Favorite Song Covers

Here’s the rules:

The original has to be cool. The cover has to be at least as cool if not cooler.

On to the list (of my favorites).

5) Elliot Smith, “Jealous Guy” (orig. John Lennon).

4) A Perfect Circle, “What’s Goin’ On” (orig. Marvin Gay).

3) K.D. Lang, “Helpless” (orig. Neil Young).

2) Tool, “No Quarter” (orig. Led Zeppelin — a great song by the greatest hard rock band ever, covered amazingly by the greatest hard rock band of our generation).

1) Jeff Buckley, “Hallelujah” (orig. Leonard Cohen — Cohen’s is cool, but Buckley’s might possibly be the most gorgeous track ever laid down).

(Honorable mention: Johnny Cash, “Hurt” — orig. NIN).

Those are my favorites. What are yours?

86 thoughts on “Favorite Song Covers

  1. I hadn’t heard the one by Tool. That’s quite a feat: covering Zepplin and still sounding good.

    Helter Skelter, Beatles (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OM9KRpEkGfY) then U2 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLmqjcYtH3c)

    All Along the Watchtower, Dylan (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkok1Z4WJuY) then Hendrix (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCwCBh0z3Hs)

    Turn the Page, Bob Seger (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe7yOccqdxI) then Metallica (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOibtqWo6z4) — I still get shivers when I think of that video

  2. “Helpless” and “Hallelujah” are two of my faves. Some others:

    Eva Cassidy – “Time After Time” (Cyndi Lauper)

    Calexico – “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (Joy Division)

    The Frames/Glen Hansard – “Cry Me A River” (Justin Timberlake)

    Cat Power – “Satisfaction” (Rolling Stones)

    Patty Griffin – “Stolen Car” (Bruce Springsteen)

    Madness – “It Must Be Love” (Labi Siffre)

    Michael Hedges – “A Love Bizarre” (Sheila E)

    Ryan Adams – “Wonderwall” (Oasis)

  3. dangit, two comments and already my favorites are mentioned — although I like Cat Power’s “Wonderwall” as well.

  4. Bauhaus, “Ziggy Stardust”
    Ramones, “Let’s Dance”

    Favorite cover from a show I attended: Built to Spill covering “Freebird”

  5. Tim that “Mad World” cover is awesome. So is the video.

    What does everyone think of Tori Amos’s covers? She does the same thing with every song—turns it into a slow piano ballad, but I think some really work.

  6. A bunch of mine have been named already.

    I Am The World Trade Center does a very nice version of the Stone Roses’ “Shoot You Down.”

    I like The Lemonheads “Luka” (Suzanne Vega) and “Mrs. Robinson” (S&G). Dinosaur Jr.’s “Just Like Heaven” (The Cure) was pretty great too.

    Hmm…what else?

    The Clash – “I Fought the Law” (The Crickets via the Bobby Fuller Four)
    Robyn Hitchcock – “8 Miles High” (The Byrds)
    The Beatles – “Act Naturally” (Buck Owens) (one of many great Beatles covers)
    Ben Folds Five – “In Between Days” (The Cure)
    The Gourds – “Gin ‘n Juice” (Snoop Dogg)

  7. Susan, have you heard Eva Cassidy’s cover of ‘Fields of Gold‘ by Sting? I like it even more than her ‘Time After Time’ cover you mentioned.

    Heather Nova does a kick butt version of Springsteens “I’m on Fire” that I put on repeat in iTunes all the time.

    How about another post of bad songs made good by covers? There’s a fantastic version of Britney Spears Toxic, but the name of the guy who covers it escapes me at the moment.

  8. I love everything Eva Cassidy has ever done. I consider “Time After Time” a superior song to “Fields of Gold,” which is why I used it.

  9. What does everyone think of Tori Amos’s covers? She does the same thing with every song—turns it into a slow piano ballad, but I think some really work.

    I really like her version of “Smells like Teen spirit”.

    Here’s a site that will tell you what songs from what albums are covers or have been covered and by whom.

    Woah arJ. I’m going to give you a big kiss for that link.

    Oh, and Travis and Yael Naim both do great versions of Britney Spears Toxic

  10. Some of you are not paying any attention at all to the rules. The cover has to be at least as cool, remember? Some of these are clearly crap (or worse, sacrilege). I’m looking at you, arJ.

    And BTW Tim, that’s not REM. Adam and Larry are there as well. They called themselves “Automatic Baby” (in honor of their then-current albums) when they appeared together that night.

  11. No one mentioned Cowboy Junkies and Sweet Jane? Arguably much better than the original.

    Then there is, from the Jungle Book, the Holly Cole Trio covering Trust in Me. (And she’s even a hometown girl who made it big – she’s from Halifax like me)

    And don’t forget Cash’s cover of Thirteen (Live version because I’d never seen it before – and it’s even better than the album version)

  12. I can’t find it online but U2 does a pretty cool cover of Radiohead’s Creep. (There used to be some videos but I guess they all got takedown notices)

    BTW – the coolest cover of Springsteen’s Fire is Robin William’s

  13. MCQ,

    What issue can you possibly take with either of the covers I’ve posted? Caetano Veloso is an absolute master, anything he does is gold. I doubt anyone bothered to listen to the other link I posted.

  14. Petra Haden’s a cappella Who covers
    Cowboy Junkies’ “Sweet Jane” (Lou Reed)
    Patti Smith’s “Gloria” (Van Morrison)
    Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” (Judy Garland)
    Francesco De Gregori’s “Non dirle che non è così” (Dylan’s “If You See Her, Say Hello”)
    The Damned’s “Jet Boy, Jet Girl” (Elton Motello)
    Low’s “Transmission” (Joy Division)
    The Plugz’ “La Bamba” (traditional)
    Lords of the New Church’s “Like a Virgin” (Madonna)

  15. Agree, scudworth, that Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah is unsurpassable. Many of these other decent covers are covering Buckley, not Leonard Cohen. Because once an artist heard Jeff Buckley do it, they had to give a go.

