Staff Top 10
Top Ten Cover Versions That Alter the Meaning of the Song

By: Bjorn Randolph

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Posted 10/15/2004 - 05:16:14 AM by holystoning:
 I'm impressed with the nerve-fried & serious intensity with which Jack White belts out Dolly Parton's "Jolene". And the Groovie Ghoulies kicked out a few cover'd jams on last year's awesome Monster Club.
Posted 10/15/2004 - 06:40:57 AM by mankuzo:
 another one could be zwan's acoustic cover of the iron maiden song 'the number of the beast' in the title sequence of jonas akerlund's junkie comedy 'spun'. it gives new meaning to the classic satanic lines: i'm coming back, i will return/ i’ll possess your body and i’ll make you burn/ i have the fire, i have the force/ i have the power to make my evil take it’s course
Posted 10/15/2004 - 08:15:02 AM by Lambert:
 What about the worst cover version ever? My vote goes to Madonna and her 'Please shoot me, it's that terrible' version of 'Imagine' by John Lennon. 'Imagine no possessions?' Sure darling, you first...
Posted 10/15/2004 - 08:21:05 AM by Lambert:
 By the way, as much as I am fond of the Pet Shop Boys, 'Go West' has never been my cup of tea. Please allow me to name some of my favourite cover versions: 1. Sinead O'Connor - Nothing compares to you (Prince) 2. Annie Lennox - Don't let it bring you down (Neil Young) 3. Erlend Oye - There's a light that never goes out (The Smiths) 4. Mirwais ft. Craig Wedren - Miss you (The Thin White Duke remix) (The Rolling Stones)
Posted 10/15/2004 - 08:24:39 AM by Lambert:
 And yes, the Johnny Cash version of 'Hurt' is simply sublime.
Posted 10/15/2004 - 12:06:02 PM by Bombastico:
 M. Ward's version of Bowie's "Let's Dance" is stunning--he takes an intentionally emptypiece of bouncy synth-pop and turns it into a ridiculously sensual paean to desire with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and his voice. Similar to what Red House Painters did with the Cars' "All Mixed Up," but better by degrees.
Posted 10/15/2004 - 01:41:58 PM by skuter666:
 Devo’s herky-jerky robotically lusty cover of Satisfaction. I remember the first time I heard/saw it. Another lame Saturday night party with the usual crowd at a friend’s house, stoners on the couch watching SNL... then the spud boys came on in their boiler suits and changed that song forever. The entire room exploded in outrage as all the die-hard Stones fans took offense at this sullying of the sacred canon. “Who are these fags?!!!” “This sucks!”. I knew that to speak up and say I loved it would earn me an evening of wrath and animosity. After that, where else was there for my buddies to go, but down the path of righteousness to Disco Sucks|Punk Swallows? I realized at that moment I needed cooler friends. Or none at all.
Posted 10/15/2004 - 06:47:46 PM by grodinsky:
 gnr - knockin on heavens door
Posted 10/18/2004 - 08:34:50 PM by Sotoalf:
 Bjorn, I'll have to disagree with your remark about the Pet Shop Boys never having "trouble resisting an opportunity for cheap laughs in the face of sentiment." I'd remove the word "cheap." Songs like "Opportunities" and "Shopping" are examples of songs so-ironic-they're-straight. They're not reviling consumerism: they're revelling in it. Their cover of "Always On My Mind" was always incredibly moving to my ears. I'll agree with this: part of what's made the Boys' journey so heartwarming is the ease with which they've lowered their defenses over the years, so that by the time of "Behavior" and "Very" (and "Go West") the "cheap" yuks to which you refer turn back on themselves, and we see what these yuks were hiding. But they're not "cheap" in a pejorative sense.
Posted 10/19/2004 - 04:13:29 AM by rodnog:
 The Cowboy Junkies' cover version of The Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" is simply the original version of the song. It adds nothing to it.
Posted 10/19/2004 - 09:50:22 AM by clockoouut:
 I think one of the most obvious (and relevant) omissions is Run DMC's "Walk This Way"
Posted 10/19/2004 - 01:29:45 PM by murdo2002:
 Terrible cover versions? There must be tons. The worst of which is surely Tom Jones covering Prince's Kiss. The man I hate the most covering one of the songs I love the most...
Posted 10/20/2004 - 01:11:20 AM by mbloodyv:
 Obvious omission: Leadbelly's "In the Pines (Where Did You Sleep Last Night?)" as performed by Nirvana. Kurdt transforms the the jilted lover into a dead-eyed, shredded addict on the strength of one chilling howl.
Posted 10/22/2004 - 12:59:50 PM by myst77:
 Personally, I feel that any cover that Madonna has done leaves a lot lacking in many ways. She's like a vampire, bleeding the essence, the SOUL of the song until it is just a pale shell of its former self. I feel the same way about how poor of a job Maynard James Keenan did covering "Imagine". Some songs just shouldn't be touched, and I feel that is one of them. I respect Maynard's talent and artistry, yet I can't get myself to swallow that version.
Posted 10/22/2004 - 01:19:19 PM by myst77:
 I agree WHOLEHEARTEDLY about Johnny Cash and Aretha Franklin. They are amazing people and amazing musicians. They came frome an era where it took REAL talent to make it into the spotlight. Secondly, to address the comment about Nirvana's rendition of "In the Pines"...anyone who has been a true fan of Nirvana should know the full extent of Kurt's suffering and what initially led him into the life with all the drugs. On that basis alone, the song fits perfectly with the tone of his life and struggles at that point. This is one of the very few examples, in my opinion, of someone successfully putting their heart so much into the song that it becomes THEIR song instead of just a cover. Don't get me wrong, I love the original version of that song, but the angle that Nirvana attacked the remake is so severe in comparison that the two versions ALMOST cannot be compared...
Posted 10/24/2004 - 07:54:06 PM by IanMathers:
 I'm plumping for MBV's frankly astounding reworking of Wire's already-great "Map Ref 41N 93W", but these ten are all excellent choices. I'm with Alf on the worth of the PSBs' cover of "Always On My Mind", too.
Posted 11/07/2004 - 07:09:19 PM by indybg:
 Good list, but I actually think your reading of 'Go West' misses something. I suspect the sadness of the song has much less to do with gay-bashing and legislated morality (though both are still problems...but really, have you been to London?) than with the dark flipside that accompanied gay liberation: namely AIDS. Just when gays achieved some measure of freedom, much a generation was killed off. They visited this topic once before, albeit with similar obliqueness, in 'Being Boring.' There's still another alternative reading dealing with another of the PSB's fixations, the Iron Curtain, addressing the inevitable facing up to reality that building a new society and economy following Communism's collapse was going to be very, very hard. The boys revisited this theme recently in 'London' on Release. An alternate nomination: kd lang covering Steve Miller's 'The Joker'.
Posted 12/04/2004 - 12:54:13 PM by DWHA12069:
 Okay...I understand that there are millions (or at least thousands) of cover versions out there that fit this heading, but I think you missed one of the greatest of all time...but first, a little back story... When I was a dumb kid (which really wasn't all that long ago), I had a 1980 Pontiac Sunbird with a hatchback and a monster kickerbox in the back. One of my favorite pastimes was to put together a mix tape of the most annoying songs I could find, and play it loud in slow moving traffic. TV Song by Ministry, Motherf***er by Beck, some real grating stuff. But by far, the best one ever (which actually fits this heading) was Dinosaur Jr's version of Lotta Love. It's ruined the original and the Nicolette Larson versions for me, and every time I hear it, it still puts a smile on my face, albeit an evil one...