America Years Ago
by Dan
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.



Big Deal - "13 (Big Star Cover)"

When I received a cover of Big Star's "Thirteen" today, I thought, "oh, that's a nice one, plus we have a strong history of posting covers of 'Thirteen'." So I went into the archives. It seems back in June of 2004, Sean posted a version by Kathryn Williams featuring "the only non-atrocious use of bongos I can remember". In July of 2005, Jordan posted a Kind of Like Spitting version, which he compared to both the Elliot Smith version and the original. In his review Jordan goes into minute detail about differences in the libretto, and their subtle effects on the song's personality, which is funny to read. Then not even a month later, Jordan focused on the original entirely, comparing Alex Chilton to Cher. But then, that was it. Turns out we missed about 7 other versions.

There's the version by Garbage, which is a real nice video-time-capsule of what it probably would have felt like to walk around inside MySpace. And the Håkan Hellström version, which is notable for its linguistic qualities, "so I can shake you" is apparently not translatable. The Resentments do a version, which, when sung with this kind of world-weary gravel, gives the adolescent lyrics a bit of a pedo quality ("tell your dad get off my back", maybe he's not the wrong one here). The Wilco version is only interesting because he made a cover sound like a song he wrote. Mary Lou Lord and Evan Dando both have versions, neither of which I will ever listen to again. And then, it turns out Beth Orton & Sam Amidon did a version earlier this year, and it sounds remarkably like the first one I posted today. Although Big Deal sound a bit more xx-y than Orton & Amidon, both have that hollow center, that whistling echo.

Now while I like the Big Deal version, this little journey has left me feeling more ambivalent towards this song than ever. Like when the repetition of a word makes it feel meaningless. It just made me wonder how many Spider-Man reboots I will live to see. 20? It might be as high as 20.

[Buy Big Deal]
[Buy Big Star]

Posted by Dan at October 29, 2010 4:53 PM

Every song has a limit to how many times it can be heard. You'll just have to give it a few months/years. Unless you were always ambivalent toward the song, in which case, don't bother, because you have somehow never in your life felt the emotions the song expresses.

Posted by bryce at October 31, 2010 11:46 PM

hi. this is my first post on your website, so i'm kind of nervous...
this is the first time i've ever even heard this song, and
Big Deal - "13 (Big Star Cover)" is the first version i've ever heard of it. i like it so much, i'm not sure i want to listen to any of the others.

Posted by daniel at November 2, 2010 12:50 AM

bryce - that comment really took a turn at the end.

daniel - you don't have to! they're there, but I would never insist on it.

Posted by dan at November 2, 2010 2:53 AM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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