Rock’s Greatest Covers: Patti Tops the List

When Van Morrison wrote the classic Gloria as the B-side to Them’s 1964 hit Baby Please Don’t Go, he couldn’t have suspected what a kid from New Jersey would do with his song a decade later. But I suspect he was thrilled. After all, Patti Smith’s cover of Gloria on her incredible 1975 debut album Horses stands as the greatest rock cover performance (studio release) of all time.

At least, that’s my choice. You may cue up something else. But consider the guidelines: we’re talking post-Beatles, singer-songwriter era. And we’re talking interpretation, ownership, stye. And Patti’s Gloria leaps to the top. Even now, 30 years after I first heard it, the song can bring chills – that opening, the free-form poetry, the anger and sexual tension, the drive of the band, as it swings in and around Smith’s lyrical riffs. Christ, it is rock. No matter that Patti didn’t write the song – she wrote the track.

Over five and half minutes, the song presents an apocalyptic vision that unfolds in slow, throbbing chords, then picks up speed:

people say “beware!”
but I don’t care
the words are just
rules and regulations to me, me

Then, blam – the more familiar chords of Morrison’s brilliant B-side, but with lyrics he couldn’t have released in 1964 – red hot homoerotica, in this case, but you almost don’t notice it because of the momentum of the band. Took me a while when i was 14 or so to realize, hey man, that’s a girl singing about a girl:

humpin’ on the parking meter, leanin’ on the parking meter
oh, she looks so good, oh, she looks so fine
and I got this crazy feeling and then I’m gonna ah-ah make her mine
ooh I’ll put my spell on her

And onward it goes, every second fiery, living-breathing rock-and-roll. It feels incredibly live, with Jay Dee Daugherty’s singer-focused cymbals and fills and Lenny Kaye’s understated but omnipresent guitar. This song feels like it could only have been released in this performance, in this actual cut, in the recording that was made on that one day with this one band in this one studio. And to me, that’s what great covers are about: building on somebody else’s song, putting your own meat on the bones, creating a singular performance.

Here are a few more to chew on – my top 10 – of course, I want your own nominations (the Viscount gave us one last week, which tickled my post).

Gloria – Patti Smith (Horses, 1975)
Just My Imagination – The Rolling Stones (Some Girls, 1978)
Respect – Aretha Franklin (1967)
Satisfaction – Devo (Are We Not Men?, 1978)
Jolene – The White Stripes (2003)
I Won’t Back Down – Johnny Cash (Solitary Man, 2000)
I Fought The Law – The Clash (The Clash, 1979)
Oops I Did it Again – Richard Thompson (A Thousand Years of Music, 2003)
Stand By Me – John Lennon (Rock-n-Roll, 1975)
Don’t Start Me Talkin’ – New York Dolls (Too Much, Too Soon, 1974)

And that’s just off the top of my head – undoubtedly there are some I can’t bring to mind this fine Saturday afternoon. So help me out.

Oh, and here’s your bonus – Patti Smith Band from SNL in 1976 doing Gloria:

71 Replies to “Rock’s Greatest Covers: Patti Tops the List

  1. Good ones, Viscount – not sure how I left off Watchtower, except that perhaps it was so obvious. Heck, Dylan started playing it the Hendrix way. Allmans have a bunch of good covers, of course. And the Costello track – great one, but I’m not sure if it fits, since I’ve never heard the Nick Lowe original…

  2. and Respect which is so good that many people are shocked when they hear it’s not the original.

    Hell’s bells. I never knew that! I learn something new on the Intertubes every single day.

  3. Great post. I agree that Jimi’s version of “Watchtower” is one of the greatest covers of all time. Talk about making a song your own. I bet more people mistakenly think Jimi played it first than those who know Dylan was the one who penned it.

    My favorite covers I’ve listened to today:

    “I Wish I Knew” – Derek Trucks Band (Trucks’ solos are incredibly melodic and distinguishable from anyone else’s guitar sound, and Mike Mattison’s vocals fill me with such a deep and genuine joy.)

