The Way The Song Goes

Image courtesy

The four of us, at the time, existed from week to week on the praise of dozens…literally, dozens of people. It’s not like we were destined to sell out every major arena on the East Coast. It’s not like we packed a bar on any given Saturday night. What we did have was the ways and means and most importantly, the drive. The fact that no one cared didn’t stop us. Nor did the reality that we barely held together as a cohesive unit. We had no hook or signature song we would perform. We had attitude and talent, and more importantly, networking skills.

We were the opener for a big name live act that came out of Boston. We put on a festival/concert that featured every single musician we could find within 20 miles. We cut an album. As success went with the majority of local bands at the time, we were pretty fortunate. For the most part, we had our lead guitarist to thank for that. He was a musician second, but a pitchman first. He could schmooze with the best of them. He’s the kind of guy that would never forget a face or a name and would take great care in making you feel like a star…especially if it benefited him; a born salesman. Our little band had an “in” as far as finding work, but what were we selling? How did we become worthy of getting gigs on a regular basis? Well honestly, we did cover tunes. Now, I hear what you’re saying. “Every bar band does cover tunes!” True, but we did them in such a way that was rather distorted, slightly violated and colored in a slight shade of blue. That was our brand. Our claim to fame was that we played the tunes that were familiar to everyone, yet no band that we knew of was performing. In our repertoire:

  • A slightly “Country-fied” version of The Beatles’ Ticket To Ride (complete with naughty lyrics).
  • A version of The Guess Who’s American Woman (years before Lenny Kravitz ruined it) that was in the style of Tool.
  • A version of Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone performed West Coast Grunge style.

There were a few more like this, but none of them stepped up to the level of these three. Why did we do this? We promised each other at the beginning that if we were to do cover tunes, we were going to do them the right way and put our own spin on it. Which is how it should be. It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned pro or a weekend hack, it is your job as an artist to pick it up and bring it further than where you found it. That’s rock and roll. Figuratively speaking, that’s the way the song is supposed to go.

A few days ago, fellow blogger +Jenn Flynn-Shon addressed the situation that I’m sure more than one writer/blogger chews on regularly:

It’s all been done.

Why should I bother writing, blogging, creating, doing anything that involves putting the effort forth to express myself, if it’s all been done? Someone else has said it, sang it, wrote it, several times. Hundreds of times. Thousands. Millions. From time immemorial. I could jot down something witty that’s been bouncing in my head for weeks, but why bother? South Park did it. Simpsons did it first…ad nausem. Why bother?

Four knuckleheads with a boatload of talent got together one spring day in Portland, Maine and decided to make a band. Did we have our own material? No. Not yet, anyway. We all had good intentions, and grander visions when we first started, but in order to get there, we had to go through what every other band goes through: covering someone else’s material. If we were to do so, we were damned if we were going to do the same old, worn out material that everybody’s been doing for years. We were going to do things our way, and for a brief moment in history, people liked it. Yes, you may have heard it many times before, but never like how we played it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re doing a tired old cover of a song, or blogging about something that been diagnosed to death. “What does matter,” as Jenn Flynn-Shon points out, “is your voice.” And that, as they say, is all that matters.


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