The sign of a great song is its ability to be adapted by anyone in any style and still be great. Another way of looking at this is the campfire test. If a song can be successfully performed in a super barebones way and still sound good, then it’s a great song.
And artists love doing covers because, well, it’s fun. Who wouldn’t want to rock out playing and acting out a favourite song yourself?
Alt-rock history has some awesome covers. Soft Cell’s version of Gloria Jones’ “Tainted Love.” Marilyn Manson’s spin on the Eurthymics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” Nirvana’s “The Man Who Sold the World” (Bowie, of course). We can even toss Pearl Jam’s treacly “Last Kiss,” originally by J Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers.
My top three?
The Clash, “Brand New Cadillac,” originally done by Vince Taylor.
Johnny Cash does all sorts of justice to Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.”
The White Stripes with Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.”
Simple question: What are your top three alt-rock covers?