Is there a song you'd like to hear someone cover? I'm your man. I can never promise quality. And I certainly can't promise you'll like it. So suggest a song and if I pick it, you'll hear my interpretation.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

July's Cover

So this thing has hit a wall, huh? It's not you guys, it's me. I'm liking the cover challenge. It's surprised me. I've learned of new songs/bands, and even uncovered (get it... un...COVERED) some new ideas about recording and such. And though life has been pretty hectic lately, it's about to get hecticocitified by a trillion billion. Though, I vow to have a cover done in July. All 1 week of it. But the suggestion does come from last months comments. And just so you know, I have had a few other suggestions. But I'm not going to post them now because there weren't many. Not for the want of quality of the suggestions. Some very cool, very unique suggestions (Sorry, Joe).

But this month gets a heapin' helpin' of me vs. Terence Trent D'arby. My sister suggested this jam. She had the record when it came out and played it like crazy. Is that the chick from Law and Order in the video? I hope so. That's one hell of a resume, if it is.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

You can't do that!

Like hell I can't! It's my cover challenge blog and I'll cry if I want to.

So the deal is I had something very specific in mind for "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes". But I may need to take a counterpoint class before I start thinking I'm Brian Wilson. So about the 20th of June I realized it wasn't going to happen. Do I pick a song from the list? Do I just cover any old song I want? Then my weekends were gobbled up with my graduation and other exciting morsels and I had run out time. So all you get is this golden oldie. And when I saw "all" I mean, "you totally win".

In the spring of 2001 I was living with a friend in Mesa. I don't remember all the specifics, but for some reason I used a bunch of instruments that don't belong to me. And "a bunch" is really just a guitar and keyboard. The guitar was a nylon string that belonged to my friend Jon. We both loved the way it sounded, but you could never get it to stay in tune for an entire song. But intonation is optional and this song wouldn't be the same with a regular guitar. The keyboard is from my nephew, Alec. He was 6 or 7 at the time and was too old for this baby toy. I inherited it and put it to extraordinary use on this magic jam.

The song is a cover of "Let's Twist Again" by Chubby Checker. The lyrics are from memory as I was playing and singing kind of free-form. Then I overdubbed some keyboard chops that are sure to blow a mind or two. The background vox were more of a mistake. I think I was singing along while I was waiting for my big keyboard solo. When I went to mix down the song I left them in because they're kind of quaint. Like a country kitchen. Imperfect but homey. Enjoy.

Let's Twist Again by Eric VanAusdal

Sunday, June 6, 2010

June's Challenge

1) Simple Minds with Don't You (Forget About Me). It's taken me 700 years to like The Breakfast Club. And even though Ferris Bueller's Day Off is far superior, the soundtrack to TBC is immense.
2) Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys with any song of my choosing. I remember working at Virgin and Willie Nelson had an album of Bob Wills songs. My first question was "who the F is that?". Then I saw the beautiful Nora Jones do one of the songs on Letterman with a start studded band of people I don't remember. But Bob Wills now just makes me think of my brother, who wants to be one of Bob's Texas Playboys.
3) ZZ Top with I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide. This request came with special instructions - which is totally allowed. The instructions are to do this song in the vein of some Dwight Yoakum Bakersfield sound. Very interesting. This is the first of 3 tunes I had to look up because I was not familiar with it.
4) Duran Duran with Rio. You don't grow up in the VanAusdal household in the 80's without a heavy diet of Duran Duran blasting from your sister's Hi-Fi.
5) Some Velvet Morning with When I'm Straight. The second song I had to look up. But couldn't find a copy of it for review. This may be the best song ever written, but I'll never know.
6) M with Pop Music. In the late 90's when this song was getting played on VH1 and enjoyed an ironic resurgence, I actually was legitimately in to it. One of my favorite sounds is disinterested female backing vox. Think The Rentals. The less emotion, the better.
7) Throbbing Gristle with Something Came Over Me. The great thing about this dirty band name is this dirty song. The third song I had to look up to review. I love pop/rock with deceptively dirty lyrics. The idea of people driving around unknowingly singing dirty stuff is hilarious.
8) Gene Clark with Why Not Your Baby. This is a great song. Mopey and saturated with great vox.
9) Dio with Don't talk to Strangers. This was suggested as a way to pay respects to RJD himself. I should combine efforts and do change the lyrics of "Rio" to "Dio". "His name is Dio and his rides on tigers".
10) Gershwin with any song of my choosing. Gershwin. Talentless hack. Joking of course. But which song? Yikes. Kid in a candy shop, for sure.
11) A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes by Cinderella. Not that ridiculous hair band, the actual Disney broad. But how bad ass would it be if they did this song?
12) Prince with Paisley Park. In only 3 months of doing the challenge I've had like 5 Prince suggestions. How awesome is that?

