The Hangover’s Best Cover Songs of the Modern Era

14 Feb

A good cover song pays homage to the original while the band doing the ‘cover’ puts their own distinct stamp on it.  The tao of the band should tryst lustily with the soul of the original.  A great cover  manages that while taking the song to a different place.  The following are the five best since 1970.

1)  Sid Vicious, My Way  

While Sid might not have been the anti-Christ, he can certainly be termed the anti-Sinatra. He takes Frank’s signature tune and turns it into a snarling, spitting anthem that defines him just as it did ‘ol Blue Eyes.  That this song could also serve as Sid’s epitaph adds to its gravity, while at the same time making it somewhat pathetic.

2) Devo, (I can’t get no) Satisfaction

First, it is a fun, totally Devo-ed, herky-jerky version of the Stones’ classic.  It’ll make you laugh and groove at the same time, great for a mixed tape when you actually want everyone to stop and listen.  On the other hand, one can analyze it with an egg-headed approach.  The song itself describes one’s inability to connect with society and its expectations (Are your shirts white enough and are you smoking the right cigarettes?).  The disjointedness of Devo’s signature vocals and music indicate a relationship between the individual and society that has further deteriorated.  The overall oeurve of Devo’s version reveals the anomie suffered by modern man.  Either way, it’s a great party song.   

3)  Barrence Whitfield and Tom Russell, Cleaning Windows

Boston strongman Barrence Whitfield and Texas legend Tom Russell take a contemplative, steady Van Morrison song and rave it up into a workingman’s Friday night.  Roots rocking at full force, the back-and-forth vocals bring out the heart of the lyrics.  This is the version you’d want to hear playing in your local “down joint” after a hard week at anywhere but the office. 

4)  John Mellencamp, Jailhouse Rock

Mellancamp takes Elvis’s romp and slows it down, letting spare vocals emerge from behind a haunting, restrained backbeat.  This is what would play in your head at light’s out if the cell to your left contained Pam Smart and the one on the right held Maynard, Zed, and The Gimp.

5)  The Clash, Brand New Cadillac

The original version, done by Vince Taylor and the Playboys, is plaintive rythym and blues, in which the singer laments the loss of his girl, who laughingly drives away in a brand new Caddy.  One imagines the singer is down and out, both emotionally and economically.    The Clash don’t lament, however.  They turn the amps up to eleven and roar.  Their girl is certainly tougher and the Clash don’t take it so well.  The guitars and vocals are electric and reeling.  The song is imbued with an urgency that reveals a band at its full-throttle best with a song they could have written themselves.

Lifetime Achievement Award>>>The Blues Brothers, Soul Man

John Belushi is not a great vocalist, but he puts his heart into it here, backed by an excellent band.  This version doesn’t stray far from the original, but it does employ a bit more wattage.  What makes this version so great is what it accomplished:  A revitalization of the blues.  This song, the album it came from, and the subsequent movie brought a back-burnered style of music to white, suburban America.  And give people credit for knowing what to do when they heard it.  Blues music has never been more popular than it is now, and we’ve got the Blues Brothers to thank for it.

Songs that made the discussion:

X, “Soul Kitchen” (The Doors)

The Bangles, “Hazy Shade of Winter”  (Simon and Garfunkel)

The English Beat, “Tears of a Clown” (Smokey Robinson)

David Bowie, “Waterloo Sunset” (The Kinks)

The Bouncing Souls, “Better Things” (The Kinks)

Kd Lang, “Crying” (Roy Orbison)

Cheap Trick, “Ain’t that a Shame” (Fats Domino)

Van Halen, “Pretty Woman” (Roy Orbison)


14 Responses to “The Hangover’s Best Cover Songs of the Modern Era”

  1. Man from Monkeytown February 16, 2008 at 11:34 pm #

    Leave it to The Hangover to tackle the heavy issues….corporate greed; the election; rock n’ roll covers.

    Responding in real time to this list of song superlatives is hard….not unlike overcoming the memory lapse when one walks into the video store. With that in mind, here are some others worth consideration.

    Cowboy Junkies covering Sweet Jane (Lou Reed)

    Janes Addiction covering Rock n’ Roll (Lou Reed) and Sympathy for the Devil (Stones) in one blended medley.

