Cover songs seem to strike some sort of maniacal chord in music lovers, bringing out the worst type of venom directed at the artist in question (speaking of maniacal chords, Hendrix sure screeched out a few, huh? But I digress). Everyone has their own list of their best and worst cover songs, and I’m no exception. As general rule, aren’t the originals just always better? I mean, especially if the original performers wrote the song? C’mon, it’s THEIR song after all, and the way they perform it should be the way it should be heard. Those are my feelings anyway. Still, over the years there have been some great covers, songs that really stood out to me. On the other hand, others were just a big bowl of wrong. I’ve added a ton of links so make sure you click on them, to not would just be disrespectful. Let’s start with the good covers:
Twist and Shout – The Beatles
“Twist and Shout” was originally recorded by the Topnotes and then covered by The Isley Brothers. But it was The Beatles who turned it into a thrilling crescendo that is still electric today. One of the first songs that got my head a-bobbin’.
Toys in the Attic – R.E.M.
Whoo boy, if you’ve never heard this early R.E.M. cover, download it now – you’re in for a treat. Michael Stipe’s screeching vocals and Peter Buck’s searing guitar make this one of the greatest covers ever. Sorry Aerosmith, I like R.E.M.’s version better.
Over the Rainbow – Eric Clapton
There are a million and one covers of this song, including the great version by Ray Charles, but none comes close to the slow, bluesy, 5:42 interpretation by Slowhand himself. Mesmerizingly beautiful.
Boyz-n-the-Hood – Dynamite Hack
Just a great, whimsical, tongue-in-cheek cover of the Eazy E tune. Originally written by Ice Cube, this version was a jarring departure from the original. Just quality, poppy, yet off-beat stuff.
Raspberry Beret – Hindu Love Gods
Never heard of HLG? Well, let me educate my young grasshoppers. They were a band that consisted of three R.E.M members – Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Bill Berry. Stipe didn’t join in on this little side combo, but the boys recruited a pretty suitable replacement, a cat by the name of Warren Zevon. Their Prince cover is priceless. Here’s a version with Warren on lead, minus the R.E.M. cats.
Word Up – Korn
Much apologies to Korn fans, but I loved this song. Coming from Korn, this Cameo cover was so far out of left field that nobody saw it coming. It just whopped you upside the head and kept going. Korn lovers hated it, but then again most Korn lovers are usually, shall we say,
high a little unfocused. Oh, and take heed. The video link will haunt your dreams.
Hurt – Johnny Cash
I know a few Nine Inch Nails fans who thought this was sacrilegious, but I found The Man in Black’s version to be hauntingly breathtaking.
Gloria – The Doors
Originally done by Them with Van Morrison on vocals, The Doors did a rather naughty cover that was recorded live at The Whiskey back in the day. The Lizard King does a little spoken word verse in the middle that will curl your toes, and by the time the group builds up the music into a crescendo at song’s end you’re plum tuckered out.
Ol’ 55 – The Eagles
Yeah, I know I mentioned this song in a previous blog. So what? Settle down. From their “On the Border” album, I always loved this interpretation of the song by the great Tom Waits. Great vocals by Glen Frey.
A couple of my Honorable Mention picks would be Metallica’s “Turn the Page” (the Bob Seger redo that seemed to piss off a lot of people) and ELO’s “Roll Over Beethoven” (one of the first songs that made me say “What the hell?” Beginning a rock song with Beethoven‘s 5th symphony will do that to a young guy). And oh, the Smashing Pumpkin’s did a bang-up cover of the great Cars tune, “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight.”
And now for the unpleasantness. For the love of God I don’t know why some of these people thought that recording these songs was a good idea. Some of the obvious are barely worthy of a mention, but I can’t write this without pointing out that Britney Spears’ version of “Satisfaction” and Celine Dion & Anastacia singing “You Shook Me (All Night Long)” were both absolute travesties and an affront to human dignity as we know it, not to mention that listeners became 30 IQ points dumber after hearing them. But let’s get to the so-called “serious” artists that made the fateful decision that ultimately brought them to this blog:
Layla (MTV Unplugged Version) – Eric Clapton
Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s EC covering himself, he wrote the song, he’s a God, blah-freaking-blah. Well, Rock God’s make mistakes too. It’s still the worst damn remake of a song in recorded history. What happened to the soaring guitar, the inspiried vocals, the neverending ending? All gone, replaced by a tepid sound that made me want to pound a screwdriver into my larynx (Note: I’m pretty sure that’s the first time the word larynx has been used in Chapman’s General Store. Note #2: I’m awesome). Worst of all, I once played the original for a young Clapton fan and they didn’t recognize it. Sigh . . .
Behind Blue Eyes – Limp Bizkit
I swear to you upon all that is holy, when I first heard this song I wanted to reach into my radio and punch Fred Durst in the back of the face. I’ve no idea what that tool was thinking when he thought he could cover a Roger Daltrey vocal. Absolute sewage, and may Durst meet Mark David Chapman when they both end up in hell. Merry Christmas to all!
Sweet Child O’ Mine – Sheryl Crow
Sheryl, honey, I love ya. I think Lance Armstrong’s an ass for dumping you. I think you’re an underrated singer/songwriter who can just play the hell out of that guitar. But you can’t cover G N’ R darlin’. You just can’t. They’re kind of a heavy rock outfit, ya know? Not your style at all. You’re a bit of a balladeer, a gorgeous songbird with a rock chick vibe. Now now, don’t give me that look. You’re not mad are ya? You are? I take it all back, really I do. I’m sorry babe. Sheryl? Come back sweetie! COME BACK! I DIDN’T MEAN IT!
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Marilyn Manson
Seriously? The original by The Eurythmics was a bit of a moody, hypnotic, breezy, DREAMY sort of song if you will. Marilyn‘s take? Not so much. No thank you, sir. Say hello to Durst and Chapman for me.
Anything by Rod Stewart
You know, I’m old enough to recall when Rod Stewart was cool. The Small Faces were a rock band baby! Later on, Maggie May was a great early 70’s tune that promised a bright future for ol’ Rod. Regrettably, sometime in the late 70’s he took a wrong turn into Discoland (see “Hot Legs” and “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”) and the rest is history. Since then he’s become a hotel lounge singer, covering anything and everything in the Songbook of Saps. And badly I might add. He absolutely butchered Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately” and now reminds me of Bill Murray’s lounge lizard character on the old SNL. Pathetic, and if you don’t believe me listen to the georgeous original.
American Pie – Madonna
When I first heard this song I literally wept in a corner for 2 1/2 days. Classic case of an artist’s ego becoming so big they think listeners will like anything they spew out of their piehole. More like American Shitcake if you ask me.
There ya go. As soon as I publish this blog I’m sure 10-songs will pop into my head that I forgot about. I’m sure you have some cover songs that you hate/like as well. If so let’s hear ’em.
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One thought on “Cover Songs. The Good, the Bad and the God-Awful”
99.9% of the time I despise covers, make that hate, covers. There are a few that I will make exceptions for.
Hurt – Johnny Cash
Haunting. A perfect ending to a stellar career.
With a little help from my friends – Joe Cocker
This is about the only Beatles remake I can stomach – in fact I like Cocker’s drunk ramblings better than the original.
Gin and Juice – The Gourds
Think Boyz-n-the-Hood – Dynamite Hack but listenable
Simply fun. It was the perfect college song for my first go around at college. I love Snoop, but I have to give it up to the Gourds.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
The only version that I think trumps Clapton’s version.
Hallelujah – Jason Castro
This was the only reason to watch American Idol. It’s imperfect, but it came from his soul. To me it is better than Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley.
Covers I HATE
Whoever just did Bad Company.
That was Bad Company’s song. Bad Company….leave it alone.
Anyone that tries Pink Floyd.
Mother should drop the bomb on them.
All other American Idol songs.
If you want to be American Idols do so with your own songs.
There are really too many to name in this section, but I had to throw those out there.