FT5: Cover Songs

“CUM ON FEEL THE NOIZE!”  Without those five words, Quiet Riot’s career would’ve lasted three months instead of thirty-four years.  It’s a lowdown-dirty shame “Cum on feel the Noize” was actually a cover originally performed by an English glam rock band called Slade back in 1973.  Woah…just felt like Matt Pinfield for a moment.  This week’s edition of the Friday Top 5 is dedicated to the greatest cover songs of all-time…according to me, of course.  Sadly, the following list does not include Limp Bizkit’s disturbing version of The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes,” Michael Bolton’s take on Otis Redding, or anything off the I am Sam soundtrack.  Follow the jump to see if your favorite cover song made the list.

5. CAKE – “I Will Survive” (Gloria Gaynor)

The nineties were a dark time for respectable covers.  I’m lookin’ at you Ms. Whitney Houston. CAKE’s take on Gloria Gaynor’s 1979 super-smash is one of the most unique cover tunes of that era. From lead singer John McCrea’s baritone demeanor to the trumpet evoking training montages straight outta’ Rocky II, the song always urges the listener to keep the headphones on. For a rock take on a seventies break-up anthem, accept no substitutes.  Plus, McCrea changed “stupid” to “f*%king.”  How much more “rock” can you get?

Money Moment: Guitarist Greg Brown unleashes the fury after McCrea counts, “1, 2” during the tune’s climax.

4. The Replacements – “Black Diamond” (KISS)

1984’s Let it Be is one of the greatest independent rock records ever. Why the Mats chose to sandwich KISS’s “Black Diamond” smack in the middle of a near-perfect album, the world will never know. The answer is simple. It kicks ass in every way possible, and the Minnesota band’s version manages to seize you just like the original. “Out on the street for a living,” Paul Westerberg howls as the late Bob Stinson itches to strike that A minor chord with authority. Westerberg’s raspy voice is still tough to contest and Stinson’s grimy guitar solo on this tune make this one a killer. Dive bar jukeboxes would never be the same.

Money Moment: Stinson’s blistering guitar riff kicking things into high gear.

3. Ike & Tina Turner – “Proud Mary” (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

“You see we never do nothing…nice and easy.” If you squash all the lawsuits, controversy, and Laurence Fishburne’s brilliant performance in What’s Love Got to Do With It, Ike & Tina Turner should be remembered as one of the great American rock ‘n’ roll duos of the 60’s and 70’s. Their vigorous take of CCR’s “Proud Mary” is an outstanding achievement because it’s able to translate John Fogerty’s calm, mid-tempo tune into a dynamic interpretation. From the mild-mannered, “nice and easy” intro to the outrageous horns, Ike & Tina insist that the people dance. Now, if only this song was powerful enough to banish Tina’s role as Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome from our collective memory.

Money Moment: The second the ruckus ensues after Tina cooperatively declares, “This is the way we do Proud Mary…”

2. Jeff Buckley – “Hallelujah” (Leonard Cohen)

There’s no denying Jeff Buckley had one of the most astonishing and unique voices in music history. 1994’s Grace is a testament to his craft, and his version of “Hallelujah” is the obvious highlight of the record. Buckley’s interpretation is stronger than Cohen’s original for several reasons. For one, his haunting vocals create an inescapable atmosphere for the listener. Subsequently, his delivery helps the song fluctuate highs and lows until it strikes its pinnacle of its 6:53 running time. Plus, this song has been covered a handful of times by countless artists and none have even come close to matching Buckley’s mastery. Yes…including Rufus Wainwright’s cover on the Shrek soundtrack.

Money Moment: “And it’s not a cry that you hear at night.  It’s not somebody who’s seen the light.”  You’ll know what I mean when you hear it.

1. Jimi Hendrix – “All Along the Watchtower” (Bob Dylan)

I remember being a ten-year old youngster and hearing this song for the first time in my pop’s Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. The tune was addicting. The guitars were unstoppable. It was also a breath of fresh air since all we ever listened to was James Taylor and Bread. I recall asking him who it was. “Jimi Hendrix,” he replied. As stereotypical as it may be, Hendrix’s version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” is the greatest cover of all-time because it could’ve been his own song. He took Dylan’s timeless portrayal of survival between two outsiders: “the joker” and “the thief”, and created not only his own vision, but also a genuine alternate foundation for the song. Every word spoken and guitar solo reinforces the meaning of the John Wesley Harding staple. It’s an example of one of the few instances where a guitar solo(s) is absolutely necessary. There’s no question “Watchtower” is Hendrix at his finest.

Money Moment: When Hendrix bellows, “…And the wind began to howl.  Hey!”, and then let’s his Stratocaster finish the job.

Disagree?  Sure you do.  Let us know what you really think.  After all, not all Top Five Cover Songs of All-Time lists can include Devo’s “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)” or the Gourd’s cover of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice.”

12 comments

  • Ram, Aretha is shocked at your blatant show of disrespect.

  • Great list.

  • Brilliant. Great list.

    I will survive is all about the bassline. ALL about the bassline.

    CCR Cover related bonus question:

    Which is better? (youtube it yourself)

    Marvin Gaye – Heard it through the grapevine
    CCR – Heard it through the grapevine
    California Raisins – Heard it through the grapevine

    One of them has soul…
    One has an extended psychobilly freakout…
    One has singing claymation dried fruit…

  • Zapp — Heard it through the Grapevine. That is the true winner. Although Gladys Knight’s version might have the best intro. The Slits do a pretty good cover, too, but nothing can top Zapp.

  • I have to say that Soft Cell’s cover of Gloria Jones’ Tainted Love should have made the list.

  • Great list Ram!!!!!!!!!!!

    I hate the fact that you did leave out Devo’s cover of Satisfaction and or Toad the wet sprocket’s cover of Kiss’s classic rock n roll all night. To be continued, i’m tired.

  • “Sweet Child of Mine” by Sheryl Crow is my all time fave. I know Axl is proud, as am I.

  • Corey is so very, very right.

  • I love this part…

    Brett: Agreed, how could I possibly fail to mention “I Will Survive’s” killer bass line?

    Corey & Hollyfield: I adore Soft Cell’s version of “Tainted Love.” If this was a top 10 cover songs list…maybe…just maybe. However, I can’t help but think of Beldar Conehead or Marilyn Manson butchering the classic on the “Not Another Teen Movie” soundtrack whenever I hear this tune:)

    Kint Tut: You are an idiot.

    ~Ram

  • King Tut……….come on!!!!!

    That’s a joke, right?

    I’d rather hear the death rattle of my own child than hear that cover.

    -Chadwick

  • The Sheryl Crow issue is for another day. The day we list the 5 top guilty pleasures.

    Also omitted from this list, but not surprisingly, since nobody knows the original…

    Santana – Black Magic Woman (fleetwood mac did the original)

  • How about Tori Amos’s cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit.

    Oh wait, Kurt is still rolling around in his grave from that one.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcHNZVrxEts

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