As the Velvet Underground's most rock and roll album, Loaded has many songs that various musicians have enjoyed performing, particularly in a live setting. Here's a few I wanted to share with you.
Before we get to the covers, I had a thought about the idea of connections – when music references the lyrics and/or sounds of other music. Now, this is basically an unsubstantiated claim, but "Sweet Jane" just might be a candidate for the Kevin Bacon of the rock song universe. Meaning, perhaps using up to six degrees, all songs can connect back to this one. Here are a few direct connections I've thought of. They may not be that strong but just bear with me.
-It may not be solely "Sweet Jane," and this song is supposed to be based on a specific Jane the band knew, but there is no question "Jane Says" by Jane's Addiction nods to the Velvet Underground at least generally. They have several "___ Says" titles – Candy, Stephanie, Lisa (the latter two are on collections of unreleased material) and Jane is Sweet Jane in this case. Also the acoustic guitar, the simple chord progression, and the moments of yelling make them somewhat alike.
-Lou talks about different people, or "some" people more accurately, and what they do or like in the third verse of "Sweet Jane." I feel like Built To Spill took this idea and ran with it, turning it into a full song, which would be "Some" from There's Nothing Wrong With Love. Especially the "Some people thinks he likes to go out dancing" part.
Built To Spill – Some
-There's subtle reference and then there's outright repetition. The latter is evident on "Hang" by Matchbox
20 Twenty, which includes the line "If anybody ever had a heart," that "Sweet Jane" does.
That's just 3. I'm sure there are more. Anyone else got some "Sweet Jane" first degree connections?
Onto the covers….
-Before we leave "Sweet Jane" behind, here's a cover that ended up being a pretty big hit for the band that did the covering. That would be the Cowboy Junkies. It's interesting to hear the song sung by a female and slowed down. This is essentially a cover of the 1969 live version [I got that wrong in an earlier version of this post].
-Another wonderful cover by a female is Cat Power's take on "I Found A Reason," which also seems a pretty popular cover. Also, it's slowed down, re-arranged a bit, and carried by such a strong voice. Whew, these are some knockouts.
-Shifting gears, several bands have chosen to rock out like the Velvet Underground did, and one of the most frequently covered songs from the album for this purpose is "Oh! Sweet Nuthin." The Black Crowes did it, and I really love this version by My Morning Jacket. As a bonus, I'm including MMJ rocking the shit out of "Head Held High" too (though apologies for the lower quality). If I could have picked a band to play these two of my top 3 tracks from the album, I don't know that I could have done much better than Jim James and the boys.
-Finally, another band that has enjoyed performing Loaded live is Phish. For their Halloween "costume" in 1998, they covered the full album. Many of the tracks are subject to extended jams that are pretty cool. I particularly like how they do it with "Cool It Down," "Lonesome Cowboy Bill," and "Train Round the Bend." They utilize the distinctness of each track to shade their improvisation, and in the case of "Train Round the Bend," make the song more enjoyable to me than on the record. It's definitely a little different than you might expect after the tightness of the recorded version but Phish bring an interesting new perspective to these songs. And of course they simply rock, whether in shorter or longer form. Loaded really takes on a new life live. You can find this on the LivePhish Vol 16 recording, or stream the show from this website (just search for the 1998 directory under shows, then go to 10-31).