Wednesday, May 15, 2013

BAB Classic: We're Talkin' Song Covers

NOTE:  This post was originally published on October 7 2010.  I decided to run it again since I'm sure we can generate a little more conversation than we originally shared three years ago.  For example, a couple of songs have come to mind lately -- I prefer "Always On My Mind" by Elvis Presley over the more famous Willie Nelson cover.  I have also enjoyed Elton John's version of "Pinball Wizard" over the original Who track from Tommy; the Smithereens cover of the same song really doesn't add anything.  Your turn now (again).

Doug: Karen and I have been discussing off and on how we've become quite comic-centric around here. While that's not a bad thing -- your comments speak to the interest that our audience has in those types of things -- we used to do much more music and movie/tv themed posts. So, with a nod to the past (I guess), let's open it up to a music genre that I like to store on my iTouch -- multiple versions of the same song.

Do you have some songs in mind where you think a cover version improved on the original? How about the other way around? Do you have a song or three on your mp3 player where you've stored several different versions?

Just to kick it off, I like Joe Cocker's version of With A Little Help From My Friends over the Beatles' original recording. I like the pace better, and I can't help but see two things when I hear Cocker's version -- John Belushi's send-up on Saturday Night Live, and the intro. to the The Wonder Years. So when I was writing this, I tried to think of other songs that I have -- Van Halen's version of You Really Got Me beats the Kinks', and the Clash has done my favorite performance of I Fought the Law -- as compared to the Bobby Fuller Four and the Bryan Setzer Orchestra.

Whatcha got?

Doug (now):  Diggin' this cover of the Turtles' "Happy Together", as heard in the trailers for The Great Gatsby.


Anonymous said...

Tina Turner owns Proud Mary more than CCR ever did.

Johnny Winter does a fantastic version of Highway 61 Revisited which is much better than the goofy original Dylan version. Never did like the slide whistle on that one...give me Winter's smokin slide guitar instead!

Wall of Voodoo does an early 80's synthesizer version of Ring of Fire that is pretty cool too.

Doug said...

No doubt about Tina Turner!

Ray Charles did a great cover of Ring of Fire on the Johnny Cash show back in the early '70's. You can see it on YouTube here:


david_b said...

Depends on taste, very subjective.., but the Byrds did wonders with Dylan's stuff.

J.A. Morris said...

That's a great Ray Charles clip,never seen it before.
Speaking of 'Ring Of Fire', I love Johnny Cash,but I've grown sort of partial to Social Distortion's great cover of the song:

Inkstained Wretch said...

On his first album, Rod Stewart does a version of Street Fighting Man that is better than the Stones' own version. Seriously.

Edo Bosnar said...

One that comes to mind immediately for me - one of those other-way-around cases - is Bang a Gong. Just love the original T-rex version so much more than the Power Station cover (which was actually the version I first heard, since it was really popular when I was in HS).
Since someone mentioned Johnny Winter, another one that I thought of is Muddy Waters' cover of his own song, Mannish Boy, with Winter playing guitar - so sweet.
Also, and I'm not necessarily saying they're better than the originals, but I really liked some of the covers of Hendrix songs on that Stone Free tribute album, especially P.M. Dawn's cover of You Got Me Floatin' and The Cure's cover of Purple Haze (which is saying a lot, because I really tend to dislike The Cure otherwise...)

Doug said...

Ah yes, the Power Station and Bang a Gong -- that was one of the songs I thought of but didn't name when I wrote this. I would say I probably like theirs and T-Rex's versions about equally well. I'm a sucker for that John Taylor bass, though!!


Fred W. Hill said...

This is certainly very subjective, but I can generally enjoy a good cover as well as the original, although there are at least a few instances where I'd agree a cover version blew an original away, as with the Beatles' version of Twist & Shout and Money (That's What I Want) -- Lennon's vocals really made the latter his own. And, yeah, the Byrds likewise own Mr. Tambourine Man as Hendrix does All Along the Watchtower, but I still prefer Dylan's original version of Knocking on Heaven's Door to any of the various cover's I've heard. Then there's Nillson's version of Without You (originally done by Badfinger). And for some perverse reason I also love the Stranglers' version of "Walk on By".

Karen said...

Since we had a few mentions of the Man in Black, how about Johnny Cash's covers of "Rusty Cage" and "Hurt"? Just amazing stuff.

Anonymous said...

