Of the two biggest bands to cross the pond, The Beatles were clearly a far superior group of rock and roll songwriters than The Rolling Stones. So why not have the fab four cross swords here? Well, first of all, there’s just no competition. The Beatles have been covered way more, way better, and by a much larger variety of bands. Plus, don’t tell anyone this, but . . . I like the Stones better. They weren’t as interesting politically or personally, they’re all about the money . . . It’s kind of like preferring Kanye West to Common. Which I do, too. So, my favorite British rock and roll band will face off against the greatest American rock and roll songwriter.
No, not Bob Dylan. He’s more folk-y. And, frankly, although he’s a had a few albums that I’ve listened to so many times I’ve memorized them, and wrote a song that perhaps became the greatest cover song in history (Jimi’s “Watchtower,” natch), I just like Bruce more than Bob, notwithstanding the breadth and depth of Bob’s catalog, Bob’s superior storytelling ability, and Bob’s proven ability to successfully tackle a wide variety of topics. It’s kind of like preferring Jay-Z to NaS. Which I do, too.
Finally, is it fair for Bruce to take on a whole gang of guys? I say it is because even though the Stones have had more members and have been around longer, they have clear weaknesses. They’re past their prime, for one: Bruce is probably gonna get a Grammy for Magic, but when was the last time folks talked about a new Stones album? And for two, Bruce did go on his own and record “57 Channels With Nothin’ On” (shiver!), but Mick Jagger went on his own and recorded “She’s The Boss” (sound of violent, choking vomiting).
So, today, is the first post of several in this war. When you’ve got two giants facing off against each other, you need to clear the countryside and get ready for some Godzilla-size stomping.
Today, in round one, it’s gonna be random covers. But I’ve got more focussed plans for the rest of this battle.
First, some sultry chicks take on the gravelly Bruce and the vocally acrobatic Mick.
On the Bruce side:
State Trooper-Cowboy Junkies
Highway Patrolman-Dar Williams
And batting for the Stones:
No Expectations-Grace Potter
Miss You-The Concretes
Well, in this face-off, if we’re going just by the quality of the singers, the folks who chose Bruce have the edge. But there’s more to this. (And I’m not talking about how hot Tori is. Grrrr!) No, we’re looking at how well the songs lend themselves to reinterpretation. The Cowboy Junkies do a phenomenal job on a cover of Thunder Road, but I gave you Highway Patrolman instead because Nebraska is such a brilliant album. Dar Williams’ cover is the best of these six, and it’s also off the N album. On the Stones side, The Concretes manage to turn the testosterone-fueled “I need sex” romp into a romantic tune, but Tori simply takes a song that makes you want to cry and turns it into a song that makes you want to kill yourself. How hard is that? Grace covers one of the worst Stones songs ever, but she does what she can with it.
I’m going for Bruce on this battle. But that’s not the whole round. What can club bands do with these guys?
Dead Flowers-Local H
Sympathy for the Devil-Guster
Lovin’ Cup (Rolling Stones)-Fourth River
Jumpin’ Jack Flash-Subliminal Criminals
Streets of Philadelphia-Marah
Janie Don’t You Loose Heart-Scott Miller and the Commonwealth
I’m On Fire-Ari Hest
Spirit in the Night-Just Like Me
Most of these covers are pretty straightforward, they borrow but don’t supplement the original. Except for Marah’s whirling dervish. The original Streets is a slow tune, a walking tune, but Marah makes it a rollicking stomp.
Winner again, Springsteen.
Looks like he takes Round One!