Posts Tagged ‘The Velvet Underground’

Yo La Tengo is my favorite band.   If you’ve never heard them, I suggest you start with “I can hear the heart beating as one” or “And then nothing turned itself inside out.”   Though, as a side note, I cannot make any guarantee that you’ll care for them – I’m always surprised to find that many of my friends who otherwise love great music just can’t get into YLT.  While this discourages me at times, it’s also kind of cool because when I meet someone who loves YLT I know we’re going to be on the same page on a lot of fronts.

But the point of my post is not to extol the virtues of Yo La Tengo as much as to talk about the music they have covered.  Their covers aren’t necessarily groundbreaking, but they choose great music to cover, which makes them a great band to follow because they are constantly turning me on to music I otherwise would not have discovered.  So, with that, I present six great Yo La Tengo covers (or great songs Yo La Tengo has covered anyways) and the bands they helped me discover.

1) “A House is not a Motel” by Love


As mentioned in a previous post, Love is one of my all time favorites.  To be fair, I discovered Love independently of this song, but when I realized this cover was buried in YLT’s first album (“Ride the Tiger”) my already bloated estimations of both bands shot up measurably.  YLT’s version is actually pretty pedestrian – I much prefer Love’s version – but if you’d never heard the original then you’d love the cover, which was probably YLT’s intent at the time.

2) “I’m set free” by Velvet Underground


I knew, as I was getting into Yo La Tengo, that they were enormously inspired by the velvets, so I was eager to hear this cover when I first bought YLT’s “Genius + Love = Yo La Tengo.”  I must say that this cover, however, did little to stir up my interest in Velvet Underground- it basically sounded a bit underwhelming given everything I’d heard about the Velvets.  I eventually did dig into the Velvets, however, and learned to love them, and eventually learned to really love this cover.  In fact, as much as I love the Velvet Underground version, I think I might like the YLT version better (in full disclosure I should tell you however that I like YLT better than VU so take me with a grain of salt).

3) “Big Sky,” “Oklahoma, USA” and “Top of the Pops” by The Kinks


I loved “Big Sky” without realizing, for at least a few years, that it was a cover.  The first time I saw YLT in concert they covered “Top of the Pops,” partly in jest.  Still, it caused me to purchase an album that I did not begin to appreciate until many years later – “Lola vs. the Powerman & the Money-Go-Round, Pt. 1.”   Basically, it took me a long time to understand how good The Kinks became after their early mod stuff, which kept me captivated for a good long while.   When I finally did come around on “Lola” I really began to understand why YLT loves The Kinks so much.  When I bought “The Village Green Preservation Society” and realized that Big Sky was a Kinks song I felt mixed emotions – on the one hand I thought ‘damn YLT is cool’ and on the other hand ‘wait a minute, has YLT written any good songs of their own?’ (The answer is yes).  As for “Oklahoma, USA” I always knew it was a cover but didn’t think much of it until I finally bought “Muswell Hillbillies” and realized that it’s an incredible song, but that The Kinks version is way better

4) “Take Care” by Big Star

big star

I was already a Big Star fan when I heard this song, but I had never heard the album it’s from – “Sister Lovers”- nor had I heard this song.  This song is so gorgeous (both versions) that I knew I had to track it down as soon as I heard this cover.  The Big Star version is probably my favorite just for the crazy, drunken drumming, though Georgia Hubley’s voice addition to YLT’s version is pretty nectar.

5) “Too Late” by Wire


This cover did not cause me to investigate Wire nor did I realize, once again, that it was a cover tune.  When I did start to really get into Wire, I knew there was something super familiar about this tune, but I could not put my finger on what it was.   Finally, I came back around to listening to “Genius + Love” for the first time in a long time and made the connection.  Now I understand why YLT covered it, even if there’s nothing especially striking about their version.

6) “You Tore Me Down” by the Flaming Groovies

flaming groovies

This song did directly cause me to buy a couple Flaming Groovies records, and I like them quite a bit.  When Jana and I saw YLT in San Francisco a few years ago one of the guys from the Flaming Groovies came on to the stage to perform this tune with the band and it was a pretty cool scene.  Still, this one kind of sneaks in the list because the Flaming Groovies hardly shoot to the top of my mental list of favorite bands.

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