Covers Corner: “Mrs. Robinson” by The Lemonheads

I’ve had “Mrs. Robinson” (the Simon & Garfunkel version) stuck in my head lately, so I thought it would be fun to talk about a unique cover, which came to us courtesy of The Lemonheads in 1992.

We all know the jangly, almost thoughtful ’60s folk sound that Simon & Garfunkel were known for. “Mrs. Robinson” tells the story of the titular woman, who seems to be visiting an institution: “Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home.” Their voices are light and turn almost sneaky on the line “Put it in the pantry with your cupcakes.” (I actually prefer the soundtrack version, where the guitar is front and center. It even features a hint of the Bo Diddley beat, which is one of my favorite beats ever.) Anyway, it’s nearly the definition of groovy: settle into that strumming guitar and try not to shimmy.

Meanwhile, The Lemonheads speed things up. The main beat of the song is not hidden, exactly, but it provides the core for everything else. You can just hear it as the bass line. Evan Dando has the classic ’90s male singer voice: curved somehow, it finds its roots in punk and foreshadows the likes of Blink-182. I like this cover because they’re younger than Simon & Garfunkel. You can almost believe that they’re singing from the perspective of someone who is interested in a Mrs. Robinson, rather than the perspective of a peer with “sympathetic eyes.” The line “Put it in the pantry with your cupcakes” even sounds flirty in this version. Towards the end of the song, the guitar turns crunchy before the fadeout. There’s no lightness here; it’s solid.

In terms of cover vs. original preference, I like the Lemonheads’ version because it’s fun and youthful, but it’s hard to compare something to such an iconic song. So in this case I’m leaning more towards Simon & Garfunkel. What about you?

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