Not all cover bands are cheesy, no-talent hacks.
Not all cover bands are cheesy, no-talent hacks.

Why all the hatred out there for cover bands?

This may be a generational thing, but I would love to say a few words in defense of cover bands.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a guitar player and singer in a cover band. I'm not very good, but I'm smart enough to play with guys who are absolutely outstanding, so we are a lot of fun.

What prompts this is the recent flood of music copy on the pages of OnMilwaukee.com, sometimes implying, sometimes saying it outright, that cover bands are just for fogies and people who don't know anything about music.

For a definition, let's say a cover band that plays music written and performed and recorded by somebody else. A band that plays "Proud Mary," for example, is a cover band.

What I'm suggesting here is that to lump cover bands into the category of "things I need to avoid at all costs" cheats you out of some awfully good music.

Let it be understood that I am the exact opposite of a musical snob. Here's some of the stuff I love and always will:

Some Broadway show tunes ("Soon It's Gonna Rain" from "The Fantasticks" is one of my all-time faves).

Classical (Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto and Leoncavallo's "Vesti La Giubba" are at the top of my list).

Country ("Funny How Time Slips Away," written and sung by Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight" and "Remember When" by Alan Jackson rank high).

Not a lot, but some New Age (I confess that the Celtic Women catch my attention).

And it's not all old stuff. I love Coldplay and 3 Doors Down. I could listen to Sara Bareilles all night long. Grupo Montez de Durango sounds like they could have grown up on Milwaukee's South Side.

I also think local music has some great stuff. I still say Paul Cebar is one of the best around and John Sieger is a troubadour who can command a stage with anyone. I'm absolutely in love with Fever Marlene. I think Scott Starr and Kevin Dunphy are so good and so unique that they actually stand a chance of making it big. And Eddie Butts can get a crowd going better than almost anyone I've ever seen.

I guess the point I'm making is that music is a big tent. The ideal thing is to say you love good music, but don't limit it by genre.

Think of songs like "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke, "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry, anything by the Four Tops, "Satisfaction" by the Stones, "Nowhere to Run" by Martha Reeves & the Vandellas and "Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding are true musical classics. They were outstanding songs decades ago and they are outstanding songs today.

I will also tell you that as far as musicianship goes, cover bands have people who can play with the best of them. It's not like they know three chords and everyone else knows dozens.

I really hope that my younger friends, some of whom have written on these pages in recent days, will open their hearts, minds and arms to cover bands. Sure, there are bad cover bands. But there is bad music in every genre.

Plus, it's important to understand that certain music is appropriate for certain occasions. If I want to sit on my couch with my feet up and reflect on life, I probably don't want to listen to Angel City Outcasts, an L.A. band that can really make you sweat. If I'm in the middle of a long road trip, you won't hear me listening to Edith Piaf. And when people go to a summer festival, they fall in love all over again with "Gloria," "Stand By Me" and "Good Golly Miss Molly."

And there ain't nothing wrong with that.

Talkbacks

mariologist | June 6, 2008 at 9:55 a.m. (report)

It is quite simple, some bands suck and some do not. It matters not whether they are covering music or playing their own - much has to do with skill. In my humble opinion, a truely great band can write their own music as well as pay a decent tribute to the bands they choose to cover.

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Myke & Debbi | June 4, 2008 at 6:36 p.m. (report)

No CoolerKing.What we r saying is WE prefer to dance to danceable cover music generally speaking.There r exceptions of course.This is because GENERALLY speaking danceable cover music is better music & as dancers it is ALWAYS better to know what is coming. Certainly not all cover music is dance music. So we were stating OUR preferance.We listen to music primarily to dance to it, were as some peeps(perhaps u) would prefer to be entertained.We also wanted to make the point that the music snobs that always rip "cover music"as opposed to "original music" r missing the FACT that ALL music was originally "original music" & the cream of the crop is what gets covered ! We realize that this is subjective judgement,however the VAST majority of opinions would tend to confirm this !!!

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CoolerKing | June 4, 2008 at 7:48 a.m. (report)

Myke & Debbi - so you're saying people can only dance to an already established "hit" or cover over a little known, original but danceable song?

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mkeMuse | June 3, 2008 at 5:38 p.m. (report)

Cover bands do serve a purpose...

They bring people back to a time when they first heard the songs being covered. These are songs we've already been programmed to like, as we know all the words and understand them. We don't have to make sense of them. We can sing along, dance or even have a conversation with friends through an entire set because we've heard it all before and know we aren't missing anything...and for that, cover bands should be commended. They don't have gigs. They do jobs. They're excellent musicians performing a trade, not artists creating music.

The fact that you think Fever Marlene is so "good and original" says a ton about your resistance to change and your comfort level with seeking out the new. Riding the popularity wave of the dynamic duo thanks to the road the White Stripes paved and sounding every bit like their influences ala Oasis, you basically have two designers doing what designers do, taking what's already come before, changing it around a little bit and calling it their own. The kicker is that these two dudes from Wisconsin sing with English accents. That isn't original. It's just plain ridiculous.

Do your ears a favor and listen to the Black Keys. If you want something softer and closer to home, listen to Fred & Ethel. Want it heavy? Check out Beatallica. These guys actually made a mockery of the cover-band debate (which only seems to have residence in MKE) and provide music that makes you laugh and bang your head all at the same time. Now thats something!

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Myke & Debbi | June 3, 2008 at 1:56 p.m. (report)

All music was originally "original" . The very best original music usually becomes successful & is then "covered". As dancers we much prefer to dance to the all-time best music. A good cover band is then preffered.

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