Thursday, 20 October 2011

The 50 Greatest Cover Songs Of All Time Part 1 (50-31)

Ahhh Oktober. Is there a greater month? It is, in fact my favourite month and why not celebrate with another grandoise list! Covers are something often debated over. What constitutes a cover? Are there rules? What are the good covers and bad? We'll go over all that within the confines of this list. Here now...the top 50 greatest cover songs of our time...

50. "Working Class Hero" - Green Day
Original By: John Lennon

Sometimes a great cover will take a song and completely turn it on it's head, change it until it's almost unrecognizable. Sometimes they don't stray too far from the original artist's version. Some artists say they try to keep a great song intact to introduce it to the younger crowds. Such is the case here, "Working Class Hero" was almost buried before Green Day unearthed it in 2007 for an Amnesty International compilation disc. There are other versions of it, but this one stands out as the better cover.

49. "Love Song" - Four Year Strong
Original By: Sara Bareilles

One of the first rules of covering a track is not to cover a song too soon after it's initial release. Word Of Mouth's version of Madonna's "Music" comes to mind as too soon. I'm going to break that first rule a few times here...but here's why Boston's Four Year Strong gets a pass. This song comes from one of the Punk Goes Pop compilations where punk artists cover pop songs which are popular at the moment. If it wasn't for the gang vocals over the chorus I don't think this one would have made the cut.

48. "Tweeter & The Monkey Man" - The Headstones
Original By: The Traveling Willburys

A whole generation of Canadians grew up without any knowledge of this song being a cover. It was one of the songs that Bob Dylan brought to the Willbury sessions in the late 80's. The Headstones actually commit a cardinal sin of mine when it comes to covers, where bands should try not to alter the lyrics to change the song's perspective or narrative like when the Counting Crows did "Big Yellow Taxi" and included the lyric "a big yellow taxi took my girl away..." ugghh. The 'stones here are forgiven as it was a seamless transition from "Jersey" to "Kingston" and the song rocks.

 47. "Next To You" - The Offspring
Original By: The Police

This one always stood out for me, but i'm not sure why. I think The Offspring fleshed out a good Police song and made it a great Offspring one. Almost seemed Sting & co. kinda left me wanted more with the original probably why it was a forgotten classic. However, it became a forgotten Offspring track as it is only found after about sixty seconds of silence at the end of their Greatest Hits last listed track.

46. "Mr. Tambourine Man" - The Byrds
Original: Bob Dylan

Ol' Mr. Zimmerman will appear frequently on this list, as do many great songwriters who may not have been great singers. The Byrds' version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" is important because it is widely known as being the birth of what would become to be known as "folk rock". A kinda of easy listening rebellion. Either way the song was a hit and we find it here at #46.

45. "Apologize" - Silverstein
Original By: One Republic

Silverstein gets the same "too soon?" pass as Four Year Strong for the same reason, but also because this cover is remarkable. "Apologize" gets a great treatment from the screamo-two-singer-hard-rock thing they gave it here. Also it's without Timbaland's annoying minimalist contribution of the original.

44. "It's Oh So Quiet" - Bjork
Original By: Betty Hutton

Ok, this one is a bit complicated as the original is actually a German song called "Und Jetzt est es Still" which was covered by Betty Hutton and converted to English. Bjork covered the Hutton version in 1995, which surprisingly remains here highest ranking single. Ok, so not that complicated. Bjork put her thumbprint on it for sure and pretty much claimed the song for herself. Rightfully so, she nailed it. Great video too.

43. "Hard Sun" - Eddie Vedder
Original: Indio
I've discussed this version on this list before, I believe on the Top 100 Canadian Song List. I mentioned how Indio was not impressed with Eddie using his song for the film Into The Wild. Unfortunately not all artists are happy about other people recording their songs, it's going to happen. This was one of those recent cases. The song did fit well with the theme of the film and helped the soundtrack become a hit.

42. "The Ghost Of Tom Joad" - Rage Against The Machine
Original By: Bruce Springsteen

Yup you read that right. Rage Against The Machine doing a Springsteen tune, not really that suprising when you look at the values and ideals that both artists usually write about. Rage obviously took their version a different direction with their unique brand of thrash-rock. Springsteen has embraced this version even once performing the song with Tom Morello on guitar. Badass!

41. "Under My Thumb" - Social Distortion
Original By: The Rolling Stones

This is not just another one of those punk covers. Mike Ness puts his essence into this one, sings it like he wrote it and knew the girl it's about. Thats just the Social Distortion style though, they're one of those bands everyone enjoys. Everyone. This was the hidden track on 1996's White Light, White Heat, White Trash. By not listing it on the CD people weren't influenced to purchase the album based on the original's popularity, it's merely a special gift for the fans. Now I share it with you.

40. "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" - Urge Overkill
Original By: Neil Diamond

I originally had this one higher, but after some more deliberation I decided the Neil Diamond version isn't too far off from this. Urge Overkill recorded this in 1992 and Quentin Tarantino put it in his film Pulp Fiction. Kudos to UO for not picking a popular Diamond song to cover and for honestly recording a beautiful track. For those reasons it's still on this list.

 39. "Tainted Love" - Marilyn Manson
Original By: Soft Cell

Another cover of a cover. Originally put to music by Gloria Jones in 1965, Manson is actually doing Soft Cell's version from 1981 which hit #1. I was never too fond of Soft Cell's version though. Manson would have no other way of doing this than by twisting it and making it notably darker. His first of 2 contributions to this list. Watch for a really hot girl and Slipknot's Joey Jordison in the video.

38. "Ring Of Fire" - Social Distortion
Original By: Johnny Cash

This one is a soft spot for many people. Some feel Johnny's song is sacred and should not have been touched, others think that Social Distortion just sped the original up slightly. It took a while for me to warm up to it in all honesty, and truth be told i'm not a huge fan of the original. I feel the song needed a little more energy, but not to be taken to that hardcore extreme. I don't know, i'm a fan.

37. "In Your Eyes" - SR71
Original By: Peter Gabriel

Whatever happened to these guys eh? This is another sacred one in people's views, you'll find we will encounter more of those as this list goes on. It's true Gabriel's version is timeless and holds a place in many people's hearts. SR71 did a good job here though, they didn't piss all over it's legacy, but did inject a new flavour into a favourite song of theirs

36. "The Boys Of Summer" - The Ataris
Original By: Don Henley

Again another one it took a while for me to warm up to. I felt the Ataris were just re-releasing a Henley track a little faster, but after a few listens he adds a different passion. Almost an anger pointed in a different direction, something I could relate to. It's still as haunting as the original but haunting in a different way and almost sympathetic.

35. "I Will Survive" - Cake
Original By: Gloria Gaynor

They took a disco classic and turned it into...well a Cake song. There is really no other way to describe their version. It changes the perspective from female to male without making any bastardizing swaps. It builds to a trumpeting peak and demands the attention of first time listeners. Something all good covers should do.

34. "Faith" - Limp Bizkit
Original By: George Michael

Limp Bizkit were once a promising up and coming hard metal group. They burst on the scene with a modern and re-energized version of a tired and overplayed 80's staple. Then they began to become an imitation of themselves. But back to "Faith", it's a short and blunt rap-metal assault. Aimed at  a generation who had no idea what the fuck they liked. Well we liked this.

33. "Negative Creep" - Machinehead
Original By: Nirvana

I guess it was part of Nirvana's m/o to release songs that felt unrehearsed and apathetic. "Negative Creep" was an unsung hero from Bleach and Machinehead got a hold of it. It seems they picked up the song where Nirvana left it and shoved it face first through a wall of fire and metal, without taking it to that unlistenable extreme some bands tend to do.

32. "Land Of Confusion" - Disturbed
Original By: Genesis

Disturbed always include a cover on each album they release. They never really made waves with one until 2005's Ten Thousand Fists when they remade Genesis' hit "Land Of Confusion". Sticking to the same vein Genesis did Disturbed included a notable video for their song which is what gave this version much of it's exposure. Thankfully the song kept people interested as well.

31. "I Only Want To Be With You" - Volbeat
Original By: Dusty Springfield

Nope, not the Hootie & The Blowfish song. Volbeat remakes a golden oldie by Dusty Springfield. It's clean and heavy and cool. Love the big Dane's voice here too. This song has been covered by other artists namely The Bay City Rollers, Ash and even Elton John on occasion. Volbeat's version has no let up and thats a great quality of a song, keep the energy consistent and for a cover it doesn't warp the original's sensibilities or structure. Long live it.

Thats all for now kids! Check back soon for Part 2 and find out where your favourite covers rank!


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