October 1 — “Baby Blue” as covered by Portastatic

Portastatic (circa 2008)

If you listen to only one song tonight, make it Portastatic’s cover of the Badfinger song “Baby Blue” (2003, from the Autumn Was a Lark EP).

Portastatic is an indie rock band from Chapel Hill. In 1992 Mac McCaughan from the very influential indie band Superchunk set up a solo side project. It was meant to be a lo-fi outlet, and strictly a solo thing. I don’t think he ever intended for it to still be going 20 years later, and he certainly never intended for Portastatic to be a full-fledged band. That’s exactly what’s happened. Six proper albums, two movie soundtracks and countless 7″ records and EPs. The band currently includes Superchunk guitarist Jim Wilbur and Mac’s brother Matt. Their most recent release was the 2009 digital EP Make it Sound in Tune, but they’re still active.

Today’s song comes from the 2003 EP Autumn Was a Lark, which was a play off of the Summer of the Shark album, which was released the same year. The EP consists of five songs (three of which are covers), and a boatload of bonus material taken from radio sessions. In all, it’s 14 songs of awesomeness.

Tonight’s song was originally done by Badfinger on their 1971 album Straight Up on the Beatles’ label Apple Records. It was later released as a single in the US, but never in their native UK.

Loads of bands have covered this song. And it’s a wonderfully brilliant song. I’ve got three different covers of it, and this is my favorite. By a long way.

“Baby Blue” as covered by Portastatic

It’s a really faithful adaptation, and Mac actually does a really good job with the singing. What makes it really awesome, though, is that the backing vocals are provided by Tift Merritt. It doesn’t tell you that in the credits, but it’s no secret that it’s her.

And now, here’s a video of Badfinger playing the song way back 1972 on the variety show Rollin’ on the River, hosted by Kenny Rogers:

I’m not sure what’s going on there. The audience is comatose.

You can buy Autumn Was a Lark from the Merge Records web store here. If you want the physical CD, and you live in the US, shipping is free.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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