One of the regrettable consequences of the end of the Easy Listening/Middle-of-the-Road (M.O.R.) era and the reign of singers who rarely, if ever, wrote their own material, is the complete absence of incredible cover songs like the ones I have aggregated herewith. It was only in the period where the interpreter was king, and the bizarre period just afterward as these singers struggled to hang on to their chart position in the face of the tsunami of rock ‘n roll and FM radio, that you might even chance to encounter an otherwise perfectly agreeable singer like Rita Coolidge making the unfortunate decision to cover Tempted by Squeeze. While it is quite likely that you still hear the original Squeeze single from time to time (and it still sounds amazing, by the way), I am willing to venture that you won’t often hear lovely Rita’s misguided version. And isn’t that why you read Stargayzing, anyway?
And Miss Coolidge wasn’t alone—in the upcoming days and months we’ll hear from all your pre-LITE FM favorites: Andy Williams, Barry Manilow, Cher, Robert Goulet, Shirley Bassey, Susan Anton, Sinead O’Connor! Wait! Did he just say Sinead O’Connor? Prepare to be amazed! Viva la schmaltz!
In addition to the cachet of being married to the (legendary and very sexy) Kris Kristofferson for most of the 1970s, Coolidge enjoyed several big hit song including top-10 versions of Jackie Wilson’s (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher and Boz Scaggs’ We’re All Alone toward the end of the decade. In addition, few people remember that she handled vocal duties on All Time High, the theme from 1983’s Octopussy, and arguably the most turgid James Bond theme ever recorded. Additionally, many will remember her memorable acting work in Kristofferson’s A Star is Born wherein she somehow managed to be fairly unconvincing playing herself in the Grammy Awards sequence! The memory of her stepping up to the podium with Tony Orlando in that scene makes me chortle with glee as I imagine the film’s creators self-satisfied as they concurred that they had, indeed, created rock ‘n roll verisimilitude and captured the raw excitement of the starry Grammys!
Unfortunately, by the early 1980s as the bland but organic sounding adult contemporary record of the late-1970s gave way to the bland but synth-drenched balladry of the 1980s (The Lady in Red, anyone?), and many artists who were really folkies underneath found themselves increasingly lost in a sea of drum machines, shoulder pads, and big hair. Rita’s version of Tempted is at once perfectly pleasant and completely awful, which is a particularly vexatious paradox. In Rita’s defense, this is the first time I have been able to understand every word of the famous song. On the other hand, I fell asleep, which would suggest that listeners should avoid driving or operating heavy machinery while tapping their toes!
I’ll be serving additional installments of these awesome, unbelievable covers every few days so let me know how I’m doing. Believe it or not a great deal of research goes into curating a list this bad! So here we go, in no particular order: