Whatever I Want Wendesday: Top Ten Covers That Are Arguably Better Than The Original!

As compiled by ME!

For the record (pun intended) I reference no study or metric other than my own opinion. This is not based on Billboard charts or how many downloads these songs have received, this list is comprised of my all time favorite cover tunes based on how much I like them. I figured my list is just as good as anyone else’s, why not offer my two cents?

It took me longer than I thought it would to compile this list. Mostly because I was debating whether I should put Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman” on the list. It was written and preformed by Carole King, but the song is so closely tied with Mrs. Franklin that it’s practically hers anyway. Much to the chagrin of Ms. King. And that was the line that I didn’t want to cross. A lot of good cover tunes happened in the Sixties and early Seventies, but I didn’t want to make them worthy of this list because everyone at that time was covering everyone else, essentially. A lot of artists were doing everyone else’s material with reckless abandon, and I had a slight problem with that. “Light My Fire” was covered more than once. The Beatles started their career covering old rhythm and blues songs. All of them were good in that respect, but unfortunately, that’s not what I was looking for to make this list. My only criteria for this list was if the cover brought the original into another direction, if it sounded good, and did it do the original any justice. You may not have heard of a few of these, but give them a chance. I guarantee they’ll grow on you. Thanks to Luther M. Siler for providing me with Today’s WIWW topic!

Oh, and also, I have nothing against the originals, I love them too.

#10 For The Turnstiles (as covered by Bim Skala Bim)

Released by Neil Young in 1974, the song was true to the nature of Mr. Young. The recording was just him with a banjo along with one other accompaniment. Wonderfully melodic, sparse, quick and to the point.

In 1990, Boston’s favorite, Bim Skala Bim took it and ran with it giving it the full East Coast Ska treatment. I love the original, but the harmonies are better, and the addition of a trombone solo makes me want to get my mellow groove on while I contemplate my own existence, maaaaaan.

#9 Gimmie Shelter (as covered by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra)

I said before that I wanted to make a mix tape called, “Break Stuff”. As you can probably tell by the title, it would be something I would play for those times when I want to wring someone’s neck, but instead choose to take out my rage on intimate objects. To this day, I have yet to find the right mix to fill an entire disk (or…tape…what your grandma and I used to record stuff on), but when I do, Gimmie Shelter by the Rolling Stones is going to be track 1/side 1.

A few years ago, the film “Children of Men” was released (absolutely brilliant film. I highly recommend). In the trailer, they teased a symphonic version of this song and I’ve searched for a long time to find the full edit. I finally found it, and it’s been on heavy rotation on my playlist ever since. The original always reminds me of watching a hurricane roll in from the horizon. This version feels like I’m shipwrecked in the middle of the ocean. Breathtaking. Ominous.

#8 War Pigs (as covered by Faith No More)

Sure, this cover is practically a note for note version of the original. There’s nothing about this that distinguishes this cover from the original. So why did it make the cut? I like it because Faith No More, knowing that they couldn’t improve on this classic, took this and gave it a strong cup of coffee; the tempo is quicker, almost barreling out of control in places. It actually feels like an army on the warpath. Also, I kind of like this song because it sounds like a band sending a love letter to one of their heroes (Slightly biased here. We used to do a cover of this tune when I was in a band)…

#7 Superstar (as covered by Sonic Youth)

First released on the “If I Were A Carpenter” Compilation in 1994 and featured in the film “The Frighteners” a couple of years later, Sonic Youth managed to take an already haunting melody, and turn it into something that’s downright terrifying. A great re-imagining and a proper cover.

#6 Heartbeats (as covered by José Gonzáles)

Oh my, where to begin with this. In 2002, Swedish super group, The Knife released the original and it was received as a critical darling. It was quite popular and quite beloved. In 2003, Swedish singer-songwriter José González covered this song, Sony used it in an television commercial, Zac Braff used it in an episode of Scrubs, and the world fell in love. For a while, the world couldn’t get enough of this. Myself included. Battles between who’s version was better have been raging on YouTube in the years that followed. Honestly, I love them both, but the José González version brings me home, and that in and of itself is worthy of a spot on this list.

#5 Handbags & Gladrags (as covered by Rod Stewart)

Now, I know I stated at the beginning that I wanted to exempt those songs that were practically owned by the artists who covered them. I myself thought Rod Stewart was the originator of this tune. Silly me, I keep forgetting that Rod has a habit of owning the songs he covers (I’ll never forgive him for the Downtown Train fiasco…bastard). But I like this cover. It’s pensive, soulful and bright and melancholy. I love the punch of the drums that coexists alongside the gentle caress of flute and oboe. Very nice.

Speaking of battles,  there has been another fight going on in YouTube over which version of this song is better; Rod Stewart vs. Stereophonics. Meanwhile, all the Chris Farlowe fans just hang back and shake their heads.

#4 In Your Eyes (as covered by Jeffery Gaines)

A powerful and soulful acoustic cover of a song that influenced a generation of awkward guys in overcoats to hold up their boom boxes and blast this ballad at full volume in the direction of their crush’s bedroom window while somehow not get hauled in for stalking. I remember the first time I heard this, I was working in a kitchen in southern Maine. It was the dinner rush, but I remember how the kitchen fell silent whenever the audience participation part kicked in at the end. Love this one. (the video sucks, but the song is great)

#3 Hounds of Love (as covered by The Futureheads)

I remember falling in love with the Kate Bush album in college. Many years later, I fell in love with this song again, this time while doing the Pogo.

#2 Superstition (as covered by Stevie Ray Vaughn)

Moment of silence, please……..

#1 Love Reign O’er Me (as covered by Pearl Jam)

Substituting strings for the synthesizer, and adding the wailing of Eddie Vedder just crushes me. Every. Single. Time. For the one or two of you who haven’t heard this one yet, be prepared to have your heart ripped out of your chest. You have been warned…

Well, we reached the end of our countdown. Until next time, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for cigars the stars.

What covers to you think are better than the original? Please comment or link back with your own blog. I’d love to keep the conversation going.


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