Top 10: Cover Songs

Songs IconThe act of recording another artist’s composition can produce a brilliant interpretation that often rivals the original. And then there are cover versions that stay faithful to the source, celebrating the song’s creator. However, more often than not, tackling someone else’s tune results in rubbish intended to make money. Today, we’re in search of the the ‘good ones’, if you will—please list your ten favorite cover versions from any genre and any era, and feel free to include comments.

Shelf’s Top 10 Cover Songs (in chronological order)

Yellow Magic Orchestra “Firecracker” (1978)
Original Artist > Martin Denny (1959)

Japan “I Second That Emotion” (1980)
Original Artist > Smokey Robinson And The Miracles (1967)

Soft Cell “Tainted Love” (1981)
Original Artist > Gloria Jones (1965)

This Mortal Coil “Song To The Siren” (1983)
Original Artist > Tim Buckley (1970)

Peter Murphy “The Light Pours Out Of Me” (1985)
Original Artist > Magazine (1978)

Pet Shop Boys “Always On My Mind” (1987)
Original Artist > Elvis Presley (1972)

Renegade Soundwave “Biting My Nails” (1988)
Original Artist > Geneviève Waïte (1973)

They Might Be Giants “Istanbul [Not Constantinople]” (1990)
Original Artist > The Four Lads (1953)

Saint Etienne “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” (1990)
Original Artist > Neil Young (1970)

Happy Mondays “Step On” (1990)
Original Artist > John Kongos (1971)

Visit Jumping Someone Else’s Song for covers galore.

Posted on February 25, 2015, in SHELF, TOP 10 LISTS. Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. I realize it’s been awhile since I’ve commented or interacted online. I needed some “me time,” and could probably use a little more…but, I felt like trying to come up with my Top 10. So here it goes (in iTunes alphabetical order)…

    Annie Lennox – Heaven (The Psychedelic Furs)
    Bananarama – Venus (Shocking Blue)
    Communards – Don’t Leave Me This Way (Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes/Thelma Houston)
    Ki:Theory – Stand By Me (Ben E. King)
    Kim Wilde – You Keep Me Hangin’ On (The Supremes)
    Mariah Carey – Without You (Bad Finger/HarryNilsson)
    Pet Shop Boys – Always On My Mind (Elvis/Willie Nelson)
    Tina Turner – Let’s Stay Together (Al Green)
    Track And Field – Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush)
    UB40 – Red Red Wine (Neil Diamond)

    I’m sure I’m missing a couple, but these rank high in my iTunes playlist.

    • I knew I was going to miss some, and one cover in particular I absolutely love is…

      The Kane Gang – Don’t Look Any Further (Dennis Edwards feat. Siedah Garrett)

    • A couple more coming to mind…

      The Dream Academy – Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want (The Smiths)
      The Cure – Purple Haze (Jimi Hendrix)
      Bigod 20 – Like A Prayer (Madonna)

      I would replace Mariah Carey – Without You with The Dream Academy – Please³ in my Top 10 favorites.

    • Welcome back, LMNO! No need to explain your absence – as a staunch advocate for ‘me time’, I understand your need perfectly (I’ve been disconnected for a few days myself).

  2. This is very tough and like any “best song of all time” question in any category absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to answer … lol … but I absolutely love and collect any and all cover versions in any category … I have all 700 volumes of “Metal-Hard Rock covers”, all 6 “Punk Chart Busters”, etc.

    In my humble opinion, the absolute best cover of all time is

    –> “RAM JAM – BLACK BETTY” <–

    not only because it is a great classic rock track but because the original by Ledbelly was only a 30 second blues ditty, which Ram Jam expanded into a killer track with great guitar solos, etc.

    Now that I bored you to death, here is my list:

    1. Ram Jam – Black Betty (Ledbetter cover)
    2. Jimi Hendrix – Hey Joe (Joe Roberts cover)
    3. Soft Cell – Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go (Gloria Jones/Supremes cover)
    4. The Mission – Dream On (Aerosmith cover)
    5. Metallica – Last Caress/Green Hell (Misfits cover)
    6. Slayer – Ina Gadda Da Vida (Iron Butterfly cover)
    7. Spunge – No Woman No Cry (Bob Marley cover)
    8. WiZo – All That She Wants (Ace Of Base cover)
    9. UB40 – Red Red Wine (Neil Diamond cover)
    10. Madness – One Step Beyond (Prince Buster cover)

    nope … can't do it … here's 10 more:

    10. Taco – Puttin' On the Ritz" (Irving Berlin)
    11. They Might Be Giants Istanbul [Not Constantinople] (The Four Lads cover)
    12. Bananarama – Venus (Shocking Blue cover) {even though the original is just as good}
    13. Exploited – Troops Of Tomorrow (Vibrators cover)
    14. Stiff Little Fingers – Johnny Was (Bob Marley cover)
    15. Kiss – God Gave Rock'n Roll To You II (Argent cover)
    16. Joan Jett – I Love Rock 'n Roll (Arrows cover)
    17. Rumble On The Beach – Purple Rain (Prince cover)
    18. Fugees – Killing Me Softly (Roberta Flack cover)
    19. Atrocity – The Great Commandment (Camouflage cover)
    20. Marilyn Manson – Sweet Dreams (Eurythmics cover)
    21. Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends (Beatles cover)
    22. Sid Vicious – My Way (Paul Anka cover)
    23. The Eternal Afflict – Paint It Black (Rolling Stones cover)
    24. 311 – Lovesong (The Cure cover
    25. Flotsam & Jetsam – Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting (Elton John cover)

    ugh … I could keep going … the more I write, the more great cover songs I think about!

    but definitely every Led Zeppelin song they "ripped off" starting with Whole Lotta Love … lol

    and any White Label Techno/House remix ever! (I wish somebody would start a blog just dedicated to WHITE LABEL vinyls from the 90s!

    DJ Shelf … please don't ever do that again … lol

    • I have to add my 3 favorite D&B/Jungle covers:

      1. 88.3 feat. Lisa May – Wishing On A Star
      2. J&J ft. Sweet Corner – Sweetest Taboo (Sade)
      3. Real Im-Pact – I Shot The Sheriff (Bob Marley)

  3. Great List from all members !
    Never knew that Tainted Love was a remake. Learn something new everyday. LOL


    • I think that’s what it makes it one of the best covers of all time. They really own the song! NOBODY knows the original … lol … kinda how Metallica makes a lot of their covers their own and they end up sounding better than the original!

  4. Soft Cell – Tainted Love – Gloria Jones
    Dolly Parton – Shine – Collective Soul
    Pet Shop Boys – It’s Alright – Sterling Void
    Bangles – Hazy Shade Of Winter – Simon and Garfunkel
    David Bowie – Wild Is The Wind – Johnny Mathis (Nina Simone)
    Swing Out Sister – Stoned Soul Picnic – Laura Nyro
    Labelle – Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who
    Alison Moyet – Ne Me Quitte Pas – Jacques Brel
    Bananarama – Venus – Shocking Blue
    Erasure – Take A Chance on Me – ABBA

    and honorable mention to Minnie Riperton & Rotary Connection’s oddly great cover of Cream’s Tales of Brave Ulysses

  5. Extreme Noise Terror “3am Eternal”

    Sid Vicious “My Way”

    Happy Mondays “Stayin’ Alive (7″ Edit)”

    Paul Haig “Atmosphere”

    Age of Chance “Kiss”

    The Chimes  “I still haven’t found what I’ve Been Looking For”

    Carter USM “Rent”

    The Dickies “Bannana Splits (The Tra La La Song)”

    Pet Shop Boys “Always on My Mind”

    World Of Twist “She`s A Rainbow (Fluke Remix)”

    Barry Adamson “a James Bond Fantasy”

    • Extreme Noise Terror “3am Eternal” was AWESOME!!! I agree! I love ENT anyways but that was a good track.

      If we include Grindcore, then we have to include O.L.D.’s version of “Cocaine” (JJ Cale/Clapton) and their odd version of Freres Jacques … lol

