Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cover of the Week 99 -- Oliver's Army

One more to 100! Woohoo!

As this CoTW project progresses there should start to be a few artists who reappear, and some already have, some of the meat-and-potato foundations blocks of my musical education: Stones; Beatles; Neil Young; Tom Waits; Van Morrison; Replacements; Clash; and so on.

I have only done one other Elvis Costello song, as far as I recall. Well, here is maybe my favorite song from Elvis. I had no real idea of what the lyrics were about when I first heard it in early high school, even as I was learning in class about Oliver Cromwell. But the music is so powerful, influenced by Abba, according to Elvis and the various Attractions. If you listen to the original recording, you can detect bit of "Dancing Queen" in Steve's piano.

So what happens when you take the undeniable melodic hooks and harmonies of Swedish pop sensations and marry them to biting satirical (satire should always be biting) Costello lyrics about imperialism, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and a career in the military? Why, you get "Oliver's Army."

The brilliant lyric unfolds a few smooth double entendres like, "have you got yourself an occupation?" All of this is great stuff, but the music always has to hit me first. Even with Dylan, my favorite songs of his are the ones that I find musically compelling, then I listen to the lyrics. Lots of great poppy bands/artists grab me and pull me in on the music, only to repel me with lyrics. Elvis is at his best when he is firing on all cylinders. The harmonies have always delighted me. I hear harmonies naturally. Some people do not. Many people are great at countermelodies, like Chris Colbourn and Mike Mills. Me, I hear 2-part harmonies on almost every melody I hear. I want to put them on everything. It takes a studio full of others to hold me back. The Everlys, the Loudins, the Beatles, Mick and Keith, Gram and Emmylou -- gimme the harmonies!

I always start these covers thinking I am going to do something different. But not sure if I ever do enough interpretation. Same here; all I do is strip it down a little, I think.

Oliver's Army mp3

99 songs and this is only my second "O" title.



Aye, those O's are a problem. What about 'Octopus's Garden' or 'Orgasm Addict' or 'Oops I Did It Again'?


Anyway, thanks in advance for the songs, 100 of 'em. Cool beans.

Paul Daddario said...

Thanks for all the songs and stories Bill.

love this song; been following since the beginning; can't wait for the American tour for new album.

Jon said...

I detected a little "Tangerine" in the ending there...intentional?

christine said...

bill, my friend peter mulvey did a whole album of covers that he recorded in the subway in boston -- and oliver's army was one of them. it is by far one of my favorites. loved this one too. loving the blog.