Average cover band
If you have never heard of Robert Elms I would recommend you check out his radio show on BBC Radio London. He’s a music journalist and his show is all about the city of London and his love of music. For years it has been a favorite of mine.
Robert does a segment on the show called “cover to cover,” where he finds a song that has been covered by two different bands and then plays them back to back on the radio and then asks his audience to write and call in and tell him which one they think is best, and why.
The other week we were doing our own cover to cover at home and I was listening to a song that seemed really familiar but was somehow lacking soul. I asked my son Luca, resident music expert, “who’s this band doing Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven”?” turns out, that pretty average band was The Beatles!
Very early Beatles. I could not believe it. One of the biggest, if not the biggest, bands in the world, and here they were doing a pretty average cover song. Between 1963 and 1965 the Beatles recorded over 20 covers. Some better than others but to my ear, most were all just okay, mainly because it was clear these were stories about other people’s lives.
But, I started thinking about it, and I realized that perhaps — like in last week’s post — their goal was not to make a perfect version of another person’s song but to focus on what they could learn by playing those songs, how could they develop their own style, figuring out what could they borrow and how could they make it their own. Beyond 1965 they recorded over 30 more covers.
The Beatles seem to have had a continual growth mindset, learning techniques and styles from the best music they could find. They learned by covering almost impossibly good musicians — mostly Black blues and rock n’ roll artists — and molded what they learned into their own unmistakable sound and stories.
Next week find out how I played a video game and felt like I had become the god of war!
Listen to Robert Elms on the BBC
See challenges, not goals in action: Watch Luca hit top bins!