Welcome back one and all.
A long time ago, in the greater Atlanta GA area, there was a decent rock station. The Project 96.1 was the only station worth listening to if you’re a rock fan. On that station was a daily show called “Under the covers with Ally“. It was a fun show that – not shockingly – featured cover versions to various songs. I miss that station and that show, so in honor of the fun times, and following the Foo Fighters week-long residency at the Letterman show, I present to you my top ten favorite rock covers. Not a “best ever”. Taste is taste and all that.
10. My Way – Sid Vicious (Covering Frank Sinatra)
Talk about doing things “my way”. The Sex Pistols were all about kicking at the establishment, and Vicious in this solo endeavor was taking a shot at one of the more prominent faces of the establishment. The complete opposite of the spirit of the original performance, this piece is a great example of taking a song away from its cozy familiarity and owning the shit out of it.
9. Black Magic Woman – Santana (Covering Fleetwood Mac)
You know the famous “That moment when…” memes? That moment you realize this is a cover song… Nothing wrong with the original, of course, but Santana sinks the Latin rock teeth into this one and making it his own. My favorite Santana song is not even a Santana song…
8. Me and Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin (Covering Kris Kristofferson)
Another holy shit moment, when you realize that’s a cover. Never say never and all that aside, how can anyone top this? Bobby became synonymous with Joplin. I have to attribute the mental association of this song with Janis to the voice. It seems today that it can only work this way. Go ahead, try singing it any other way.
7. Mama Kin – Guns N’ Roses (Covering Aerosmith)
Joe Perry is a fantastic guitar player, and Steven Tyler doesn’t need my approval for being one of the best vocalists of all time. So why does this song sound so much better when GNR does it? I’ll have to pen it down for the machine like, full-bodied rock n roll work of the guns. There was always something more complete about them.
6. Hard To Handle – Black Crowes (Covering Otis Redding)
I’m not making a judgement call here, but the crowes did a fantastic work keeping the soulfulness of this song while making it sound new. Personally I think that was the best Black Crowes ever.
5. Baba O’riley – Pearl Jam (Covering The Who)
The who (read: Townshend) were always about the production. That was the greatness of songs like Baba. PJ just rips through this song and that’s their magic. The raw energy that only bands of this magnitude and attitude generate make this one of (if not THE) most fun covers to watch live (which I have :))
4. Have A Cigar – Foo Fighters (Covering Pink Floyd)
Talk about raw energy and fun. The Foos have a body of original work, enough to run 5 or 6 hour shows, but are always happy to throw in a cover or two every night. It’s about the respect they have for artists such as Pink Floyd. Tyler and Dave switch spots and while Dave goes wild on the drums, Tyler screams the hell out of this one, doing his Sid Vicious to Floyd’s Sinatra.
3. Bad Company – Five Finger Death Punch (Covering Bad Company)
A fantastic example (much like the aforementioned Black Crowes rendition of Hard to handle) of updating a song. FFDP didn’t re-invent the wheel here. What they did was apply their contemporary spin to the main riffs and crank up the volume. I can play this one on a loop.
2. Turn The Page – Metallica (Covering Bob Seger)
One of those songs that when you hear the original you kinda think ‘You would’ve done it like they did’. Another classic example of taking the original, and simply taking it a step (or 5) further in terms of intensity and volume.
1. The Man Who Sold The World – Nirvana (Covering David Bowie)
Nirvana Unplugged was cover heavy. We talked about how wise that decision was before. Every cover on this performance was so good it became difficult to think of it as a cover. At the end of this track on the CD, you can hear Kurt say “This is a David Bowie song”. Now back then, you’d think ‘No shit, Kurt. Of course it is’. But these days, when kids might not even know who Bowie is (it’s a sad sad world…) this clarification is needed, as it sounds so Nirvana-ish, so Kurt Cobain-y that it’s hard to even think of it as a cover.