    “High and Dry” – Jorge Drexler (His voice is as smooth and sweet as honey, and just as thick with emotion, too.)

    “Jesus Just Left Chicago” – Phish (On the live album Slip, Stitch and Pass; piano/guitar solos that build and build so, so slow, then release with a bang, kinda like a… Well, you know.)

    “Cortez the Killer” – Warren Haynes and Dave Matthews Band (Version from the Central Park show; I watch/listen to this song on the DVD, and my hair stands on end throughout the whole thing.)

  4. Yeah, Trucks and Haynes are keeping up the Allman circle’s history of incredible covers. Phish almost doesn’t count – they made such a rep on being the coverer’s cover band.

  5. Trucks and Haynes never cease to blow my mind. If you haven’t heard them play, either with the ABB, or with their respective bands, you’re in for it; their guitar solos will run you over like a pack of wild horses.

    Haynes really kills it with DMB during the Central Park concert – DMB gets a bad rep I think because of their overzealous frat-boy fans, but they are insanely talented.

    As for Phish, I’ll say this: When they’re off, they’re way off, but when they’re on, magic happens. Their cover of “Jesus” really is worth a listen, I think.

  6. Tom, you’ll be happy to know that Patti Smith is releasing a whole album of covers next month called Twelve.
    Here’s the lineup, although the early discs shipped out for review say the order could change:
    1. Are You Experienced?
    2. Everybody Wants To Rule The World
    3. Helpless
    4. Gimme Shelter
    5. Within You Without You
    6. White Rabbit
    7. Changing Of The Guards
    8. Boy In The Bubble, The
    9. Soul Kitchen
    10. Smells Like Teen Spirit
    11. Midnight Rider
    12. Pastime Paradise

    Also, I really like her cover of Dylan’s Wicked Messenger.

  7. Yeah, I remember hearing about that – interesting lineup. Hmmm, what do I look forward to hearing most – going with Changing Of The Guards.

  8. Actually I don’t think it’s quite true that the Big O disliked Aretha’s “Respect”….I think he is remembered as saying “That little girl came along and took my song from me” because she had so utterly made it her own and slayed the original. That’s a great choice.

    I can’t say I have a hierarchacal list. The lines are too fuzzy. For example, producer Norm Whitfield recorded “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” with Smokey and the Isleys (unreleased) before hitting w/ Gladys Knight and then a year later w/ Marvin Gaye. Is Marvin’s verison a cover? Maybe. It certainly hit after Gladys Knight’s making it a prime candidate for #1 on any covers list.

    However, I will offer a couple worth noting:

    First, The Beatles’ “Twist & Shout.” As Aretha did w/ “Respect,” The Beatles seized that song and held on to it forever; and it may be John Lennon’s greatest vocal.

    Second, Elvis Presley’s volcanic (Arlen Specter’s word, but I like it!) 1973 version of Chuck Berry’s “The Promised Land.” The Kings last great moment and one of his best. Rocks like a mother. And the song fits him like a leather jump suit.

    Third, Warren Zevon’s version of “Back in the Highlife” which I think was on Mutineer. Completely remade the song as a down tempo broken boozer’s lament for a comeback he knows is never coming. Brilliant!

    Fourth, the Band’s version of Marvin Gaye’s “Baby Don’t You Do It” from Rock of Ages just flat out smokes! (A list of the best rock covers of Motown songs would be a much more managable list to assemble.)

    One I don’t love is Hendrix’ “Watchtower.” I adore Hendrix and actually believe almost ever facet of his music is dramatically UNDERrated. But I think his “Watchtower” slogs rhythmically. He fluffs the lyrics badly and not because he’s altering ’em creatively, he just has no idea what the words are or what they’re about. One of the most overrated records of all time. And I don’t think Dylan ever played Jimi’s arrangement. What he said in an interview was that it was weird to play the song because it felt like he was playing a tribute to Hendrix. I guess that says Jimi seized the song despite my personal beefs with the performance (I can think of two dozen Jimi performances I’d save first from a burning building, including another cover, “Hey Joe”).

