It's very hard to judge a musician just by seeing him or her perform in one occasion without really knowing the person behind that performance. At times one would see a band playing covers and we might think that it's all there is and nothing more without really trying to understand. One would be surprised at how many musicians in cover bands has at one point been part of great recording bands with top hits. Or maybe, he is doing covers and yet tinkering with some side project for originals. You'll never know, we'll never know, unless we make an effort to do so, listen and understand.
Most if not all musicians want to write, play or record their own original song. That's a fact without doubt. So why all the covers? Well, the answer is plain and simple... it's a job and it pays the bills.
Bands usually start in small bars, going to larger or better venues as they grow, but most of these bars have patrons who need or want to hear the songs they know. People go inside the bar expecting to hear Hotel California, song by Lady Gaga, Pink, Led Zep or whatever song it is they fancy, so they can drink, enjoy music they like and unwind from a busy day at work. Every now and then, a band may introduce originals and maybe some people will like it, some would say it's just fine, or others would want the band to finish that song quickly just because they don't know it. The reason they want to hear the songs they like is because all throughout the day, they have been programmed to hear it over and over again from whatever medium there is available. Radio, TV, internet and piped in music from malls, people are unaware that it's a process of music brain wash, and it works. Now, here comes a talented band with a great song but unknown who would try to introduce an original material, and always it's a hit or miss scenario. Still, musicians go on to express what they have created regardless of whatever criticism they get. It's walking on a thin line of being an original artist and a cover band or show band working for the money.
Live music performance is a great art form and expression of one's feelings, but still it is a job. Like all the other people in the world, like bankers, doctors, lawyers, office employees, engineers and as such, musicians eat, need a place to live and pays bills. It is a job. While at the back of almost every musician's mind is making good original songs and thinking of the time when to play it during a set, musicians and bands need to maintain a job and to do so, they must satisfy the needs of guests and paying customers and make sure that the cash register keeps on ringing, the No. 1 and maybe only music to most ears of employers and bar owners (no offense meant). The musicians keep their job, and somewhere lurking in the shadows of all those cover songs is a true original artist just waiting to be unleashed.
Let's take a quick look at the greats:
Jimi Hendrix, Beatles, Led Zep, Rush, Dream Theater, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Pink, Pantera's Dimebag, Mick Mars of Motley Crue and others like them... What do they have in common with cover bands and show bands? Well simple... at one point all those great artists were show bands and/or cover bands or musicians themselves. Jimi hendrix was a back-up musician guitarist for a cover soul band, the Beatles covered Buddy Holly and the Crickets even recording some of their tracks as remakes, Dream theater covered Rush while Rush covered Led Zep, The Rolling Stones covered several artists like Dylan, while Bob Dylan covered the Animals, Pink does Joplin covers, Dimebag used to perform in a hotel show band playing Madonna songs, Mick Mars was a quiet wedding guitar player before Motley Crue, and so on. It's an endless cycle with musicians hiding in a cocoon of cover tunes just getting ready with his or her arsenal of originals waiting for the right moment. Being influenced and covering another band before is the path which others may think is wrong but actually is the right and only path there is. If we trace it, we'll never know who actually struck that very first musical note, and if we did, it's fair to say that we all are just copycats.
To sum this up, being in a show band or cover band is not wrong but actually the way to go. There is no shame in being in a cover band. At some points, cover bands will be judged by others who think that cover bands are lesser musicians, well, simple truth is, those who judge are the lesser individuals who have yet to know a lot more about music and life itself. If the Beatles, Hendrix, Dylan and others did it, then it is the right track. What musicians need to do and realize is to continue to develop their creativity behind those cover songs and just like what all the greats did, work on original materials, develop a distinct sound and just wait for that right place and time, or better yet, make that right place and time happen. If they make it, the songs kept in the closet for so long will be covered by other aspiring musicians to follow.
Cover band, show band, rock star... it's all the same, it's for the love of music.
Respect to all artists and peace.
- Dennis Briones