10 Cover Songs That Were Better Than the Original

4 March

Who doesn’t love cover songs? The recording artist has the majority of the work already done for them, the original artist gets homage (and no doubt, royalties) paid to them and the listeners get to enjoy an old favourite being re-imagined . Of course it doesn’t always go to plan – in the wrong hands that old classic can be butchered beyond belief – but occasionally the cover turns out to be even better than the original.

Of course, musical taste can be very subjective, and you’re welcome to give your opinions in the comment section below, but in my opinion here are 10 cover songs that improved upon the original rendition:

I Fought The Law – The Clash

They may have lost their fight with the law, but in a battle against the likes of The Crickets (of Buddy Holly fame), The Bobby Fuller Four, Johnny Cash, Green Day and even those loveable scamps Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Clash come out on-top. Their version of I Fought the Law is undoubtedly the best.

Original Version – The Crickets

Cat’s In The Cradle – Ugly Kid Joe

A cautionary tale for any neglectful father or son, it’s hard not to feel a little emotional listening to this (and I don’t even have kids). Ugly Kid Joe didn’t have many hits that didn’t involve them hating everything, but this is an excellent take on a song you’ve probably heard many times over the years having been featured on TV shows such as Family Guy, The Simpson’s, Modern Family, Two and a Half Men and How I Met Your Mother.

Original Version – Harry Chapin

Torn – Natalie Imbruglia

You might not know this, but Natalie Imbruglia’s 1997 hit Torn was a cover of a song released 2 years previously by American alternative rock band Ednaswap. There’s no doubting Natalie’s obvious talents and having already stolen a lot of hearts in Australian soap Neighbours she captured a few more with this grungy-pop song.

Original Version – Ednaswap

Whiskey in the Jar – Metallica

Whiskey in the Jar is an old Irish traditional song, covered by countless artists over the years. It’s hard to pick out a favourite and doing so depends very much on your musical preferences. For consistency and fairness I’ve compared my personal favourite, the Metallica version with the oldest version it most resembles, that of Thin Lizzy in 1972. Both versions are very good but the heavier, more energetic version by Metallica edges it for me.

Original Version – Thin Lizzy

Redemption Song – Joe Strummer

It’s sad to think that both of these immensely talented musicians are no longer with us. While the words undoubtedly mean more coming from Bob Marley, it’s hard not to enjoy Joe Strummer’s effort more, and anyone who can upstage Bob Marley deserves a pat on the back.

Original Version – Bob Marley

Now for a brief intermission….

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Somebody to Love – Jim Carrey

You might recognize this song as performed by Jefferson Airplane, in a little rockumentary called “Gimme Shelter,” about the Rolling Stones and their nightmare at Altamont. That night the Oakland chapter of the Hell’s Angels had their way. Tonight, it’s Jim’s turn.

Original Version – Jefferson Airplane

How Soon Is Now – TaTu

I like Morrissey & pals as much as the next guy, but in a contest between depressing Manc boy band The Smiths and Russian lesbian schoolgirl band TaTu it isn’t really a fair fight. As it happens the TaTu’s version is better even with your eyes closed, but where’s the fun in that?

Original Version – The Smiths

Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) – Oasis

I was once sat in a pub having a nice pint when someone proceeded to put five Neil Young songs in a row on the Jukebox, a very painful experience that still haunts me to this day. Like most people I can tolerate a bit of Neil Young in small doses but it was a bit too much. Anyway, enough about me, here’s an enjoyable cover of Hey Hey, My My by Oasis.

Original Version – Neil Young

Total Eclipse of the Heart – The Dan Band

Sure enough, if you prefer this version of Total Eclipse of the Heart, like I do, you probably aren’t what Bonnie Tyler would consider her target audience. That aside, this is a very amusing and enjoyable cover of an old classic by American comedy band “The Dan Band”.

Original Version – Bonnie Tyler

The Man Who Sold the World – Nirvana

Close one this, as you’d expect in a David Bowie vs. Kurt Cobain face-off, but Cobain edges it for me. His sulky, apathetic style just seems to suit the song – which is essentially quite a downbeat song lyrically, if not musically – a little better. Anyway both versions are equally enjoyable so I suggest you give them both a listen and see which you prefer for yourself.

Original Version – David Bowie

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