Musical Covers

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Covers. We all know it’s a lazy way for a band to get some love from its audience. Take a familiar tune, either play it straight or give it a twist and you have a song that’s instantly loved by the fans. Some bands put out whole albums of covers, while other bands are popular solely due to a strategic release of a cover (I’m looking at you Lemonheads and your cover of Mrs. Robinson). But admit it, you know you love ‘em. There’s nothing better in concert when a band surprises by playing a cover. The more ironic or contrary to the band’s M.O. the better. That’s why people went nuts when the Replacements would play Heartbeat, it’s a Love Beat, by the DiFranco family.

Below are my favorite covers. There’s literally hundreds of covers out there so this is only a partial list. I’d love to hear from others of their favorite covers. Songs played in concert are o.k. but what I’m really looking for are covers that were released on an album or CD. With that, here are some of my favorite musical covers.

Top of the World – Shonen Knife. Off the If I was a Carpenter tribute album. This is a perfect example of a band putting a different spin on a cheesy song. Punk, poppy, it’s 3 minutes of per joy. Shonen Knife is a Japanese band who were singing the song phonetically and it shows. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Hurt – Johnny Cash. I could do a whole post on Johnny Cash covers. This is probably the most famous. Johnny takes a song about self-loathing drug abuse and turns it into a song about end-of-life regrets.

Under My Thumb – Social Distortion. Takes the Rolling Stones song and adds muscle. Instead of Mick boasting, Mike Ness is angry, sings as if this was his last resort in trying to control his wayward woman.

Stop Your Sobbin’ – The Pretenders. Takes the Kinks hit and polishes it up. The song was such a contrast to the revved up songs on the first Pretenders album. When people talk about Chrissy Hynde as typlifying the Madonna and the Whore, this is the song that clinches the Madonna part.

8 Miles High – Husker Du. Takes the psychedelic song and adds layers of punked up guitars. Instead of a heady psychedelic dream, it’s a metal maelstrom of a bad trip.

It’s All Over Now Baby Blue – Grateful Dead. From the Masked and Anonymous Soundtrack. Grateful Dead in full freak mood playing an absolutely gorgeous Dylan song. I practically want to cry every time I hear it.

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Tori Amos. File under “how could she!? The classic play loud song rendered to a single piano and solo singer. Not only does the song hold up, it casts the original in a different light.

Sweet Jane – Cowboy Junkies. Captures the essence of what Lou Reed was trying to say. Surpasses the original by a mile.

Black Diamond – The Replacements. It’s pretty astonishing to think how radical it was for a “punk? band to put a Kiss cover on an album in 1984. Showed that the Replacements were not just a punk band but had influences from all over the musical spectrum.

I Fought the Law – The Clash. A much beefier version of the 50’s classic. The Clash’s rendered this song impossible to improve and retired it from being attempted as a cover forever.

Rhinestone Cowboy – Soul Asylum. From the live album at the Grand Forks prom. Dave Pirner sings with such conviction that you know he’s lived everyone one of those verses.

White Sport Coat – The Gear Daddies. A cheesy version of a very cheesy song. The Gear Daddies reveals the inanity of this song by out-sapping it.

Dr. Wu – The Minutemen. The old Steely Dan song with Mike Watt and D. Boon sing/talking the chorus in two different speakers. Such a different take on a standard song that you will be floored. By far my favorite cover of all time.

Honorable Mention goes out to Luther Wright and the Wrongs who released a note-by-note country version of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. All the between song patter is replicated and every song is played straight but with fiddles, slide guitars and twangy vocals.

What are some of your favorite covers?

9 Comments

Free - good topic! I have always enjoyed the following covers:

"Sweet Thing/Blackbird" - The Waterboys

"Starman" - Golden Smog

"King of the Road" - R.E.M.

"Wonderwall" - Ryan Adams

"I Wanna Be Your Dog" - Uncle Tupelo

"Honky Tonk Woman" - The Pogues

Jeff T.

I love Paolo Nutini's rockin' version of "Crazy" (Gnarles Barkley) and "Rehab" - he does it so much better than Amy Wino.

Found your blog as someone had googled Yung Wu and you and I were 2 of the 7 hits. So it surprises me you left off their versions of "Powderfinger" and "Big Day." Especially because the first 2 covers you praise on this list are also two of my favorites.

So many musical compadres out in the internets, no? Although the VU "Sweet Jane" is still the best. I'd even take the Moot the Hoople version second, to be honest.

For some other fun covers, check out what Richard Thompson does with "Oops I Did It Again" and "Kiss." And speaking of Prince, the Crooked Fingers cover of "When You Were Mine" is incredible.

ah jeez, how could I have forgotten Powderfinger by Yung Wu? That definitely should have been up there.

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This page contains a single entry by Freealonzo published on December 11, 2007 9:17 AM.

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