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Cover version (music)

Related: music - version

"Versioning", is at the heart not only of reggae but of all Afro-American and Caribbean musics: jazz, blues, rap, r&b, reggae, calypso, soca, salsa, Afro-Cuban and so on. With the advent of twelve inch discs, the same principle has been extended to black American soul. --Dick Hebdige, Cut 'N' Mix: Culture, Identity, and Caribbean Music (1987) - Dick Hebdige [Amazon US]

Do not confuse with: cover (packaging)


In pop music a cover version is a new rendition of a previously recorded song. Pop musicians may play covers as a tribute to the original performer or group, to win audiences who like to hear a familiar song, to increase their chance of success by using a proven hit or to gain credibility by its comparison with the original song. They may also do it simply because they enjoy playing it.

Although cover versions are often produced for artistic reasons, they are commonly released to fill bargain bins in the music section of supermarkets and even specialized music stores, where uninformed customers can easily confuse them with original recordings, especially since the packaging is usually intentionally confusing. It combines the name of the original artist, written in large letters, with a small-letters periphrase like as originally sung by or as made popular by. Sometimes only the presence of the rather uncommon "cover" word indicates the true nature of the recordings. Certain publishing houses push the perversion up to using an expression like original cover versions. Cover versions are often sold in compilations, sorted by genre.

When supermarkets conduct a major cover version sale, they sometimes put in place a DJ to play the items from the special collection exclusively. In America, this is done because compulsory licensing laws allow a musician to perform and publish a previously recorded song without getting the permission of the copyright holder. A band of unknown but talented musicians, then, can churn out imitations of popular songs that can then be sold at a high profit margin. Otherwise, the record company would have to either pay licensing fees to the copyright holders of the music or not even be able to release the music at all, if the copyright holders deny permission. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cover_version [Apr 2005]

Black music

One of the most interesting areas of 'studying' disco and house music, is their relationship of sampler and samplee. The house record borrows from the disco record by isolating a sample of it and make a whole new record from that sample by using digital equipment.

This is a phenomenon of 'black music' in general. Examples can be found in every 'black music music genre'. Which begs the question: is this quality unique to black music or can it be extended to white music?

I do not have the answer for that question, but I will leave you with some 'black music' examples:

  1. house music record isolates sample from disco record
  2. standards in jazz music
  3. 'versioning' in reggae
  4. scratching as analog sampling in hip hop

Most covered bands

The Beatles have been covered more than any other band; "Yesterday" has been covered over three thousand times since its original release in 1965. Other songs which have been released many times as cover versions include the infamous "Louie Louie" by Richard Berry, "Freebird" (Lynyrd Skynyrd), "No Woman No Cry" (Bob Marley & the Wailers) and many of the less recent works of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen (as of December 5, 2004, there were at least 940 published cover versions of Cohen songs [1] (http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/test.html)). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cover_version#Most_covered_bands [Apr 2005]

History of the term "cover version"

The term "cover version" is in wide use today, among musicians and record collectors; however, there is little agreement on exactly what it means.

In the first few decades of the recording industry, it was common practice for record companies to record all the songs they expected to become "hits." When a new song was released, it was the job of the "song plugger" to convince the record companies, as well as performers, that the song would become a big seller. As a result, many—in some cases, most—record companies issued versions of those songs successfully promoted, sometimes even by the same artist. When the average record buyer went out to purchase a new record, he/she usually asked for the song, not the artist, although there were a few exceptions, such as artists like Al Jolson or John McCormack.

This began to change in the later 1930's, when the average age of the record-buying public began to drop. During the "Swing Era," when the bobby-soxer went looking for "In the Mood," she wanted the popular Glenn Miller version, not someone else's. However, record companies—there were only three or four at the time—still continued to record different versions of songs that sold well.

After the pop music doldrums of 1946-54, rock'n'roll began to emerge, and with it a new way of thinking among record buyers. When a teen went out to buy "Rock Around the Clock," he/she wanted the same recording they heard on the radio. Since this was before the emergence of artist/songwriters, anyone could have recorded the tune, and some did, but their records simply didn't sell.

However, a new trend began to emerge. When a recording became popular in a specialty field—such as country & western, rhythm & blues (a euphemism for Black music) or even ethnic music—"name" artists often did "cover versions" of the songs in a more staid style. Several of Hank Williams' c&w hits were so treated, as well as a number of Black artists' discs. The term, as used today, is usually applied to the latter records.

While it is all but impossible to trace the actual history of the term "cover version," it is likely the term began to be used by record collectors once the early rock'n'roll records had become collectible. For example, many of Pat Boone's hits were copies of popular records by Black artists, as well as some by Rick(y) Nelson, and these are usually dismissed as "cover versions."

Today, the term even applies to live music: a band who performs mostly hits in their chosen genre is known as a "cover band," since their performances "cover" older hit performances. This is distinguished from a "tribute band," a band which tries to perform the hits of a well-known band in the same style and as closely mimicked as possible.

The actual term "cover" may have its origins in the fact that the artist who recorded the newer version of the song would have his records literally "cover" the original version... if, indeed, it was available in most record stores. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cover_version#History_of_the_term_.22cover_version.22 [Apr 2005]

Cover versions in early rock and roll

In the early days of rock and roll, many songs originally recorded by African American musicians were rerecorded by white artists, such as Pat Boone, in a more toned down style that lacked the hard edge of rock and roll, and vice versa. These cover versions were considered by some to be more palatable to parents, and white artists were more palatable to programmers at white radio stations. Also, many songs originally recorded by male artists were rerecorded by female artists, and vice versa. Such cover version is sometimes called a cross cover version. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cover_version#Early_cover_versions [Dec 2004]

Sample (music) [...]

In music, sampling refers to the act of taking a portion of one sound recording and reusing it as an instrument in a new recording. This is done with a sampler, which can either be a piece of hardware, or a computer program on a computer. Similar to sampling is the technique of creating loops of magnetic tape with a reel to reel tape machine.

Often "samples" consist of one part of a song used in another, for instance the use of the drumline from Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks" in songs by the Beastie Boys, Mike Oldfield and Erasure. "Samples" in this sense occur often in hip hop and R&B, but are becoming more common in other music, as well. --http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_sampling

See also:
Musique concrete - Early tape based "sampling"
Plunderphonics - in which samples are the sole source of sound for new compositions

Remix [...]

A remix is an alternate mix of a song different from the original version. It may incorporate elements of dance music. It is often used to create an upbeat version of a song for playing by disc jockeys in nightclubs.

In addition to dance remixes, many R&B, pop, and rap artists use remixes and alternate versions of songs with "featured" guest stars, in order to give them new life, or to make them a hit if they're failing.

In recent years the concept of the remix has been applied analogously to other media and products. In 2000, the British Channel 4 television program Jaaaaam was produced as a remix of the sketches from the comedy show Jam. In 2003 the Coca-Cola Corporation released a new version of their soft drink Sprite with tropical flavours under the name Sprite Remix. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remix[Apr 2004]

Studio One

The most versioned riddims are more than 20 years old and originated at Coxone Dodds legendary Studio One studio, Brentford Road, Kingston. Many producers has made more than one classic riddim, but none can compete with the Studio One output from the late sixties and early seventies. Versions of "Moving Away", "Pretty Looks", "Nanny Goat", "Drum Song", "Jah Shakey", "Full Up", "Real Rock", "Skylarking" and "Joe Frazier" are riddims you'll hear your favorite soundsystem play in any session.

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