“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
That oft-quoted line from the 1995 film, The Usual Suspects, came to mind when I was thinking about some of my all-time favorite cover songs. Peculiar, I know, but I’ll try to explain. To me, the very best covers are the ones that you didn’t know to be covers at all. Songs that a particular performer covers with such conviction that you take it for granted that he or she may not have actually written said song. “Respect” by Aretha Franklin comes to mind. What? You thought she wrote that song? Sorry…
Take the above song, “Throw Your Arms Around Me,” for example. The song was originally written and performed by the Australian rock band, Hunters & Collectors. Were it not for Eddie Vedder’s cover of this song, I don’t think I would have ever heard it, or even Hunters & Collectors, for that matter. To this day, I could not tell you one other song that they sing. To be honest, I’m sure I was under the mistaken impression that this was indeed written by Vedder for quite some time before finding out that it was, in fact, a cover. Interestingly enough, Vedder’s first exposure to the song came way of Crowded House, who also covered “Throw Your Arms Around Me.”
The beauty of covering a somewhat obscure song is that the listener has no point of comparison. It’s a virgin song to the listener’s ears. There is no, “It’s ok, but the original is better.” As it turns out, as is the case with many Pearl Jam or Vedder covers, the original is not better. Not in my opinion, at least. Vedder’s emotional performance of this song adds to the already evocative lyrics. What at first sounds like little more than a passionate love song, turns out to be one with a bit of a darker side, concerned with the fleeting nature of love. Be it circumstance or choice is of little consequence. We’re here now…let’s not waste any time.
And we may never meet again
So shed your skin and let’s get started
And you will throw your arms around me
For more covers by Pearl Jam, arguably one of the best bands at covering songs, click here to see a post I put together a few months ago featuring 20 of my favorite covers by the band.