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Cover Me, Cover You: Our Favourite Cover Versions

We asked some of our HTF writers what their favourite cover versions. They gave back this list featuring Johnny Cash, All Time Low and Blondie.

Source: Screenshot / YouTube

So the BBC are once again releasing an all-star charity single, because some people never learn. This year’s offering, a cover of Beach Boys classic ‘God Only Knows’ has split opinion with many enjoying and the rest of thinking ‘God Only Knows’ why!

This got us thinking…what is the secret to a good cover? More importantly, what is the best cover song put to tape?

It’s rare to find a cover that tops the effort of the original artist. At the end of the day these are the people who have written the song and put the blood, sweat and tears into the composition of this potential classic. Some go down the route of finding obscure and unknown songs, for instance, I bet you didn’t know that Natalie Imbruglia’s breakthrough hit ‘Torn’ was actually written by a little known band called Ednaswap.

There’s also the route of completely reworking a track to suit your style. Take for instance Amy Winehouse’s cover of ‘Valerie’ or Nirvana’s take of the Bowie track ‘The Man Who Sold The World’.

So with all that, what covers would our HTF team call their favourites?

A-ha- ‘Crying In The Rain’

The cover of an Every Brother’s 1962 top ten hit was a turning point for the Norwegian pop trio. They had been desperately trying to escape their Smash Hits’s pretty boy image since the mega success of ‘Take On Me’ and their first 90’s release is this somber cover. Written by Carole King, ‘Crying In The Rain’s’ tender ballad of heart ache was perfect for the achingly beautiful falsetto of Morten Harkett. And any track that has rain and thunder sounds effects is always onto a winner.

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Blondie – ‘Denis’

The real worth of a cover version can be found in its ability to exist as both a great song and performance in its own right, without the listener necessarily needing to be familiar with the original. Blondie’s 1977 gender-swapped version of Randy and The Rainbows‘Denise’ more than excels in this respect, with many listeners not being aware of the 1960s original (a pretty standard slice of innocuous doo-wop pop fare) at all. While the original‘s pop melodies remain, Debbie Harry’s sultry vocals (including a bit of improvised and grammatically questionable French, which Harry refused to re-record in typical Punk spirit and exist as one of the band’s most memorable additions to the track) transform it into a danceable New Wave ode to female lust. We’ve all heard it as a standalone track before, but listening to it again as a cover version just makes it all the more appealing.

By Lois Barnett

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The Futureheads – ‘ Hounds Of Love’

The Futureheads enticed ‘Hounds of Love’ in to the indie band adoring 00’s when they covered Kate Bush’s atmospheric track a decade ago. Far from wanting to emulate her haunting quirks, the band cleverly invigorated the song with a dose of sprightly guitars and layered 4 part harmonies. Armed with a quickened tempo and a twist of vitality, ‘Hounds of Love’ was transported out of its era and fashioned in to a beguiling tune for the dancefloor. The Futureheads were right not to abandon the breathless anxiety of Bush’s lyrics, but they reinvented the music so their cover would thrive on its own originality.

By Anna Gunn
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My Chemical Romance -‘Desolation Row’

As somebody who is regularly told he is ‘too old’ to love MCR (LIKE HELL AM I !), this is the obvious choice as one of my favourite cover songs of all time. Taking an old Bob Dylan tune and adding furious punk energy, roaring guitars and a distinctly flamboyant sound, this smashes it’s way into excellence! Purists will cry out that the original should never have been touched. Purists will cry out that MCR are not worthy of re-working Mr. Dylan! I shall stamp down upon the cries of the purists… Well, that’s if my black skinny jeans will allow me to raise my leg into a stamping motion.

By Mitch Emery

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Venus In Furs – ‘Goodbye Horses’

Anyone who has seen The Silence Of The Lambs will be all too familiar with a certain dance sequence where the ghastly serial killer Buffalo Bill introduced ‘the tuck’ to the masses.  The song that back the dance was Q Lazzarus’s ‘Goodbye Horses’ a track that has been covered dozens of times by artists like Bloc Party’s Kele and Airborne Toxic Event. But this version from the obscure Californian indie collective Venus in Furs ( they don’t even exist on Spotify ). Their bedroom recorded version takes all the root elements of the original that made it so great and just adds a certain percentage of cool to create an infectious melodic cover.

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All Time Low- ‘True Colors’
Even All Time Low had doubts about the cover they were asked to do for MTV’s Chevy Cover The World feature in which bands from all over the world covered a song decided by a vote. The result was amazing. While their pop punk sound is far from the slow mellow original, they still manage to pour their emotions into a song they didn’t even know that well. The final effect was similar to Cyndi Lauper’s original, and who better to cover a song about being who you are no matter what than a pop punk band? Especially one who can go out on stage and be their goofy selves like All Time Low.

By Jenna Young

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Ash-‘Coming Around Again’

The magic cover you ask? Well take a sprinkle of an alright song, add a bit of your own flavour (but not too much) and hope that you don’t alienate either set of fans.

In honesty, covers are by the majority a little bit naff. There’s the odd exception but most of them seem to consist of either:

1) Aping the lead singer note for note, accentuating every annoying vocal tic that the original artist possesses.

2) Trying too hard to be original…by doing the same as everyone else and slowing down or speeding up the tempo of the song

Some however have that little habit of knocking you sideways. Ash I’ll acknowledge don’t fall on everyone’s radar nowadays but when they added their teen-boy punk to Carly Simon’s “so pop it hurts” anthem ‘Coming Around Again’. The original if you haven’t heard it is classic 80’s balladry, with nothing too special.

What Tim Wheeler and co were clever enough to realise is that while most pop songs are lightweight by nature, this song (once stripped of the 80’s rubbish) is a clever song with the opportunity for himself and the band to add punk edge (and a kick ass guitar solo) to emphasise the tension and release in the song itself.

By Martin-John Mcdonnell

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The Wonderstuff featuring Vic Reeves- ‘Dizzy’

‘Dizzy’ was a number one smash for The Wonderstuff and comedy legend Vic Reeves, it propelled both into the lime light. The unlikely combination were a perfect marriage of stupidity and tartan. The Tommy Roe original is so pathetically whimp in comparison to the drums fills and power chords from The Stuffies. Who knew Vic Reeves was such a great singer? If your a wedding DJ and you dont play this at some point, you are a mad fool.

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London Grammar- ‘Wrecking Ball’

London Grammar covering Miley Cyrus is perhaps not the most likely of mixes, but it is one that works extremely well. Their stripped back version of Miley’s notorious single ‘Wrecking Ball’ uses atmospheric, haunting instrumentals to create something far greater than the original. What makes this cover so fantastic, though, is Hannah Reid’s gorgeous voice, which pulsates with emotion, bringing an otherwise dull song to massive new heights.

By Jamie Firby

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Johnny Cash-‘Hurt’

One of the last moments of the country legends life was to record a cover of Nine Inch Nail’s finest ballad. To many of their fans ‘Hurt‘ was untouchable and a standout quiet moment inbetween the industrial chaos of NIN’s live shows. Would an artist like Johnny Cash be able to take on such a bitter track and triumph? Yes and by doing so reintroduced himself to the MTV generation and allowed himself to leave the music world at the top of his game; thanks to uber-producer Rik Rubin. Cash may have had to edit the odd word, but this cover is sublime and the final chorus will cause the hairs on your arms to shoot up and fly away.

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Ten great cover versions that outshine the original. What would you choose?

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