Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Heartbreak Hotel

For well over two decades I'd been convinced Mötley Crüe's cover of "Jailhouse Rock" would never be surpassed for Worst Elvis Cover Ever. Actually, much as I hated it, I was impressed by it, in a way: before hearing it, I'd thought it was, like "Louie Louie," that rare song so impossibly strong it'd be impossible to screw up. The Crüe done proved me wrong.

And then I heard this...thing. I don't know how I missed it at the time, but I'm surely glad I did. When the very best part of the entire monstrosity is the sight of Arsenio Hall raising an arm in triumph, you know it's what professional musicians refer to as "not good."

Now compare and contrast with this cover. Surely John Cale is nowhere near the sheer vocalist Axl Rose is. Both covers feature outstanding guitarists—Mike Campbell for the Petty/Rose performance, Andy Summer for Cale's. And frankly it's not like Cale's version is short on its ridiculous elements: either the trucker hat or the bowtie would be potentially embarrassing but together they should be beyond mortifying. Add in Cale's faceplant and it could easily have been a hot mess. Instead, it's riveting, disturbing and ramps up the darkness that was always obviously present—a major component, in fact—in Presley's version. It's exactly what a cover should be in the same way the Rose fiasco isn't.

Addendum thanks to the redoubtable Chris Barton via the comments:

Two drummers. They had two drummers. On this. Because Willie Nelson + Leon Russell + Mickey Raphael + Mickey Raphael's hair wasn't quite enough. 

1 comment:

  1. A little peppy, but a needed antidote: