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Under The Covers Goes Ska

Under The Covers Goes Ska

Under the Covers Goes Ska!

In Under The Covers Vol. 4, one of the covers was “Come On Eileen”. I love both versions of the song, but it got me thinking about how I missed the summers of 1997-98 when ska was popular. That, in turn, got me thinking of other ska covers. Thus UTC Goes Ska was born. In this installment we have Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, Goldfinger and Smashmouth.

Reel Big Fish — “Take On Me” (a-ha)

“Take On Me” is the first, and arguably the best, track off a-ha’s debut album Hunting High And Low. This record sold over eight million copies worldwide, and propelled a-ha to fame. Reel Big Fish covered this song for the 1998 film BASEketball.

Original Version

Cover by Reel Big Fish

Which Is Better?

While I love the original, I have to give it to Reel Big Fish on this one. The up-tempo rendition and tight horns make me rock out and chair dance at work every time. I will give the nod to the original video, however.

Goldfinger — “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday” (Spiral Staircase)

A one hit wonder in 1969, “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday” peaked at #12 on the Billboard Charts. Soon after, Spiral Staircase broke up and went their separate ways. Goldfinger followed suit like many ska bands of the era and covered this song for the 1998 film The Waterboy.

Original Version

Cover by Goldfinger

Which Is Better?

Goldfinger does the song a solid, but I love the original. It settles into a steady but staccato groove, the bass line is funkier and the horns swing it a bit better. Goldfinger does a great job, but I don’t think the punk breakdowns in the “but darling, not as much” parts of the chorus fit.

Smash Mouth — “Why Can’t We Be Friends” (War)

“Why Can’t We Be Friends” is the title track off War’s 1975 album. The better known single off the album was “Lowrider”. War is known for an almost unrefined style blending funk, jazz, reggae and R&B.  They were also known for being a multiracial band in an era where that was a rarity. This track topped the Billboard Charts at #8. Smash Mouth, more known for a pop/rock sound, originally started as a ska band. This song was also featured on 1998 film BASEketball.

Original Version

Cover by Smash Mouth

Which Is Better?

Smash Mouth wins this one. The opening guitar leads into a steady rocking version. It slows back down and brings that same guitar back to close it out. I’m a fan of “lo-fi” to a point, but War’s version is more sloppy than “lo-fi”. I could deal with that if it was a live record, but do a few takes in the studio so the piano’s opening riff is right and the saxophone doesn’t squeak.

Less Than Jake — “I Think I Love You” (The Partridge Family)

This song was featured on the first season of The Partridge Family and eventually made it to #1 on the Billboard Charts. Numerous artists have given this song a go over the years, but the ska version made an appearance on the soundtrack to the 1997 film Scream 2.

Original Version

Cover by Less Than Jake

Which Is Better?

Although at times it sounds a bit like scary carnival music, the original wins out for me. It has more musical integrity. Less Than Jake’s version feels like the same old punk song: power chord, repeat, one two drumbeat repeat. The horn line gives it a little bit of depth, but that is not enough.

Reel Big Fish — “New York, New York” (Frank Sinatra Liza Minnelli)

The only cover to not make an appearance on a 1990s soundtrack is Reel Big Fish’s cover of “New York, New York”. Ironically, Minnelli’s version was the theme song for Martin Scorsese’s 1977 film New York, New York. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a Frank Sinatra original but a cover itself. I know, your mind is blown.

Original Version

Cover by Reel Big Fish

Which Is Better?

This was by far the toughest. The original version is classic, iconic and timeless. It is the quintessential standard. Huge horns, classy orchestration, and a swinging rhythm section. Reel Big Fish’s version is a cappella, save for a jazzy brush snare in the background. From a band with such hits as “Another F U Song” (I’m sure you can deduce what THAT means) and “Your Guts (I Hate Em)” comes a refined, pretty classy version. I believe this song showcases the talent Reel Big Fish has. I loved Liza in the original 1981 film Arthur, but she didn’t have a singing role in that. This one goes to the RBF.

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3 Responses to Under The Covers Goes Ska


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