Wednesday 29 October 2014

bad cover version...

There's been a poll of the best cover versions ever recorded.

It's quite a list. Feast your eyes on the top 20:

1. Pet Shop Boys - Always On My Mind
2. Johnny Cash - Hurt
3. The Stranglers - Walk On By
4. Jimi Hendrix - All Along The Watchtower
5. Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah
6. Soft Cell - Tainted Love
7. Joe Cocker - With A Little Help From My Friends
8. Sinead O’Connor - Nothing Compares 2 U
9. Muse - Feeling Good
10. Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You
11. Marvin Gaye - I Heard It Through The Grapevine
12. Adele - Make You Feel My Love
13. This Mortal Coil - Song To The Siren
14. The Clash - I Fought The Law
15. China Drum - Wuthering Heights
16. Nirvana - The Man Who Sold The World
17. Aretha Franklin - Respect
18. Eva Cassidy - Songbird
19. Leona Lewis - Run
20. Led Zeppelin - When The Levee Breaks

Hm.  Something of a Curate's Egg of a list: good in parts.  Say what you like about whether or not it deserves to be number one, but PSBs are a fantastic band and that at least is a more interesting choice than just plumping for Jeff Buckley.  His version of "Hallelujah" is good alright, but is it even the best version of that song?  Isn't he covering the John Cale version of Leonard Cohen's song anyway? And where's Alexandra Burke on this list?  Eh? Tell me that?

Speaking of erstwhile X-Factor winners, I see that Leona Lewis makes the top 20 with her cover of Snow Patrol’s “Run” whilst the Righteous brothers barely scrape up to number 21 with “Unchained Melody”?  How can that be possible in a reasonable world?

Well, at least they didn’t finish underneath the Robson & Jerome version of the same song, I suppose. Perhaps this is the inevitable result of asking the general public what they think and then having the final list curated by luminaries like Fearne Cotton, Trevor Nelson, Simon Mayo and Steve Lamacq (although, to be fair, I very much doubt that Steve Lamacq will have voted for Leona... although I think the high placing of the Stranglers has his fingers all over it).

Naturally, reading this got me thinking about my own personal favourite list of covers. Hurt and Hallelujah probably go without saying, right? And All Along the Watchtower… but outside the original list, how about:

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Higher Ground
Aretha Franklin – Say A Little Prayer
Sensational Alex Harvey Band – Next
Scott Walker – Jackie
Dusty Springfield – If You Go Away (bit of a Brel section going on there, eh?)
Futureheads – Hounds of Love
Suede – Shipbuilding
Nouvelle Vague – Too Drunk to Fuck
Manic Street Preachers – Suicide is Painless
Patti Smith – Gloria
Faith No More – War Pigs
Propellerheads – OHMSS
Tori Amos – Rattlesnakes (although I like almost anything of that album of covers she did, tbh)

Any other suggestions? I'm sure you've got your own favourites.

I’m pretty sure I could come up with hundreds more covers before I coughed up Leona Lewis, to be honest. Nothing against her particularly, but it’s not really pushing the envelope much, is it, and it certainly doesn’t improve on the original… shouldn’t that be one of the key criteria for a great cover version? (albeit even I would struggle to suggest that some of my own nominations are actually better than the originals, so it’s not the only criteria by any means)

Well, it whiles away the hours on a fairly tedious day at work anyway.  Although, as I also discovered today, apparently I would include "Africa" by Toto in my list of Desert Island Discs, so what the hell do I know?


  1. i'm right with you on that Sensational Alex Harvey Band track - but Suede's "Shipbuilding" over Elvis Costello's version? surely shome mishtake...

    anyway, the listeners of Radio 2 criminally missed any tracks from Killdozer's stunning covers album "For Ladies Only"

    or from my own dim and distant past...

  2. Elvis wrote it, didn't he? The Robert Wyatt version is the cover (although I prefer suede!)

  3. well i'll go to the foot of our stairs, you are correct sir - i was always convinced it was a Robert Wyatt song!

    i need a lie down...

  4. I'm partial to Jonathan Coulton's version of "Baby Got Back"