Cover Me

George and Jim point to the Telegraph’s list of 50 greatest cover versions ever recorded. Both George and Jim note that the list (with a few exceptions) is pretty good, in that it’s not overly weighted towards contemporary songs, and many of the covers do a great job of reinterpreting the original song (Devo’s cover of “Satisfaction” and Hendrix’s reworking of “All Along the Watchtower” are two good examples).

Like George, I would have preferred Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” to his cover of U2′s “One,” although the latter is not really a bad choice. Also a good call by George: the Sundays’ reowrking of the Stone’s “Wild Horses” should have been on the list. Cassie (in George’s comments) suggests the Indigo Girls’ “Midnight Train to Georgia,” and I’m inclined to agree. It’s a great treatment of an underrated song. I would have liked to see Lyle Lovett’s cover of “Stand by Your Man,” if only because of how the song works so well in The Crying Game. Nirvana’s “Man Who Sold the World” should have also been mentioned. And if it’s accurate that Janis Joplin covered Kris Kristofferson’s “Me And Bobby McGee,” there’s no question that should be on the list.

What other cover songs would you add to the list? What are the worst cover songs ever made?

15 Comments »

  1. Chris Said,

    November 27, 2004 @ 4:44 pm

    For the worst list: everything by William Shatner

  2. Dylan Said,

    November 27, 2004 @ 5:06 pm

    Since they had a Richie Havens song on the list, I was always partial to his cover of ‘The Times they Are A’Changin’”…. But Havens is one of those guys with such an interesting voice that just having him sing to the original recording will be more interesting half the time. I thought Tori Amos’ Smells Like Teen Spirt with the lead in of American Pie was great (I think you can find it live, only).

    There are others, I’m sure, that just aren’t springing to mind. But I’ll think of some more.

  3. chuck Said,

    November 27, 2004 @ 5:23 pm

    Chris: you’re right about Shatner. If I believed that he had a single self-conscious bone in his body, then those covers would be interesting performance art, but from what I recall, they’re just bad.

    Dylan: I’m with you on the Tori Amos cover. I’d forgotten about the “American Pie” lean in, though. Oh, and while I’m thinking about it, I *love* the White Stripes’ cover of “One More Cup of Coffee.”

  4. Rusty Said,

    November 27, 2004 @ 6:00 pm

    A cover I like, but I wouldn’t put on that list, was the Stone Temple Pilots’ cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Dancing Days.” Willie Nelson’s version of “Blue Skies” is incredible.

  5. chuck Said,

    November 27, 2004 @ 6:24 pm

    I’d forgotten about STP’s “Dancing Days.” I like their version quite a bit, perhaps not top 50, but it’s pretty good. Not sure I’ve heard the Willie Nelson, so I’ll try to track it down.

  6. cbd Said,

    November 27, 2004 @ 9:46 pm

    Willie has done some sweet covers; Stardust is a record full of em. Also, those by the Junkies on Whites Off Earth Now—their version of “Me and the Devil Blues” is incredible.

    But any list is incomplete without the Dead Kennedys’ “Take This Job and Shove It” and/or “I Fought the Law.”

  7. George Said,

    November 27, 2004 @ 11:15 pm

    I can’t think of any covers I’ve heard that I don’t like (although I’m sure they’re there), but I suspect that Britney Spears’ cover of “Satisfaction” is pretty bad, and probably a lot of the songs on Duran Duran’s album _Thank You_, too.

    I’d like to be able to say that Paul Young’s slick reworking of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is no good…but I actually like it.

  8. chuck Said,

    November 28, 2004 @ 1:00 am

    Oh yeah, I almost forgot the Cowboy Junkies’ “Sweet Jane.” And, yes, the Dead Kennedys’ “I Fought the Law” is great. Just noticed that many of my favorite covers seem to come from movie soundtracks….

    Haven’t heard the Britney cover, but I’d imagine that it’s bad news.

  9. Rusty Said,

    November 28, 2004 @ 10:58 am

    I also liked Urge Overkill’s cover of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” too. It’s not as much of a departure from the source material as some of the others mentioned above, but good nonetheless.

  10. Rusty Said,

    November 28, 2004 @ 10:59 am

    Ha, the one I just mentioned is from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.

  11. New Kid on the Hallway Said,

    November 28, 2004 @ 11:15 am

    I’d vote for “Hurt” over “One” too, though I also pretty much love anything Johnny Cash has covered. Tori Amos’s cover album “Strange Little Girls” should be on there somewhere (I personally love her cover of Eminem’s Bonnie and Clyde song, as incredibly creepy). kd lang just came out with her own album of covers, Hymns of the 49th Parallel, with yet another version of Hallelujah, and the whole album is pretty great. (Not quite so time-tested as many on the top 50 list – I didn’t even know that some of those were covers!)

  12. cindy Said,

    November 28, 2004 @ 1:24 pm

    Just about anything Cowboy Junkies cover. In addition to those mentioned: Blue Moon, Walking after Midnight.

    I absolutely agree with those of you who pointed out the Sundays cover of Wild Horses–it’s wonderful.

    Some of Shawn Colvin’s are good: Twilight by The Band, Dylan’s You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome, S&G’s Kathy’s Song.

  13. Cassie Said,

    November 28, 2004 @ 4:35 pm

    I completely forgot Ani DiFranco’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “Most of the Time” — it’s sweet and warm and heartbreaking. She has the perfect voice for that song.

  14. Cassie Said,

    November 28, 2004 @ 4:37 pm

    And Nirvana’s “In the Pines.” I’m a cover junkie, I must say. One of my ambitions is to be in a cover band. :)

  15. chuck Said,

    November 28, 2004 @ 8:01 pm

    All good choices. All this talk about the Cowboy Junkies makes me want to listen to them, but I can’t find my copy of their Greatest Hits CD. Very frustrating…

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