Cover versions of famous songs almost always suck. They’re usually done by some no-talent hacks in a tiny bar in St. Cloud, MN. Or by a big-time band who couldn’t care less on some tossed-off tribute album to Creedence Clearwater Revival. I would rather poke myself in the eye, with an icicle dipped in Sriracha, than listen to the cast of Glee singing “Losing My Religion.”
But every once in a while a band will knock it out of the park. And sometimes, just sometimes they kill it so hard that it’s even better than the original. Here are a few examples of cover songs that kicked the crap out of the originals:
Sure, it’s Ringo singing it. But it’s still the Beatles. And Joe Cocker destroys their version. There’s no comparison. This is the greatest cover song of all time. The balls! To cover the Beatles like this in 1969! It’s like going up after Martin Luther King’s speech and saying “I also have a dream and stuff!” and somehow making it better.
I used to jog to this song when my lazy ass used to actually work out. I would run and pretend in my head that I was Joe Cocker strutting around and waving my weird arms around and everybody in my imaginery audience would think I was amazing. Then I realized that John Belushi has already done this on the 3rd episode of SNL. So I was copying somebody who was copying somebody who was copying somebody. I’m like a fourth generation VHS copy of the Beatles. And I’m fine with that!
UB40 – “Red Red Wine”
Original version by Neil DiamondOkay, I’m not the biggest Neil Diamond fan in the world and reggae is my second favorite kind of music. So maybe I’m biased. But this song took a fairly forgettable Neil song and turned it into a Top 40 smash. The video, however, is super creepy. It’s basically just this guy hanging out in an English pub surrounded by gross soccer hooligans. Suddenly a lady pops in and Leery Mc-has-to-knock-on-his-neighbors’-doors-when-he-moves-in stares at her until he vomits and gets thrown out. Then the singer from Gogol Bordello comes by with his hounds and takes him home. The end.
But the song sure kicks ass!
I understand that this isn’t technically a cover. This is back from the 90s when people would just yank a hook wholesale from a band and rap over it. But it’s the one and only time in the history where the rap version is better than the original, so I’m considering it a cover. Thank you, PM Dawn. Not only did you somehow make 7th grade Mike Brody nostalgic (“Remember 3rd grade, maaaaan?”) but you basically snuffed the original version into obscurity forever.
I mean, barf. The Spandau Ballet version is just wretched. Watch the video! The singer looks like he’s doing karaoke to his own song. Talk about zero charisma. He’s holding the mic like Marcus Bachmann holds a cock. Like he’s hoping nobody will notice.
Futher recommended cover song listening:
William Shatner & Joe Jackson “Common People.” Original version by Pulp.
Ben Folds “In Between Days.” Original version by The Cure.
Eels “Living Life.” Original version by Daniel Johnston.