    ….let me sleep on this

  2. alguschip February 17, 2008 at 2:11 am #

    Mr. Monkeytown,
    You could probably do a pretty fair list based on Lou Reed/Velvet Underground covers alone. I’d add these to your list:

    Mott the Hoople, “Sweet Jane”
    The Beat Farmers, “There She Goes Again”

  3. downstreamer February 17, 2008 at 1:35 pm #

    Good list. I’d like to add three myself, if I may.

    First, there’s the Pixies cover of Neil Young’s “Winterlong” – an inspired rendition which still baffles me since it sounds nothing like the rest of the Pixies’ stuff, but still adds to the original.

    Then there’s the Sparklehorse cover of Jimmy Webb’s “Galveston”, originally done up by Glen Campbell. “Galveston” is a heartbreakingly beautiful song, actually, about a young boy shipping out to Vietnam, leaving behind his girl in Galveston. Think Iraq for Vietnam, and you’ve got your modern relevance.

    Lastly, who can forget the Cake version of “I Will Survive”? Fun stuff.

  4. aaron, of course February 18, 2008 at 7:48 pm #

    I love lists! As an admitted and non-recovering ‘Zep-o-holic’ (greatest rock and roll band of all time, and born of the greatest era of music of all time!)several covers made more famous BY L.Z. than by the Original Artist immediately came to mind 1) Babe I’m Gonna Leave You-Joan Baez 2)You Shook Me-Muddy Waters 3) Going to California-? and Swan Song re-released as the Firm’s Midnite Moonlite, only with vocals.

    In no particular order, other covers that deserve to be mentioned (in my opinion) are:

    Jimi Hendrix covering Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’. Magic

    Hendrix covering the Trogg’s ‘Wild Thing’. Both versions KICK BUTT! Great…gum chewing and all

    Faith No More’s cover of Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’. both cool sounds

    David Bowie doing Iggy Pop’s ‘China Girl’ Is there a cooler human being alive than David Bowie?

    Black Crows covering Otis (My Man!) Redding’s ‘Hard to Handle’ Shake Your Moneymaker is one of my favorite CDs.

    Sinead O’Connor doing Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares to You’ I remember the 1st time I heard this song. And hasn’t time really been Sinead’s friend re: her SNL statement condemning Pope John Paul and the Catholic Church’s mis-handling of abuse by priests? She took on one of the oldest and most powerful institutions in the history of the world…all by herself…in front of millions of people…LIVE! At the time I thought she was a whack-job, but she ended up being a decade ahead of the curve, making her a true rock legend in my humble opinion.

    Billy Idol covering Wilson Pickett’s ‘In the Midnite Hour’. BTW, did anyone see Lucas Rossi do this song on ‘Rock Star’? Awesome!

    There are a few more, like David Lee Roth doing ‘California Girls’ (Beach Boys) and Soft Cell doing Gloria Jones’ ‘Tainted Love’ that are a real blast.

  5. alguschip February 18, 2008 at 9:17 pm #

    There’s Iggy Pop’s version of John Hiatt’s “Something Wild,” too.

  6. Uncle Charlie February 19, 2008 at 9:39 pm #

    You could have really dug deep for this one. My personal favorite is Deep Purple’s version of Help. If you haven’t heard that one you should look it up.

    I saw this link and thought of your failed endorsement for Attorney Edwards…

  7. alguschip February 20, 2008 at 2:27 pm #

    Uncle Charlie,
    I did consider one cover of the Beatles, The Tubes version of “I Saw Her Standing There.” I’ve never heard the Deep Purple “Help.” Is it only on vinyl?

    That Aspen Times columnist is a little more than slightly bitter–and armed.

  8. Uncle Charlie February 20, 2008 at 4:41 pm #

    He was certainly bitter.

    The following I stole from another website:
    In 1968, Deep Purple recorded a cover version (greatly slowed-down) of the song on their album Shades of Deep Purple. Consistent with Lennon’s other remark’s about the song, he said that this version was ‘the way the Beatles’ should have done it’.

    Where’s your paperwork?

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    Hey there Captain hows hanging today

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