Ex Die in Diem


Cover (Version)

Another Sunday, another ramble…

This week, I bought Wagon Wheel, by Old Crow Medicine Show. If you don’t know anything about this song, first go and download and listen to it, and come back when it’s finished.

Back? What did you think? I know, right? Can you believe it came out in ‘04?

Now, this song has a story behind it, of which there exist many and varied retellings. This is mine:

A young man was listening to tapes of some recording sessions featuring Bob Dylan, and hears the man himself mumbling out the chorus to a song the young man has never heard. After some investigation, the young man finds that the song was never recorded because it was never finished: Dylan had made up this chorus based on some snatches of lyrics he’d heard when he was young.

The hero of our piece, being young and filled with hubris, decides that the best course of action when faced with a song unfinished by his musical idol is to finish it off himself. Having done so, our troubadour starts playing his new song wherever he goes, only thinking to check up on copyright when his band, the Old Crow Medicine Show, put this song down for the world to hear.

The Result? Wagon Wheel, by Secor and Dylan.

And so I meander towards the title of this post: Wagon Wheel amounts to a cover, but expanded on and interpreted to a degree unusual in a cover version. This got me thinking about cover versions, and how I feel about them.

I’ve got a lot of covers in my record collection: from Groove Coverage’s version of Poison(awful, in case you’re wondering) to Glen Campbell’s cover of Good Riddance (Epic), and of course everything by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. I think one thing unifies these for me, though: I tend to prefer the original. There are undoubtedly lots of awesome covers, better than the originals in a variety of ways, but I think they’re still the minority. I even prefer Dolly’s I Will Always Love You.

See you next week.

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