And the winner is...

I've actually kicked around the idea of covering this song for a few years now. It's such a killer melody. I have big things in my head for this. Which means I'll end up changing direction after 10 minutes and do something different. But if I can do what I hear in my head with it, this should end up being totally radical to the max.

But now for the lame news. This may be a June/July submission. Things at the VanAusdal casita have gotten very busy lately. Free time is at a minimum. It may take me 2 months to nickel and dime a full cover out of this. So don't give up on me. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cover Girl

I bought the New Kids on the Block cd back in 2002. They had it used at Zia for like $2.99. At that price, you can't afford to not own it. As I drove home that day, I listened to the album front to back. The first thing that struck me was the low quality of the production. Like they went to Target and bought some First Act keyboards. The next thing that struck me was "Cover Girl". I didn't remember that song. I only knew what was showcased on MTV and I'm not sure this ever had a video. You can see a performance (???) on the New Kids concert videos, though.

So it was a good choice for me. One of their deeper cuts, if you will. And I promise to do my next cover a little straighter. Or not. Sometimes you can't help what you do.

Let me know how you like it/hate it. I'm interested. And be sure to suggest a song for June's cover contest. We're off to a great start.

My cover:
Cover Girl (New Kids on the Block cover) by Eric VanAusdal

The original:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Progress Report #1 (Cover Girl)

When I pick a song for the Cover Challenge it's mostly due to how immediate I hear myself doing it. Kind of a "ooh! I could do a _______ version of this song". But with last month's The Trooper I went from Pet Sounds era Beach Boys to late 60's Kinks to something else (all I know is it didn't end up sounding like the Kinks). The same thing is happening with this month. When I picked the song I wanted to do it pretty straight. Give it some dirty, sloppy guitar and scratchy synth, but it would be basically everything you hear on the original.

Well, I got most of the guitar/bass down this afternoon and then just scrapped it.

I'm really pleased with how it sounds, but it does feel like cheating. The original melody is kind of weird and harder to sing than you'd think. It's to the point where the record just doesn't sound right. So either they were breaking ground melodically or they were just rushing to get product in the stores.

But I'm not beating them down. I once lived with a guy that was a GREAT musician. He was a performance major at ASU and in one of his composition classes everyone was giving country music a hard time. You've got to understand these are kids that would play the same 6 measures of a classical piece over and over again for 4 hours. Simple country music was beneath them. So their professor challenged them with a "If it's so easy, then you do it. You each need to have one country song in by next week". So my friend told me everyone in the class struggled with the assignment. Few of them actually even finished it.

Pop music is in the same vein. The New Kids, Backstreet Boys, Justin Bieber, etc get a hard rap from the music community. It gets ragged on for being simple. But the same rule applies: If you think it's so easy, then you write a mindless pop song that sells millions. And sure, the intense marketing helps these guys out. But for every bubble gum pop success there are 5 other acts that had the same marketing budget. But for whatever reason, a song like "Hangin' Tough" clicks and you can sing it 20 years later.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May's Cover is...

In 3rd grade I was already settling in to my role as the uncultured/uncool kid. The defining moment was when I told Lori Whatshername "The New Kids on the Block suck!". To which she responded, "You suck!". Touché. I don't remember why I told her they suck. I'm positive I didn't just say it out of nowhere, but it's still pretty lame to rip on her boys like that. I guess I deserved what I got.

10 years later Lori was in my graduating class at Ironwood. I made sure to tell her at least once a month that I was ahead of the curve on that New Kids sentiment. She'd stand by her boys, though. And that's something I've learned about the New Kids: Staying power. Almost 20 years later and they are quite literally hangin' tough. Their current tour has been a success and they're working on a new album.

I was kind of given a blank check with this one. And when you have one NKOTB jam to rock, you have to go with Cover Girl. I think the band's manager, Maurice Starr, is partly responsible for this song. One or two other New Kids had a hand in writing this. Which is kind of amazing, because some of the lyrics are totally weird. Weird enough to make you wonder why nobody spoke up. i.e. "I get up in the morning and I see your face, girl / You're looking so good, everything's in place". Everything's in place? WTF?

If you're not familiar with this song, watch this strange clip.

