Last week we talked about covers that are better than the originals, and asked for your suggestions. Here’s the Top 30, as chose by writers for and readers of NME.COM, beginning with Johnny Cash, ‘Hurt’. Originally a Nine Inch Nails number but now the Man In Black’s swansong – he made it all his own.
Nirvana, ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ David Bowie apparently gets so many people telling him it’s great that he’s covering a Nirvana song he gets really wound up.
The Futureheads, ‘Hounds of Love’ The Newcastle art-punkers took a semi-classic Kate Bush tune and turned it into the indie disco staple for several years.
White Stripes, ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’ Written by Burt Bacharach, performed by numerous artists, made famous by Dusty Springfield and to a lesser extent Dionna Warwick, but turned into a blustering rock monster by Meg and Jack White.
The Beatles, ‘Twist and Shout’ A popular reader’s choice, this rock ‘n’ roll standard was written by Phil Medley and Burt Russel and performed by The Isley Brothers initially, but it’s the Fab Four’s rendition that gets you throwing shapes.
The Fall, ‘Lost in Music’ While the Nile Rodgers-produced Sister Sledge disco version is a bit of a classic too, Mark E Smith’s post punk version of the track took it to a while new level.
The Who, ‘Young Man Blues’ Hands up who likes Mose Allison? Never heard of her? Well, it’s a him actually, and his jazz tune was turned electric – literally and metaphorically – for The Who when they went live in Leeds.
Arctic Monkeys, ‘Love Machine’ Alex Turner and co. took a relatively bog standard girl group pop track and turned it, well, cool really. Sarah Harding was hammered when this NME Awards snap was taken.
Jeff Buckey, ‘Hallelujah’ Leonard Cohen might have written the track, but Buckley turned it into a religious experience. Then Leona Lewis transformed it into a hellish dirge, but then no song is sacred forever.
Soft Cell, ‘Tainted Love’ Yeah, hard to believe isn’t it, but this isn’t a Soft Cell song. It was originally recorded by Gloria Jones in 1965 but didn’t get famous until Marc Almond sung it in 1985. Subsequently covered – but not bettered – by Marilyn Manson in 2001.
Janis Joplin, ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ Country pop singer Roger Miller was the originally voice behind this tune but it was a release from Janis, just after her death, that topped the charts – hers was the second posthumous release to do that (the first was Otis Redding’s ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’).
Jimi Hendrix, ‘All Along the Watchtower’ Bob Dylan’s version was fine and all that, but when Jimi took over, it took on a whole new dimension. This is the song that inspired the blog on the topic.
Muse, ‘Feeling Good’ Another NME.COM user’s pick, this track dates all the way back to 1965 and has been performed by Nina Simone, John Coltrane and Sammy David Jr. However, it took a Devonshire space rock trio to blast it into the stratosphere. An integral part of their legendary live show.
Kim Carnes, ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon wrote this track in the mid ’70s, but Kim Carnes turned it into a chart success in 1981.
Guns N Roses, ‘Live And Let Die’ – A contentious one in the office, but we maintain Axl’s ludicrious reworking is a more interesting prospect than McCartney’s original.
Travis, ‘…Baby One More Time’ Yep, Travis covered Britney Spears. It sounds like it would be downright awful. But they jumped on the bandwagon early, performing one of the very first covers of her hit song at a live gig. It started as a joke (as you would expect), but it actually ended up sounding pretty impressive.
Ryan Adams, ‘Wonderwall’ NME.COM Editor Luke Lewis chose this track, insisting that “Adams’ desolate whisper quarries a depth and subtlety that’s missing from the original”.
Marilyn Manson, ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ It’s hard to pick just one of their covers to dub as their best. ‘Personal Jesus’ and ‘Tainted Love’ are equally brilliant. But Marilyn Manson’s take on this Eurythmics classic, with added lyrics (“I wanna use you and abuse you/I wanna know what’s inside you“) is dark, twisted and utterly beautiful.
Santana, ‘Black Magic Woman’ Let’s not forget about the superb original song by Fleetwood Mac. But Carlos Santana’s version? Pretty close to perfect. What a way to kick off the ’70s, that was.
Happy Mondays, ‘Step On’ John Kongos first performed this song (then titled ‘He’s Gonna Step On You Again’) in 1971, but it wasn’t until nearly 20 years later that it truly became a hit when Happy Mondays released this cover, which became their biggest-selling single ever.
The Animals, ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’ Here’s one of those classic folk tunes that doesn’t really have a set origin, so we’ll just give these guys the credit. It’s probably one of their most successful tunes that we’ll never forget about – although we wish we could forget those awful haircuts.
Sinead O’Connor, ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ What began as a tune from Prince’s project The Family was ultimately made a worldwide hit by Sinead O’Connor’s gorgeous version. It also came along with one of the most recognisable promo videos of all time.
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, ‘Blinded By The Light’ Many attempt to cover The Boss, few succeed. But Manfred Mann and his Earth Band did Bruce Springsteen justice in their rather groovy cover of ‘Blinded By The Light’. We’re not so sure on the single artwork, though…
Thin Lizzy, ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ The Dubliners made this traditional Irish tune a hit. The Grateful Dead have covered it. Metallica have covered it (and even won a Grammy for it in 2000). But no one did it quite like Thin Lizzy.
Jose Gonzalez, ‘Heartbeats’ The whole point of a cover is to give shiny new life to a song, and that’s just what Mr. Gonzalez did, spinning an electropop hit into this beautiful acoustic ballad.
White Stripes, ‘Jolene’ While it’s hard for anyone to ever upstage Ms. Parton, Jack and Meg White come pretty dang close. They took a country classic and threw in some screechy guitars, and out came pure White Stripes gold.
The Clash, ‘I Fought The Law’ Sorry Bobby Fuller Four. When we hear your version, we just don’t believe it. This kind of rebellion call of a song requires the punk rock edge of The Clash, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Bjork, ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ Sometimes it’s hard to remember that this was actually a cover of the 1951 song by Betty Hutton. Only could Bjork fill a song with whispers and shrieks and make them sound ever so lovely – and what could be better than a Spike Jonze-directed promo video with mechanics, goths and columns with feet dancing along the dirty streets of NYC?
Beck, ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ Recorded as part of his Record Club, Beck teamed up with St. Vincent’s Annie Clark to create this rather astounding rendition of the string-filled INXS classic. It’s bound to induce at least a few chills.
Led Zeppelin, ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’ Here’s another one of those, “Really? It’s a cover?” kind of songs. Even after you listen to the original version recorded by Joan Baez, it’s hard to imagine the song being performed by any act other than Led Zep.