There's a neat podcast i pick up through Itunes called COVERVILLE, and the guy is REALLY into all types of covers. Check it out, he does themes (Stones, Zep, Beatles, etc), call-ins, "who did it better?" (this post reminded me of this). The Pink Floyd one has a cover of THe Gunner's Dream from THE FINAL CUT that blew me away. Sorry to be so obscure, but Floydfans might dig it. Highly recommend the podcast, though.


Doug said...

I did not know until today that the Black Crows hit "Hard to Handle" had been a hit for Otis Redding.

Anonymous said...

yeah, the grateful dead did a sweet (looooong) Pigpen version of Hard to Handle that should be heard. the dead did soooo many great covers, you just need to hunt down the stronger performances (as in all things Dead).

Anonymous said...

Hard to imagine a better version of the Gunner’s Dream than the original (and Floyd’s not obscure, dude, have no fear).

Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah – I know you Dylan fans probably prefer Cohen’s original, but.... come on!

Soft Cell – Tainted Love.

While I’m on Soft Cell, David Gray’s version of Say Hello, Wave Goodbye was better than their original, but the version on Jools Holland’s first big band album is unreal. Marc Almond totally re-set the bar on that song.

On that album of Elton John cover versions, Sinead O’ Connor’s Sacrifice is a killer.

Roxy Music – strange band – most of their hit stuff was covers, but if you ask me, their original material was better.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Respect by Aretha actually a cover? Isn’t it an Otis Redding song?

I liked Mad World by Tears for Fears for years (!) but the one from Donnie Darko totally spanked it.

I love the Snow Patrol version of Run, and I was absolutely determined to hate Leona Lewis’s cover of it, but I just couldn’t. It’s almost a religious experience. Damn, that girl can sing.


dbutler16 said...

This is tough, especially as so many songs are covers of something more obscure and I don't even know it. Anyway,
Soft Cell – Tainted Love
Naked Eyes - Always Soemthing There to Remind Me
Johnny Cash - Hurt
The Byrds - Mr Tamborine Man
Roxy Music - Jealous Guy
The Beatles - Twist and Shout

Redartz said...

One that immediately comes to mind for me is "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede. This hearty version makes the BJ Thomas original seem somnolent by comparison. Love the brass in the 1974 incarnation; plus it features the unforgettable "ooga-chagga"s in the intro and conclusion...

Edo Bosnar said...

Redartz, I'm pretty indifferent as to which version of that song is actually better, but Blue Swede's version is certainly more amusing - I remember how much I loved those "ooga-chaggas" back in the early '70s (my older brother or sister had the song on one of those K-tel compilation albums). Even now I find it quite hilarious, with the added WTF factor.

Anyway, some new ones that come to mind now:
I like Pantera's version of Planet Caravan a bit better than Black Sabbath's original, plus for some reason I find that computer-animated video mesmerizing and oddly soothing.
Kansas City by the Beatles, i.e., their cover of the Little Richard version, with the "Hey, Hey, Hey" chorus. Great fun.
Soul Kitchen by X. Given how much of a Doors fan I am, there's no way I prefer it over the original, but it is nonetheless a worthy effort.

ZIRGAR said...

The Carpenters did a good remake of Klaatu's, Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft.

david_b said...

On the flipside, despite my enjoyment of Karen and Richard's voices, their cover of 'Ticket to Ride' fell short in many ways..

'Dancin' in the Street' is a wonderful song covered many times, I enjoy watchin' Marvin Gaye's rendition (since he wrote it..), but Martha and her Vandella's probably do it best. When I play it in gigs, I typically do a medley of it with 'Going to a Go-Go'.

Most people hated the Jagger-Bowie video for Live Aid, but it's a favorite of mine.

Doug said...

I believe the Carpenters covered "One Fine Day" -- I do like that version.

The Jagger/Bowie video for "Dancing in the Streets" is an '80's classic -- perfect as far as their bombasticism at that point.

The Tom Jones and The Art of Noise cover of Prince's "Kiss" beats the original for my money.


Anonymous said...

This is too surreal. Last week when david_b mentioned Toni Tennille a local radio station featured her because it was her birthday. So what was the "theme" on same said station this morning, you ask? "Same song, different artist."


Edo Bosnar said...

One really obvious one I can't believe never occurred to me (or anyone else here) until this point is Black Magic Woman - the Santana cover of the earlier Fleetwood Mac hit. The Santana version became so iconic that most people later didn't even realize it was a cover.

Doug said...

