What’s the best/worst cover version of all time?

hello chaps. All around the BBC office this week much humming of the song “Hallelujah” after Alex Burke won X factor with her version of the song. A bastardisation of a Leonard Cohen classic…..or an improvement on the original. Are cover verisons ever better than the real thing? What’s the best and worst cover  you’ve ever heard.  Let me stick my neck out and say Rolf Harris’s version of Led Zep’s  Stairway to Heaven has got to be up there….obviously as the best.

23 Responses to “What’s the best/worst cover version of all time?”

  1. 1 Brett
    December 19, 2008 at 14:10

    Cover songs better than the real thing?

    Well some ones I like are:

    Devil Wears Prada (off the album: When Punk Goes Crunk) – Still Fly, origionally performed by Big Tymers

    The rest of the songs off the album are funny covers

    Framing Hailey’s version of Lollipop, origionally performed by Lil’ Wayne is funny

    New Found Glory had a good album out “From the screen to your stereo” back in late 90s/early 2000

    Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies are a strictly cover band comprised of members from various punk bands… they do good work.

    Lunachicks re-did “Heart of Glass”, thats a good one lol

    Postal Service has re-done a few songs and (Feist)

    As far as an absolute favorite, not sure, but I LOVE covers lol

  2. 2 Brett
    December 19, 2008 at 14:15

    Oh oh oh oh oh! Aside from the ones listed above, My Chemical Romance and The Used teamed up and covered “Under Pressure”…. I like that one too 🙂

  3. December 19, 2008 at 14:21

    I think Alex Burke’s Hallelujah is really good but what about Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’? I think that is a reference…absolute beauty!

  4. December 19, 2008 at 14:43

    Such music is like bubble gum. People use it to provide a cheap, disposable emotion that helps them repel real feeling not to mention deep or critical thinking, and to embrace superficiality. While this may be acceptable amidst the grogginess of the morning hours, if it continues all day then the hummer of such trite tunes risks becoming a modern journalist.

  5. 5 Steve
    December 19, 2008 at 14:43

    I would have to guess that Soft Cell’s cover of Tainted Love is the best cover of all time given that so few people realize it’s a cover.

  6. December 19, 2008 at 14:52

    My favorite covers are:

    1. Foo Fighters singing “Darling Nikki” by Prince (kicks the original’s butt)
    2. Nine Inch Nails singing “Physical” by Adam Ant (way sexier than AA)
    3. Tori Amos singing “Teen Spirit” by Nirvana (haunting)
    4. Type O Negative singing “Cinnamon Girl” by Neil Young (will make Neil fans cry)
    5. Joan Jett singing “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by Iggy Pop (she makes it sound like it’s the other way around)
    6. Megaherz singing “Rock Me Amadeus” by Falco (clowns will eat you!)

    The worst covers I’ve ever heard was also hilarious, which was when Pat Boone sang a bunch of heavy metal songs, “In a Metal Mood.” I can’t tell if his being friends with Alice Cooper helps or hurts!

  7. 7 Brett
    December 19, 2008 at 15:55

    Worst covers? Richard Cheese.
    He did the “Down With The Sickness” cover that was on the Dawn of The Dead soundtrack. That was his only decent cover… Well that and the bluegrass version of Gin and Juice lol, the rest of his covers are horrible, horrible, horrible.

  8. 8 roebert
    December 19, 2008 at 16:19

    Worst covers ever: Yusuf Islam singing Cat Stevens.

  9. December 19, 2008 at 16:57

    With you on the Postal Service Brett. Their version of Phil Collins Against All Odds is a world beater.

    On the negative side…William Shatner, he of Star Trek fame, with “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”.

  10. 10 DENNIS
    December 19, 2008 at 17:02

    I think that in certain cases; cover songs are better than the originals….

  11. 11 Brett
    December 19, 2008 at 17:13

    @ Jon and anyone else interested:

    Here is the vid for Postal Services version of Against All Odds:

    And their cover of Mushaboom from Feist:

    Glad to hear another person who digs Postal Service 🙂

  12. 12 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    December 19, 2008 at 17:16

    Paul MacCartney’s “Yesterday” is the most covered song in history, and many of the covers are excellent. But sometimes a singer “buys” a song, makes such an outstanding piece of music that all future cover versions are almost futile. Ray Charles’ “What I Say” comes to mind. When a song is as complete, compelling and personal as this and many other true classics are, the singer who wants to cover it should put his arrogance aside and come up with another number.

    Donnamarie in Switzerland

  13. 13 viola
    December 19, 2008 at 17:54

    Janis Joplin’s version of Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee”

  14. 14 jamily5
    December 19, 2008 at 18:25

    Just watched Alexandra,
    not bad!

  15. 15 Janet
    December 19, 2008 at 18:43

    Indigo Girls- tangled up in blue (live)
    Mick Jagger and David Bowie- dancing in the streets
    (ok I just really like the video)

  16. 16 Luci Smith
    December 20, 2008 at 11:53

    Didn’t Frankie goes to Hollywood do “Do you know the way to San Jose? ”

    I agree that Janis Joplin and Me and Bobby McGee is great.

