Cover versions are tricky things. They can be brilliant, or they can be terrible. I’m not a fan of covers in general and I don’t go out of my way to seek them out, but I always find it interesting to hear how a band has put their own stamp on a song.
On the internet you can find lists of ‘the greatest cover versions’. It’s all subjective though and depends on your criteria. The quality of the vocals? How popular the song is? The updating of a song for a new generation? And the ‘greatest’ covers are not going to be the same as an individual’s favourites. Here are mine – you probably know most of them, but there may be some surprises.
‘It’s My Life’ by Talk Talk (1984), cover by No Doubt (2003). Gwen Stefani’s voice suits this song and there is a cool, effortless vibe to it. I will always prefer the original but I think this is a very good cover.
‘Inheritance’ by Talk Talk (1988), cover by Recoil (2012). Featuring the vocals of Linton Kwesi Johnson and Paul Marshall, this is an edgy and atmospheric reworking which is sensitive to the original, yet creative.
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ by The Beatles (1967), cover by Candy Flip (1990). This is a ‘baggy’ Madchester take on my favourite Beatles song. It’s quite cute. I should hate it but actually I find it irresistible.
‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ by The Beatles (1967), cover by Elton John (1974). I like how Elton’s version isn’t too different from the original, but is in his own style. It sounds more awake and less trippy.
‘Mad World’ by Tears for Fears (1982), cover by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules (2003). I remember there was a fuss when this reached Xmas No.1, because it’s a sad song. It works well as a ballad with minimal backing.
‘Burning Down the House’ by Talking Heads (1983), cover by Tom Jones & The Cardigans (1999). I prefer it to the original. It works well as a duet between two very different singers.
‘Freak Like Me’ by Adina Howard (1995), cover by Sugababes (2002). A great idea to use Tubeway Army’s ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ as a backing track to the girls’ sultry vocals. It just works so well.
‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ by The Police (1978), cover by Feeder (2001). An angrier, rockier version. Feeder also covered ‘The Power of Love’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, which is less of a success in my opinion.
‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd (1979), cover by Scissor Sisters (2004). A classic Pink Floyd song as an upbeat shimmering disco track could sound quite wrong, but it’s impressively good.
What are your favourite cover versions? Let me know!
11 thoughts on “Some favourite cover versions”
Jackson. The original is great but I also love the cover by Sparky and The Hillbilly Moon Explosion. I like the Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood version too.
You’ve chosen some good ones!
I have to say, I didn’t even know that song so I’ve just looked it up! They are both good versions. I’d not heard of Hillbilly Moon Explosion before, they seem quite eccentric.
I think HME fit into mainstream rockabilly, but Sparky would be psychobilly, which is less usual.
I didn’t even know a lot of these had been covered! 😂
Well most of them are still best as the originals so in general you’re not missing much 😀
I love Fiona Apple’s cover of “Whole of the Moon” much better than the original by the Waterboys.
Also, though I love the Beatles version of “In my Life”, I also quite like the cover done by Bette Midler.
I have just compared Whole of the Moon, I think they are both very good, I like the original better though. Bette Midler’s cover is a lovely ballad version, still can’t beat the Beatles though 🙂
Ooo, good thinker post. I’ve got to go do just that! Fun!
A very interesting post! Mad World was a Christmas number 1 song? 🙂 I think I first heard Jules’s version in the Donnie Darko film and I loved it. My answer is very unoriginal, but I love Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah covers by both Jeff Buckley and Bon Jovi. Another obvious answer is the cover by Disturbed of the Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel. These two songs were the first to pop into my head.
Thanks! I like Donnie Darko, I think I must have heard the song before I watched the film though. Thanks for your answer, I didn’t actually know that Disturbed covered The Sound of Silence – I just checked it out and it’s good but not, as some people would claim, better than the original! Which is one of my favourite S & G songs. I think all those versions of Hallelujah are good, I prefer the original though.