On a recent morning I woke up to what was probably the sixth, maybe ninth or even 169th comment on the Facebook, along the lines of: “o.m.g. ‘Baby Blue’ has been getting me misty for daaaays…” Now, I’m no spoiler, so if your own Effbook has been broken or whatever, you’ll just have to Google for yourself to find out why this particular 1971 Badfinger single has had something like a 9000% user spike on the Spotifys and the YouTubes since that Sunday of “Felina.”
Naturally I’m reminded of when Barbara Manning played an acoustic version of “Baby Blue” at Maxwell’s in Hoboken once upon a time. And although I’d probably heard the Badfinger original more often as a kid than I got bitten by mosquitoes (mine was a Virginia childhood, so that’s a LOT), her sweetly fragile yet bitterly soaring vocal over a chiming six-string Gretsch cleaved the “…Guess I got… What I deserved…” right through my scabrous little heart, and it’s just lucky I had a glass of Maker’s to catch the tears. I’d pretty much kill for a recording of her singing that song, so if you’re holding, please message me—and choose your victim carefully! Ms Manning, for my money (counting $3.50 and a 20-year-old subway token in my pocket right now) is the best cover artist we have. Anyone who has heard her do “Joe’d Out” (the Verlaines), “1000 Dollar Wedding” (Gram Parsons), “Stain on the Sun” (The Bevis Frond), “ICan’t Get Over You” (the Monks) and “Run To Me” (Bee Gees) knows the melted knees of which I speak.
Manning adheres seemingly effortlessly to my two rules for covers: 1) Do something new with the song, or why bother? 2) Don’t cover a song that is better than something you could write yourself, unless you are a strictly interpretive artist like a Miley or Bieber or OneDirection or … wait, I just Wiki’d: they all have co-writing credits! Eye-roll but O.K., unless you are Linda Ronstadt, sheesh. Anyway, it’s true, you guys, Barbara Manning’s own songs are often better than her covers, and as of this week, she has a sundry slew of previously unreleased material available via the magic of Bandcamp. My personal favorite original Barbara tune for today is linked above, but you know I’ll pick another one tomorrow.