  6. 50 Best Covers:
    1. Pet Shop Boys – Always on my Mind. (Elvis Presley)
    2. Concrete Blonde – Everybody Knows (Leonard Cohen)
    3. Johnny Cash – Hurt (Nine Inch Nails)
    4. The Dream Academy – Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want (The Smiths)
    5. Morrissey & Siouxsie – Interlude (Timi Yuro)
    6. U2 – Unchained Melody (The Righteous Brothers)
    7. This Mortal Coil – Song to the Siren (Tim Buckley)
    8. Manic Street Preachers – Suicide Is Painless (Theme from M.A.S.H.)
    9. Cowboy Junkies – Sweet Jane (Lou Reed)
    10. Nick Cave & Shane MacGowan – What a Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong)
    11. Trashcan Sinatras – To Sir With Love (Lulu)
    12. Scott Weiland – But Not Tonight (Depeche Mode)
    13. Nada Surf – If you Leave (OMD)
    14. Stars – This Charming Man (The Smiths)
    15. Sundays – Wild Horses (The Rolling Stones)
    16. Morrissey – No One Can Hold A Candle To You (Raymonde)
    17. Sarah Blasko – Don’t Dream it’s Over (Crowded House)
    18. Youth Group – Forever Young (Alphaville)
    19. Moby – Temptation (New Order)
    20. Shane MacGowan – My Way (Frank Sinatra)
    21. Cat Power – Sea of Love (The Honey Drippers)
    22. Gary Jules – Mad World (feat. Michael Andrews) (Tears For Fears)
    23. Speedstar – There is a Light That Never Goes Out (The Smiths)
    24. Charlotte Martin – Bizarre Love Triangle (New Order)
    25. Katie Melua – Just Like Heaven (The Cure)
    26. Laura Cantrell – Love Vigilantes (New Order)
    27. Angie Hart – Pictures of You (The Cure)
    28. Iron & Wine – Such Great Heights (Postal Service)
    29. Everything But the Girl – Tougher Than the Rest (Bruce Springsteen)
    30. Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
    31. Depeche Mode – Route 66 (Bobby Troup/Nat King Cole)
    32. Johnny Cash – The Mercy Seat (Nick Cave)
    33. Morrissey – That’s Entertainment (The Jam)
    34. Elbow – Teardrop (Massive Attack)
    35. Tori Amos – Thank You (Led Zeppelin)
    36. Bauhaus – Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie)
    37. Sinead O’Connor – Nothing Compares 2 U (Prince)
    38. Siouxsie and The Banshees – Dear Prudence (The Beatles)
    39. Taken By Trees – Sweet Child O’ Mine (Guns ‘n’ Roses)
    40. Luke Bloom – No Surprises (Radiohead)
    41. Susanna & the Magical Orchestra – Love Will Tear us Apart (Joy Division)
    42. Bat For Lashes – A Forest (The Cure)
    43. Saint Etienne – Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Neil Young)
    44. Eve Cassidy – True Colours (Cyndi Lauper)
    45. Aztec Camera – Jump (Van Halen)
    46. Emily Browning – Asleep (The Smiths)
    47. Nick Cave – Let It Be (The Beatles)
    48. Nada Surf – Where is my Mind (The Pixies)
    49. Morrissey – Moon River (Audrey Hepburn)
    50. The Damned – Eloise (Barry Ryan)

    • great list! Technically, Nothing Compares 2 U is not a cover since Prince wrote it for Sinead and she was the first to perform it (much like Prince wrote “Manic Monday” for the Bangles). So, technically Prince’s version on the Greatest Hits album is actually the cover … lol

      Also, U2 – Unchained Melody (The Righteous Brothers). Unchained Melody is actually a song from the 40s and was covered by the Righteous Brothers, so again technically, the Righteous Brothers cover should be topping that list!

      btw, I agree with Aztec Camera’s cover of JUMP. It is very original and sounds awesome!

  7. I forgot to add to my list the great cover by The Fatima Mansions of Bryan Adams “Everything I Do”

  8. Thanks for very enjoyable post and replies.

    Now I hit on one song.

    Robert Wyatt – At Last I Am Free – Chic

  9. loving the lists, but seem to be missing a perfect pop track:

    naked eyes – always something there to remind me (burt b. or dionne w. or others)

  10. Some brilliant suggestions above and, of course, impossible to limit it to just 10. But… here’s 10 (okay, 20), taken from a couple of old cassette & CD mix tapes I put together years ago:
    1) Across The Universe – Laibach (The Beatles)
    2) D’Ya Think I’m Sexy? – Revolting Cocks (Rod Stewart)
    3) Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight) – The Leather Nun (ABBA)
    4) I’m A Man – Macho (The Spencer Davis Group)
    5) Light My Fire – Amii Stewart (The Doors)
    6) Blue Monday (Lundi Bleu) – The Times (New Order)
    7) She (Disco Mix) – Vegas (Charles Aznavour)
    8) Lost In Music – The Fall (Sister Sledge)
    9) Sexual Healing – Anita Lane ft. The Bad Seeds (Marvin Gaye)
    10) Emma – The Sisters Of Mercy (Hot Chocolate)
    11) All My Friends – John Cale (LCD Soundsystem)
    12) The Crackdown – Billie Ray Martin (Cabaret Voltaire)
    13) Always Something There To Remind Me – Espiritu (Sandie Shaw)
    14) I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun – Nuroyican Soul (Rotary Connection)
    15) I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You – Act (Julie Covington)
    16) Obsession – Animotion (Michael Des Barres & Holly Knight)
    17) Boys Keep Swinging – Associates (David Bowie)
    18) Love Is The Drug – Grace Jones (Roxy Music)
    19) Waiting For The Man – O.M.D. (The Velvet Underground)
    20) Whole Lotta Love – C.C.S. (Led Zeppelin)

