10 Covers You Didn’t Know Were Covers

[Another useful list by resident listmeister Brent Chittenden. – AC]

Despite the fact that I spend a majority of my writing time reviewing and seeking out new music by new artists, I must admit, I love a good cover song. An artist you wouldn’t expect covering another artist like The Revolting Cock’s cover of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” for example.

But what I also find intriguing are covers that the general public don’t realise are covers. Below is our list of Top Ten Covers You May Not Have Known Were Covers!

10) Girls Just Want To Have Fun (Original: Richard Hazard / Cover: Cyndi Lauper)

Yes, this song was originally written and performed by a man… and it comes off as just plain creepy. Lauper’s version was way more successful and far less weird.


9) I Want Candy (Original: The Strangeloves / Cover: Bow Wow Wow)

The Strangeloves were a fake band supposedly consisting of a bunch ex-sheepherders. Bow Wow Wow covered the single to one hit wonder success.


8) Cum On Feel The Noize (Original: Slade / Cover: Quiet Riot)

Having such success with covering “Cum On Feel The Noize” in 1983, Quiet Riot cover Slade again in 1984 with “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”. This must have lead to the questioning of both bands’ abilities to spell.


7) Nothing Compares 2 U (Original: The Family [Prince] / Cover: Sinead O’Connor)

Written by Prince for one of his many side creative outlets, The Family never really did anything with this song where for O’Connor, the track became a very important part of her mainstream success.


6) I Fought The Law (Original: The Crickets / Cover: The Clash)

Written by Sonny Curtis (who replaced Buddy Holly on guitar in The Crickets) and was covered twice with some success. First by The Bobby Fuller Four in 1965 and then in 1979 by The Clash.


5) Real Wild Child aka The Wild One (by Johnny O’Keefe; best known from Iggy Pop)

A hit for Iggy during the 80’s and a solid track for Jerry Lee Lewis in the 70’s, the original “The Wild One” comes to us from Australia and singer Johnny O’Keefe who passed away in the 70’s due to a heart attack caused by a prescription drug overdose.


4) The Man Who Sold The World (Original: David Bowie / Cover: Nirvana)

Nirvana covered The Man Who Sold The World for their Unplugged special, a song from David Bowie’s album of the same name. The Nirvana version became so popular that Bowie had to sometimes explain to younger fans that it was his song first. [Let’s not even talk about the Meat Puppets covers on the MTV album. – AC]


3) Tainted Love (Original: Gloria Jones / Cover: Soft Cell)

Originally recorded by Motown artist Gloria Jones (who later went on to be Marc Bolan’s girlfriend) this is truly a case of the cover doing better than the original. Jones’ failed to chart at all where Soft Cell’s went to #1 in the UK and became a song closely associated with 80’s synth pop.


2) Downtown Train (Original: Tom Waits / Cover: Rod Stewart)

Talk about left turns, I don’t think Waits ever thought that Stewart would cover any of his songs. Not that Waits would care mind you. I don’t think Stewart’s version is horrible but it’s amazing how the same song can change under to radically different artists.


1) Istanbul (Original: The Four Lads / Cover: They Might Be Giants)

The Four Lads were from Canada and recorded their version of what is possibly the most recognised of all of They Might Be Giant’s catalogue in 1953.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

16 thoughts on “10 Covers You Didn’t Know Were Covers

  • August 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    That was too much fun. Thanks Alan

  • August 11, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Animotion's "Obsession" was originally recorded by the guy who replaced Robert Palmer in Power Station, Michael Des Barres.

    UB40's "Red Red Wine" is famously by Neil Diamond first.

    "Always Something There to Remind Me" by Naked Eyes was a huge hit for Sandie Shaw pretty much everywhere in the English-speaking world except the UK back in 1964 (and it was written by Burt Bacharach!)

    (Actually I have this theory that every New Wave one-hit wonder in the early 1980s was a cover song.)

  • August 12, 2012 at 12:29 am

    Gloria Jones was also the one driving the Mini in 1977 when it killed Marc Bolan from T-Rex, they had a son together.

    Great list!


  • August 12, 2012 at 2:28 am

    I suspect many would be surprised how many Clash songs are covers.

    Then there's Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter
    Black Betty
    House of The Rising Sun
    C. C. Rider
    Midnight Special

    As well as being the first to record some of the old slave songs of the american South like Cotton Fields and Goodnight Irene in the '20s and '30s.

    Pluse, the best cover of all time: William Shatner w/ Joe Jackson and Ben Folds covering Pulp's Common People The raw emotion he builds up constantly until he hits that 2nd 'fail' is true art, even if it's technically not singing 🙂

  • August 12, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Sweet Jane by Ian Hunter / Mott the Hoople. (although Lou Reed's version is likely as well or better known)
    Jimi Hendrix, Star Spangled Banner, totally not his own! 😉

  • August 12, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    I guess I spend too much time reading about and listening to music (if that is possible).

    @Geoff….thanks for "The Tide is High" submission. That I did not know.

  • August 12, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    I love a good cover song. An artist you wouldn’t expect covering another artist like The Revolting Cock’s cover of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” for example.

  • August 13, 2012 at 12:07 am

    Here's more for the list:

    "Blinded By The Light" by Bruce Springsteen, covered by Manfred Mann's Earth Band.

    "Physical" by Adam and The Ants, covered by Nine Inch Nails.

    "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) by R.E.M., covered by Great Big Sea.

  • August 13, 2012 at 1:01 am

    Also covered by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, and also off Greetings from Asbury Park, Spirit In the Night.


    As a kid I was so used to the covers I did not like the originals for the longest time. Now I prefer Bruce by far.


    The late GREAT Alex Harvey's cover of Delilah….

    Tom Jones




    The song has also been covered many times by other artists, including a reggae cover by Horace Andy, the goth rock band Inkubus Sukkubus on their album Wild, the Irish American punk band Flogging Molly on their live album Alive Behind the Green Door and The Sensational Alex Harvey Band whose single reached No 7 in the UK chart in 1975. In 1988 "Delilah" was covered by Paddy Goes To Holyhead. This version can be found on the 4CD box The Hannover Sessions with The Sweet. The Finnish rock band The Leningrad Cowboys also performed a version of this song at Total Balalaka 1993. Austrian singer Peter Alexander recorded a German cover on his 1985 album Ein Abend Mit Dir. (Source: Wikipedia)

  • August 14, 2012 at 6:01 am

    Great list and I'll admit, I totally checked it to see if you had 'Tainted Love'. One correction; Gloria recorded that for Uptown (Capitol/EMI) not Motowm (I've got the 45' ;p).

  • August 14, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    I'm still shocked at how many people have no idea that Hurt wasn't written by Johnny Cash.

    It's not so much a cover, as it is a rip off, but everyone should go listen to Kraftwerk's song Computerleibe, that came out in the mid-late 70s. Then tell me if it reminds you of a certain Coldplay song.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.