Weekly Survey: What are your top 3 cover songs?

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?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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.

31 thoughts on “Weekly Survey: What are your top 3 cover songs?

  • July 16, 2018 at 9:03 am

    Wow! This is a hard one, simply because there are so many choices. I love all three of your picks, Alan. Some immediately spring to mind. “Going Down To Liverpool” by the Bangles, originally done by Katrina & The Waves. “Wasted Years” by Ryan Adams, originally done by Iron Maiden, and that’s real barebones cover just on the acoustic guitar. “Venus” by Bananarama, originally done by Shocking Blue. I love Bryan Ferry’s cover of Dylan’s “Talking Tom Thumb’s Blues.” My old friend Ron Sexsmith does a lot of amazing covers, especially of Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney.

  • July 16, 2018 at 10:29 am

    Have to agree with Jack White’s Jolene and Johnny Cash’s Hurt.

    Queensryche did a cover of Dalbello’s “gonna get close to you” and whether you like QR or not, you have to give Geoff Tate’s vocal chops their due. The guy has a fantastic voice and it truly comes through in this cover. Give it a listen. Arguably one of the best metal voices ever.

    Also would add “Into your arms” by the Lemonheads. Found out recently it was a cover of a song by an Australian band called Sexual Positions.

  • July 16, 2018 at 10:32 am

    Mrs. Robinson – The Lemonheads

  • July 16, 2018 at 11:33 am

    I’m an odd duck so here are mine
    Baba O’Riley – Pearl Jam
    Enjoy the Silence – Lacuna Coil
    Stand By Me – Pennywise

  • July 16, 2018 at 11:45 am

    I think your top 3 is pretty unimpeachable, but would add the following. The Sonic Youth cover of “Superstar” which was originally done by the Carpenters. I also really enjoy both the original and vastly diffferent cover version of Devo’s “Girl U Want” that Soundgarden recorded. Lastly, I would go with “Police and Thieves” by the Clash, which is a cover of an already great song by reggae artist Junior Murvin.

  • July 16, 2018 at 11:57 am

    Lera Lynn and bandmate Ben Lewis doing a banjo driven cover of TV On The Radio’s “Wolf Like Me”

  • July 16, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    You wanted 3. Locked in the Trunk of a Car by Justin Rutledge. Pretty good video as well. He did a whole album of Hip covers.
    Chris Cornell- Billie Jean

  • July 16, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    Love and Rockets – Ball of Confusion
    Bangles – Hazy Shade of Winter
    Pukka Orchestra – Listen to the Radio

  • July 16, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    MIke Doughty (Formerly of Soul Coughing) – Country Roads Take Me Home
    Ryan Adams – Wonderwall
    Charles Bradley – Heart of Gold

  • July 16, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    My top 3
    Nirvana – The Man Who Sold the World (originally by David Bowie)
    Frente – Bizarre Love Triangle (originally by New Order)
    Gary Jules – Mad World (originally by Tears For Fears)

    Honorable mentions
    Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower (originally by Bob Dylan)
    Cowboy Junkies – Sweet Jane (originally by the Velvet Underground)
    Urge Overkill – Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon (originally by Neil Diamond)
    Soft Cell – Tainted Love (originally by Gloria Jones)
    Depeche Mode – Route 66 (originally by Bobby Troup/Nat King Cole)

  • July 16, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    Foo Fighters – Best of You
    Better Than Ezra – Good (although probably not considered Alt-Rock)
    Long Time Running – Tragically Hip (also probably not really alt-Rock)

  • July 16, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    Disturbed’s cover of “Shout” by Tears for Fears. And it’s hard not to laugh every time I hear Dread Zeppelin’s treatment of “Stairway to Heaven”.

  • July 16, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    Nirvana love buzz
    Me first and the gimme gimmies county roads
    Metallica turn the page

  • July 16, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    Here’s some heavyweight Canadian band covers.

