Cover Roundup: “Cathy’s Clown”

Let’s start at the beginning. “Cathy’s Clown” was written and recorded by The Everly Brothers and was released in 1960. Better qualified writers have shed gallons of ink on why The Everly Brothers’ vocals and music were fantastic so I am not going to attempt that. Having been born in the mid-80s, I actually heard Reba McEntire’s hugely popular version first, and because she changed the lyrics up a bit to make the song more of a third-person female perspective, it was lost on me how uniquely vulnerable the lyrics are. In the original lyrics (and the ones most often used in covers), a man sings about his humiliation of knowing everyone knows his lady is mistreating him. He’s a clown, and it hurts, and he is gonna be a man and walk away. Ah, the DRAMA.

Go ahead and reacquaint yourself (or introduce yourself) with the original before going any further.

I will give you a moment to recover from your swooning.

I am partial to the original. I don’t think anyone can top it. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other versions that are enjoyable! I discard a lot of songs for Cover Roundup because so many great songs are done in a manner that just recreates or mimics the original. Boring! But people love to shake this song up. Let’s go.

I love to predict which versions my friends will like best. When I heard this version by the Tarney Spencer Band, I was like “Well, this has Kat written all over it!” And IT ALREADY IS HER FAVORITE VERSION! Granted, my preference for country-tinged rock makes it a little hard for me to accept this version fully into my heart. It sounds so different musically that I am caught off guard. But honestly? This is a really good song! After listening to it a few times, I found myself really jamming. By 2:32 when the vocals are calling-and-answering (one of my favorite things), I admit I am hooked. 3 out of 5 Everlys. 

I mentioned Reba before, and I want to include her, but I like it less than I did as a young’un. Admittedly, I think I was super into this video’s aesthetic back then. I was (and am, let’s be real) wowed over by pining after a cowboy while wearing a dope Old West dress. But I do think Reba’s soft, sad vocals on this works well with the lyric rewrite. But, it also transforms this song into a trope that is overdone – loving someone you can’t have from afar. Yawn. 2 out of 5 Everlys.

In almost ever cover roundup, I have found a pretty boss reggae version of the subject song. With this extensive research (that’s, uh, four songs), I hereby declare that there is a boss reggae cover of every song in the world. But, seriously, Jimmy London captures the sweet Everly vocal quality and laid over a super cool beat, the song is transformed into a cool groove unmatched by any other song on this list. Awesome. 4 out of 5 Everlys.

The Fenders went full-on surf instrumental. It’s okay, but I believe I have well established by now that the vocals and lyrics are what make this song for me. This will be Jeremy’s favorite, I predict. 2 out of 5 Everlys. 

I loved The Ramones so much in high school. I still love them but not with the intensity of a 16-year-old. However, that history did not prepare me for just how much I LOVED Dee Dee Ramone’s version. Whoa! There’s the requisite sad crooning with just enough snarl and guitar toughness to power it to the weird punk pop hybrid I embed before you. 4.5 out of 5 Everlys. DEAL WITH IT. 

The Beatles’ unreleased demo version presented without comment. Because I have a tear in my eye. 5 Beatles out of 5 Everlys. Apples to oranges, people.

Read more from Amanda here and on Twitter: @aaahmanda.