    Patti Smith is a genius of covers. Among the greatest covers I’ve seen her perform in concert are: Paint It Black, When Doves Cry, and maybe best of all, George Michael’s Father Figure. Can’t wait to hear her do Changing of the Guard and Pastime Paradise. And yeah, her Wicked Messenger was fabulous.

  9. Jason – i think the version of Watchtower from Live at Budakon is very close to the Hendrix version – you’re right tho, even if Hendrix is great, that’s not his best really.

    Twist and Shout – yeah, that’s a great choice and you know I love Promised Land – left Elvis off because he did so msny covers, really and was from a different era. (Then again, I did put Johnny Cash on there).

    But the gem in your list is the Zevon track – I love that recording and play it all the time.

    Fred, I know your obsession with that Cash-Dylan track! It is a great one…

  10. I must admit I’ve never really been clear on the session dates and release dates on the Grapevines, which underlines my point about the difficulty, for me at least, of narrowing down this category which is full of fuzzy distinctions.

    Hell, Elvis’s Sun recordings of That’s Alright Mama, Mystery Train, and Good Rockin’ Tonight would, in my book, push everything but Respect off Tom’s list. Hound Dog too, if the criteria include singers who made the songs their own, these definitely belong w/ Twist & Shout, Watchtower and Respect. The King’s Blue Suede Shoes too!

    BTW, just thinking about this, that first Aretha Atlantic album is full of classic covers. Besides Respect there’s A Change is Gonna Come and Drown in My Own Tears, all great versions.

  11. Fred, here’s another one for you, Led Zep’s Whole Lotta Love, which is a re-make of Muddy Waters’ You Need Love (I would have loved to have heard Muddy fronting Zep on a version of that tune.)

  12. I’ve always liked the Who’s insane metal version of Summertime Blues as well…Townshend destroys the song and puts it back together.

  13. Yeah, Tramp is great. Levon Helm’s cover of Springsteen’s Atlantic city is pretty great – with the mandolin lead. Not sure about folk tunes … but I don know my playlist the next few days is gonna have a buncha new tunes.

  14. cool, what a nice interesting fun topic for a sunday – and wonderfully, as with all art related topics, no one is right or wrong … i agree with many of the choices listed thus far (especially the iconic patti smith) but for me – having had to have a think about this topic whilst in bed – yes, still – with laptop, wife, cats, coffee, toast and marmite, sunday papers AND the fa cup on television following on from radio 4’s desert island discs followed by just a minute; does it get any better? oh yes it does: getting top down on the miata in a while, ipod plugged in, and poodling off to a nice country pub for a pint of beer …

    but, i digress – it’s a somewhat surprisingly ‘lightweight’ bit of joyful pop that i have to nominate as my ‘best cover’:

    it has to be ‘love machine’ originally by girls aloud but as covered by my local band, the arctic monkeys – makes me smile like no other pop song. the fact the arctic monkeys are all sheffield wednesday fans only serves to remind us of their eccentric take on the real world. but, listen to that cover and try to not smile – is impossible.

    mind you, in a somewhat heavier music genre, with a serious music hat on, jack white in white stripes incarnation doing ‘joleen’ is pretty darn nerver tingling, especially live.

    enjoy your sunday, folks!

  15. Yeah, the Monkeys – the topper to a supreme British Sunday, sounds like.

    Joleen is great – has that edge of madness quality I love.

  16. A cover I’ve always loved is Daddy Rolling Stone from Johnny Thunders’ brilliant 1978 record So Alone. Produced by Steve Lillywhite, who became U2’s producer, the track featured Johnny, the Sex Pistols’ Paul Cook on drums and Steve Jones on guitar, Steve Marriott of the Small Faces on piano, Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy on bass, and Chrissie Hynde on backing vocals.

  17. Wow, some of the selections really take me back, especially Van Halen’s “You Really Got Me” a real classic. (good luck in rehab Eddy!!)

