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Under Cover

[Thanks to my sister Lisa for the Christmas logo] Got a good link emailed to me today to XFM online, which announced the 50 best cover versions of songs (as voted by the Daily Telegraph, a link to which story cannot be found). Here's the 50. (And I realize this story is about a week old already) There's some crap on there, some stuff I never heard of and a few things (notably Siouxsie & the Banshees cover of Dear Prudence) I like, but it is, as you probably guessed, a far cry from what my list would be. I am a connoisseur of cover songs. I collect them, dissect them, savor them. My favorite covers are the ones where the artist made the song their own rather than just giving the song the same exact treatment the original artist did. What's the point, otherwise? That does not necessarily mean the newer artists had to completely change the song, but that they gave it their own flavor, put their trademark on the tune. Off the top of my head, without thinking too much about it, my favorite cover songs.
* Faith No More - This Guy's in Love With You (Burt Bacharach) * Faith No More - Easy (Commodores) * Quicksand -How Soon is Now (The Smiths) * Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine - Down With the Sickness - (Disturbed) * Patti Smith - Because the Night (Bruce Springsteen) * Johnny Cash - Hurt - (Nine Inch Nails) * Filter - One- (Three Dog Night) * Goldfinger - Rio (Duran Duran) * Deftones - Chauffeur (Duran Duran) * Lovage - Sex (I'm a...) - Berlin * Rammstein - Stripped (Depeche Mode) * Talking Heads - Take Me To The River (Al Green) * Type O Negative - NIB (Black Sabbath) * Smashing Pumpkins - Landslide (Fleetwood Mac) * Primus - Have a Cigar (Pink Floyd) * Nirvana - Man Who Sold the World (Bowie) * Wall of Voodoo - Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash) * No Use For A Name - Redemption Song (Bob Marley) * Refused - Bullet (Misfits) * Me First and the Gimme Gimmes - I Believe I Can Fly (R. Kelly) * Fine Young Cannibals - Ever Fallen in Love (Buzzcocks) * Cake - I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor) * Helloween - From Out of Nowhere (Faith No More) And, an mp3 someone once sent me of The Bloodhound Gang doing a live version of Weezer’s Undone, mixed with Wu Tang Clan's Wu Tang Ain't Nothin' to Fuck With. Ok, that's it for right now, though I'll be adding to it. I've got real work to do, fiction to write, and 100 songs to go on my list of 500. I'd tell you to add your two cents, but you will anyhow. So just do it.


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» Cover Me, Baby from Plum Crazy
Sure, Michele may be a week behind the times on the Daily Telegraph’s list of the 50 best cover songs, but I’m a week and A Small Victory behind the times. I would never have even known about this otherwise. I’m not going to weigh in ... [Read More]


i like Foo Fighters version of "have a cigar" a whole lot.

I think Korn should be run over by a train for their version of "The Wall". Ok i think they should be run over by a train anyway.

Sara K does a really fantastic, smokey, almost loungey version of Brick House that nearly puts the Commodores to shame.

The Deftones also did two other fine covers, "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" and "To Have and To Hold".

And Therapy? oh man i love those guys, and they do some rockin covers. "Vicar in a Tutu", "Where Eagles Dare" "Nice & Sleazy", and their versions of Husker Du's "Diane" just floor me.

Warren Zevon and the Hindu Love Gods (that'd be the band part of REM) did a great cover of "Raspberry Beret" a few years back.

Me First and the Gimme Gimme's did a couple other cover songs I think ought to be mentioned: "The Rainbow Connection" and "Don't Cry For Me Argentina".

Hayseed Dixie did a very...odd cover of "Gin and Juice" that has to be heard to be believed.

me first and the gimme gimmes - come sail away - styx

string cheese incident - gin and juice (bluegrass - insanely good) - snoop

I also adore cover songs.

I just found a great show on XM Channel 53, actually -- Tuesdays at noon eastern, replayed at 9pm -- called "Duped", where they play nothing but covers.

I never knew that "Because the Night" was a cover (Patti Smyth did it originally, I think... or did Patti cover 10,000 Maniacs?).

Punk and Ska covers are the most fun of any covers I've heard, but I also particularly enjoy Vanessa Carlton's "Paint it Black" and Bree Sharp's "Boys of Summer".

My favorite, I think, would be the Jimi Hendrix reworking of Dylan's otherwise-pedestrian "All Along the Watchtower".

And Three Dog Night, by the way, got "One" from the Nilsson catalog. (Harry's version is properly mournful, but 3DN's is better.)

Suede--Brass in Pocket
Damned--Alone Again Or (also liked the Spanish brass version on a Miller commercial)
Pretenders--Stop Your Sobbing
Muppets--Mah-na Mah-na (novelty song originally done by someone named Piero Umiliani, if my copy of K-Tel's Goofy Greats--or was it Loony Tunes?--is any authority)
Pet Shop Boys--Where the Streets Have No Name/Can't Take My Eyes Off of You

The Gin and Juice cover is by a group called the Gourds. It's been mis-labeled on-line for years.

I will survive by Cake is one of the best covers ever.

Other covers I've always loved, the Grateful Dead's version of El Paso, Zeppelin's Bring it on Home and Van Halen's You've really got me.

Of course the end all be all of cover bands was Phish what with their "musical halloween costumes" of the beatles white album, the who's quadrophenia, the talking head's remain in light, the velvet underground's Loaded and of course, the dark side of the moon all covered in their entirety during their legendary concerts... but my favorite phish covers have to be their acappela version of freebird, their pseudo-rap gettin jiggy wit it, a bluegrass inspired Foreplay/Longtime and the power chord monster loving cup... God damn it, I'm gonna miss that band.

Damn, once I started, I couldn't stop. Original in parens when not obvious.

Elvis Presley, "Hound Dog" (Practically all Elvis ever did was covers)
The English Beat, "Tears of a Clown"
R.E.M., "Toys in the Attic"
The Jam, "In the Midnight Hour"
(Unless somebody copied somebody, that was the Gourds that did Snoop's "Gin & Juice")
Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Fire" (Hendrix)
Camper Van Beethoven, "Pictures of Matchstick Men" (Status Quo)
Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Subterranean Homesick Blues"
Jane's Addiction, "Rock & Roll/Sympathy for the Devil" (Velvets/Stones)
Anthrax, "Bring the Noise" (Public Enemy)
The Who, "Young Man Blues" (Mose Allison)
Nirvana, "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" (Leadbelly)
R.E.M., "Strange" (Wire)
Rolling Stones, "Prodigal Son" (Robert Wilkins)
Red Hot Chili Peppers, "They're Red Hot" (Robert Johnson)
Red Red Meat, "There's Always Tomorrow" (from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer")
Butthole Surfers, "American Woman"
Aztec Camera, "Jump"
Minutemen, "Doctor Wu" (Steely Dan)
Meat Puppets, "Good Golly Miss Molly"
The Clash, "Pressure Drop" (Toots and the Maytals)
Urge Overkill, "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon"
Urge Overkill, "Emmaline" (Hot Chocolate)
Bauhaus, "Telegram Sam" (T.Rex)
X, "Soul Kitchen" (Doors)
Van Halen, "Pretty Woman"
The Cramps, "Fever"
Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Higher Ground"
Uncle Tupelo, "Atomic Power" (Louvin Bros.)
Geraldine Fibbers, "Yoo Doo Right" (Can)
The Beatles, "Rock and Roll Music" (John loses his MIND)
Green River, "Ain't Nothin' to Do" (Dead Boys)
Superchunk, "Train from Kansas City" (Shangri-Las)
fIREHOSE, "Slack Motherfucker" (Superchunk)

OK, enough.

How about:

Manfred Mann "Blinded by the Light" (Springsteen)
Fine Young Cannibals "Suspicious Minds" (Elvis)
Love Tractor "Neon Lights" (Kraftwerk)
Johnny Cash "Rusty Chains" (Soundgarden)
Van Halen "You Really Got Me" (The Kinks)

Ah, Michelle - you mentioned Faith No More. Haven't thought about them in ages; I remember listening to college radio in San Antonio 20 years ago and listening to "We Care A Lot". Time flies.....

Jason and the Scorchers - West Virginia

Clash--Time is Tight (an instrumental)
Pogues--Waltzing Matilda (they changed it, but it's still a cover)
Wolfgang Press-Respect
Morrissey--That's Entertainment

Revolting Cocks - Do Ya Think I'm Sexy? (Rod Stewart)
Laibach - Sympathy for the Devil (Rolling Stones)
Kevorkian Death Cycle - Never Say Never (Romeo Void)
Nine Inch Nails - Get Down Make Love (Queen)
Crispin Glover - These Boots Were Made For Walking (Nancy Sinatra)
Sheep on Drugs - Wish (Nine Inch Nails)

Oh yeah, and -

1000 Homo DJs - Supernaut (Black Sabbath)
16 Volt - theme song from The Love Boat
Front Line Assembly w/Tiffany - New Years Day (U2)
KMFDM - Material Girl (Madonna)
Bigod 20 - Like a Prayer (Madonna)

I don't think "Because the Night" qualifies as a cover. According to Patti Smith's bio, she released it in 1978 and regarded it as a collaberation with Bruce Springsteen. From what I can tell from Springsteen's site, he did not release the song until 1986, and that was a live duet with Patti. Great song, but no cover.

The Bangles-"Hazy Shade of Winter" (Simon and Garfunkel)
Best S&G cover ever!

SnoopDogg (featuring[????] the Doors)-"Riders on the Storm" (the Doors)
God its AWFUL. It's the song playing on the new GameCube race game commercial. Doesn't even sound like what it's supposed to be...

Laibach also did the Beatle's Let It Be album (except for the title track). I love the way Across the Universe sounds with a beautiful chorus of Hungarian Valkyries (is that some sort of ethnic malaprop?): Germanic and silly--like Sprockets, only the monkey you almost touched becomes rabid when the next song comes along.

Crap, I'm sounding like the Village Voice capsule reviews!

Sergio Mendez - Wave (Jobim)

The Charles River Valley Boys released an entire LP of bluegrass Beatles covers in the 60's. I like "Norwegian Wood" off the album, but I prefer the version of "I've Just Seen a Face" that was done by The Dillards.

Jim Carrey recently released a cover of "I Am The Walrus". I've heard it twice and, to be honest, I have no idea whether I like it or not.

On the other hand, Adam Sandler did a very recent cover of my all-time favorite song "Werewolves of London" that wasn't bad at all.

Soundgarden - The Girl You Want (Devo)

Has to be heard to be believed.

I'd have to go with Social Distortion's version of Ring of Fire.

In no particular order:
Rock & Roll All Night (Kiss) - Toad the Wet Sprocket
Gin & Juice - The Gourds
Mrs. Robinson - The Lemonheads
Love Is All Around Me(The Trogs) - REM
Toys in the Attic (Aerosmith) - REM
Hotel California (Eagles) - Gypsy Kings

it's not a "true" cover, but i really love the supervisor song Survivor sings for a Starbucks commercial. Glen! Glen Glen Glen!

ok, seriously now. best covers:
Me First & the Gimme Gimmes - End of the Road (Boys II Men)
Bowling for Soup - Summer of '69 (Bryan Adams)
Quiet Riot - Cum on Feel the Noize (Slade)
Sugar Ray - Stand and Deliver (Adam & the Ants)
Duran Duran - White Lines (Grandmaster Flash?)
Hall & Oates (yeah, I said Hall & Oates... wanna make something of it?) - You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling (Righteous Brothers)
Guns n' Roses - Live and Let Die (P.M. & Wings)
Pseudo Echo - Funkytown (Lipps Inc.)
The Cult - Born to be Wild (Steppenwolf)
The Muffs - Build Me Up Buttercup (The Foundations)

i'm awfully surprised that nobody's mentioned any of William Hung's covers...

I'd have to include Dwight Yoakum's cover of The Clash's 'Train in Vain' on any list. Not sure if I would call it inspired or ill-advised, but it is definitely different. Plus, it's kind of cool to hear The Clash twanged up.

I also have a soft spot in my heart for Lakeside's cover of 'I Want To Hold Your Hand'.

Why hasn't anyone brought up The Power Station's cover of 'Bang A Gong'? I was diggin' their take on that song back in the day...

Oh yeah, I completely forgot my favorite.

Camper Van Beethoven's cover of Pictures of Matchstick Men (Status Quo)

A couple of off the wall ones:
Este Bien Mamacita - by the Mexican Elvis

Lester Wright and the Wrongs do Pink Floyd cover in the Blue Grass style

If we're going to suggest Beatles covers and risk offending Michele in the process, the best recent one is Cornershop's Norwegian Wood. How could London Sikhs (?) doing Liverpudlian sitar music (?!) ever go wrong?

Save Ferris's version of "Come on Eileen" is pretty nifty.

Savoy Brown's cover of "Goin' Down" ("Make Me Sweat", 1987) cannot be surpassed for the essential take on that song.


CREAM is reuniting for a 10-date tour!

I know, this seems off-topic. But, since Cream did a cover of Robert Johnson's Crossroad Blues, I figured it is tenuously covered by the "Under Cover" topic.

I never thought Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker would ever step in the same room again. This will be cool.

Soupdragons-I'm Free (Stones)

Jam-David Watts(Kinks)

Yes-America(Simon and the curly haired guy)

Barenaked Ladies-Lovers in a Dangerous Time(Bruce Cockburn)

Cocteau Twins-Song To The Siren(Tim Buckley)

Bryan Ferry-A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall(Dylan)

Echo & Bunneymen-People Are Strange(Doors)

Jeff Beck-Cause We Ended As Lovers

ELP-Hoedown(Aaron Copeland)

Love And Rockets-Ball of Confusion

Peter Murphy- Final Solution(Pere Ubu)

Nazareth-This Flight Tonight(Joni Mitchell)

Pukka Orchestra-Listen To The Radio(Tom Robinson)

Roger Daltrey-Say It Ain't So,Joe(Murray Head)

I see Aztec Camera's "Jump" has already been mentioned, but I rather like the spin they put on it.

I also love Annie Lennox's version of "Train in Vain." She turns it from a pop song to a AlGreenesque soul ballad. I can see how her version would grate on people, though, but I think it is putting a great spin on the song.

My Bloody Valentine - Map Ref 41N 93W (Wire)
Bad Brains feat. Henry Rollins - Kick Out the Jams (MC5)
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Tower of Song (Leonard Cohen)
Pixies - Ain't That Pretty at All (Warren Zevon)
Concrete Blonde - Everybody Knows (Leonard Cohen)
Marianne Faithful - As Tears Go By (1987) - Rolling Stones
Elvis Costello - Days (The Kinks)


"Tainted Love" by Soft Cell should be mentioned, because the famous version is a cover. The original was a '60s motown tune.

It seems like the only Chili Peppers tunes I like are covers. Besides the previously mentioned, they did "If You Want Me to Stay" (Sly & the Family Stone) and "Rollercoaster of Love" (Ohio Players).

Some of the covers I really like have already been named (Siouxsie & the Banshees "Dear Prudence", Aztec Camera's "Jump", Camper van Beethoven's "Pictures of Matchstick Men", and The Communards "Don't Leave Me This Way"). Other covers I haven't seen are:

Siouxsie & the Banshees "Wheel on Fire" (Bob Dylan)
Letters to Cleo "Dangerous Type" (The Cars)
They Might Be Giants "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" (no idea who originally recorded it)
Flying Lizards "Money (That's What I Want)" (I can't remember who was the original artist to record this)

I suppose I should also mention Love Spit Love's cover of The Smith's "How Soon Is Now". My only hesitation is that it reminds me so much of the original. I do like a little variation in a cover.

I'm going to assume that Lesley's CD collection is frighteningly similar to my own. Nice catch on Istanbul and I totally agree about the Smith's cover.

Worst cover ever? The folksy, granola chick that tried to do Bisarre Love Triangle. (Yes, I know tht bisarre is spelled with a "Z", but Michele's blacklist rejects the correct spelling)

"Mah-Na-Mah-Na" was part of the soundtrack of the motion picture Sweden, Heaven and Hell; Piero Umiliani wrote it, and is credited as the writer on the 45 label, but no "artist" is in fact listed. It's one of those records whose influence far exceeded its lowly chart position (#55 in Billboard in 1969).

Oh, and "Money (That's What I Want)" was cut first by Barrett Strong in 1960 for Berry Gordy's sister's record company (Anna); the song did well enough to enable Gordy, who cowrote it, to finance a label of his own, which he called Motown. Strong wound up as a Motown staff writer, usually working with producer Norman Whitfield; "War" (good God, y'all), recorded by Edwin Starr, was one of their big hits.

"Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" by Led Zeppelin. How could I forget? They decided to do it after hearing Joan Baez's version, so it's a cover of a cover. Original by Anne Briggs.

Nirvana - Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam (Vaselines)
Nazareth - Love Hurts (Roy Orbison)
Foghat - I Just Want To Make Love To You (Muddy Waters)
Counting Crows - Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
Motley Crue - Smokin' In The Boys Room (Brownsville Station)

My favorite:

Klaus Nomi - You Don't Own Me. (How can a song be so cool and so funny at the same time?)

I really go for rock/country/bluegrass crossover covers. Anything by Hayseed Dixie. Also:

Dolly Parton - I Get A Kick out of You
Dolly Parton - Time for Me to Fly
Dolly Parton - Shine.
Alison Krauss & Union Station - Midnight Rider.
Nickel Creek - When You Come Back Down.
Kentucky Headhunters - Spirit in the Sky.

Of course, the Grandaddy of Them All was the performance of the Leningrad Cowboys doing "Sweet Home Alabama" at the MTV Music awards. An unbidden smile crosses my face as I type this.

Oh, yeah - another great one to try at home. In the 80's there was a regional band in the south named Blind Farmers from Hell. They did a version of "Stairway to Heaven", but they sang the lyrics to the Theme from Gilligan's Island. If you have a guitar, try it sometime. Syncronicity!

Well, the concept of a "cover" is of relatively recent vintage - time was, singers did their own version of standards all the time, and some of these sound pretty fresh even now. Pick up "The Essential Nina Simone" for a good example. I also like the CDs from the late, great Eva Cassidy. For covers, I'm fond of the Marilyn Manson covers of Sweet Dreams and Personal Jesus.

My favorite cover is "Tears of A Clown" by the English Beat. Whenever I hear the name of the song I think of their version.

Same with "All Along the Watchtower". Dylan even said it was Hendrix's song once Jimi remade it.

Thought of a couple more on the drive home yesterday. Scotch mentioned "Tears of a Clown." Also liked The Beat Farmers version of NYoung's "Powderfinger." Not terribly different, but distinctively theirs.

And I'll need help with this one--hopefully someone is familiar with a cover of Talking Heads "Naive Melody." I heard this cover on a late-night drive. The static kept me from hearing who recorded it, other than it had John Strohm on it (from Blake Babies fame). I'd love to find out more about it--a sparse recording, but I loved it.

Lastly, Alejandro Escovedo's cover of Iggy Pop's "I Wanna Be Your Dog," complete with strings, is priceless.

Cheeky Monkey - "Gerry Cheevers" (BMX Bandits)

Pixies - "Heaven" (Eraserhead Soundtrack), "Straight On" (Jesus & Marychain) and Six-Sixty-Six (Larry Norman)

801 - "Tomorrow Never Knows" (Beatles)

Bryan Ferry - "That's How Strong My Love Is" (Otis Redding?)

Psychotic Pineapple - "You're Gonna Miss Me" (13th Floor Elevators)

Lime Spiders - "1-2-5" (The Haunted)

Nomads - "She Pays The Rent" (The Lyres)

The Meatmen - "What's This Shit Called Love?" (The Pagans)

James Carr - "To Love Somebody" (The BeeGees)

Cracker - "Shake Some Action" (Flamin' Groovies)

The Dictators - "Search & Destroy" (Stooges)

The Minutemen - "The Red & The Black" (Blue Oyster Cult)

Butthole Surfers - "Hurdy-Gurdy Man" (Donovan)

S.W.A.T. - "The Pusher" (Steppenwolf)

One of my personal favorites:

Too Much Joy-Seasons in the Sun (Terry Jacks)

Horrible, cheesy song, but they make it fun.

Anthrax - Got The Time &
Megadeth - Anarchy In The U.K.

are my two favorites, but I, like you have a whole list of them.

You know, Big Country recorded some kick-ass covers as B sides, including Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" and a really good version of Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper."


I hope you don't mind some more...
some I can't believe I just thought of now.

X covering "Wild Thing." They were well past their prime (peaking somewhere between their 3rd and 4th albums?), but this song was theirs from the first power chord.

Since I mentioned The Beat Farmers earlier, Springsteen's "Reason to Believe" never sounded so uplifting as their version. Velvet Underground's "There She Goes Again"... ditto.

Husker Du's covers of "Eight Miles High" and "Love is All Around."

Shatter, I think "Rockin in the Free World" sounds good by almost anyone. At a concert Natalie Merchant came out with the Indigo Girls to perform a kick-ass version. (Yeah, it was Lilith Fair...my g/f and I were the only hetero couple there)

The Clash's version of "I Fought the Law and the Law Won" is high on my list of favorite covers.

Lyres version of the Kinks "Never Met a Girl Like You Before."

Big Star recorded many greats and the fact that so many covers are good: Matthew Sweet and Evan Dando doing "The Ballad of El Goodo," the Replacements doing "I'm In Love With A Girl," Teenage Fanclub's "Jesus Christ," "September Gurls" by so many, including the Bangles, Teenage Fanclub, and Superdrag, and the Posies doing "Whats Going Ahn." And there are so many more...

Last ones, I promise...
The Staples doing Talking Heads "Slippery People"

Richard Thompson's "Wall of Death" by REM and Mary Lou Lords

And last... Marshall Crenshaw covering anything. ABBA's "Knowing Me Knowing You", Arthur Alexander's "Soldier of Love," and "Walk Away Renee."

Frente did the New Order cover.

Mitch Ryder and Detroit - Rock and Roll (Lou Reed)
That one brings back memories of the old commercials for Raceway Park (!) in Englishtown, New Jersey.

David Johansen - Stranded in the Jungle (?)

Willie Nelson - Stardust (Hoagy Carmichael)
(and many more)

Ray Charles - Georgia on My Mind, America the Beautiful, etc.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Born to Run

Emmylou Harris - Tougher Than the Rest

Everything but the Girl - (ditto)

X - Fourth of July (Dave Alvin)

R.E.M. - First We Take Manhattan, Then We Take Berlin (Leonard Cohen)

Harvey Danger - Sooner or Later (English Beat)

Joey Ramone - What a Wonderful World (Nat King Cole)

Was (Not Was) - Papa Was a Rolling Stone