On Tuesday, seminal Southern California punk label BYO (Better Youth Organization) Records celebrated their 25th anniversary by releasing the box set Let Them Know: The Story of Youth Brigade and BYO Records. The set includes the full-length documentary Let Them Know, directed by Jeff Alulis (Do You Remember? 15 Years of The Bouncing Souls and NOFX’s Backstage Passport), a full color hardcover coffee table book and, most interestingly, a 31-track double LP. While the documentary and book are well-put together, it’s the LP— a who’s who of punk covering songs from the BYO catalog—that has fans excited. Since BYO released music from Bouncing Souls, Alkaline Trio, 7 Seconds and Bad Religion in addition to label founders Youth Brigade, there were a lot of great tracks for the bands involved to choose from. Some of the highlights include Pennywise covering “We’re Gonna Fight” by 7 Seconds, Dropkick Murphys playing “Fight To Unite” by Youth Brigade and Anti-Flag’s take on Unseen’s “1000 Miles.” This form of tribute seems more fitting than issuing a simple greatest hits album. Covers have played a prominent role in punk since the beginning of the genre.
Covers are about more than just cashing in on a popular song. They are a tribute to influential artists, not to mention a great way to expose songs to a new audience. It is widely known that Joey Ramone was hugely influenced by 60s pop and the girl group sound. The Ramones payed tribute to these influences by covering songs like The Ronettes’ “Baby, I Love You,” Chris Montez’ “Let’s Dance,” and The Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird.” Sid Vicious covered “I Wanna Be Your Dog” both live and on record, introducing the youth of Great Britain aware to the music of Iggy Pop and The Stooges. The Dead Kennedys included a deranged cover of the Elvis hit “Viva Las Vegas” on their album Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, seemingly just for the fun of it. While covers had always been a part of punk, punk versions of non-punk songs became popular in a major way in the late 1990s to early 2000s. Vagrant Records’ popular Before You Were Punk series featured punk bands covering 80s new wave favorites, while the Fearless records Punk Goes… series of albums had modern day punk and pop-punk bands put their spin on the hits of metal, pop, crunk and more. This same time period saw the formation of the punk super group Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, whose entire repertoire consists of punk covers of their favorite songs across all genres. The punk cover trend is still going strong, with Weezer covering Lady Gaga and MGMT on their tour this past summer and MxPx releasing their second cover album. As long as there are garages, basements and VFW halls, there will be punk bands playing their favorite songs.
To see the preview for Let Them Know, click here.
For Let Them Know screenings and Youth Brigade live dates, click here.
For more information about the Let them Know box set, click here.
Check out some punk covers by OurStage artists in the playlist below!