    My vote would have to be Eric Clapton’s version of Bob Marley “I Shot the Sheriff.” Not only did Eric do the song sweet justice, but it had a huge social and political impact. The song helped introduce Bob and his message to millions of fans. How many of these cover songs made the listener go out and buy the original artist material? Good question.

    Peace, I and I, One Love


  18. Great post and comments, so far.

    My favorite thing about cover songs is how some artists can make songs “theirs” while still paying tribute to the original. In my opinion, that’s a major part of what artistic expression is all about. Some of my favorites that I haven’t seen on the list yet include:

    – Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Led Zeppelin (Joan Baez): speaking of Zeppelin
    – The Thrill Is Gone, Jerry Garcia & David Grisman (B.B. King): amazing how they changed this song’s genre while making it sound as pure as the original
    – The Man Who Sold The Word, Nivana (David Bowie): gave GenX exposure to the lesser known side of Bowie
    – Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley (Leonard Cohen): song covered by many, this one stands out
    – To Go Home, M Ward (Daniel Johnston): might be considered “too new” although this has to be considered an instant classic
    – Masters of War, Pearl Jam (Bob Dylan): as immediate – and prevalent – as ever
    – Take Me to the River, Talking Heads (Al Green): takes balls to cover Al Green, but they did it right
    – Rock n’ Roll, Jane’s Addiction (Velvet Underground): quintessential band from late 80’s LA scene covers quintessential band from late 60’s NY Scene
    – One, Johnny Cash (U2): I don’t think I ever actually realized how haunting this song is until I heard Cash sing it
    – Straight Outta Compton, Nina Gordon (NWA): if you haven’t heard this, go to – comical, bizarre and moving at the same time

  19. Yeah, that Pearl Jam version is really taut – tho it’s a song that’s oft-covered. And yeah, Take Me to the River – good one! Excellent recast…

  20. David Watts-The Jam
    When Will I Be Loved–Linda Rondstadt
    The Theme From Get Carter–Stereolab
    Spooky–Lydia Lunch
    Rosalyn–David Bowie
    I’m Only Sleeping–Roseanne Cash
    My Way–Syd Vicious
    Blinded By the Light–Manfred Mann’s Earth Band

  21. damn is this comment thread good.

    and getting better now that others have joined in.

    i am particularly into Josh Stylman’s choices.

    we should be doing playlists instead of just listing tracks.

    i wanto to put Josh’s list on right now!

  22. You know, Fred raises an excellent point – how to create a “newcritics radio” – basically a constant stream of every track mentioned on this blog…is it currently do-able with the tools out there now, ad-supported licensing etc. Think of how cool this station would be…

  23. “One, Johnny Cash (U2): I don’t think I ever actually realized how haunting this song is until I heard Cash sing it”

    What does everyone think about Johnny Cash’s version of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”? The first time I heard it, tears ran down my cheeks the entire length of the song, and I felt downright meloncholy for a good hour afterward. The shakiness in Cash’s voice as he sings such desperate lyrics is just heart-wrenching.

  24. Took me a while when i was 14 or so to realize, hey man, that’s a girl singing about a girl:

    Oh, ab-so-LEWD-ly!

    Tom, we must be about exactly the same age — but it didn’t take me more than about 0.0006 seconds to realize this was a girl singing about a girl, and this stirred an odd combination of lust and fear in the 15-year-old moi. Patti just didn’t give a rip what you thought of her little sexually transgressive thoughts, and (not having yet read Genet or Burroughs) this was probably my first contact with utterly unapologetic same-sex lust. Wow.

    I absolutely loved — and still do — the way the band explodes on the line “And I’ve got this crazy feeling that I’m gonna/Uh-uh, make her mine” — without question my introduction to the power of punk (“Horses” was a full two years before “Never Mind the Bollocks,” if you can believe it…). The racing heart, the surging adrenaline, the impulse to destroy something useless…

    Good to see Jason being his usual contrarian self. I agree completely about Hendrix’s take on “All Along the Watchtower.” It’s a psychedelic tour de force, chock full of jaw-dropping production, a real grab-bag of chewy Electric Kool-Aid candyfloss — but it completely misunderstands the actual song itself. Dylan’s original, which is the centerpiece of perhaps the most anti-psychedelic record ever made, is icy-cold, sere, and deeply, deeply frightening.

