Saturday, January 26, 2013

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Covers The Call's "Let the Day Begin"

I am not the first one to automatically jump on board with a cover-song.
When they are great, they are great. When they aren't....
...Wellllll, let's just say I am the kind of person who gets irate when people who don't know music credit a great tune to a bad band.
My take on covers is this: either honor the original like it was gospel, or learn it inside and out and make it your own.
BRMC has done justice to that ethic with their cover of The Call's 1989 hit "Let the Day Begin".

   I was an early-adopter of The Call. I was fortunate to grow up with a rock station that worried about great music before anything else so I was introduced to them as soon as they were introduced to record stores..
The Call was one of those bands you rooted for. You knew they were catchy enough, and wrote good enough songs to really get somewhere, but you also knew that they were different enough that their success would be secretly subversive.
They were a music snob's dream.
At first listen they sounded like an average bar-band with a wannabe-poet front man who could actually sing.
The thing was, Mike Been  had a fantastic voice-and he could write the fuck out of a song-without you realizing it. At first it sounded like someone bellowing a Tom Jones imitation-until you listened. All power but with true soul and honesty. Every word he sang was true to something-it dripped out of the speakers. It was startling and refreshing. From the drop they sounded accessible to all but it felt like they were playing to you.
   The band sounded and played what might seem like overly simplistic arrangements.  On closer listening they were experts who accompanied a virtuoso singer. These guys could play, but only an idiot would do more and risk not putting that voice out front. I learned a lot about being a sideman and arranging from absorbing that band over the years. There was no doubt once you became a fan that these guys had lightning in a bottle. You could just feel their impending success and you just knew they would be the same band no matter how many records they sold.
Then, something happened.
Well, three things actually.
First, in 1989 they released this song. Immediately it grabbed people. It was a combination of college rock honesty and good-old, down-home, pickup truck-driving Americana...and it was pure Rock and Roll to boot.
Second, as legend has it, the first 250,000 copies of the record containing this song FLEW off the shelves.
Third, (allegedly) the new guy at their record company decided he didn't like them and no more copies of the album were made.
Scuttled by their own 'people'.
They dropped off the radar, and even though they kept making music, their shot at massive success was dashed.
   There have been many stories I have read over the years-including that they were forbidden from playing much of their own music live due to the contract dispute because of the spiking of their hit album.
I am NOT going to delve into this as I don't have a lawyer and I just don't know what the real story was/is.
All I know is, one of my favorite bands at the time just vanished.
And now Mike Been is gone.
I was fortunate enough to see The Call in Tempe, AZ in late '89 or '90. I got to meet them and they were just nice guys....the first autographs I ever got. This was after the controversy and they were both well aware of their power and the fact that their shot at stardom was probably in the shitter. They joked about it with me. It was obvious they were pained by their 'misfortune' but it was equally obvious that they were pros and just wanted to play.

   Flash-forward over 20 years and suddenly I hear a familiar tune pouring out of my radio again-this time at the hands of a band I didn't instantly recognize (thanks, once again to It only took me a few seconds to decide I like it.
This is it.
Here it is.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club resurrecting a forgotten classic and making it their own.
I'm including the original at the bottom of the page.

P.S. One of the things that made this song so great and accessible isn't just the obvious power of Mike Been's voice, but the conviction with which he sings it. All of their songs are sung this way. In the hands of a lesser artist these words could seem hokey or contrived. Been is blatant in his sincerity. He isn't selling the song, he makes you want to buy into the message. And for good reason.


Anonymous said...

even when you´re not familiar with the BRMC - maybe doing a quick research would have made you aware that it is robert levon been singing there, paying tribute to his father who worked with them as a sound engineer...

The Drunken Scoundrel said...

I just heard the song and published the post off the top of my head. I don't do much bio stuff. I am about putting music out there and sometimes I throw in a little extra. That's why I include links, so if people want to get into gossip and trivia they can-plus it drives traffic to bands' sites as well. I haven't listened to either band in years. I BRMC had honestly dropped off my radar, thanks for the heads-up.

Anonymous said...

wouldn´t count that as gossip - and as you put quite a bit of 'the call' background into your post i thought it´d be a pretty essential bit of info. but hey... :)

The Drunken Scoundrel said...

Let me put it this way-if it isn't on the top of my head when I write it it doesn't go in-it's homework for the listener. Kind of like I make recommendations, I don't do reviews or criticism. The goal is to point you in the direction of something you might find interesting. Hopefully then you will take upon yourself to buy the music or go watch the band play. Primarily I am a broadcaster, not a 'journalist'. I leave that to people who want to be critics and journalists.