The Cover Versions You Need to Hear

Published on 15 May 2020

The beauty of music lies in creativity. However, that doesn't always mean creating something new. Putting your own spin on a classic track can be a great way to get a tricky crowd on side, or to pay tribute to an artist that you love. Over the years there have been some absolutely unbelievable covers that may even top the originals but that's not for us to say, YOU must make that decision! That said, we did get chatting about a few of our favourites and thought we'd let you guys in on 'em. Check out what we came up with below:

The Clash - I Fought the Law

This cover is a certified classic, perfectly marrying the vibe of the original to the band's DIY punk sound and giving Joe Strummer outlaw status among fans. The band covered this track for their second album after Strummer heard Bobby Fuller's version on an old jukebox in a recording studio and fell in love. Their take on the track turned it into an explosive punk anthem that rightfully earned its place in music history and the Clash their first US number 1! From Strummer's snarling vocals, to the opening lead guitar, to the 6 drum hits when he's 'Robbin' people with a six-gun', this cover is bursting with attitude and it never gets old.

Nirvana - Where Did You Sleep Last Night

Speaking of classic covers, how could we neglect to mention this moment of beauty from Nirvana's iconic Unplugged in New York performance? While The Man Who Sold the World may have got more airplay, this haunting rendition of the Blues standard 'In the Pines' is utterly captivating and one of the most delicate, yet powerful moments in the whole show. It is thought that Kurt was first introduced to the track by fellow Seattle alt-rocker Mark Lanegan who covered it on his 1990 album The Winding Sheet and had Cobain lay down some guitar on the track. Kurt fell in love with Lead Belly's grisly version and went on to play it at several Nirvana shows, also recording a home demo of the track. However, it's the band's Unplugged cover that gets most attention and rightly so, with a beautifully tortured vocal which suits the spine chilling lyrics perfectly, this is about as raw and powerful as you'll ever find Cobain's voice.

Rise Against - Any Way You Want It

Last track bum you out a bit? Well, sounds like it's time for another little injection of punk to get you moving, this time coming from Chicago four piece Rise Against. Their cover of this Journey classic is everything a punk cover should be, fast, furious and loads of fun. With some big riffs and killer vocal harmonies, this tune works surprisingly well and is proof that slamming some big power chords behind your favourite tunes is always a good shout. This track was originally released in 2003 as a bonus track to the band's Revolutions Per Minute album but became a favourite sing-along at their live shows and has remained in their setlists since. Apparently, the guys started covering it 'ironically' when they were fairly fresh to give audiences something familiar at their shows. Other covers included bands like Black Flag and Minor threat... Come on guys don't lie... even punk rockers are allowed to like Journey... Aren't they!?

Jimi Hendrix - All Along the Watchtower

Yep, it may be an obvious one but there's no way we were missing out on this absolutely timeless track from Mr Hendrix. Jimi was a huge Bob Dylan fan, listening to him obsessively throughout his musical career and drawing inspiration from his writing and music. The fandom didn't end there either, apparently, his iconic afro took shape after he had his hair curled to look more like Dylans! All Along the Watchtower was Hendrix's tribute to his hero and he spent hours in the studio painstakingly reworking it until he was happy with what he was hearing, even frustrating bass player Noel Redding to the point that he left the session! After re-recording and overdubbing several guitar parts then bringing in his good friend and Rolling Stone Brian Jones for the percussion (those big hits in the intro are created using a  vibraslap by the way) his masterpiece was complete. Despite Hendrix's obsession during the recording, repeatedly stating "I think I hear it a little bit differently", this tune went on to be his highest ranking hit in the States and one of the most well-known covers in history... We think you did just fine Jimi!

RATM - How I Could Just Kill a Man 

That wah riff, those drums, that big chorus... Rage Against the Machine's cover of Cypress Hill's classic rap track perfectly blurs the lines between hip hop, funk and metal, resulting in a snarling, venomous groover that's guaranteed to get every head in the room nodding. This album dropped shortly after the band's split and before the formation of Audioslave, giving listeners one last taste of their unmistakable sound before vanishing into the ether for a few years. The track was released on Renegades, a full album of killer covers of everyone from Bob Dylan to Eric B and Rakim and is essentially an insight into the band's influences, taking you on a journey through the tracks that helped to develop their signature sound. As early pioneers of Spanish and Latin hip hop, singer Zach De La Rocha was a huge Cypress Hill fan and this track remains a standout on a solid album of covers. If this caught your attention, be sure to check the rest out - you won't regret it!

Elvis Presley - Bridge Over Troubled Water

What better way to finish this list off than with the King himself? This track may have been covered by everyone under the sun but nobody quite touched the crooning, commanding vocals of Elvis Presley. In fact, writer Paul Simon agrees, stating after he attended a Vegas show of Elvis' - "that's it, we might as well all give up now". Despite not being a writer himself, Elvis had an incredible power to inject emotion into anything he sang and this rendition of Simon and Garfunkel's ballad is the perfect example. Starting off low and slow, the track lifts into a crescendo as Presley nails its most challenging notes with apparent ease, immortalising it forever on record and in his live shows. The King took to the track and sang it regularly at his live performances, including his final show in Indianapolis on June 26, 1977. One of the most perfect songs ever written, sung by possibly the most prolific vocalists of all time - what could be more perfect?

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it, folks, you don't need to write it to make it your own! If you're in a band just now and fancy spicing up your setlists, why not throw a cover in the mix and get the crowd singing along? Not only is it a great way to keep people's attention (thank you Rise Against...) it's also a good opportunity to showcase your own sound in a way that people will recognise and appreciate. Who knows, you might even make our next blog... At the very least, have a think about some of your favourite covers and let us know in the comments, we can't wait to check them out!

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