100 best covers: #96 Barenaked Ladies “Lovers in a dangerous time”

Pay no mind to the above photo. Barenaked Ladies were cool in 1991… Well, okay, we thought they were at the time anyway.

The duo of Ed Robertson and Steven Page formed In 1988, adding band camp friends, brothers Andy and Jim McCreegan, two years later. Tyler Stewart joined the same year to temporarily fill Andy’s spot while the drummer went to Europe and then, stayed on upon his return. The band made a name for themselves with their hilarious, energetic, and often improvisational live shows, a fame that only grew with their DIY videos that they made using a video booth in downtown Toronto called “Speaker’s corner”, and that became a notoriety when they were banned from playing the city’s live New Year’s Eve show because of their “provocative” name. Then, their self-produced and self-released five song demo tape, the now famous “Yellow tape”, became the first ever indie release to reach platinum level sales in Canada. Needless to say, that attracted all the right attention. They released their debut album, “Gordon” in 1992, another classic. Six years later, BNL hit it big in the US with the single, “One week” and the rest is history.

But just as they were getting started, even before “Gordon”, they recorded this cover of Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers in a dangerous time” for a tribute called “Kick at the darkness”, from a line taken from this very song. Bruce Cockburn is a Canadian icon, a prolific singer/songwriter, whose lyrics are part poetry, part social activism. Inspired by watching teenagers kissing and the thoughts that invoked, “Lovers in a dangerous time” is one of his more popular songs and one of the few I would recognize as his if you played it for me.

Going back to listen to Cockburn’s original before writing this post, I realized how dated it sounds. It is still a great song and the way Cockburn sings it is just right but it really does sound so 1980s. I almost think I like Barenaked Ladies’ cover more than the original, blasphemous though that statement might be. It’s no surprise they chose to cover one of his more popular songs, a bigger one being that they played it straight, something rare for them in those days. The cover is really quite lovely with Robertson’s and Page’s now familiar vocal harmonies, the acoustic guitars, and Creegan’s cello providing the backbone.

Make sure you check the video below of band playing in the back of a pickup, touring the streets of their hometown of Scarborough. It smacks a little of the Monkees but with a Canadian touch.

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

21 Replies to “100 best covers: #96 Barenaked Ladies “Lovers in a dangerous time””

  1. My childhood best friend’s dad used to sing “cabbage rolls in a dangerous time” and I cannot hear either version of this song without thinking about cabbage rolls. Great song though, and the BNL arrangement really is fantastic.

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    1. ‘Cabbage rolls’, huh? They do live in dangerous times, I guess. Haha. Yeah. That cello at the beginning gets me every time I listen to it.

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  2. Oh man. I loved these guys then (and still have a soft spot for those early years, like, the first three albums). I had the Yellow Tape (bought it in a Stedman’s, remember those?) and have now collected about 5 copies of it. I rescue them, when I see them. It’s a thing I do. I dunno why.

    Anyway, is my memory correct that this track was actually hard to find for the longest time? Just on that tribute disc, right?

    Also, I’ll bet you know more Cockburn songs than you think you do. Maybe not by title, but you’d know the tunes! The Waiting For A Miracle comp is 2CDs of awesome, but there’s a 1CD set called Anytime Anywhere that is more up to date… Check out the tracks on this one and I’d wager you’d surprise yourself!

    Tracklist:

    My Beat
    Wondering Where The Lions Are
    Tokyo
    The Coldest Night Of The Year
    The Trouble With Normal
    Lovers In A Dangerous Time
    If I Had A Rocket Launcher
    Call It Democracy
    Waiting For A Miracle
    If A Tree Falls
    A Dream Like Mine
    Listen For The Laugh
    Night Train
    Pacing The Cage
    Last Night Of The World
    Anything Anytime Anywhere

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    1. If I had a cassette player to play them on, I’d try to rescue a couple of those Yellow Tapes myself. There was some good stuff on there. And yes, this cover was pretty rare to find until it was released on the greatest hits album. Thanks for the Cockburn tips.

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    1. Would you believe I’ve never seen them live? Not that I didn’t have many chances. It just never worked out. I remember they actually played a show at a neighbouring town’s high school back in the day, well before their first album was released.

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      1. It was a fluke that I saw them. One of my roommates had a friend who lived in Chicago, and we went there for New Year’s Eve a couple of times. They played I think in February, and we planned one New Year’s Eve to go back to Chicago to see them. They write some great pop tunes. “Brian Wilson” still just kills me! LOL.

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