocker’s “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window” too. Maybe not better than the version from Abby Road, but I like it.

          • Leave Joe Cocker alone.

            That part of the song where the background singers ask “Do you need anybody?” and he just screams out “WHOAAAAAAAAAAAAAA”?


          • One hot August afternoon, walking across the Monroe Street Bridge in Chicago in the herd of commuters headed to the train station, I encountered two bands playing the outdoor patios of their respective restaurants. One band began to play the sequence from Abbey Road, beginning at Sun King through to The End.

            Everyone stopped where they were and the sun shone down upon us all. At the final chords of and in the end, the love you take / is equal to the love you make, some began to cry. A few seconds of silence and everyone erupted in wild applause. Never seen anything like it, before or since.

        • Also, I suspect that a reason I like a lot of the early rock’n’roll covers is that I heard them first. In fact, in most cases, I’d heard them many, many times before I ever heard the original. So I just can’t hear them as covers.

          • I don’t think that there’s anyone born after 1960 that will have heard Anne Bredon’s (or even Joan Baez’s!) version of Babe I’m Gonna Leave you before hearing Zep’s.

            (In the 90’s, there was a period where someone might have heard Great White’s before hearing any of the other ones…)

          • Three of the Beatles’ first four albums were 8 originals and 6 covers, and a lot of the covers are improvements (as well as being the most common version now.)

          • Jagger/Richards became a formidable songwriting team, but all their early stuff is just covers too.

          • J&R were largely blues covers, weren’t they? No Broadway musicals, anyway. (I recall a college friend saying that he preferred the McCartney version of Till There was You to the Shirley Jones. Still strikes me as funny.)

          • Nobody seems to remember Jimi Hendrix played with the Isley Brothers on Testify, which everyone now associates with Stevie Ray Vaughan.

          • Because I am just that anal.

            Beatles covers (starred ones being the space awesomest, x’d one being the very worst Beatles track in existence):
            6 on Please Please Me:
            Anna *
            A Taste of Honey
            Baby It’s You
            Twist and Shout *

            6 on With the Beatles
            Till There was You *
            Please Mister Postman *
            Roll Over Beethoven
            You Really Got a Hold on Me *
            Devil in Her Heart

            3 on Long Tall Sally EP
            Long Tall Sally
            Slow Down *
            Matchbox *

            6 on Beatles For Sale
            Rock and Roll Music
            Mr. Moonlight x
            Kansas City/ Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey *
            Words of Love *
            Honey, Don’t
            Everybody’s Trying to be My Baby

            2 on Help
            Act Naturally
            Dizzy Miss Lizzy

            1 on Beatles VI
            Bad Boy

    • Tori Amos does requests.
      Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re terrifying.

      I’m pretty damn sure she doesn’t look at the music first.

  6. One of my favorite albums of all time is The The’s Hanky Panky. The whole thing is covers of Hank Williams Sr. songs

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