Ralph Covert and The Bad Examples
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Ralph Covert and The Bad Examples

Chicago, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1987 | SELF

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 1987
Band Rock Singer/Songwriter


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Indie Rocker Introduces Children to Ralph's World"

All Things Considered, March 7, 2007 · Ralph's World is a place where the girl next door has a dinosaur, where riding with no hands is cause to burst into song and where a man named Ralph Covert makes a living singing silly songs.
Covert started a career as a rock musician with a Chicago-based indie band called the Bad Examples, which had a devoted local following.
After earning national fame and a Grammy nomination, Covert decided to try to set a good example for kids — with songs featuring upbeat lyrics and pop melodies that parents also can appreciate.
And what started as a sideline has become his main act: Ralph's World. Covert tells Michele Norris that the key to writing songs for children is to forget that you are writing songs for children. His latest CD is the aptly named Welcome to Ralph's World. - NPR's All Things Considered

"The Bad Examples"

The Bad Examples have stood the test of time as one of Chicago’s classic power pop bands, with a career spanning over two decades. Formed in the spring of 1987 by singer/songwriter /guitarist Ralph Covert and featuring the talents of lead guitarist Tommy O’Brien and bassist Pickles Piekarski, the band toured Chicago extensively before releasing their well-regarded debut record Bad Is Beautiful in 1990. Updating the guitar-driven pop sound of influences Squeeze and Elvis Costello for the ‘90s and featuring their classic single “Not Dead Yet,” the record was named by Goldmine magazine as one of their “50 Essential American Power Pop Albums Of All Time.” After releasing a string of well-received records throughout the rest of the decade, the band continues to tour intermittently, with Covert devoting most of his recording time to Ralph’s World, his ultra-successful children’s music brand. The Bad Examples, who are releasing their brand new album Broken E Chord this month, remain a powerful live band and a Chicago institution. - Innerview

"The Bad Examples' Exciting 'Smash Record'"

For decades, Ralph Covert has worked his fingers to the bone making a living playing his own music in a variety of venues. And he's not dead yet.

His rock band, the Bad Examples, formed way back in 1987 and has since released eight albums (depending on how you count them) and played concert and club dates from Chicago to Holland. Ralph's World, a "side act" that focuses on children's music, came along in 2001, and has been a smash hit with kids and parents alike, putting out nine album with songs like "Surfin' in My Imagination" that make Moms and Dads smile while their offspring madly sing along. And leader Covert has added two official solo records to the total, plus a fan club-only special, an EP, and a never- released Christmas album.
While all that was going on, the thoughtful, easygoing Covert has taught songwriting at the Old Town School of Folk Music, written children's musicals for the theater, taught at a theater summer camp, written a children's book based on one of his musicals. In fact, the man loves music and hardly seems to stop to take a breath. He's even working on a novel, of which he laughingly says, "My editor would be really happy if I could get her some more stuff on."

For now, the most important thing in Ralph's world, aside from his wife, Rita, and the four kids they share between them, is a new record from the Bad Examples, Smash Record, which was just sent off to the pressing plant. It's due January 11, and fans will definitely not be disappointed, as Covert's intelligent lyrics and fanciful phrase-turning are highly in evidence throughout.

Take a seven-year-old song that's long been a live favorite, "Your Ex-Girlfriend," that Covert wrote late one night during a crosstown walk home from a club in Amsterdam. "The 'I'm still living with your ex-girlfriend' line just popped into my head, and it cracked me up because it was such a great slap-in-the-face kind of line," he laughs. "It was a funny song to write because, as angry and snotty as the song is, it was a complete delight to come up with. 'How snotty could I possibly be?' "

Ralph may speak in circles, pausing to reflect, starting over and over until he eventually finds the words he wants, the right ones to convey his thoughts. It is this kind of refusal to take the easy path, the first thing that pops into his head, that makes him such an intellectual lyricist. On the other hand, the Bad Examples, and by extension Ralph's World, utilize a rootsy pub rock approach to the music that makes the songs immediately hummable.

One of the new songs on Smash Record that falls into that category is the delightful "Kill Amanda." "When I'd first written it," Ralph relates, "the kids around the house, I'd hear them like out of nowhere singing it, and any time I'd play it for friends they would always end up singing along, and it got to be a running joke with my wife and I that I couldn't play the song without somebody singing along.

"We had taken a trip a few years back where we visited a good friend of ours in Singapore, and then traveled a bit through the East. One place we went to was Bali, and I was strumming guitar around this little pool that was in the back of the place we were staying in, in Bali, and there were these two Chinese girls. They didn't speak a word of English, and Rita's like, 'Okay, you're going down. Play "Kill Amanda," and see what happens.' " he laughs at the memory. "But I played 'Kill Amanda,' and by the end of the song the two girls were singing, 'Kir Ammana,' " he sings. "They didn't quite get it right but the streak remained unbroken."

Daughter Fiona didn't fall far from the Covert family tree, as her songwriter's instinct found the depth of meaning on the album's lead track and its opening line, "If you could be anywhere right now, would you be anywhere but here?" She told her father, "I heard that line in that song and this thing rushed up inside of me. That's my Dad's soul laid bare." Ultimately, "Big E Chord" was chosen to lead off the record for just that reason, or as Covert puts it,"To me 'Big E Chord' is essential to the record only because it is so the heart and soul" of the band.

The Bad Examples surely have heart, and it showed during the thousands of hours they worked on the new CD. If something didn't feel right, the drum sound on "Kill Amanda," for example, drummer Larry Beers thought nothing about overdubbing his entire drum kit onto the completed track, recording in a different room to achieve the sound he heard in his head. "There was that kind of a willingness to get it right," Covert acknowledges with pride, and excitement.

