It is the age of cover songs people. They have even redone the term ‘cover version’ into ‘recreations’. To notch it higher, there is now an award category for the same.
But what is wrong with it? The cover versions have been there long before you and me. Earlier folk music was made into contemporary formats and presented to the current generation. If people at that time rejected it, well maybe they would not exist now. Through the ages music has been interpreted in ways which the individual felt was best. Rock’n’Roll was the ‘Devil’s Music’ for some, even The Eagles were in this category I mean WTF! Jazz was labelled as the music for bars and brothels. Pope Pius X even banned the saxophone.
Music has survived through all of this and more. It is what makes it immortal. The very fact that a folk song can be recomposed into a heavy metal song, is what music is all about.
Open your search engine and type ‘cover versions of songs’. You will be shuttled years into the past. Credence Clear Water Revival, CCR, were inspired by a folk song when writing their famous hit ‘Susie Q’.
It is how the song is covered or recreated that matters. Many songs that did not receive their share of fame were revived by another artist in their own way.
The lesser known
‘Dazed and Confused’ was originally written by the folk-rock singer Jake Holmes. The song is listed in his debut album ‘The Above Ground Sound’. Jimmy Page, from Led Zeppelin heard the song and rearranged it. It is one of Zeppelin’s biggest hit.
What do Nancy Sinatra and Megadeth, you read it right, have in common? Boots!!! The heavy metal superstars have a cover version of Nancy’s song ‘These Boots are made for walking’. Needless to say, Nancy’s fans were not pleased. Similarly, Barbra Streisand, Joe Cocker, Rick Astley and ffs even Aerosmith wanted someone to cry them a river. The artist to demand this first was Julie London. Julie’s 1955 release ‘Cry me a river’, has been covered by a number of artists.
Rock Gods Metallica’s vocalist, James Hetfield’s affinity for the bottle is well known. While you are reading this, James is currently in rehab, again. To think of it, the band threw out Dave Mustaine for ‘alcoholism’, things like these make you fall in love with rock music. The band covered one of Thin Lizzy’s best song, Whiskey in the Jar, for their Garage Inc album and literally made it their own. Metallica won the Best Hard Rock Performance for the song at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards in 1999. Thin Lizzy are not the only one to suffer, poor old Bob Seger joins them for his song ‘Turn the page’. Metallica transformed the song and how!
Cover Version vs Orginal
To take the pioneers of rock, Led Zeppelin’s work to a more intense level needs some work. Tool managed to pull it off with their version of ‘No Quarter’. The track is listed in their 2000 album, Salival. Another of Zeppelin’s song, a rather popish one ‘D’yer M’ker’, got the ‘woman feel’ by Sheryl Crow. Not only Led Zep but even Guns’N’Roses have a score to settle with Sheryl for practically destroying ‘Sweet Child’O Mine.’ How the woman got away with all this, is a mystery.
Well G’N’R too covered a famous song. For the millennials, ‘Knockin on heaven’s door’ is not by G’N’R. The original belongs to Bob Dylan. Though Axl and his boys did a pretty neat version of it, none would be surprised if Dylan had ignored it. Just like he ignored the Nobel Prize at start.
One of the artists to publicly acknowledge and applaud the cover version of his song was David Bowie. Bowie went on record saying, “I was simply blown away when I found that Kurt Cobain liked my work, and have always wanted to talk to him about his reasons for covering ‘The Man Who Sold the World.’ It was a good straight forward rendition and sounded somehow very honest.” The song featured in Nirvana’s ‘Unplugged in New York’ album for MTV.
While these are pretty much well known cover versions, a few are unbelievable. And not in a good way.
Before Robbie Williams became cool, he was a part of the most ‘we will get on your nerves’ boy band, Take That. Atrocious music and attire coupled with slimy looks were their stronger points. But they dared where few of their clan would. They covered Nirvana’s ‘Smells like teen spirit’ LIVE on stage. Whoever was their ‘go to man’ at the time, I salute you. They even went on to upload it on YouTube. Check out this gem!
If this is not enough for you, I dare you to check out Duran Duran’s version of the Public Enemy classic ‘911 is a joke’. Well but Duran Duran are known for chasing ‘White Lines’.
Britney Spears was clearly high when she thought she could cover The Arrows’ hit ‘I Love Rock’N’Roll’. Well, she messed it up or should we say Oops she did it again?
Legends mess up too. On her otherwise brilliant album, Music, Madonna covered Don Mclean’s ‘American Pie’. The cover version was used as a soundtrack for the movie and surely got Madonna and Mclean, a fat check. But it also got a big no from the fans.
The list is endless and is being updated daily. As long as the cover version or recreation is artistically done, the audience will lap it up. The onus lies on the artists to ensure this.
P.S : ‘Last Kiss’ is not a Pearl Jam original. It is by Wayne Cochran.