Edo, count me among those who just learned something from you today!


Edo Bosnar said...

Doug, I didn't know that for the longest time, either; I was just out of college when I first heard Fleetwood Mac's original version on an oldies station. Anyway, that's definitely one of those cases in which the cover is not only better than the original, it just blows it out of the water

Karen said...

Hendrix' "All Along the Watchtower" over Dylan's -actually I'll take all of Hendrix's covers of Dylan's work!

david_b said...

Tom..., I have powers 'only few can FULLY realize...'.

Great column revisit, y'all.

Garett said...

Cake did a cool version of I Will Survive:

I agree with Blue Swede and Hooked On a Feeling--my band performs this at gigs, with the ooga chaka!

REM's Superman was the song that made me a fan of theirs...later I found out it's a very close cover of the original by the band The Clique from 1969:

I'm Free by the Soup Dragons was a hit I liked...recently found out it was written by Rolling Stones, who did a country-ish version. Actually it's not bad:

I put this up recently--Bizarre Love Tringle by New Order was made better in a stripped down version by Australian band Frente!:
Sometimes simpler is better.

Cover song that's getting requested at my band's live shows? Joy to the World, by 3 Dog Night.

Mike said...

One worthy of this site -- how about the original Spiderman cartoon theme done by the Ramones?

J.A. Morris said...

I always loved this tongue-in-cheek medley of covers by the Circle Jerks:

Edo Bosnar said...

Mike, that's a good one; here's another classic cover that's almost as worthy of this site:

... ;P

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I agree with a lot of what's been said already...specifically, I agree with Doug on "Kiss" by Tom Jones and the Art of Noise and with dbutler on "Hurt" by Johnny Cash and "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell (I also like the Marilyn Manson version).

I think the Beatles version of "Please Mr. Postman" is better than the Marvelettes version, and I have to disagree with Richard on "Hallelujah" favourite is the version by Rufous Wainwright.

Today's topic brought this to mind:

Mike W.

Garett said...

Haha--great chart in your link Mike W. "The Madonna"! lol

The other situation is talking to a younger person who only knows the remake...had this recently with someone who only knew DJ Sammy's new version of Heaven, but had no idea Bryan Adams did it first.

Heart did an excellent version of Stairway to Heaven at the recent tribute to Led Zep:

Karen said...

Jumping in here as a break on writing a report -

I like Chicago's version of "I'm a Man" better than the Spencer Davis Group's.

Mike said...

Haha -- Edo man, that's great!! I forgot about that!

Not to be outdone, how about a CCR classic done by his co-star ...

Edo Bosnar said...

Mike, ha! We could basically jack this thread trading similar links; Nimoy actually recorded at least four albums in the late '60s/early '70s, with tons of covers (including I Walk the Line, Sunny and If I Were a Carpenter). Meanwhile, besides that admittedly amusing version of Rocket Man, Shatner, did some, er, unforgettable spoken-word renditions of Mr. Tambourine Man and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, among other songs.

Karen said...

Well, if you're going to bring up thread-jacking and Nimoy, have you all seen this little gem?

Garett said...

11 million views in 3 days! Commander Chris Hadfield on the International Space Station sings Space Oddity by David Bowie:

Redartz said...

Another feather in Santana's cap was their cover of the Zombies' "She's Not There". The original is a classic, but Carlos' guitar work rocks the song to a whole new level.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the most famous example of a cover song becoming more well known than the original - Whitney Houston's amazing cover of I Will Always Love You, originally sung by the one and only Dolly Parton!

- Mike 'loves music but not a shred of musical talent' from Trinidad & Tobago.

david_b said...

Nice mention, Mike from Trinidad & Tobago,

Everybody ALWAYS talks about Whitney's rendition.. I strongly prefer Dolly's by far.

I love the original 'She's Not There' ~ That along with 'Green Eyed Lady' I'd LOVE to work up for a gig soon..

Don't forget 'Jailhouse Rock'.. I always enjoy Jake and Elwood's rendition, more so than Elvis's..

Anonymous said...

I agree with Redartz - I always preferred the Santana version.

On Richard's recommendation, i listened to Leona Lewis' Run and was not disappointed.

Some of my other fav covers:

Smashing Pumpkins - Landslide
Phish - Loving Cup
Springsteen - Because the Night
Shatner - Common People

Least fav:
Madonna - American Pie
Clapton ruining his own Layla
Limp Bizkit -- Behind Blue Eyes


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