  11. Great lists. Asteroid327 came up with a great one in the Cowboy Junkies cover of Sweet Jane…had forgotten about it. BTW Sea of Love was originally sung by Phil Phillips in ’59, the Honey Drippers covered it (in itself a great cover) and Cat Power’s cover is also good.

  12. How about Dread Zepplin, “Immigrant Song”, “Black Dog” and many others.

    • so many great Led Zeppelin covers. Dread Zeppelin went over the top with Stairway To Heaven to the point where it’s hard to enjoy after a few listens. But these are great Led Zeppelin covers in my opinion:

      1. Far Corporation – Stairway To Heaven
      2. Frank Zappa – Stairway To Heaven
      3. Veggemite – Stairway To Heaven (Reggae version often falsely credited to Bob Marley)
      4. Trent Reznor – Immigrant Song (Girl With The Dragon Tattoo OST)
      5. Tina Turner – Whole Lotta Love

      There was a great Australian show in the 80s, where 100 artists performed their rendition of STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN in their own unique style. Examples are a group called Rock Lobster, who performed it in a B-52 style and the reggae version mentioned above!!! GREAT STUFF! Goes from psychedelic to lounge to punk to metal!

      Also, another hard to cover song is “Eagles – Hotel California”. I know at least two great covers. Would love to know if anyone knows any other ones:

      1. Jam On The Mutha – Hotel California
      2. Eagles – (Bienvenidos Al) Hotel California

      It would make sense that there would be a compilation series based on some of these calssic tracks and their respective cover versions!

  13. I love Postal Service/Against All Odds (Phil Collins), too.

  14. Néstor Galli

    Hi, djShelf! I’m from Argentina, a blogger too about music. I found your blog very interesting indeed. Let me share to you my favourite cover songs and asked you take a look at my blog

  15. Néstor Galli

    My favourite cover songs are:

    -Always on my mind – Pet Shop Boys (Elvis Presley)
    -Turn – Natalie Imbruglia (Ednaswap)
    -Missing you – Tina Turner (John Waite)
    -Sweet Dreams – Marilyn Manson (Eurythmics)
    -Stripped – Rammstein (Depeche Mode)
    -American Pie – Madonna (Don Mc Lean)
    -How Soon is Now – Tatu (The Smiths)
    -Heroes – The Wallflowers (David Bowie)
    -Perfect Day – Duran Duran (Lou Reed)
    -Night in white satin – Sandra (The Moody Blues)
    -Where the streets have no name – Pet Shop Boys (U2)
    -Tainted love – Marilyn Manson (Gloria Jones)
    -Crazy – Alanis Morissette (Seal)
    -Personal Jesus – Marilyn Manson (Depeche Mode)
    -Policy of truth – Dishwalla (Depeche Mode)
    -Take a chance on me – Erasure (ABBA)

    And more and more…

  16. Thanks to everyone for sharing some exceptional selections here! And also for reminding me of several covers I had forgotten – if you’ll allow me ten more:

    Bryan Ferry – The ‘In’ Crowd (1974)
    Sid Vicious – My Way (1978)
    Bauhaus – Ziggy Stardust (1982)
    Naked Eyes – Always Something There To Remind Me (1983)
    Colourbox – You Keep Me Hanging On (1985)
    Erasure – Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (1986)
    Bananarama – Venus (1986)
    Jimmy Sommerville – You Make Me Feel [Mighty Real] (1989)
    Bigod 20 – Like A Prayer (1992)
    U2 – Pop Muzik (1997)

  17. Some covers that make me smile:

    Schneider TM & Kpt.michi.gan – The Light (3000) [The Smiths]
    The Cure – Hello I Love You [The Doors]
    One Dove – Jolene [Dolly Parton]
    LB – Ashes To Ashes [David Bowie]
    Japancakes – Soon [My Bloody Valentine]
    Jose Gonzalez – Heartbeats [The Knife]

    and so many more I can’t think of right now …

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