    1. The Rheostatics – Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
    2. The Headstones – Tweeter and the Monkey Man
    3. The Arkells – Dancin’ in the Dark

  • July 16, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    Pete Townshend – Save It For Later
    Franz Ferdinand – All My Friends
    Amity Beach – Right Back Where We Started From
    Weezer- Africa
    Johnny Cash – Bird On A Wire
    Dan Mangan & Zeus – Waltz #2 (XO)
    Grey Lands w/ Mike O’Neill – Coax Me
    Arkells – Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours
    Frank Black – This Is Where I Belong
    Wye Oak – Strangers
    Blinker The Star – Running Up That Hill
    Paul Simon – Biko

  • July 16, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    The Colourfield – “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby”
    Kirsty MacColl – “A New England”
    The Clash – “I Fought the Law”
    Honourable mention: the many great covers by Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry

  • July 16, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    Weezer “Paranoid Android”

    The Bangles “Hazy Shade of Winter”

    Cranberries “(They Long To Be) Close To You”

  • July 16, 2018 at 10:37 pm

    3. Radical Face – Assimilate (by Skinny Puppy)
    2. Lush – Love At First Sight (by The Gist)
    1. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – Saturday Night (by the Bay City Rollers)

    Check out the Radical Face track! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdCw_iO77kw

  • July 17, 2018 at 12:39 am

    Matthew Good Band – Enjoy The Silence
    Crash Test Dummies – The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead
    Great Big Sea – Run Runaway

    Honourable Mentions:

    Anthrax – Got The Time
    Orgy – Blue Monday

    • July 17, 2018 at 9:51 am

      Gotta love Anthrax’s version of Pipeline too

  • July 17, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Tough one, for sure.

    Tool – No Quarter (Zep) has to be on there
    The Tea Party – Paint it Black (Stones)
    Disturbed – Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel)

    Close in the Running:
    TV on the Radio w/ Reznor & Murphy – Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Bauhaus)
    FFDP – Bad Company (Bad Company)
    Disturbed – Land of Confusion (Genesis)
    Minor Threat – stepping stone (Monkees)
    Dead kennedys – take this job and shove it (Johnny Paychek)
    Machine head – hallowed be thy name (Maiden)

    • July 17, 2018 at 9:41 am

      I was going to come back and add Sound of Silence. Disturbed did a brilliant version of the song making it quite haunting IMHO.

      Not quite a “song” per se but Small Town Titans do a BRILLIANT Mr Grinch – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cUz-zAATNI

  • July 17, 2018 at 11:01 am

    All time favourite cover: Joe Strummer’s version of Redemption Song.

  • July 17, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    I forgot Reel Big Fish – Take On Me

  • July 17, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    Hi Alan. Like many, I love a good cover song. Especially when an artist chooses a GREAT song and puts their personal stamp on it. As we know, Johnny Cash was the arguable master at this.

    My three:

    Bauhaus’ 1980 cover of T-Rex’s “Telegram Sam”. It adds a stiff-arm of power to a great song by an iconic artist. Bauhaus makes it their own.

    Supersuckers 2004 cover of Outkast’s “Hey Ya”. Eddie Spaghetti and Company rock the crap out of one of 2003’s biggest hits. A lot of fun to listen to as the Supersuckers stay true to the entire song while adding their own brand of spice to it.

    Peaches’ 2009 cover of The Stooges “Search and Destroy”. That 1973 original is so damn good. We all know that. But Peaches covers the song with a cooing snarl while adding her own brand of electronica. It’s borderline genius.

  • July 17, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    snake river conspiracy -how soon is now
    chris cornell-nothing compares to you
    lemonheads-mrs robinson

  • July 19, 2018 at 10:58 am

    Night and Day – U2
    Here Comes the Sun – Richie Havens
    Hot Wire My Heart- Sonic Youth

    • July 23, 2018 at 1:42 pm

      U2 had a bunch of covers for B-sides. I’m rather partial to their version of Satellite of Love

  • November 10, 2022 at 2:21 pm

    Wow, I know it has been awhile, but I cannot believe there wasn’t a single mention of Higher Ground by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the comments. This may not have been out, but Tom Morello, Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen combined for a great version of Highway to Hell. Also, Rage Against the Machine’s Maggie’s Farm is amazing.


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