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Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain

Most everyone knows the song “I Love Rock & Roll” done by Joan Jett. Did you know that was a cover? I was shocked, too.  In 1975, Alan Merrill of the Arrows wrote “I Love Rock & Roll” and was performed by the Arrows with Merrill on lead vocals. In an interview with Songfacts, Merill said he wrote the song as a “knee-jerk response to the Rolling Stones’ “It’s Only Rock & Roll(but I like it).  Joan Jett saw the Arrows perform the song on their weekly television show while she was touring with The Runaways in 1976.  Joan’s first version was released as a B-side to “You Don’t Own Me”.  In 1981, she re-recorded the song with her band The Blackhearts.  That version hit #1 and stayed for seven weeks.  Jett’s version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016.

“Cocaine” was done twice in the ‘70’s.  The song, I mean the song, folks.  Written and recorded by J.J. Cale in 1976, the song was more famously covered just one year later by Eric Clapton for his album Slowhand.  A live version from Clapton’s album Just One Night charted #30 in 1980.  Clapton once called the song “quite cleverly anti-cocaine”, noting “it’s no good to write a deliberate anti-drug song hoping it will catch.  Because the general thing is that people will be upset by that.  Because the general thing is that people will be upset by that. It would disturb them to have someone else shoving something down their throat. So the best thing to do is offer something that seems ambiguous—that on study or on reflection actually can be seen to be "anti"—which the song "Cocaine" is actually an anti-cocaine song. If you study it or look at it with a little bit of thought ... from a distance ... or as it goes by ... it just sounds like a song about cocaine. It is quite cleverly anti-cocaine.  The song did better in Canada, reaching #3. (Billboard)

In 1971, Marc Bolan wrote a song called Bang A Gong(Get It On).  On July  24 of that year, the song hit #1 , giving the band their second chart topper.  The song reached #10 in March in the U.S.  In 1985, the song was covered by Power Station, fronted by the late Robert Palmer. (   I specify because after Palmer left the group to start a successful solo career, Michael Des Barres(yes, the OG Murdoc from Macgyver and LSUG morning host) became lead singer.  The song(sang by Palmer) peaked at #9 in the U.S. in 1985.

Finally, remember the Dwight Yoakam 1987 song “Little Sister”? I didn’t know until recently that it was originally done by Elvis in 1961.  Elvis took the song to #5.  Dwight Yoakam’s cover peaked at #7.  I didn’t know until a few years ago that Elvis originally recorded the song.

That’s all of the covers for this week.  I certainly learned quite a bit researching for this column.  I hope you did as well.


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