Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Tuesday Top Ten: Favorite Cover Songs

Cover songs can be fickle little monkeys. Some are brilliant remakes that turn the original on its head and supplant the original in the hearts of listeners (i.e., The Jimi Hendrix Experience's cover of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," William Hung's cover of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs," or Cervical Implosion feat. Uter's cover of Everclear's "Santa Monica"), while others fall helplessly short of the original (i.e., The Dave Matthews Band's cover of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," William Hung's cover of Ricky Martin's "Shake Your Bon-Bon," or Cervical Implosion's cover of The Cars' "Just What I Needed"). One thing is for sure: when done right, a cover song can kick some major ass. Here are my ten favorite cover songs, followed by a mix tape (Yes, indeed, I may have found a suitable replacement for Mixwit: Playlist.com. This is my first attempt, so hopefully this works. It's the original version, followed by the cover version (assuming availability)):

10 (tie). "Back Door Man" by The Doors (originally by Howlin' Wolf). The original is awesome, and The Doors' cover, with Jim Morrison's shrieking and howling is just as good. It's a mischievous song to begin with, so it was a perfect song for The Doors to cover.
10 (tie). "Rosalie" by Thin Lizzy (originally by Bob Seger). Unfortunately neither the cover nor the original is on Playlist, so you'll have to just imagine in your head how awesome this song is.
9. "My Mind is Ramblin'" by The Black Keys (originally by Junior Kimbrough). Playlist doesn't have the original, but the cover is available, so enjoy. This is from the Black Keys' EP Chulahoma, which consisted of Junior Kimbrough covers. In my opinion, this is the best song off of that album.
8. "The Letter" by Joe Cocker (originally by The Box Tops). The chorus in the original version is pretty clean cut and bubble gummy, but Cocker adds a much-needed level of soul to it. When he belts into "Well she wrooote me a letter . . .," it's, for sake of a better word, perfect.
7. "Killing Floor" by The Jimi Hendrix Experience (originally by Howlin' Wolf). Hendrix takes this Howlin' Wolf classic to another level on the BBC Sessions album (or the Radio One album, which is what I have). Hendrix's frenetic guitar intro is awesome, and the rest of the song is as well. It's too bad Playlist doesn't have the cover version available.
6. "The Kids Are Alright" by Pearl Jam (originally by The Who). This is probably my favorite song by The Who, so you can imagine that Pearl Jam's version must be pretty damn good for me to like it so much. Unfortunately this, too, is not on Playlist, so you will have to take my word for it. The version I have is a live version from before 2000, and it is pretty much just Eddie Vedder singing with little to no backing instruments.
5. "Jolene" by The White Stripes (originally by Dolly Parton). There is something wonderfully eerie about the White Stripes version (taken from their Live Under Blackpool Lights CD/DVD), perhaps because Jack White is singing from a female's perspective.
4. "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" by George Thorogood & The Destroyers (originally by John Lee Hooker). I love this song. Thorogood took a good three-minute song with a great title and premise, and turned it into an eight-minute masterpiece with an extra back story to boot. "Eve'body's funny. Now you funny too."
3. "Nice Boys" by Guns N' Roses (originally by Rose Tattoo). This is one of my favorite GNR songs, and I was stunned when I found out it was a cover because its message fits so perfectly with GNR's message: nice boys don't play rock 'n' roll. Plus, their cover is taken from the live side of the GN'R Lies album, which means that it was recorded around 1986 before they were big, when they were just blowing the Sunset Strip out of its teased hair and eye liner.
2. "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself" by The White Stripes (originally by Dusty Springfield). The original version of this Burt Bacharach-penned song was pretty good (as is just about anything sung by Dusty Springfield). Jack and Meg make it more frantic and a lot fuzzier, amplifying the crescendo at the end. Jack does a fantastic job of sounding both sweet and scared out of his mind in this song.
1. "When the Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin (originally by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie). This cover of a 1929 Delta Blues song is my favorite Led Zeppelin song. The pounding, driving drum beat. The wailing harmonica. The bluesy guitar. The wavy vocals. It sounds like a levee breaking.


Anonymous said...

Have you ever heard boys of summer by the ataris? Great cover!

Don Henley said...

No one should ever cover my songs. They all suck. That said, I would have preferred the Ataris cover something more intellectual like "Dirty Laundry" or "All She Wants to Do is Dance."