I’m a big fan of cover versions, especially the cases where the remake is better than the original. Here is my totally subjective list of ten covers that I believe eclipsed the originals.
- All Along the Watchtower/Jimi Hendrix
Let’s face it: Jimi kicked Zimmy’s ass when he made “Watchtower” his own. Let’s compare, starting with Dylan.
2.Take Me to the River/Talking Heads
There’s a languid feel to how the Heads recorded the Rev Al Green classic which also fuses with a weird artsy tension that was never imagined for the original.
3.Tainted Love/Soft Cell
Mark Almond and David Ball were both big fans of English Northern Soul records, which prompted them to electropop the Gloria Jones single. Fun fact: Ed Cobb wrote the song in 15 minutes in 1964.
4.Brand New Cadillac/The Clash
The Clash didn’t even know producer Guy Stevens had tape running when they warmed up with this Vince Taylor song during the first hours of the London Calling sessions. Despite the fact that the band plays faster and faster throughout the song–something that they normally would hate–Stevens insisted that their live-off-the-floor version was perfect. It made the album.
5.Woodstock/Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
I remember hearing the Joni Mitchel original for the first time and thinking “This is the same song?”
6.This Flight Tonight/Nazareth
Another Joni track that lent itself to being rocked up.\
7.Twist and Shout/The Beatles
The Beatles had a little extra time left in the session for their first album, so they dashed off their version of this Isley Brother song. Because Lennon had been singing for more than three hours already, his voice is extra-ragged on this recording.
There’s nothing wrong with Trent’s Nine Inch Nails version, but Johnny Cash’s rendition really brought on the pain.
9.Sweet Jane/Cowboy Junkies
The Junkies’ genius was de-rocking the Velvet Underground’s original.
10.Emma/Sisters of Mercy
Hot Chocolate wrote the song and had the hit, but it took the Sisters of Mercy to bring this suicide ballad to life–so to speak.