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This week Juliana Hatfield releases her highly anticipated covers album, Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia-Newton John, in which the Massachusetts musician pays tribute to one of her musical heroes. We recently got word from Hatfield about all its inspiration and intrigue, and we’ve had “Physical” pretty much playing on repeat ever since.
Now, of course, because it’s 2018, another musician, Sam Pocker, is here paying tribute to Hatfield in pretty much the same way — by releasing a covers record. And much like Hatfield’s tribute to Newton-John, this one will also help raise money for Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre.
It’s called Sam Pocker Sings Juliana Hatfield, and finds the Los Angeles-based songwriter honoring Hatfield with three electronic-pop and disco-leaning covers, all extending past the six-minute mark in length: 1995’s “Universal Heartbeat” (off Only Everything), 1998’s “You Are The Camera” (from Bed), and 2000’s “Might Be In Love” (off Beautiful Creature).
Pocker says it’s a ’70s-style answer record to Hatfield’s recent efforts.
“This started out as one of those ‘wouldn’t it be funny if?’ kind of ideas that spiraled out of control quickly, Pocker tells Vanyaland. “I had known for a while that Juliana’s cover album was going to be released and I was excited to hear it. My previous two singles (which I recorded with Michael Eisenstein, Kay Hanley, and Tom Polce of Boston’s Letters to Cleo) were actually written on a guitar previously owned by Juliana that she used to write her album Peace and Love. So the whole thing gets very self-referential just from the get-go. When I got the email from American Laundromat Records with the cover art, the title Sam Pocker Sings Juliana Hatfield just popped into my head and I began laughing way too hard at the idea.”
Pocker, who also plays in Los Angeles indie band The Pretty Colors, says he “thought it was kind of a perfectly egocentric album where the artist thinks they are so important that they have a right to cover a well-established artist with an extensive catalog. It’s like the most abhorrent lounge singer behavior — something that I picked up from a year of living in Las Vegas and that has become a recurring theme in my work.”
But the covers here work, especially the disco-fied bounce on “Universal Hearbeat.” That was one that made the final cut after he initially rounded up 14 potential covers, eyeing a full LP of tunes. In the end, Pocker decided to sharpen up three of the tracks and release the project as an EP, with $1 of all sales going to Newton-John’s charity.
“Once everything was finished and ready to go I emailed Juliana and got no reply,” Pocker says. “I was kind of freaking out for a couple of days worried that she was pissed about it. After a while I posted it on the Facebook page for my band The Pretty Colors and just left it there. The response was overwhelmingly positive and shortly thereafter I heard back from her. She was totally cool about it, I was happy that the album was finished, and I’m ready to move on to my next project.”