    (I think the most fascinating thing I’ve ever heard anybody say about “All Along the Watchtower” — and dammit, I can’t bring up the critic’s name right now — is that it can be viewed as a circle. Finish the lyric “Two riders were approaching/The wind began to howl” and then go right back to the top: “There must be some way out of here…!” — if there is a Hell, it must involve something like the realization that No, There Is No Way Out of Here….

    I’m surprised no one’s yet brought up the Beatles’ coruscating cover of Otis Redding’s “Day Tripper.” Man, they really rip through that one!

    …And I’m wondering precisely what is involved in “poodling.” If a pub is at the end of one’s poodle, it certainly must be a pleasant enough activity.

  25. Forgot to say…

    After I heard “Horses” for the first time, I didn’t listen to much Jethro Tull anymore. The kid who gave me the record really hated it — he’d been given it by a well-meaning sister, but the kid was unalterably steeped in prog (poor thing), and let’s just say, what they had there was a failure to communicate.

    How about really bad covers? I’ll nominate Yes’s awful, awful, awful Pomp-Rock-ification of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America”….

  26. Okay Ned, I’ll play.

    Sweet Dreams – Marilyn Manson. Of course he did that on purpose, but it still hurts to hear it.

    Tutti Fruitti – Pat Boone. Talk about completely missing the point.

    When A Man Loves A Woman and Dock of the Bay. – Michael Bolton. What can I say that can possibly describe the sheer audacity of that ham-fisted souless wannabe sullying those classic records?

  27. OK, here’s one I’ve always loved – Ray Charles’ version of Eleanor Rigby. “There’s Eleanor Rigby….” Makes it a bluesy vamp and, well, the voice…

  28. I can’t stand my hasty mispellings on #32–Sid Vicious and Linda Ronstadt. And I’ll toss in a couple more Kinks covers: “Stop Your Sobbing” by the Pretenders and “Victoria” by the Fall…

    Also I’m partial to Joy Division’s cover of “Sister Ray” and Frank Black and the Catholics doing Tom Waits’ “Black Rider” (the opening-track version on Black Letter Days). Finally, even more obscurely, P. J. Harvey does a great “Is That All There Is?” on the album she did with John Parish.

    Finally, let me second Fred’s praise of Josh’s list, save for the “Straight Out of Compton” track, which I don’t get. Garcia/Grisman’s “The Thrill Is Gone” really is a great remake. The Jerry Garcia Band did a nice cover of Marley’s “Stop That Train” as well.

  29. Came to this post late. Husker Du’s “Eight Miles High,” P.J. Harvey’s “Wang Dang Doodle,” Cornershop’s Punjabi take on “Norwegian Wood,” Marshall Crenshaw’s “Someplace Where love Can’t Find Me,” Sonic Youth’s version of Neil Young’s “Computer Age” (a throwaway from a tribute album, but fun nonetheless), Waco Brother’s rip thru Cash’s “Big River” and Roy Acuff’s “Wreck On The Highway,” The Minutemen’s garage-funk of BOC’s “The Red And The Black,” The Clash’s “Police And Thieves,” and two hip-hop (kinda) reinventions: Tricky’s (really his alter-id Martine’s) “Black Steel” by Public Enemy, and Eric B. and Rakim’s “Lyrics Of Fury.”

