Mama Deb (mamadeb) wrote,
Mama Deb

Rant #2 Classic Rock Bands and Cover Songs

Rosehiptea wanted me to rant about Limp Bizkit and their cover of the Who's "Behind Blue Eyes". Problem is that I've never consciously heard any song by Limp Bizkit, and am only dimly aware they're a band at all.

So, this is a different rant. Because I was all for ranting about covering songs and all, plus she told me they changed the lyrics, and I could have ranted about that, too.

But I'm not. Because here's the thing. I'm a filker. I take songs that have already been written and change the lyrics. There's something called the folk process that I think we're losing.

Way, way back before there was recorded music, and before there was much, if any, published music, there was still music. It was passed along from player to player, both amateur and professional and folk memory is very strong. It's even stronger when the players must rely on their memories to reproduce the music they've heard. And without the ability to read and write music, it's easier to use a few set tunes, although a new tune was probably a joy and a blessing to all concerned. So it was normal to take a familiar tune and change the words around. Or, to take familiar words and change the tune and maybe the meaning. It was also normal to take a familiar song and make the words more topical to the area or the times - to fit the singer or the audience. And nobody minded because they expected music and words to change and for lyrics and music to be recombined for something else. The same happened to stories, changing with the tellers and the times.

I mean, the US National Anthem, the unsingable "Star-Spangled Banner", was a poem set to the music of "For Anacreon in Heaven". This was something normal.

And we all know that there are variations upon variations for folk songs and folk tales because of this process - this enriches our cultural heritage. It's all part of the folk process, which today seems limited to filk, Weird Al and fanfiction writers. This is because we don't have to wait for a minstrel to wander in to request a song or tale, or rely on local talent and memory to hear them. Not only do we have published music and stories, but we also have recordings of the original singers in the arrangements they consider best for the songs.

Lynyrd Skynyrd used to practice to make sure all their songs sounded exactly like the albums when they played on stage because they believed, and probably correctly, that that's what the fans wanted to hear.

So we're less tolerant of change and less able to change. And artists become very protective of their output, so, while parodies are permitted, changing other things might be problematic. Neither the culture nor the artists like the folk process because it takes the souce material out of the artists' or their producers' hands and puts it into those of the general public. Not that that actually changes the originals, or hurts them, but they act like it does.

Limp Biskit probably changed the lyrics to make the song more topical. This is a major part of the folk process. And it in no way prevents anyone from listening to the Who be brilliant, any more than a piece of fanfiction prevents one from watching or reading the original source material.

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