Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts


Popular Music and Culture


Dr. Keir Keightley


This thesis engages with the “cover version” as it has developed since the mid-1940s. This single term has survived across historical eras “so that it now indiscriminately designates any occasion of rerecording” (Coyle 2002, 134). This thesis views changing cover trends as aspects of broader cultural changes. In order to effectively illustrate the wide scope of practices to which this term has referred, the history of cover versions is separated into three broad periods: pre-rock, rock, and post-rock. This thesis explores the shifting attitudes toward, and motivations for, cover recording across these periods. It argues that it is more useful to read individual cover practices according to their distinct cultural contexts rather than to treat “covering” as a single, fixed musical technique or tradition. Specific covering techniques are differentiated and analyzed based on their apparent degrees of musical conservation and transformation. The findings of this research are used to question the appropriateness of continuing to use the same term, “cover version,” to co-categorize an historically divergent set of practices. This thesis argues that the history of the “cover version” has been intimately tied to that of rock culture, with the practice experiencing a decline in popularity when rock began to dominate in the 1960s and then a re-emergence when rock began to be residualized in the 1990s.