So, I’ve been following this little argument that’s going on in the comments on the fave band poll, which started off with someone saying, "This town is full of cover bands." Someone else responded with "Unless you're up there on stage, sweating your ass off, taking the time to get out and promote, setting up gear and teraing it down, in the garage learning songs, and generally never knowing if anyone will come out ... then may I suggest you walk a mile in a musician's shoes. See how much time and money we invest in our music, music that is being made, whether it is covers or original, to entertain YOU! To me, anyone who is making that type of commitment to entertain deserves some measure of respect"
Well, I finally decided to have my say. And, since it’s my blog, I can do it here instead of in the comments :)
Personally, I don’t care if a band plays covers or originals as long as they do a good job of it. As a matter of fact, I prefer a mix of both. I love to hear local bands with good originals and I love to hear a great cover of a good song.
Many famous musicians started off in cover bands. The Beatles started off as The Quarrymen, which was a "skiffle" band, meaning they did heavily rhythmic variants on American folk and country music. Tommy Lee’s first band was a blues cover band. Alice Cooper’s first band played mostly Rolling Stones tunes.
Doing covers is a great way to get a band out there and noticed. It’s a lot easier to get gigs doing covers than it is doing originals. You do a good job, people come to see you and like you. You get a following. Then you start slipping in some originals. The people like them because they like you! Pretty soon they’re singing along. Then you make a CD and sell them at your gigs. The people buy them...you’re on your way.
A lot of famous musicians STILL do covers, to add a new twist to an old song, to pay tribute to a favorite band, or just cuz they like the song. And there are some great covers out there! Marilyn Manson did a great job with "Sweet Dreams" by the Eurhythmics and "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell. I love Korn’s cover of "Word Up". I think Hole did an awesome job of covering Fleetwood Mac’s "Gold Dust Woman". Sanctuary did a great cover of Jefferson Airplane’s "White Rabbit". And on and on...
And, even if all a band ever does is covers, so what? They like to make music and entertain people and people like to be entertained. A lot of people prefer to go see cover bands because they like to hear songs they know. They can sing along, dance along, whatever. Cover bands give them that.
So I say: Play what you want as long as you do it well!