In light of the "12 most important bands" debate going on at Andy Sikora's blog & Midwest Mindset, I had a thought about music in general yesterday that might bring peace and joy to all mankind and volcanoes, too.
I was reading this one part in High Fidelity where Marie LaSalle plays a short set in Rob's record shop, and mixes in a bunch of cover songs from artists Rob sells, and this is what flashed in my brain: All bands/artists ought to devote around half their sets to cover songs. Because all bands have influences, (and of the ones I'd like to see) I wouldn't mind hearing them sing and perform some of those influences. And of the ones I'd rather not see, maybe they'd be so embarrassed that the reason they first picked up a guitar was because of Hootie and the Blowfish, that they'd actually start seeking out more carefully crafted songs to cover, and actually become more talented songwriters because of it.
There are some genres, like country or jazz, that just lend themselves to covers -- and it's never thought to be hackneyed or derivative in the least. In fact, jazz artists never even play covers, they perform standards. Something by Ella Fitzgerald or Miles Davis or Duke Ellington. And everybody goes nuts over it.
But maybe rock bands can't do that. Maybe they're so used to trying to find their own sound (or trying to sound exactly like band-X) that to cover too many songs would be detrimental to everything they stand for (or expose them for the charlatans they are). I don't know. But I do know we'd be better off as a listening public if the artists we enjoy would play more things by the artists they enjoy.
Besides, we could all stand to hear more new music, especially if it's new music that we might not have ever heard otherwise.