The little girl in this video will grow up to be in a "Friends" Ripoff.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May's Challenge

1) Working Class Hero by John Lennon. John Lennon does a great cover of this Green Day classic.
2) Kiss From a Rose by Seal. I've always loved the melody on this song. From that magical time when soundtracks made more money than the crappy movies they supported.
3) I Wanna Pick You Up by The Beach Boys. Stop what you're doing and throw this up on the YouTube. I'd never heard it before. It's crazy, sweet, and still totally brilliant.
4) Some Song by R.E.M.. Sorry. I can't remember the name of this song. Joe will correct me and I'll fix this tomorrow.
5) Manic Monday by The Bangles. This is the first of a few great tunes penned by Prince. And the Bangles had it going on. Hotties with Rickenbackers? I'll take 4, please.
6) Sexy M.F. by Prince. The irony of me performing this song is not lost on anyone.
7) Morning Train by Sheena Easton. Or, if you're from across the pond, "9 to 5" by Sheena Easton. They had to change the name in the States so people wouldn't go to record stores for Sheena and end up with Dolly. But it's a win/win, really.
8) Slide It In by Whitesnake. When my brother-in-law suggested this song, I thought he made it up. Too perfect. But silly me in forgetting that 80's rock made a living out of crossing every imaginable line. This song is very real.
9) Suspicious Minds by Elvis Presley. If you ask my wife, this is the "we caught a trout" song, Which is awesome. It was a favorite when my dad would play his Elvis tape.
10) "Anything" by New Kids on the Block. Though they may have a song called "anything", this suggestion was more about me getting to pick anything from their vast, respected catalog. Kid in a candy store.
11) Disco Duck by Rick Dees. A testament to the fact that Americans will buy ANYTHING.
12) Besame Mucho by Various. I wanted to say that it was by "Various Rucker", but people probably wouldn't get that I was making a joke. Or it's just a dumb joke. This song has been covered by everyone. It also failed to land the Beatles a record deal. I'm looking at you, Decca.
13) Eternal Flame by The Bangles. Yum. More Susanna. I made a cd for my wife when she was in college. It was songs you'd hear in Cost Cutters or the Dentist. This track was on that disc and it was just as killer then.
14) Southern Nights by Glen Campbell. When the Rhinestone Cowboy isn't getting arrested in Phoenix for being out of his mind on fire water, he's slinging praises to those southern nights. Or doing concerts on PBS.
15) Sugar Shack by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs. If you've ever wondered why people went so bonkers for the Beatles in '63, listen to this track. The oldies station in town used to play this song a lot. I can only imagine what the beatniks thought about this song. But as much as it sounds like I'm ripping the song, I'd love to know how to get that bass sound.
16) Reading Rainbow Theme Song by Death Star. I don't know who actually did the song. Death Star would be a great name for them, though. And we're talking about the old school version. They've since changed the theme song. Same song, lamer version.
17) Diamonds and Pearls by Prince. I originally thought this track was the end of the funky Prince. But if you get the extended single for Diamonds and Pearls you'll see he still had the funk-o-meter dialed up to 11.
18) Raspberry Beret by Prince. The fourth (technically) Prince song and another absolute jam. One of my earliest memories is sitting in my oldest sister's room listening to music. Either Raspberry Beret or Yaz's "Only You" was my first favorite song.

Great suggestions everyone! I'll have my selection posted tomorrow!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Trooper

Iron Maiden is one of those bands everyone has heard of, but most people can't name 3 songs. Which is equal parts impressive and intriguing. Did we just see the album covers the Warehouse (Where? The Warehouse) or the mustachioed rockers with the t-shirts at school? The kid that only listens to music parents don't like. Your Nine Inches of Nails, The Panteras, Seventura, etc. Probably had the "jans" and "r" on his Jansport backpack marked out so it just said "po t".

Anyway, this song intrigued me because I never listened to the lyrics until recently. Now when I'm not taking requests for cover songs I'm usually recording my own material. I'm working on writing and recording a little E.P. of songs that deal with historical events/people. And whadya know? This song deals with historical events!

The song is from the perspective of a British soldier in the Crimean War. Writer/Maiden bassist Steve Harris draws on Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem "The Change of the Light Brigade". This is the poem that gives us the phrase "Mine is not to reason why, mine is but to do or die" (though it's featured in the poem as "theirs not to reason why/theirs but to do and die"). Which, for years, I thought was something my dad made up.

But this gets me back to my original point about Iron Maiden scaring parents. Why? What an incredible opportunity to get kids interested in literature and history. Maybe it's a little too Mr. Holland's Opus to incorporate Iron Maiden in to the classroom, but seems like a missed opportunity to me.

