What makes a great cover song? Usually when it comes to one, artists seem to generally record them when creativity runs out while making an album and they’re in dire need of filler. But every once in a while, an artist can take someone else’s song and turn it into something far more superior and absolute brilliance. Here’s an example of 10 tracks that trump the original composition, above and beyond.
Blinded By The Light – Manfred Mann's Earth Band [Bruce Springsteen]
Not only is this track not generally known as a Springsteen original, it’s also been notorious for its misheard lyrics. “Revved up like a deuce”, always seems to be interpretted as “wrapped up like a douche”. A fine example of an average track turned into absolute brilliance by someone else.
Dead Souls – Nine Inch Nails [Joy Division]
If there’s one thing Trent Reznor knows how to do flawlessly, it’s taking someone elses song and giving it a serious set of balls. He’s done it in the past with Queen and Adam Ant songs, but it’s NIN’s take on Joy Division’s Dead Souls that makes the original composition sound like it was just a demo bed track of what the end piece is supposed to sound like.
Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley [Leonard Cohen]
Cohen’s composition is a powerful piece of music, but I would defy anyone to listen to Jeff Buckley’s version and not be completely brought to chills. Too many artists have covered this song over the years, but Jeff Buckley’s is all that’s necessary.
With a Little Help From My Friends – Joe Cocker [The Beatles]
Many artists have covered the songbook of The Beatles over the years, but everything always ends up just sounding ho-hum. Besides, who would purposely give themselves such huge shoes to fill? Somehow, Joe Cocker defies all odds on his brilliant take on the Sgt. Pepper classic and completely and utterly outdoes the original. Blame it on Ringo.
All Along The Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix [Bob Dylan]
"Move over Rover, and let Jimi take over". The original is good, but the guitar God entirely eclipses the song and completely cranks it into overdrive.
Sweet Jane – Cowboy Junkies [Velvet Underground]
Not to take anything away from the artsy New Yorker's original, but the Junkies have unofficially claimed ownership of this song. It delivers such a sweet and infectious melody, and along with gorgeous vocals by singer Margo Timmins, it's impossible not to resonate to this track immediately. It was also recorded in a Toronto church with the band circled around just a single microphone to boot.
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – Guns N' Roses [Bob Dylan]
Not to keep picking on Zimmerman here, but just another example of how another artist took a decent Dylan track and completely overshadowed it.
I Fought The Law – The Clash [Sonny Curtis and The Crickets]
Originally recorded by Sonny Curtis in 1959, then made famous by the Bobby Fuller Four in 1965, but it wasn’t until Joe Strummer and Co. took a stab at the composition some 14 years later to gave the Law the justice it rightfully deserved.
Mad World – Gary Jules [Tears For Fears]
Sometimes referred to as the Donny Darko song, this Tears For Fears track went from a dancey pop number to an altogether eerie and stripped down haunting drawl, giving the song the impact no one could ever imagined possible. A+ for creativity.
Mrs. Robinson – The Lemonheads [Simon & Garfunkel]
A soft and pleasant folk number originally penned for the 1967 film, The Graduate, Evan Dando and co. came along and turned it into the hyper, make-you-wanna-jump-around-and-kick-things-over, type of ditty it became. If there's one thing The Lemonheads love to do, its cover other people's songs. Heck, they even recorded an entire covers album, Varshons, back in 2009. One of the very few acts that can do it properly.