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A blog by Scott E. Shepherd · A continuing look at popular music, past, present and future.
Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Return of the Cover Tune
Another list of great and not-so-great re-makes

Filed under: Lists, Opinion

When I first started writing for the PO,I made a list of fifteen songs that I thought were some of the best cover tunes ever made. Time goes by, and while I still agree with most of my choices, I realize that there are a lot more cover tunes that are noteworthy, some which a lot of listeners may not even know about, so here is a new list of fifteen great cover tunes, and again five that are truly awful.
  1. "Hotel California" – The Gypsy Kings. My Spanish is still sub par, but from what little I know, I'm pretty sure the Gypsy Kings do a literal translation of the Eagles' classic. Imagine it as a flamenco song and you pretty much get the idea. Great in any language.
  1. "That's All Right" – Rod Stewart. Another great cover from Stewart's Every Picture Tells a Story album. Early in his career, Stewart covered a few Elvis Presley tunes, some good, some bad; this is one of his better efforts.
  1. "You Shook Me" – The Jeff Beck Group. Speaking of Stewart, he, Ron Wood and Jeff Beck turn this Blues classic into a song that could melt your speakers. This is much better than Led Zeppelin's cover of the same tune.
  1. "Nobody's Fault But Mine" – The 77's. One of Christian Rock's best bands rips Led Zeppelin almost note for note (who of course ripped this song from Blind Willie Johnson).
  1. "Strawberry Fields Forever" – Tomorrow. As I mentioned in another article, Tomorrow's version of the Beatles' classic is just as good as the original. Keith West, lead singer, does as good of job as John Lennon; he is one of the great lost talents of the 60's. And let's not forget a young Steve Howe on guitar!
  1. "The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)" – Manfred Mann. A lot of people don't know it, but Manfred Mann (the group) went through several major changes in their line-up during the sixties, to the point where fans of the group refer to them in stages (much like the Byrds). This is "Manfred Mann II" with Mike D'Abo on lead vocals of a then unrecorded Bob Dylan tune. Also, like the Byrds, Mann II had a reputation as one of the better Dylan interpreters.
  1. "John Sinclair" – Blind Melon. Best known for "No Rain," Blind Melon took this obsolete John Lennon protest song and gave it a folky-blues spin that somehow makes it more relevant than when it was first recorded.
  1. "The Seeker" – The Smithereens. The B-side of the single "Only A Memory," the Smithereens did a great job with this Who classic.
  1. "Stop Breaking Down" – The Rolling Stones. I thought this was an original Stones tune, until I saw it on a Junior Wells album released three years prior to the Stones. I guess I figured by the 70's they had stop doing covers. A great version of a great blues number.
  1. "Crazy" – Alanis Morissette. I hate to admit it, but Morissette's version of the Seal tune made me appreciate the song more. And got it stuck in my head all over again.
  1. "Smooth Criminal" – Alien Ant Farm. That a punk/metal band would remake a Michael Jackson tune is pretty remarkable in the first place; that AAF did it so well is truly phenomenal. And if you've ever seen the video accommodating this song, it is one of the best parody/tributes to all things Michael ever.
  1. "Some Other Guy" – The Beatles. Though they never officially recorded it, the Beatles made Ritchie Barrett's "Some Other Guy" a staple of their early days. A live version exists on The Beatles at the BBC, so I've included it on my list.
  1. "Gone Daddy Gone" – Gnarls Barkley. At first I thought this Violent Femmes tune was an odd inclusion in their debut album, but then everything about Gnarls Barkley is a little odd. Some people hate it, but this version just grew on me.
  1. "Baba O'Riley" – Blue Man Group & Tracy Bonham. Again, this is not officially on any Blue Man Group CD, but it is part of a DVD of one of BMG's performances. To hear this Who classic on BMG's unique instruments made me appreciate the complexity of this song all over again.
  1. "I'm Down" – Aerosmith. One of the best covers of a Beatles' tune, Aerosmith does a great job on their Permanent Vacation album.
Well that's some of the best, now for some of the worst:
  1. "Helter Skelter" – Pat Benatar. Normally I love Pat Benatar; she has is one of the best female voices in Rock, but she should never have tackled the Beatles' "Helter Skelter." And neither should anyone else for that matter.
  1. "Demolition Man" – Sting. Is it possible to do a bad cover version of your own song? Years after the Police broke up; Sting re-recorded "Demolition Man" as a quasi-heavy metalish song for the Sly Stallone movie of the same name. Note to all recording artists, if you're asked to remake a song for a movie soundtrack, it will most likely suck.
  1. "Brown Eyed Girl" – Everclear. Everclear tries to remake one of Van Morrison's signature songs. Just awful!
  1. "The Real Me" – W.A.S.P. W.A.S.P. takes the Who's great song of teen angst and identity crisis into a god-awful tune about rebellion of authority. Stupid.
  1. "A Apolitical Blues" – Van Halen. I thought this was okay until I heard the original. Eddie Van Halen may be a great guitarist, but he can't play the blues. And Sammy Hagar can't hold a candle to Lowell George.
Any you want to add to either list? Let me know…

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