Friday, September 23, 2011

Turning An Old Recipe Into Somethng Better

I love a well crafted cover song.

By well crafted, I mean that the artist took enough time to put their own particular signature on a song while staying true to the original version, so that more often than not, it surpasses the original version of the song.

Some fine examples of this would be:

The Hooters "Boys of Summer". Whereas Don Henley's version was a bit poppish and somewhat upbeat, the version by The Hooters was far darker and in my opinion, true to the original intent of the lyrics.

The Mike Flowers Pop "Wonderwall". This version is done in a mixture of big band and swing, and definitely more upbeat then the original by Oasis. You don't hear much in the way of radio airplay for this song, unless you happen to catch it either on satellite or college radio.

Johnny Cash "Hurt". I am not a fan of Nine Inch Nails by any stretch of the imagination, and in my opinion the original version of this song sucked moose testicles. However, this excellent version by Johnny Cash evokes the anguish that the original did an epic fail on.

Johnny Cash w/Fiona Apple "Bridge Over Troubled Water". Forget about the bombast of the original by Simon & Garfunkel. This version with just piano accompaniment and acoustic guitar achieves the emotion and mental anguish that the original failed to do.

Metallica "Whiskey In The Jar". I always thought this was an interesting concept, a heavy metal band doing a cover of a Roger Whittaker song. But it actually works out pretty well, as it's one of the few cover songs that I enjoy listening to on rock radio.

But as you know, the bulk of cover that receive airplay today basically suck. For the most part, they done as a filler for a c.d. in the vain hope that somehow the cover will save a mediocr c.d.

Some bad examples:

Ugly Kid Joe "Cat's In The Cradle". A mediocre band whose only major hit was this cheesy remake of the Harry Chapin classic.

U2 "Everlasting Love". A live cut that was so crappy that the only reason why it got any airplay was that U2 performed it.

Billy Corrigan "Mudslide". A good musician doing a remake of a Fleetwood Mac song. Epic fail.

Motley Crue "Smokin' In The Boys Room". Hair metal meets rock & roll. Feh.

Lenny Kravitz "American Woman". Garbage designed to keep his name on the air while he turns into a modern version of Hollywood Rod.

There are scores of others that for the most part are confined to rock radio, because as you know, commercial rock radio is severely lacking in original thought and original programming, but for the moment, those bands names escape me.

So my question to you is this: Do you have any favorite cover songs that surpass the original? More importantly, do you have any examples of bad cover songs?


  1. I am not very good with music knowledge but I really like Adele and Amy Winehouse these days :)

    Metallica, I like *Nothing else matters*


  2. The only one who comes to mind is Joe Cocker, who definitely brings his own spin to cover songs. I saw him a few years ago, opening for Steve Miller. The crowd loved him.

  3. Oh so many both good and bad, I'll have to give this some thought!

    A cover that I adore is Frankie Lymon's version of Jailhouse Rock. Definitely makes that song all his own. I talked it once on my music blog.

  4. Chintan: It's okay. You would be amazed at some of the minutia that I have in my head that can trigger buried memories of yours.

    Joanne: Joe Cocker is an excellent choice for a singer who can definitely improve a song.

    Joe: That's something I will definitely check out.

    I know I got to thinking about other covers both good and bad while at work today, so I'll have to do some exploring myself.

  5. I like Metallica's "Whiskey in the Jar" and Cash's "Hurt," a lot. Gonna have to listen to the hooters boys of summer.

  6. Charles: Metallica is one of the few bands that can pull off a cover song and actually improve it. As for Cash, his entire series of recordings for American Recordings/Lost Highway Records was one big fat, juicy and fantastic cover versions of songs.

  7. I thought of another cover of an Elvis song that was good. "Always On My Mind" by the Pet Shop Boys. :D

    Don't worry I won't keep adding more songs here! :D

  8. I like G's preferred versions of Wonderwall and Whiskey in the Jar. Nice picks! I can't think of any cover tunes off the top of my head, but I know the musical world is full of them, some for better, and some for worse.

  9. Joe: That would sound very interesting.

    No worries about adding more songs here, we're all just one big happy family. :D

    Just thought of one that turned me on to California punk:

    Dead Kennedy's cover of "I Fought The Law".

    Kick ass cover of a kick ass song.

    S.R.: Thanks. I agree with your point about some being better and some being worse, but it seems that rock radio has a tendency to embrace the worse, and that college radio embraces the best.

  10. I'm more movies than music, but American Woman came right to my head then saw it on your list, that is just pathetic as you said, complete garbage for sure.

  11. I play Bridge Over Troubled Water with accoustic guitar myself- Can't wait to see the Cash video, but have to go to BBMs to see them. Play Smokin in the Boys Room too... My kids like it.

    I always hate re-tooled Beatles like the old Sargeant Peppers movie- I hated. Was it BeeGees or the Who? Or someone else... Too Tired, can't think! Ugh

  12. Pat: It seems that all of the really bad cover songs are embraced with such fervor on rock radio that its a sure fire way to drive listeners away.

    Honestly, I don't dislike cover songs so long as the artist puts a good effort int doing it.

    Snaggle: Any version of Bridge Over Troubled Waters is better than the original. I remember when they did this song at a memorial service for my dad and the singer simply blew me away with his performance.

    The Bee Gees with Peter Frampton did a remake of Sgt Peppers.


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