Love is a Battlefield. Do you remember that video? Pat Benetar in her hooker costume coming to the defense of a fellow ‘Lady of the Night’ after their pimp’s hand got strong…
Do you remember what she did to him?
She……DANCED at him. Full-on shoulder shaking synchronized sex-worker angst. What a delightfully horrible video. Every time I hear that song, I think of that video. In a way, if it’s possible, that cheesy video made a cheesy song more…well…cheesy.
My ears are lactose intolerant. I know when I hear a havarti-filled song, I get instant douche chills. Unfortunately, truth be told, I am sometimes the cause of my own reaction. Listening back to some of the songs that I wrote in the past sometimes makes me cringe so hard that my eyes water. Occasionally, all it takes it a lyric that is trying way too hard to be profound to set me off. I know what I like and what I don’t. I judge quickly and it works for me.
Or so I thought.
After talking with a friend (I have a real friend, honest!) I was challenged to try to think of the worst song to cover, and then try to make a version of it that is cool. To try to make it my own.
I’m a huge fan of people who do this well. I love Chris Cornell’s version of Billie Jean. Matt Weddle’s rendition of Hey Ya is inspiring. But the one that might be my favourite is Greg Laswell’s take on Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. If you haven’t heard this, take a minute now and do a quick YouTube search for it. It’s slow and deliberate; it takes the words and gives them a whole new meaning. In short, and in my opinion, it works.
And it all comes back to Pat Benetar and her rogue band of dancing dirtbags. I took the challenge, and arranged a stripped down acoustic version of Love is a Battlefield. I borrowed the tempo and staccato playing style from Tom Petty’s ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’. This really helps the acoustic feel, while giving room for the words to come through. I’ve played it a number of times live, and it’s usually only when I get to the chorus that people realize what song it is. And by then, it’s too late for them to realize that they hate the song.
Sadly, it’s also too late for them to dance in unison at me like a posse of prancing prostitutes. (Dare to dream that one day it may happen…)
Now here’s the totally silly part: I realize now that I really like the song. It’s actually good. Not just my version, but the bones of the song itself. And any song that you choose can be what you like, if you take the time to get to know how to play it, and don’t mind playing around with things like tempo, style, and even the order of the lyrics. Great songs can take being covered.
I was listening to an interview with Steven Van Zandt – guitarist from the E-Street Band – and he said something that really resonated with me. He said that a lot of bands today don’t play many covers, which is a shame, as doing covers is what helps you define your style. In his words (or a close approximation thereof) he said that these are the best songs in the world; so why wouldn’t you play them?
OK, my guitar friends and fiends out there…here’s the challenge. Let’s pick a song that we like…or even better…a song that we don’t like yet, and turn it into our own. Since we can all add comments, I’d love to hear which ones you’ve chosen, and what you’ve done to them. Heck, I can even bug the folks at Loudguitars.com to allow us to do video submissions if we all feel like it.
So let me know what you think.
I’ll start the ball rolling here, and I’m going to do an acoustic cover of “Edge of Glory” as performed on the Howard Stern Show by Lady Gaga.
On your mark! Get Set! Cheese!
To find out more about Steve, click HERE