  30. First, just a collective thank you to the previous contributors. I love this stuff, and it’s still rare for me to find people discussing music whose opinions I feel I can trust (which isn’t to say I always agree).
    So many great choices that I had to wrack my brain to offer any new ones, but I have a couple. Number one, Everything I Own by Ken Boothe. It’s the Bread song done as reggae, and it’s a great example of the kind of emotional range that often gets neglected in the popular view of reggae. The strong beat is there for sure, but the mood is very gentle, lilting, and the end result very much something that a lover would sing to the beloved. What always struck me as treacle in the original version seems authentic here. It can be found on the Tougher than Tough anthology.
    Number two: the mention of the Jerry Garcia Band reminded me of his version of Señor (Tales of Yankee Power). I’d always written it off as one of Dylan’s wordy Seventies misfires, but the JGB version has the ominous feel of a good Fifties western–something bad is about to happen, and it’s too late for regrets or protestations of innocence: everything will be swept away, and you always knew you were getting in too deep. Or, at least, that’s my reading.

  31. Number one, Everything I Own by Ken Boothe. It’s the Bread song done as reggae, and it’s a great example of the kind of emotional range that often gets neglected in the popular view of reggae…. What always struck me as treacle in the original version seems authentic here.


    I heard this as a bumper on some NPR show or another recently, and I was immediately struck by exactly the qualities you describe. It’s a really lovely reworking of the song, turning, as you rightly say, treacle into something quite warm and wonderful.

    Nice one!

  32. This has to be one of the most fun threads I’ve commented on.

    Couple of songs missing but I think most are here:

    -Trapped- Bruce Springsteen’s take on the Jimmy Cliff classic
    -Friend of the Devil- Counting Crows
    -Every Grain of Sand- Emmylou Harris’s cover of the Dylan classic.

    For me the worst cover is Rod Stewart’s butchering of Tom Waits’s Downtown Train.

  33. Late to this thread, but since Tom started with Van Morrison & Them, I must post my choices: Them’s version of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and “Turn on Your Lovelight.”

  34. Van Morrison covering Dylan’s ‘Just like a Woman’. Great great ‘rendition of someone else’s tune’…

  35. Yeah, you’re right. Bob Dylan is just… I mean… ZZZZZZZZZZZZ…

    The Hendrix Watchtower SMOKES the Dylan original. Before you pounce, I was only bating you above, I like a little Dylan and make my offering at the alter now and again, but PLEASE, the vocal coming out of the guitar solo still gives me chills even after hearing it a billions times. What, do you guys hate rock?

    Add to the list Aerosmith’s “Train Kept a Rollin’ “ (don’t EVEN argue with me unless you’ve actually listened to it more than once). Judas Priest’s “Diamond’s & Rust”, Blackfoot’s “Wishing Well” (although the original is DAMN good), Nazareth’s “Love Hurts”, Faith No More’s “War Pigs”… I’ve got more, but the greatest all time best cover/version is Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Tin Pan Alley”. I know Jason’s going to toss out some obscure artist to counter my posit, but there is NO WAY anybody comes close to the Stevie Ray version EVER (I have a half finished post on I need to resurrect).

    The idea of A Newcritics Radio stream or podcast parking area could actually pull me out of the funk I’m in right now…

  36. When I was 12 years old (in 1997!), I discovered Aerosmith’s albums from the 1970s, and it was the single incident in my life that opened my eyes to the raging libido of rock and roll.

    From their 1974 album Get Your Wings: “Train Kept a Rollin'”, originally done by The Yardbirds, if I’m not mistaken. I begged my parents for an electric guitar, bought the tablature to that album, and would play along with the solos on this track. Joe Perry’s guitar sounds like the scream of wheels against the metal of a train track (and so did my guitar efforts, and not necessarily in a good way…)

    I got teased relentlessly at middle school for talking about all the Aerosmith concerts I was dragging my parents to (and for wearing black leather pants in an ‘effort’ to be as cool as Joe Perry – ok, maybe I deserved the harrassment…)

    But I did grab the attention of my first “official” boyfriend that year, who thought it was super cool that I could play guitar. His name was Russell, and last I heard, he was in jail in Kentucky for drug-related charges.

    Thanks, Aerosmith! ROCK ON.

