You Can’t Always Get What You Want – Exuma

Exuma’s cover of You Can’t Always Get What You Want is taken from his 1973 album Life. Exuma, aka Tony Mckay, was a Bahamian musician whose musical persona was inpired by Obeah, an ancestrally inherited system of spiritual and healing practices developed among enslaved West Africans. After moving to New York at seventeen to study architecture, McKay ran out of money and after being lent an old acoustic guitar he began singing old Bahamian calypsos and writing poetry. One of these poems went on to become the song Brown Girl In The Ring, a worldwide hit for Boney M in 1978. Nina Simone later covered the Exuma track Obeah Man, reinterpretng it as Obeah Woman.

Describing his process of musical creativity, McKay said “I try to be a story-teller, a musical doctor, one who brings musical vibrations from the universal spiritual plane through my guitar strings and my voice. I want to bring some good energy to the people. My whole first album came to me in a dream”.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want originally appeared on the Rolling Stones 1969 album Let It Bleed.

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Paint It Black – Africa

Africa’s cover of Paint It Black appeared on their only album Music from ‘Lil Brown’, produced by Lou Adler and released in 1968. ‘Lil Brown’ was the name the group gave to the children’s playhouse where they rehearsed, and is a nod to The Band’s album Music from Big Pink released that same year. Members of Africa later became a part of the Brothers And Sisters Of Los Angeles. Paint It Black was originally released as a single by the Rolling Stones in 1966 and subsequently appeared as the opening track on Aftermath, the first Rolling Stones album to feature all original compositions.

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Southern Man – Merry Clayton

Merry Clayton’s cover of Neil Young‘s Southern Man originally appeared on her third eponymous 1971 album Merry Clayton. Merry was introduced to the song by producer Lou Adler and said of her decision to record her version:

“Neil was such a wonderful gentleman, and I just really adored him…I read the lyrics and it was during those terrible racial times in the United States; Dr. King had just been killed, our leader was gone, and it was a highly racial time, not just for black people, but for everybody in the world. We had the Vietnam War going on at the time; our boys were going to war and being killed. People were dying in the street. The police were kicking everybody’s behind…We had a lot going on. It wasn’t just in Texas and Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi; it was all over, you know? My family is part Creole, and we’re Indian and we’re also very, very black. My father was so black, he was blue. [Laughs.] So we knew about the Southern situations. I mean the auction blocks were in New Orleans where they sold slaves. I knew all the history because my father and my parents would tell us. We’d sit around on Saturday and get birthed on the history of black people and the upbringing and how to be ladies and the whole thing. But this “Southern Man” thing was a time in my life where a lot of my family and a lot of people were able to picket and say no to things that were going on. But I didn’t think I had the platform to do that. As it turned out, I had the biggest platform there was through the music. So my music became my protest.”

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Son of a Preacher Man – The Gaylettes

Judy Mowatt was just 18 years old when she recorded this cover of Son of a Preacher Man with the Gaylettes in 1970. Three years later she joined Rita Marley and Marcia Griffiths as the I Threes, backing vocalists for Bob Marley and The Wailers.

Son of a Preacher Man was written by American songwriters John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins with Aretha Franklin in mind. Though it was British singer Dusty Springfield who first scored a hit with the song in 1968, Aretha recorded her own version a year later.

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Go With The Flow – Olivier Lebaux and Emiliana Torrini

This cover of Go With The Flow appeared on the 2013 album Uncovered Queens of the Stone Age (Music for Music Lovers) released by the late French producer and musician Olivier Libaux, who was also a founding member of Nouvelle Vague. Emiliana Torrini is an Icelandic singer best known for the 2009 hit single Jungle Drum.

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Let There Be Rock – D/Troit

Danish neo-soul band D/Troit’s funky cover of AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock was the B-Side of their 2019 single Let Me Put My Love Into You. Let There Be Rock is the title track of AC/DC’s fourth studio album, released in 1977.

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Man on the Moon – !!! (Chk Chk Chk)

New York based !!! (pronounced chk chk chk) released their cover of R.E.M’s Man on the Moon to stream and download in 2021, with lead singer Nic Offer saying:

“R.E.M was known as the killer house party band in Athens, years before they became MTV darlings. We have re-imagined their hit ‘Man on the Moon’ as something they would play at those house parties, in the thick of the James Brown/Ohio Players sample era.”

Man on the Moon, a tribute to comedian and performer Andy Kaufman, originally appeared on R.E.M’s 1992 album Automatic For The People.

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Kung Fu Fighting – King Uszniewicz and his Uszniewicztones

King Uszniewicz And His Uszniewicztones were a fictitious bowling alley/lounge band created as a prank by Detroit musician Cub Koda in the late eighties. Koda had previously fronted the group Brownsville Station, best known for their 1974 hit Smokin’ In The Boys Room (which was a hit again in 1985 when it was covered by Mötley Crüe). Cub and his road crew secretly recorded as the horrible-sounding oldies band; and to insure their songs sounded authentically bad, the rule was that no one could play their instrument of choice, with Cub taking on the sax-slaughtering solos of bandleader Ernie Uszniewicz. This cover of Carl Douglas’s 1974 disco hit Kung Fu Fighting is taken from their 1994 album Doin’ The Woo Hoo With King Uszniewicz And His Uszniewicztones.

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Garbageman – William Shatner

Shatner covers The Cramps on this surprisingly gnarly, neon yellow, limited to 1200 copies, Record Store Day release from 2019. Garbageman was first released by The Cramps as a single in 1980 and is based on a 1962 instrumental track called Boss by The Rumblers.

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Waiting Room – The Blue Ribbon Glee Club

The Blue Ribbon Glee Club is a Chicago-based a capella group performing covers of classic punk rock songs. Their version of Fugazi’s Waiting Room is taken from their brilliant 2009 EP A Cappella Über Alles. Waiting Room first appeared on Fugazi’s debut EP 7 Songs in 1988.

The lyrics of Waiting Room, written before Fugazi were formed, are all about (Fugazi singer) Ian MacKaye’s waiting for the right band to join, and not wasting time on bands he knows will be a waste of his effort and ambition.

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Purple Rain – Leroy Justice

Prince’s Purple Rain covered by the now defunct New York City based southern rock band Leroy Justice, circa 2016. I first came across an incredible live version of this track that has since disappeared from YouTube. Singer Jason Gallagher now writes and produces music for TV and film.

The title track of Prince’s sixth album, Purple Rain was originally written as a country song, intended to be a collaboration with Stevie Nicks. According to Nicks, she received a 10-minute instrumental version of the song from Prince with a request to write the lyrics, but she felt overwhelmed and declined the invitation. The inspiration to try a different musical approach to the song came from Revolution guitarist Wendy Melvoin. Echoing the apocaplyptic theme of 1999, Prince explained the meaning of the song’s title and lyrics as “When there’s blood in the sky… red and blue = purple. Purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/God guide you through the purple rain.”

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