    Was that a cover version or back then, wasn’t the composer just happy if somebody got a hit with the record? I mean this is true for a lot of Elvis’s material, that was taken out of R+B.

    Jazz fans like me normally think nobody can sing it better than Lady Day, and then Ella and then the discussion starts….

    But like Frank Zappa said, it’s all about getting “the hit with the bullet”- and so on from “Live at Filmore East 1967” and to Rage Against the Machine. I am not so good at remembering each version, but I do prefer Coltrane and Monk and Hendrix and I understand why Aretha is RESPECTED.

  17. December 20, 2008 at 23:00

    All Along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix cover of the original by Bob Dylan is in a world of its own. It is unassailable as a cover version. Indeed there can be no better compliments paid by a living artist than the following to one so unique and peerless in his talent and yet so young at his demise – 27 years old. In his short allotted lifetime he lived more than most of us could ever hope to or even aspire to. Jimi was universally admired and respected by those in all fields of music, most particularly by jazz maestro – Miles Davis, who planned to create and compose new works, which sadly never got to see the light of day. We will never know what might have been and what was and still is so dreadfully missed.

    Dylan’s reaction to hearing Hendrix’s version: “It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent; he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day.”[In the booklet accompanying his Biograph album, Dylan said: “I liked Jimi Hendrix’s record of this and ever since he died I’ve been doing it that way… Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it’s a tribute to him in some kind of way.”

    This version of the song appears at number 48 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest songs ever, and in 2000, British magazine Total Guitar named it top of the list of the greatest cover versions ever.

    No more needs to be said, other than I urge all who have not heard it, no matter your musical preferences, tastes or prejudices, to listen but once and see if your opinions can happily be changed and influenced to a greater extent than before. If you appreciate its true value then listen to Jimi’s entire back catalogue and be amazed at the power of one man and his music. And listen to a contrasting yet nevertheless equally powerful artist and lyricist of the folk genre whose music of former decades speaks volumes of today’s society, the present world we live in and our current situation.

  18. 18 Shakhoor Rehman
    December 21, 2008 at 12:53

    Worst: Stairway To Heaven by Rolf Harris.

  19. 19 Paul Coletti
    December 21, 2008 at 19:34

    I’m Not Like Everybody Else by Jimmy and the Boys (originally a Kinks B-side) . . . awesome

  20. December 22, 2008 at 13:07

    Jeff Buckley’s version of Leonard Cohen’s original Hallelujah is a stunningly reworked interpretation that really should displace the Alexandra Burke version, no matter her vocal qualities. His is an honest, the soul laid bare version, standing naked in the wind and of a life that has been lived, not one that is a vicarious experience, but one that will be remembered far beyond a talent show winner.

    Unbelievably he died in a swimming accident or not (the jury is still open to a certain extent), even before he had a chance to complete his second album. This was another tragic loss to contemporary music. I was fortunate enough to see him in concert, shortly before he died. I don’t actually remember too much about the concert itself, other than it was an experience that you can count yourself extremely lucky to have witnessed in one’s lifetime. They said the same of Jimi Hendrix’s immense gift to transport you somewhere you’ve never been before as an audience participant. There are so few artists capable of extending their gift to the watching public, not just an evening’s entertainment, but something that stands out beyond all else and leaves an indelible and lasting mark upon you, that is something we all hope to pass on in some way. It doesn’t require description, analysis or interpretation of any kind. It just is.

    Jeff Buckley has received overwhelming praise and accolades from Bob Dylan, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Patti Smith – the one and only, U2, Chrissie Hynde, Jonny Depp, Brad Pitt, whose narrative accompanied a posthumous documentary on Buckley, etc, etc. A universally admired and respected artist that comes along maybe once in a lifetime. His father Tim Buckley also a wonderful musician was an enormous influence upon him, even though he only met him once in his life, when he was 8 years old.

  21. 21 Don Lax Detroit, U.S.A.
    December 29, 2008 at 03:46

    The young folks are having their say but for my money the best cover of all time is Nana Mouskouri’s “Song for Liberty” which is the English language redo of Giuseppi Verdi’s “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” from the opera “Nabucco” originally written in 1842. The original Italian version was notably recorded in modern times by both Renata Tebaldi and Dame Joan Sutherland and is one of the best written chorale ensemble pieces the operatic genre has to offer. Nana’s voice is absolutely glorious amd her backing chorus of Domenique Poulian, Francine Chantereau, and George and Michel Costa raise vocal harmony to the ultimate level of not only dynamic expression but also technical precision of delivery. Nana is sadly overlooked by too many youth today who view her as “square” or “past sell-by date” and miss out on true vocal greatness.

  22. 22 viola
    December 29, 2008 at 04:06

    Hazy Shade of Winter (Simon and Garfunkle) The Bangles and Bodyjar versions.

  23. 23 Some guy
    February 18, 2009 at 18:20

    The worst cover is mr. tambourine man by the byrds the original version is so much better

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