  37. Whoa, Tony! Great minds think alike. I posted Aerosmith’s “Train” a minute after you did. We’ll let it count though due to the divulgence of my somewhat embarrassing anecdote.

  38. Speaking of Hendrix and vocals coming out of guitar solos, how about his “Star-Spangled Banner” and the airplane/bomb sounds he makes? Again, heard it in middle school for the first time, realized later in life the connection to the Vietnam War, and I swear to God, it made me f’in cry.

  39. and her name was G L O R iiiaaaa

    that is the best wrong song ever in a way. I collect different versions of it. Patti’s is by far the most innovative in its imagining of the song.

    Other best covers are

    “I wanna be your man” Rolling Stones version

    “If She Ever Comes Now” Nirvana version

    Everything the headcoatees ever did but especially “Length of Pipe” and “I’ve gotta move”.

    “Can’t seem to make you mine” Alex Chilton version.

    Actually there are a few artists whose whole gig is doing amazing covers. Like the Cramps.

  40. Jennifer,

    You discovered that record in 1997 and I in 1976 and we both share the same affinity for it. There is only one reason for that being the case: it’s a great fucking record and the Train Kept a Rollin’ anchors that side of the LP so nicely doesn’t? You get a little taste of some original composition with first track “SOS Too Bad” and BOOM!!! hear comes that awesome opening lick which I STILL can’t figure out how to do the pull offs to make it some like the record. I almost can’t listen to Train Kept a Rollin'” without hearing “SOS Too Bad” first. How ’bout the fade into “Spaced”?

    Get Your Wings is perfection. It needs re-mastering and re-release.

  41. Tom, this topic is almost too big. Where does one start?

    Well, Patti Smith’s version of Gloria is a great start. Other immediate covers that jump to my mind (probably now that Spring is here) are Johnny Thunders’ Pipeline, the Cramps’ Surfin Bird, half a dozen Ramones songs, and of course, Louie Louie by the Kingsmen.

    For pure emotional kick in the gut, however, I have to agree with commenter Jennifer Jo Janisch’s pick of Johnny Cash doing Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.” One of the most powerful songs I’ve ever heard. Another cover in the same vein is Nina Simone’s version of Dylan’s Ballad of Hollis Brown. Strong stuff.

  42. Along with Cash’s “Hurt” and it’s emotional kick in the gut, Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged rendition of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night/In the Pines” has always hit me hard. Cobain’s death-rattle sigh at the end gives me chills. This song has been covered by, um, everyone, and apparently it’s an old Appalachian folk song with an unknown author.

  43. I knew Tony would jog my memory.

    Aerosmith’s cover of Come Together on Live is absolutely the best cover of that song every done and I like it way better than the Beatles original.

    And Love Hurts by Nazareth. When I heard GP’s original, I thought he was covering Nazareth. I kid you not.

  44. Fred/Tony – the remastered (some would say “freed”) version of Come Together on the Love album blows them both away. McCartney’s bass and Lennon’s demonic singing finally come through the ages…

  45. i should also mention one of elvis costello’s most beautiful – and earliest – songs, ‘alison’ – the version by the sublime ‘everything but the girl’ even surpasses elvis’ heartfelt rendering.


  46. With about 30 minutes of thought. I reserve the right to change contents of list without prior notice:

    1. Higher Ground by Chili Peppers.
    2. Gloria by Patti Smith
    3. Head On by the Pixies
    4. Nothing Compares to You by Sinead O’Connor
    5. Hey Joe by Hendrix
    6. Sympathy For The Devil by Jane’s Addiction
    7. Money by The Flying Lizards
    8. My Way by Sid Vicious
    9. I Want you Back by The Bouncing Souls (I heard this live in 1990? and I still remember it well. I don’t know if it was ever recorded.)

  47. And Love Hurts by Nazareth. When I heard GP’s original, I thought he was covering Nazareth. I kid you not.
    Fred, the original was by Roy Orbison. The song was written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who also wrote many of the Everly Brothers’ early hits. Not to mentions , familiar to anyone who has watched one of the University of Tennessee’s sports teams on TV, as it’s the tune that the UT band plays over and over and over adn over.

