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Old 02-28-2005, 05:27 AM   #1
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Covering U2*

By Chris Prince

"We were the worst cover band in the world," The Edge is quoted as saying in Laura Jackson's "Bono: His Life, Music, and Passions." The Edge, his own biggest critic, can perhaps add the use of hyperbole to his large list of talents.

Nevertheless, he has a point. From the moment the members of U2 realized they had to write unique material in order to move on and improve, they had taken the first steps into eventually becoming not only "Rock's Hottest Ticket," but a band whose songs others would pay homage to, just as the four young Dubliners had done with songs by Thin Lizzy and The Eagles in its beginnings, according to The Edge during a web chat in 2001.

Over the course of their lifetime, U2 songs have been transformed into every conceivable style of music—from gospel to orchestral, and dance and techno remixes. Efforts from artists attempting to cover U2 songs, though, should come with a warning—results may vary. Fans wishing to indulge in other bands' renditions of their favorite U2 tunes should be prepared to take the good with the bad, not forgetting the heart-achingly cheesy.

Starring in the role as a favorite to be covered by all angles of the musical community is "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Cher who opened both her 1999 "Believe" and recent "Farewell" tours with a more up-tempo version of the U2 classic, performed with the inclusion of an electric guitar solo while Cher sat atop a chandelier. The group Negativland made its mark on the song in 1991 with its kazoo version but an injunction by Island Records prevented further distribution as the record company felt the song's cover artwork would mislead fans into thinking they were buying a new record by U2 itself.

Another "Joshua Tree" classic, "With or Without You" finds itself as another well-regarded cover song. In the film "Looking for Alibrandi," the song is performed by Hamish Cowan, lead singer of Australian band Cordazine. The most recent cover of this song was released in 2004—"LMC vs U2—sampling the song to produce the track "Take Me to the Clouds Above." Fundamentally a dance track with the infamous "With or Without You" bass lines combined with vocals from Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know,” the song was propelled to No. 1 in the United Kingdom.

"Where The Streets Have No Name" is another popular choice for cover artists. The Pet Shop Boys recorded its version, which also included snippets of Frankie Valli's "I Can't Take My Eyes Off You" during the chorus, for best of album "Discography" in 1991. Also released as a single, the high-energy, dance style of the song was a result of the Pet Shop Boys, according to liner notes for the ‘best of’ album, wanting to turn a "mythic rock song into a stomping disco record." As a response to the Pet Shop Boy's rendition, U2 released their own statement— "What have we done to deserve this?"

Another U2 great that has been covered by artists far and wide is "One." Of Johnny Cash's version, from the album "American III: Solitary Man," The Edge told Q magazine, "'One' took me by surprise. It was such a Johnny interpretation, so different. But that's what's so great about it—he really made it his…Those words, with that melody, with that voice: it was a lot to take in."

An interesting concept is U2 actually covering U2. At MTV's Rock ‘n' Roll Inaugural Ball for newly-elected U.S President Bill Clinton on Jan. 20, 1993, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. joined forces with R.E.M band members Michael Stipe and Mike Mills to create supergroup Automatic Baby for an acoustic performance of "One." Stipe and Mills covered the song again while on tour with R.E.M.

The popularity of U2's songs does not stop with rock and dance covers, however. Many songs have also made the passing across into classical music and similar fields. A standout moment from the 1988 film "Rattle and Hum" features U2 sitting in with the New Voices of Freedom gospel choir for a cover of "I Still Haven't Found." The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra released an entire album in 1999 of its reinterpretations of U2 classics, including "Two Hearts Beat As One" and "Even Better Than The Real Thing," entitled "The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Plays U2."

Country fans should look no further than the duo of 2001's "Pickin' on U2: A Bluegrass Tribute" and its sequel, "Pickin' on U2 2.' Like the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, this was produced as part of a series of tributes to some of the bigger bands that have come along over the years.

Heavy metal act Sepultura's 2003 cover of "Bullet the Blue Sky" worked well, with one of U2’s more politically motivated songs perfectly suited with the genre's innate angry and suppressed undertones, and another example of how U2's music has managed to cross into the most unlikely of genres.

Over the years there has been a wide range in the quality of U2 covers, from the genius of Johnny Cash's "One" to the surreal affect of the Pet Shop Boys' take on "Streets," yet no cover seems able to outdo the original, no cover band seems to beat U2 at its own game, at least to the band itself. "There's been a steady stream of bands covering U2 songs down the years, but I don't think any of the cover versions have been as successful as the originals,” remarked the Edge during a web chat. "I don't know what that says…We always encourage people interested in covering our songs, as long as they're not completely crap!"

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Old 03-06-2005, 09:52 AM   #2
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anyone heard the Joe Cocker cover of 'One'? it's a weird combo, but it's nifty
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