Well, I might take a boat
Why is it that when you hear something new and start to get into it, suddenly it’s everywhere?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Pandora at work, as I’m in the middle of a big project that requires a lot of attention over long periods of time but mostly not a lot of brains. Music keeps me focused enough to do the job right. I like Pandora because I can plug in a song or two that I’m in the mood to hear and it will cycle through other things that I might like. Sometimes they’re on, sometimes they’re off. And a lot of time I already know the songs. But once in a while I hear a winner I’ve never heard before.
The station I was listening to last week was built from Iggy Pop’s The Passenger
and The Cure. Needless to say, I got a lot of 80s bands, which was fine by me. But then I started getting a few other things in the mix, including this song:
I stopped my work and listened. They’ve got a sound that makes you sit up and take notice. On the one hand, they’ve got the bluesy chord progressions and guitar solo that are the hallmarks of my favorite early rock. On the other, they’ve got a strangely modern fuzzy sound that would be at home in any 90s grunge band. And some of their tunes are downright punk. I’d never heard of the Sonics before, but felt sure from listening to them that I probably should have. I pulled up song lists and realized that while I didn’t know the band, I did know a lot of their songs. The Sonics did a lot of covers. Like this cover of Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want),” best known in the Beatles’ cover version:
Or this cover of “Do You Love Me?”
And this version of “Louie Louie,” which is my new favorite version of the song:
But my favorite is their cover of Richard Berry’s “Have Love, Will Travel.” It’s the song for which they’re best known:
It has a great riff, a great fat fuzzy sound, and bad boy vocals. And then there’s the modal switch at the end of the minor chorus into major to allow for a major verse. It’s just enough to make the harmony interesting. I listened to it several times.
And then tonight I turned on the radio and here comes the song again, but it’s not the Sonics. It’s AJ’s favorite band, The Black Keys:
I’m not surprised the Black Keys are Sonics fans. They use a similar fuzz effect on a lot of their songs and they’ve always had a thing for vintage blues rock. They do the thing that makes a cover sing here – they don’t stick to the original too closely. They make it their own. But they do away with the major-minor shift, so it sounds a little more placid to my ear. But it’s a good cover of a good song, even though I prefer The Sonics.
I’m a little fascinated by a band known for covers being covered. It’s like the musical equivalent of a virus. And I’m very glad to have gotten acquainted with The Sonics. What are you listening to?