Cover Songs: C’Mon Baby, Cover Me!

By J-Vo

As the old saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…or something like that. In general, I think this is a true statement, but with one little tweak. If you’re going to do something that someone else has already done, you should do it just as well, or better, than the original artist did it. If you’re a musician and you plan to cover a song that was already recorded, particularly if that song happens to be kick-ass already, you better put some serious effort into it and make it sound great. This brings to my topic for this week: cover songs.

I was on the road the other day and I heard a cover of ‘Hey Joe’; you know, the Hendrix tune. But, it was Deep Purple actually performing the song…and not incredibly well I might add. I was a little put out by this for two reasons: first, I have always been a big fan of Deep Purple, and second I am a rabid Jimi Hendrix fan! I consider it blasphemous that anyone would cover a Hendrix tune and do it in such a poor manner. But, the worst cover of a Hendrix song by far is Winger’s version of ‘Purple Haze’. Have you heard that one? If you haven’t, don’t bother – it’ll make you wretch! And speaking of Hendrix, did you know that ‘Hey Joe’ has been recorded over sixty (yes, 60!) times since it was first penned and recorded in 1965 (by a group called The Leaves). Say it ain’t so! I haven’t listened to all sixty versions of the song, but I bet that each cover is at a different level of quality. In recent memory, I think the worst version of a song I have heard being covered is Avenged Sevenfold covering ‘Paranoid’; the old Black Sabbath standard. Have you heard this? I think it was recorded for a sound track. Not only is it a piss-poor version of the song, but who the hell told M. Shadows he could sing in the first place. Just awful!

Of course, not all covers are bad or performed poorly. I thought that Guns N’ Roses did a pretty good job with ‘Live and Let Die’. And their cover of ‘Hair of the Dog’ was decent too. Am I the only one who remembers the Spaghetti Incident record? White Lion did a good job with ‘Radar Love’. I recently heard a cover of ‘Born to be Wild’ that was performed by The Cult. I was never a big Steppenwolf fan and I have always walked the fence on whether I liked this tune or not. But to hear Ian Astbury belt out the vocals and Billy Duffy crush the guitar riffs, I found myself singing that version of the song for the rest of the night! Another great cover that comes to mind was ‘Come Together’ done by Aerosmith. Man, that was a great cover of a great song! No problem with that performance at all. Oh yeah, and how about Stone Temple Pilots cover of Zeppelin’s ‘Dancing Days’; very well done. I recently saw Heart in concert. They ended the show with a few Zep tunes. To say that they sounded great doing Zeppelin would be a gross understatement. They killed it! My all-time favorite cover is…drum roll please: ‘Cross-Eyed Mary’ performed by Iron Maiden. If you can find a copy of this, put it on and crank it up. This version will rock your socks off. It was recorded on one of Maiden’s many EPs, probably some obscure import; I don’t remember. Jethro Tull could never come close to sounding like this! I think Ian Anderson would promptly put his flute away and go back into retirement after hearing this version of his classic.

One last thought about cover songs. Have you ever loved the shit out of a song and only later found out that it was not original work from that artist? I have been listening to, and singing along with the Van Halen song ‘Ice Cream Man’ from the first time I heard on their 1978 debut album. I love that song! I recently found out that ‘Ice Cream Man’ was written and recorded by a Chicago bluesman named John Brim in the early 1950’s! That fact was met with an exclamation from yours truly of: get the fuck outta here!

I’m a fan of a well-conceived cover song. If you’re going to cover it, play it right! Perform it well. Execute it with gusto! I’m not whole-heartedly against bands covering other bands’ songs. In fact, I’m a big fan of the ‘tribute’ albums that come and go every few years. Not all of them were good, but I think they’re done with good intention…sort of a cool way to honor a band. And I think one of the best ways to get some air play as an up-and-coming band is to cover a ‘famous’ song. Remember Marilyn Manson doing the Eurythmics tune? How weird was that? Whether you liked their cover or not, you definitely noticed it! Do us all a favor, if you’re going to do a cover, just do it right!


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments