Cover versions!

 A week or so ago I downloaded some Bauhaus for old time’s sake and was absolutely blown away by their version of Third Uncle (other side of Ziggy Stardust single). The Brian Eno original is good, but nowhere near as deranged. (Deranged is good, for the avoidance of doubt). Which got me thinking… Of songs where the cover is better than the original. Here’s a few for starters (IMHO, of course).

  • Take me to the River – Talking Heads (Al Green)
  • One – Johnny Cash (U2) and possibly his version of Mercy Seat just edges it over Nick Cave???
  • Superstar – Sonic Youth (The Carpenters)
  • Third Uncle – Bauhaus (Brian Eno)
  • Bohemian Rhapsody – Flaming Lips (Queen)
  • Heard it through the Grapevine – Marvin Gaye (Gladys Knight and the Pips)
  • Different Drum – Lemonheads (Linda Ronstadt/ Mike Nesmith)
  • Show me the Way – Dinosaur Jr (Peter Frampton) – for pure silliness
  • The Ballad of John and Yoko – Teenage Fanclub (the Beatles, I don’t like the Beatles, this is as close as I get to listening to them)
  • Some Velvet Morning – Thin White Rope or Rowland S. Howard/ Lydia Lunch (Lee Hazelwood & Nancy Sinatra)

    There are also some songs where I like the covers as much as the originals… e.g. both REM’s and the Ramones’ version of Have You Ever Seen the Rain? are as good as the Credence original, it just depends what mood you’re in.Any more suggestions? Mr John Robb has suggested the Stranglers’ Walk on By, with which I probably concur, Catch a Falling Star by Adam and the Ants (can’t remember it??) and Twist and Shout by the Beatles (NO! See above). Update: he’s suggested The Model, by Big Black… just checked it out, it’s great. And a belated honourable mention for the Membranes own cover of Voodoo Chile, which is ace.

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  • drummerboyblog  On November 9, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Tiga’s cover of ‘It’s Getting Hot In Here’

    Obviously, Hendrix’s cover of Watchtower is even considered to be the best by Dylan

    And Without You by Nilsson is a cover of some band I can’t remember (though the good work all undone by the horrible screechy version by the female ‘soul’ vocalist

  • Nils Boray  On November 9, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Young Gifted & Black – Bob & Marcia’s version is far superior to Nina Simone’s original

    Killing me softly is good by both Roberta Flack, and The Fugees – very different versions though

    I wanna be your man – written by Lennon/McCartney for the Rolling Stones – equally good by Beatles (whaddya mean you don’t listen to them ??)

    Johnny Was – Stiff Little Fingers arguably better than Bob Marley’s version

    John Holt – (who wrote Tide is High for The Paragons – which was covered much better by Blondie, and pretty poorly by Atomic Kitten) – covered Kris Kristofferson’s ‘Help Me Make it through the night’ – best version there is IMHO

    Oh and the Sex Pistols version of No Fun (B-side to pretty vacant), originally by Iggy & the Stooges.

    I’d better stop – I could go on for ever. Will have to put a youtube or spotify play list together of the best entries.

  • Andy  On November 9, 2010 at 12:39 am

    How about the JAMC version of Little Red Rooster, oozing noise and sleaze and they only know how and possibly their version of Surfin USA

  • bobtoldmetodoit  On November 9, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Just Like Heaven by Dinosaur Jnr

  • bobtoldmetodoit  On November 9, 2010 at 9:03 am

    Oh and I think Cash’s Hurt is clearly better than anything by NIN – but although Cash version of The Mercy Seat is poignant it is nowhere near as deranged as Mr Cave’s version and deranged is good ?

  • Phil Dyson  On November 9, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Another obvious one is the Pogues version of Ewen Macoll’s ‘Dirty Old Town.’ Arguably, Jonny Cash’s version of ‘Hurt’, aces NIN’s, as does Nirvana’s cover of ‘Jesus Don’t Want Me For A Sunbeam’ (Even if they do it the Vaselines’ way)

    Sometimes, the best cover versions bring something very different to the original, witness June Tabor and the Oyster Band’s version of ‘Love Will Never Tear Us Apart’ or Josh Rouse with his take on The Clash’s ‘Straight To Hell’ that’s impossible to hear without tears pouring down your face, and not just cos it sounds like an elegy for Joe Strummer. Man, I could do this all day…
    (incidentally, have a look at – it’s a really useful resource listing pretty much every cover version ever done)

  • citizenr  On November 9, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Robert Elms on BBC London radio does a weekley slot called cover to cover where he plays both songs and gets listeners to call in and argue for their favourite.

    Drummerboy, may I add XTC’s version of Watchtower? brilliant stuff.

    Wild Horses- The original (stripped down) version by The Rolling Stones or the chilled our Sundays version?

  • thebristolblogger  On November 9, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Black Steel by Tricky.

    I also like 18 Carat Love Affair by the Associates but they’re a Marmite band aren’t they?

    The other cover on Big Black’s Songs about F**cking is Cheap Trick’s “He’s a Whore”, which is alright although I’ve no idea what the original sounds like.

  • Nils Boray  On November 13, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Got to share this one : These Arms of Mine – Otis reading : covered by Beres Hammond – I could go into an infinite loop trying to work out which is better

  • Nils Boray  On November 13, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    that’s Otis Redding who’s reading that !

  • Lennonist  On November 15, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    “Don’t like The Beatles”. Are you sure?

  • Steve X  On November 15, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    Nick Cave’s version of Helpless on the Neil Young covers album The Bridge was pretty awesome. As was his version of In The Ghetto.

  • kerrymccarthy  On November 27, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Lennonist: yes, I’m sure!

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