Friday, March 25, 2016

Cover Versus Original - Have A Cigar

Music is a moment in time. It is a message created by emotion and broadcast to anyone who will listen. When a band attempts to cover a tune by exactly re-creating that tune, then they really do not understand what music is all about (with the exception of tribute bands whose job it is to re-create exactly a band's music). An original song is one artist's interpretation of an event, story, or message that is done in the way that artist deems it appropriate. A good cover of that song is altered to fit another artist's perception.

Sometimes you find a cover that is so perfectly matched to the artist covering it that you wonder if the cover artist would have eventually written the song themselves if someone else had not beat them to the punch. It can never be said that Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters do not understand music. If there was ever anyone in perfect touch with their inner artist, it is Dave Grohl. When he and the Foo Fighters covered Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar," Grohl and the Foo Fighters proved that they not only understand music, they respect it deeply.

When we listen to Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar" two things become immediately obvious:

The first is that precise musicianship is not only a concern of the band, but it is one of the things the band built its reputation on. The other obvious element of this original version of the song is that Roger Waters has a very different disdain for the music business than Dave Grohl does. Through Roy Harper's vocals (which Waters later regretted using), Waters gives a cynical and sneering accounting of the entire music business for how it chews up young artists and spits them out. It is incredibly obvious that Roger Waters is upset at the music business for what it had done to Pink Floyd's founder Syd Barrett, and for what it tried to do to Pink Floyd.

When we listen to the Foo Fighters version of "Have a Cigar," we get a very different perspective.

Dave Grohl has been through a lot in the music business, and much of his early career was filled with anger and sadness. When he was first coming up, he was a starving kid who was one of millions who thought he could carve out a career in a business that is little more than a dream to others. When he was very young, he lost his best friend to suicide and blamed, in part, the music business.

Grohl's version of the song is extremely aggressive and, in parts, downright angry. Where Waters is apprehensive of the music business because of the way it treats young bands, Grohl is pissed off at the music business because of the type of environment it creates for some of the young stars who cannot really handle the attention. Grohl is shouting at the music business, where Waters is talking down to the music business through his teeth. Two perceptions of the same subject using the same words, but coming from very different directions.

Verdict: Both 

These are two very different songs sung to the same subject, but from two different perspectives. Where the Pink Floyd version is musically precise because it needs to be to give off that snarky and cynical vibe, the Foos are extremely aggressive to match their feelings on the subject. From this perspective, this one is a tie. But don't mistake that for me saying that the Foos are comparable to Pink Floyd, because that would be making a serious error in judgment on your part.

George N Root III is a musician and once played in a Pink Floyd tribute band. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him an email at