For the actual cover my first thought was Beach Boys "Don't Worry Baby". I thought the chorus for The Trooper was too big and melodious to pass. But I ran in to trouble with the verses so I ditched that idea. Then I went for a Kinks "Sunny Afternoon" approach. Which was fun, but has since veered off that path. The guitar parts come off sounding a little Baja. Which isn't bad, but I can't think of any Kinks tunes with Baja guitar. In fact, the other night I realized the riff at the end is basically "Besame Mucho".

I previewed the song for my brother on Friday. He was the person that made the actual suggestion, by the way. And no, this challenge isn't going to be all about nepotism. Anywho, he politely pointed out that the line is not "You'll fire your musket but I'll run right through". It's "You'll fire your musket but I'll run you through". It's one word, but it's changes the line significantly. Instead of being a bad ass response to someone shooting at you it becomes more of a playground taunt during a red-hot game of Red Rover. I would have re-recorded that line, but I'd screw up the mic setting and it would sound different than the other lines. Sigh.

I called in for backup from my friend Michael. He's super talented and wicked friendly so I reached out for help on a drum pattern. After some solid advice and feedback, he agreed to add a little mellotron, strings, and space noises. Which was particularly helpful because there's a breakdown about 3/4 through the song that had me stumped. And the lame drum pattern is my fault. I didn't have time to incorporate his suggestion, so don't blame him for it.

Technically speaking, it's my most meticulous mix. Which means I spent an hour or two on it. Michael another friend Bryn spend more time mixing than tracking ( I think), which is why their songs end up sounding so good. One time I got an email from Bryn saying that his plans for the day were limited to "mixing a song". The day?!?!?! Holy crap. But it pays off when you listen to his stuff. The fact is that I really have no idea how to do it that well. I'm learning, but this is the best you're going to get. I was more careful when tracking to stay away from ANY clipping. Sometimes I'll get in the red for just one or two hits and let it slide. But I stayed away from that this time. Then for the actual mix I really brought everything down. The vocals are at about -3 db and I think they're the loudest track. It's panned pretty tight. I used to keep things pretty open but I'm trying to learn how to tow the line of being crowded and being tight. After I bounced it out of Garageband I normalized it... some-odd percent... to make up for how quiet it was. Which may or may not have been a mistake. I'm sure the experienced people will chime in on that issue. Which reminds me... please do chime in.

Whether you love this or hate it. Or if you're in between. Let me know. I'm hoping for some crazy suggestions and I plan on doing some strange arrangements. We're bound to not agree with the direction I take. I don't take it personally and I'll probably be laughing at the really harsh stuff. I imagine this is a cover most Iron Maiden fans will not be pleased with. Which wasn't my goal, just some unfortunate collateral damage. But it's no big deal. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. So open up and share the cover challenge with your friends, family, lunch bunch, nerd herd, mailman, gunnery sergeant, the Progressive lady, whoever.

Without further ado, here is the Eric VanAusdal cover of Iron Maiden's "The Trooper":
The Trooper by Eric VanAusdal

For comparison, here's the original:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Late on the first day????

When I was 20 I worked at the Virgin Megastore as a cashier. Probably the most fun I've had at a job. After about 6 months I did something right (?) and got a job in the cash office. I was pumped. But the morning of my first day on the job I was up at 4 AM throwing up. But you don't call out on the first day. So I grabbed my keys, a sleeve of saltines and got my learn on.

Why am I telling this story? Because how far I've fallen. It's the first month of the cover challenge and I think I'm going to be late. I'm not absolutely sure, but there's a very good chance I'll be late.

But don't let that upset you. I'll be posting the song soon and either way, I'll be asking for new suggestions soon.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Progress Report 1

So when I picked "The Trooper", I immediately heard a certain style in my head. I was really excited about taking the song in that direction, but... well... I've changed my mind. Originally, I wanted a Pet Sounds era Beach Boys vibe. Especially with that wordless chorus. It seemed like such a perfect fit and it was shocking nobody bothered to do it like that before. But as I tried to construct the verses in the vein of the Beach Boys I really hit a snag.

But dry your eyes, friends. This story doesn't end there. As I was messing about on the verses I was struck by inspiration and I'm even more excited about how it's coming along. I won't give too much away, but I'm going with a band from the same era, but with a totally different sound. I even started to record it on Saturday night but I had to sneak away to another engagement before I got too far. But now that I have the idea plotted it shouldn't take long. Hopefully I can get this one done by Tax Day as a little treat for.

Up the Irons, Phoenix!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

April's Cover is...

So there were a ton of great songs to choose from. I'm hoping every month sees this much input. I hope it doesn't end up being like your first show with your new band. Where 90 people show up that first night, and only 4 show up for the next show. But anyway, the decision has been made. And the winner?

With over a dozen songs to choose from, I decided on The Trooper because it seemed like it had the most potential for a makeover. The melodic elements in this song are off the hinges. And when the melody is good you can dress it up any way you like and it's still going to be a good song. "Yesterday" sounds good when Paul sings it, when Sinatra sings it, when Boyz to Men sing it, etc.

That being said, I'm working on hallowed ground with Maiden. If I can pull off what I have in mind, it's bound to upset Iron Maiden die-hards. So you can only imagine the scorn if I don't pull it off.

Also, since this is the first month I'm doing this, I may actually be done before April 30. If it works out that I am, I will probably choose a second song from the list. But we'll have to see. We're working out the kinks now. We'll get through this together.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Challenge #1

First off, I'm loving the enthusiasm so far. I was certain my call for covers would fall on deaf ears. But I read wrong and it looks like that call fell on some Def Ears. Secondly, I would recommend that if you're unfamiliar with any of the songs below that you look them up on YouTube. There were a few I didn't know and I'm thinking this could be a fun way to broaden your horizons, too. Third; please do me a favor and spread the word to anybody you think may be interested. I'm thinking of doing two songs a month so I need as many suggestions as possible. Deadline for suggestions is this Wednesday at March 31. This is what I have so far. I'll update it as I get more:

1) Catholic Girls by Frank Zappa - Something wild right off the bat. I'm a sucker for change-ups and this song zigs when you think it's going to zag.
2) Holy Diver by Dio - The requester asked that I let my sister sing it. I will admit she does it well.
3) Tempted by Squeeze The requester of this absolute jam actually requested an old band of mine do this song. We didn't end up doing it, but it would have been fun to do.
4) Cool Kids by Screeching Weasel - This is a fun song that I was actually unfamiliar with.
5) Ducktales Theme by Calvin Coolidge and the Roaring Twenties - I actually don't know who's responsible for this balls-out romp of a song. Whoever it is ruled my world in 1989. I thought it would impress a girl I liked if I had a shirt that played this song. You know, like you press a button on it and it plays the theme. Shut up. It makes sense.
6) Nobody Will Ever Write a Song About Us by Dynamite Van Pipe - A monster of a song penned by two super cool guys separated only by the Atlantic Ocean and the side of the road they drive on.
7) December 1963 (Oh, What A Night) by The Four Seasons - I'm not sure if it was Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons at that time or not. But what I do know is that this song has an incredible piano and bassline that's begging to be sampled.
8) Foolin' by Def Leppard - From when the drummer had two arms and any video "concept" would suffice.
9) Not a Second Time by The Beatles - An often overlooked song by an overlooked band. A critic mentioned how the song had qualities reminiscent of Beethoven and the "intellectual" phenomenon of Beatle songwriting was born.
10) Beercan by Beck - An interesting choice from the Beck album I've spent the least time with. Except for the latest one. I just got it like a month ago.
11) ??? by What's Your 20? - This page is intentionally left blank.
12) These Boots Are Made for Walking by Nancy Sinatra - Who doesn't love this song? That weird guitar sound and the snare pop pop popping on to the scene. Not to mention the sneaky bassline. The Peanuts kids would look cool dancing to this song.
13) I'm Your Man by Leonard Cohen - He may sound like a serial killer, but that's part of the charm. And nobody... and I mean NOBODY can write like Leonard can.
14) The Trooper by Iron Maiden - Only the scariest kids wore the Maiden shirts and shopped at Trails. Sing it... Trails Department Stores. For the new counter-culture of the 90's... TRAILS...TRAils.... trails...Not from Arizona? Your loss.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


If I had the stones to do it, I would write "amateur songwriter" on my income tax filing. But I don't have the stones - which probably explains why my songwriter status is "amateur" instead of "professional" or "stupid rich". So in an attempt to find a twist on my regular creativity outlet I came up with the idea to ask my friends which song they'd like to hear covered. From their list I will pick 1-2 songs a month (depending on how busy/lazy I am). By asking friends, I'd be grabbing from a pool of songs I wouldn't normally think of covering. There would be no rules. TV Show theme song? Sure. Cornball ballad in Spanish? Bring it. But the trade-off is that I do it however I want to. There is a very real possibility that it comes out unrecognizable. Know that before you get too excited. Or maybe that's what excites you and you just crapped your pants because you're so excited. Me too. Let's do this.

Suggest a song. Use my email at the top of the page or suggest one in the comments section. Selections are announced on the first of each month.