    Also, Johnny Cash’s cover of Hurt is pretty good. (The video is amazing.) But he did LOTS of covers in his last few years, and that isn’t his best. Among many I love are his covers of

    Gordon Lightfoot’s If You Could Read My Mind http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6mxn7T_h1o


    Sound Garden’s Rusty Cage http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhEmwgzmMsM&feature=related

    Many other good choices.
    I love Ryan Adams doing Wonderwall, Susan. I must have listened to that 1000 times in the first few weeks after I first heard it. And I adored the Sundays doing Wild Horses, though not better than the Stones original.


  16. Jeff Buckley covered John Cale’s version of “Hallelujah”. Cale is only more recently getting some well-deserved credit. Leonard Cohen’s live performances this year have been my favorite from his “golden voice”. The song is richer than ever for its journey.

  17. Oh, I forgot my absolute I listen to this way more than the original cover…

    Hooverphonic’s Shake the Disease (DM)

  18. Eva Cassidy has already been mentioned a few times. I am in awe of her over of “Over the Rainbow.”

    To me, Mary Chapin Carpenter’s cover of John Lennon’s “Grow Old With Me” is powerful in a similar way. The link below is to a homemade video by I don’t know who – but at least you can hear the music.

    Every now and then a cover version is so authoritative that it overshadows the original. Aretha Franklin’s cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect” is probably the best example.

  19. danithew:

    “Every now and then a cover version is so authoritative that it overshadows the original.”

    My impression is that that happens a lot with Bob Dylan songs—but why is that? Dylan is great, so he shouldn’t be easily “overshadowed.” Maybe his music just isn’t as easy to get into (pop and all that). I can’t count how many times I’ve played Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower and had someone think it was a cover of Hendrix!

  20. danithew,

    Embers are tricky. You have to log in and then make an embed free comment. Then using the admin interface you edit the comment and add the embeds.

  21. “O-o-h Child” Beth Orton (original by The Five Stairsteps)

    “Maybe I’m Amazed” Jem (original by Paul McCartney)

  22. Shweet. The best part about threads like this is that you get to know tons of excellent new (or, in this case, used) songs.

    I strongly considered adding “Sweet Jane” to the list. I totally forgot that the Gary Jules song was a cover, or it would have made its way into the top 5 for sure.

    Another good one is Sinead O’Connor’s cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares to You.”

  23. Speaking of Bob Dylan songs, I’m a big fan of GnR’s cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Also, their cover of “Live and Let Die” was quite good.

  24. I was at a show last night and they were playing GnR’s cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” between bands and I wanted to stab myself in the eye.

    My fave cover of “Tainted Love” is Coil’s, which was released as an AIDS benefit single and forever changed the meaning of the song for me.

    I thought Prince wrote “Nothing Compares 2 U” for Sinead?

  25. There are many covers of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” out there and a surprising number are listenable. It’s such a good song – I’ve sometimes thought about putting together a mix CD of only “Little Wing” covers. Just haven’t gotten around to it yet …

    The covers by Sting and Stevie Ray Vaughan are particularly memorable.

  26. Queensryche’s cover of “Scarborough Fair” (Simon and Garfunkel). [The only complaint would be they didn’t include the “Canticle” counterpoint, but it’s so good it doesn’t really matter.]

    Tears For Fears’ cover of “Sea Song” (Robert Wyatt).

    Great Big Sea’s uber-fast cover of “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” (REM) [sung at such a high tempo, I’m surprised their singer doesn’t faint from lack of 02.]

  27. Speaking of Sinead O’Connor, she did a cover of Elton John’s “Sacrifice” that’s better than the original by far.

  28. Katie Melula – Just Like Heaven (The Cure)
    Alanis Morrisette – King of Pain (The Police)
    G N’ R – Sympathy for the Devil (Rolling Stones)

  29. Bite your tongue gabby, Elton John is a misunderstood genius.

    Want proof? Well, just for starters, there’s that scene in Almost Famous. You know, the band is falling apart, needs to heal, needs redemption, needs to get that je ne sais quoi back, and Elton John is the answer. Elton John is always the answer.

  30. Metallica’s cover of Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy” (B-side to “Enter Sandman”). Also Anthrax’s cover of Joe Jackson’s “Got the Time,” and Anthrax’s cover of Sabbath’s “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.” I also like all the Van Halen covers from the late 70s (“Dancing in the Streets,” “You Really Got Me,” “Pretty Woman,” etc. etc.).

  31. Good call, Brian. MCQ, thanks for saluting Elton John. I grew up on that stuff – he is a genius.

    I also like Stone Temple Pilots’ re-make of Zeppelin’s “Dancing Days” (acoustic! the way it was supposed to be) as well as Duran Duran’s Zeppelin remake of “Thank You.” And Iron Maiden’s cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Massacre” is brilliant. Also, Dave Matthews Band’s cover of “Long Black Veil” is sweet.

    My favorite of all: Jimi Hendrix’s cover of “All Along the Watchtower.”

  32. Yes to Bauhaus/Ziggy Stardust.

    Yes to TMC/Song to the Siren.

    Also: Beefeater/Manic Depression (Hendrix)

    Siouxie/Dear Prudence (with young Robert Smith on guitar!)

    And the most manic 1:01 you’ll ever live:

    Minor Threat/12XU (Wire)

Comments are closed.