Run For Cover is a weekly music column comparing cover songs to the original version. Prepare for a major bending of rules as we hear musicians throw around genres, tempos, style, and intent. Whether they’re picking up another’s song out of respect or boredom, the results have impressed us.
The Zombies never seem to get as much attention as they deserve. The English rock band formed back in 1961 under pianist and singer Rod Argent and vocalist Colin Blunstone while the boys were still attending school. After winning a beat-group competition sponsoered by the London Evening News, the five-piece were signed to Decca. Shortly after, they dropped their first hit, “She’s Not There”. So the takeover began.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to show your true potential when the world is collectively swooning over The Beatles.
While The Zombies were another British Invasion group, their time in America was greeted less warmly that the others crossing the pond at that time. Still, their jazz-tinged numbers and breathy vocals clearly sparated them from their contemporaries. As the years passed, they began etching out more classic singles, including 1965’s “Tell Her No” and 1969’s “Time of the Season”, arguably their biggest hit to date. Perhaps it was their dark farewell, for they called it quits that same year.
The Zombies had a whole treasure trove of overlooked singles, including “Whenever You’re Ready”, their broken-hearted plea to mend broken relationships. What starts with a classic ’60s bassline all too similar to Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” soon makes way for upbeat strumming and light drumming on the cymbals. If you see them live nowadays on their reunion tours, you may hear them break it out. If so, pay attention to the end. Their half-shouted pleas sting despite the cushion of vocal harmonies playing out beneath them. At the very least, it’s a reminder of The Zombies place in music’s history.
Dinosaur Jr. have already solidified their spot in music history, too. After forming in our backyard over in Amherst during 1984, the trio was quick to garner attention. By the time the ’90s rolled around, Dinosaur Jr. had become a staple of the decade. Guitarist and singer J Mascis paired the intense with the despondent, matching his distinct classic rock guitar sound with a heavy sighing vocal tone. The high gain of his guitar tone and dependence on major feedback and distortion was immediately recognizable.
J Mascis alone has earned himself a spot in music history, if only for that epic white hair alone.
By the time the ’90s were done, Dinosaur Jr. had six albums in their back pocket. Family life called for a momentary hiatus, but their return to sound on 2007’s Beyond and 2009’s Farm was received warmly. The latter saw the band’s original lineup returning to that fizzy, monstrous, solo-lined sound fans found in You’re Living All Over Me. Mascis sounded mopey again. Lou Barlow sounded excited. Murph was rivaling his past self. The three were bringing a spark to the sound they created decades ago, only this time it felt unordinarily impassioned.
Dinosaur Jr. do a lot of covers. The Cure are just as likely to get some love from them as much as Peter Frampton is. Their Zombies cover on Farm, however, sees them toying a bit more with the song’s structure than their other nods. In paying homage to one of the Zombies lesser-known tracks, Dinosaur Jr. bleed their iconic fuzzy guitar tone over that same ’60s bassline. It sloshes back and forth, piling on the feedback until it washes over the drums, twisting it enough to make it their own without wandering too far from the original.
Sure, there’s no chipper harmonies in Dinosaur Jr.’s cover, but their take adds to the weighty topic thanks to stacks of amps blowing out every guitar part. The descending scale clipped to the end of each verse hits hard, particularly when paired with Mascis’ guitar solo at the end. There’s no jazzy lightness to the cover, but the British undertone is there. Dinosaur Jr. are willing to sound different. Sure, it may be the same style that they always have, but the change in song structure lends nicely to hear where the group get their influences — or how they imagine the ’60s could sound if they bought more amps.