In fact, excitement is perhaps the best word to describe his current emotional state leading up to the two shows this month, first the Bad Examples at FitzGerald's on December 17, followed the next day by Ralph's World at Park West. He expects "a joyous celebration of rock 'n' roll in both cases. The Bad Examples show, I think we're going to try to play the whole record, just 'cause it's fun to. We don't get to play that often, so when we get a chance to get together and play it just feels good, and it's a celebration.

Flying Ralph, the Emperor of Ralph's World
"And with Ralph's World, the goal with a Ralph's World show is giving the kids a true live rock concert experience, but in a way that is tailored to making it really hit their buttons. FitzGerald's, obviously we've got a deep, deep history with (owner) Bill (FitzGerald) and with that club. I even met Rita there, so it all goes back to FitzGerald's for me. And Park West remains one of my favorite places in the world, both to play shows and to see shows."

Speaking of shows, the Chicago Children's Theatre has been running a production of a Covert musical that closes on December 2, "our musical of Eleanor Estes' book The Hundred Dresses. It's a classic kids book, really, with a timeless subject dealing with friendship. Kids can sometimes be mean to each other, but ultimately in the story they learn about themselves, casting a little bit of a light on the bullying issues, but kind of doing it in a way that really celebrates friendship, and does so in a really exuberant and emotionally impactful way. Chicago Children's Theatre did the production, and they have hit the ball out of the park. It's an absolutely wonderful staging of the musical. I don't know if it's going to extend. If it is that'd be great. I know for sure that they're planning on touring it."

With all this activity, one might think the various outlets would fight for the songs springing forth from the fertile mind of Covert the Creator, but they seem to find their proper homes. "I think most songs tend to sort themselves one way or the other," Ralph explains. "Part of what makes both the Ralph's World stuff and the Bad Examples stuff exciting is the opportunity to kind of push the envelope both ways. So sometimes the ones that overlap can be a lot of fun.

"On the (Ralph's World) Green Gorilla album (Green Gorilla, Monster and Me) there's a song called "Hideaway" that
was written to be a Bad Examples song." But Josh "Cartier" Cutsinger, producer and frequent Covert colleague, heard it "and he was so head over heels in love with the song he insisted that we put it on a Ralph's World record even though it was written as a pure piece of existential pop music. That's one of the nice things about the Ralph's World thing, is that, I try very hard to not fill the record with kids songs per se. But by trying to fill them with great songs I think it makes it," he pauses. "You know, sometimes the line's a bit blurry between what's a Ralph's World song and sometimes a Bad Examples song. Most of the time it's not, because a song like 'Ex-Girlfriend,' a seven-year-old is not going to care."

Another song finally found its home on Smash Record, "You Don't Understand Me." "Interestingly, that's a song that I actually wrote for one of my musicals, and then the song was cut from the musical because it didn't accomplish what it needed to within that particular musical. The musical has not been done yet. Some of the guys had heard it as a part of some of the songs that were laying around, and were just crazy about the song. I don't think they were really aware that it was written for a kids musical. But the idea is, I guess a great song is a great song."

Covert is capable of writing great songs, full of observational and confessional lyrics, with clever hooks and wry production touches that emphasize his points without being pushy. Take "In Another Life, a wistfully Lennonesque memory that "really does live in a real emotional dreamscape." "I stood naked in the darkness," he sings, while the guitarist quickly quotes a descending Beatles riff. Another Beatles influence shows up in the background "woos" in "Jane Left Behind." So was Covert and crew influenced by the Fab Four?
"I think anybody in 2010 who says they're not is lying to themselves," he admits. "Dave Grohl said that all he's ever tried to do is write Beatles songs, and Elliott Smith said the same thing, that all he was trying to do was put puzzles together that reminded him of the Beatles. If Nirvana and Foo Fighters are trying to be the Beatles, aren't we all?"

Another song from Smash Record, "Never Do Nuthin'," is "another song from a kids musical. That's actually one of the songs in 'The Hundred Dresses.' And the guys in the band didn't know that," Covert says rather covertly. "They just loved the song. And the Bad Examples version is very different from the musical version, so it's kind of exciting to see how a song can serve different masters so well."

For "The Devil in the Details," Ralph had a purpose in mind when he sat down to set pen to paper. "I wanted to write a song that was a Salvador Dali painting," he reveals, "so I wanted to write a song where the lyric and the energy of the song had that sense of surrealism and that uncomfortable edge that Dali's paintings have." The song's distorted vocals add another level of anxiety to the finished recording.

The current lineup of the Bad Examples, most of whom play on the most recent All Around Ralph's World record as well as Smash Record, includes guitarists Tom O'Brien ("presently in his third tour of duty") and Steve Gerlach, Famous Potato Pickles Piekarski on bass, and one-time Sonia Dada drummer Larry Beers. Bad Examples alumni also show up on the CD: drummers Terry Wathen and John Richardson and keyboard ace Steve Wozny. Christian Cullen adds more keyboards as well.

With a powerhouse band behind him that understands his creative muse as well as their own, it might seem like Ralph Covert has everything he could ever want. What's on his Christmas list, then?
"I don't need a darn thing," he insists. "I've got everything I ever could have asked for. The Ralph's World thing is a joy. 'The Hundred Dresses' musical is awesome. I'm so thrilled with this Bad Examples record. I've got awesome family and great friends. I look at the world around me and all the shit that's going down and I just keep my fingers crossed. I'm a lucky guy.

"I think the reason why I'm so happy is I get to spend my whole life giving." - rockingchicagoland.com


Still working on that hot first release.



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