Cover me: “Hazy Shade of Winter” by Simon and Garfunkel, the Bangles and more

Back in the day, when Paul Simon wrote “Hazy Shade of Winter, the song revolved around a melancholic poet wondering about his life and achievements, an ode to midlife crisis even though Simon was in his twenties back then.

Even though the song itself was more energetic and aggressive then what the duo usually wrote and performed, it still had a certain young debonnaire-charm about it.

When the Bangles covered it, they didn’t change that much at first glance. But the switch to the electric guitar and a slightly different approach to the vocals (some Bangles-trademarked harmonies) turned the song into a much more pressing, desperate look at that poet’s worries.

Apparently, Susanna Hoffs picked the song which was an exclusive recording for the movie “Less than Zero”. Since the band had to record something within four days (which is NOT a lot), they picked a song they had covered previously. In their version, the pondering melancholy has a more dramatic undertone, an immediacy that is closer to the midlife crisis-theme (even though the Bangles were also in their twenties back then). More like a “close-before-death”-crisis. I personally prefer it to the original because the harmonies and the vocals switching between Michael’s strong, dark and Susanna’s lighter, softer voice somehow create a better dramaturgy (also: more cowbell).

And now, with the weird phenomenon of “The Umbrella Academy” on Netflix, Gerard Way, the creator of the Graphic Novel it’s based upon and more known as head of My Chemical Romance who all teenage misfits listened to back in the days (yes, I did, too, for I was such a misfit), has created yet another cover together with Ray Toro.

I have to say, I like the idea of that cover song better than the execution which is a fitting metaphor for the Umbrella Academy as a TV show*. Way and Toro lean heavily on the Bangles-version but change it up with a little – honestly – hair-metal guitars and vocals. That’s a cup of tea that is not necessarily my afternoon jam but I get the appeal. What the cover does show: that song is amazing and probably looks good in all versions.

*I can say that I agree with most of what Matt Zoller Seitz writes at Vulture. I appreciate the love most people have for that show but I didn’t enjoy it (But ask me about “Gotham”, I love it and will gladly tell you all about it).

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