Ministry of Impossible: Dream Covers

All touring groups, even those who specialize in original songs, probably want to add a few covers (songs that are originally by other artists) to their repertoire. Sometimes covering a well-known song draws potential fans in to see you play while simultaneously displaying something about your style and influences. Different groups presumably have different processes, but none of the groups on the following list have ever landed on these songs. It’s a shame, because it is my personal opinion that they would have “totally nailed it.” Some of these bands are still together, and it is thus theoretically possible that they could potentially cover these songs later in their career. This remains to be seen. Some of these groups are now dead and cold in the ground like 14th President Franklin Pierce’s moldy old bones. They will never sing these perfect songs. And one term was plenty for Pierce, filthy lush that he was. To be fair, he did witness his son’s death in a horrible train accident. Why don’t we just leave him alone, okay?

I now present a by-no-means -inclusive list of Five Dream Covers. I’ll include an example of the band in question’s style, while including the actual song next to it. Just in case some of you don’t understand how Internet videos work.

Note: I was insanely close to including the Misfits covering Halloween anthem “Monster Mash.” Just out of curiosity, I typed “Misfits Monster Mash” into Google.

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It turns out they covered it already! It’s aggressively adequate. I’m not sure if Glenn Danzig was involved. Anyway. here’s the list:

5. The Ramones – “Help Me Rhonda”

For a band that relentlessly filtered 60’s pop through cheesy distortion, the Ramones barely touched the Beach Boys’ catalog. Sure, they covered “Do You Wanna Dance,” but it should be noted that the Beach Boys didn’t even write that song. Imagine Joey Ramone sinking his teeth into “Help Me Rhonda” with Johnny and Dee-Dee picking up the pace substantially. I can almost hear Tommy/Marky’s rolling toms now.

Here’s the Ramones.

And “Help Me Rhonda”

4. Titus Andronicus – “Love Comes in Spurts”

Speaking of punk icons, who better to cover Richard Hell’s classic disaffected punk anthem than the modern carriers of the “Blank Generation” ethos? Through several great records, Titus has chronicled the plight of the millennial human while laying bare the meaninglessness of it all. The song “Ecce Homo” begins “Okay, I think by now we’ve established that everything is inherently worthless.” Sounds like first-wave punk to me.

Here’s a standout track from Titus Andronicus’s pretty great record The Most Lamentable Tragedy.

Here’s Richard Hell.

3. Phish – “Thick as a Brick”

People are always comparing Phish to the Grateful Dead, and aside from the similarity in culture surrounding the group, I really don’t see it. The Dead owed a huge debt to bluegrass, country and folk music, while Phish was firmly in the progressive rock camp. The most obvious precursor to Phish from the classic-rock era, at least to me, was Jethro Tull. Their collegiate cheekiness and time signature-switches provides the best possible line to Phish’s unique style of music. Furthermore, Phish is a band that is known for “dressing up” as other groups and performing entire albums on Halloween. They’ve covered Dark Side of the Moon, Remain in Light (Talking Heads) and several others. Check out Phish’s “Guyute.”

And the first section of Tull’s Thick as a Brick.

2. Guided by Voices – “5:15”

GBV doesn’t really cover a whole lot of songs live. They have approximately 5 billion original tunes, and covers would really just waste time that could be filled with 4 tracks from Mag Earwig. That being said, a Who cover would be right in line with Bob Pollard’s anthemic, British-invasion-style rockers. Even Pollard’s microphone twirling is reminiscent of Roger Daltrey. “5:15” is a great track from Quadrophenia that tends to get overshadowed by the many, many other great Who songs. It’s a match made in heaven. Here’s GBV doing the power-pop gem “Glad Girls.”

Of course, here is “5:15”

1. The Hold Steady – “Born to Run”

Man, this would be awesome. The Hold Steady just might be the only group working right now who can match Springsteen’s authenticity and generosity toward his protagonists. Like Bruce’s classic records, The Hold Steady’s songs spin well-worn tales of redemption, sin and everything in between. Singer Craig Finn may not be able to match The Boss’s vocal range (and trademark howl), but the group backing him up are worthy successors to the E-Streeters.

Here’s one of the more “Springsteen-esque” Hold Steady tracks.

And here is “Born to Run,” just in case you’ve never heard it before.

Wow, this was fun, despite the fact that none of these dreams will ever be realized. The Ramones in particular are 100% dead (at least with respect to their original incarnation), so I think we’d all be plenty freaked out if they started releasing much of anything.

I guess then they could cover “Monster Mash,” just like the Misfits apparently did.

Any dream combinations floating around in your head? Share them here! Don’t be afraid to get weird with it.

Photo credit: By Plismo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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