  48. Something went wrong the post I just put up. It’ll make more sense if you know that the missing part mentions the song “Rocky Top,” Felice & Boudleaux Bryant’s bluegrass tune turned U of Tenn fight song.

  49. OOC (69) The Cornershop is probably the weakest one I listed, I was doing it pretty much off the top of my head, but I don’t mind it all. The Minutemen cover vastly improves the sluggish BOC original. And Tricky turns Public Enemy’s tale of prision-break on its head: despite the guitars, “Black Steel” turns into a cul-de-sac, claustrophobic like the rest of Maxinquaye.

  50. My $0.02:

    The Creedence version of “Heard It Through the Grapevine.”

    “Absolutely Sweet Marie” by Jason and the Scorchers.

    I’ll second whoever added “Take Me To The River”

  51. Let’s not forget the Dickies body of covers, including “Nights in White Satin” and “The Banana Splits Song”.

    Someone mentioned “Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley (Leonard Cohen): song covered by many, this one stands out” Never heard that version; I’d like to ,but I think it would be tough to top John Cale’s cover.

  52. Cream covering Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads”

    Aretha covering Carole King’s “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman”

    Bonnie Raitt covering John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery”

    Janis Joplin covering “Summertime” and “Ball And Chain” and “Bobby McGee”.
    Three for the price of one.

    The Dixie Chicks covering Stevie Nicks’s “Landslide”

    The Indigo Girls covering The Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band”

    Dittos to the Stevie Ray Vaughn covering Hendrix’s “Little Wing”. I weep in joy.

    Jimi Hendrix covering Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower”

    The Allman Bros w/ Duane covering T Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday”

  53. “Landslide” – Smashing Pumpkins cover of Fleetwood Mac
    “Frontin” – Jamie Cullum cover of Pharrell & Jay-Z
    and I second “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – Jake Shimabukuro covering George Harrison’s tune

  54. Type your comment here.
    Wild World by Jimmy Cliff
    Put a Spell on You — Creedence Clearwater
    Heard it Through the Grapevine by CCR
    Police & Thieves – Clash
    California Sun – Ramones
    Sweet Jane – Mott the Hoople
    Stranded in the Jungle – New York Dolls
    Summertime – Janis Joplin
    Working Class Hero – Screaming Trees
    Old 55 – Eagles

  55. i must say i am delighted that jamiroquai have retired (albeit only temporarily, sadly, according to their leader, jay kay) – so, stevie wonder’s back-catalogue is safe for a while at least from their parody’esque-pseudo-covers of stevie w’s works … (allegedly).

    don’t rush back, jay kay. please.

  56. The Pouges epic cover of “Waltzing Matilda” and their classic version of “Dirty Old Town”; Sean MacGowan;s gut-punch “Danny Boy”; Frank Patterson’s “Danny Boy”; Nouvelle Vague’s lilting “I’ll Melt With You”; Townes Van Zandt’s cover of the Stones’ “Dead Flowers”; Rickie Lee Jones’ mournful “Walk Away Rene” and Billy Bragg’s rewriting Mr. Potato Head into the same song with the sign-off, “Then it ‘appened. She cut ‘er ‘air and I stopped lovin’ ‘er”; William Shatner’s cover of Pulp’s “Common People” and I’m not kidding — it’s masterfully produced by Ben Folds and features the Great Joe Jackson; Richie Haven’s “Here Comes the Sun”; the Replacements’ “I Got You Babe”. . .

  57. re: esoth – good post; you mention danny boy and joe jackson – have you heard his song ‘the man who wrote danny boy’ …? kind of off topic but not really, being all about the power and allure of a classically crafted and addictive song – it sends shivers down my spine each time i hear it – saw it live when the album was just released and didn’t know what to expect – the part where maire brenan (i think it was) came on stage was live music at its compelling best. glorious.

    i suggest everyone tries to listen to that song.

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