You know sometimes how you hear a song covered and you think – actually that’s pretty good. Then you hear Girl’s Aloud doing Tiffany and (worrisome mental image aside) you think – ‘No, covers should be banned’.
Somewhere along the line a line has to be drawn between good covers and bad covers. On the bad side there’s anything by Westlife, ‘Tragedy’ by Steps (never has a song been worthier of its title) and every reality TV star who tries to step into pop stardom. Oh, and Marilyn Manson, who was annoying before he started strangling classics like Personal Jesus. And on the good side? Well, here are 7 examples of times when covering a song actually works.
#1 Terrorvision – The Passenger
The ‘Vision went through a phase of doing covers as b-sides to their singles. This doesn’t actually add much to the Iggy Pop original, but somehow sounds better.
#2 Garth Brooks – Shameless
The king of country music took Billy Joel’s album filler track and made it his own.
#3 Dandy Warhols – Hell’s Bells
This is on the b-side of the Vodafone ad song ‘Bohemian Like You’. By slowing down AC/DC’s rock track and pitching it to a creepy baseline they turned this into a genuinely dark track.
#4 Counting Crows – Friend of the Devil
Included on their ‘best of’, even though it’s a cover of a Grateful Dead song that was never released on an album. One of a large number of songs I like with the word ‘devil’ in the title. Others include ‘Devil’ by the Stereophonics and ‘Runnin’ with the Devil’ by Van Halen.
#5 Van Halen – Dancing in the Street
Speaking of Van Halen, in the early days when they were producing albums in rapid succession they included a whole host of covers, including ‘Pretty Woman’ and ‘You Really Got Me’. This funked-up classic is the stand out one, though.
#6 either Rufus Wainwright or k.d.lang – Hallelujah
Rufus Wainwright covered this Leonard Cohen song for Shrek for the scene where Shrek and Princess Fiona go their separate ways – probably the most moving scene in an animated film. Then k.d.lang covered it on her album of Canadian songs and did it equal justice.
#7 Semisonic – The Air That I Breathe
A b-side to ‘Closing Time’ I think, but I’m not sure. Beautiful though, whichever single it was on.
And for the hard core fans of covers, a couple of bonus tracks...
Bonus track 1: Bowling for Soup – Summer of ‘69
It’s hard to take the Soup seriously, but then they don’t. A fun cover.
Bonus track 2: REM – The Lion Sleeps Tonight
So they released a single called The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite and some bright spark thought ‘let’s cover that Lion Sleeps Tonight’ song as a b-side’. Bizarre, but true, and incredibly funny to listen to. Michael Stipe at his warbley finest.