Let's face it, most cover songs sound pretty close to the original. The Beatles version of "Twist and Shout" sounds like the Isley Brothers version, Smash Mouth's version of "I'm a Believer" sounds almost identical to The Monkees version, and even the Jeff Beck Group's version of "Love Is Blue" sounds like Paul Mauriat's "Love is Blue." These are called "faithful" cover versions.
However, there artist that take things in a totally different direction. This blog post (and podcast) will celebrate those great cover versions that "changed it up a bit."
Since I'm using the podcast for illustration, I won't go into very much detail. However, I will point out the inspiration for this post. The Bluebelles' 1984 British hit "Young At Heart" was the subject of a lawsuit by former Fabulous Poodles' fiddle player Bobby Valentino, who played on the record. He said that he should get a credit and some compensation, because his fiddle playing contributed to the success of The Bluebelles recording. It was originally recorded by Bananarama the previous year with a typical bouncy, synthesizer pop song that Bananarama was known for. The judge agreed that his country pop fiddle made the remake a big hit.
I got to thinking about other cover songs that seem to be unrecognizable from the original. Vanilla Fudge's headbanging psychedelic version of The Supremes hit "You Keep Me Hanging On" came to mind, along with Peggy Lee's smoldering, beatnikish version of Little Willie John's bumpin blues "Fever."
I once heard an interview where Screaming Jay Hawkins said he liked Nina Simone's version of "I Put a Spell On You" better than his. On the other hand, I had a co-worker in radio, who would become visibly angry at the very mention of James Taylor's version of the Jimmy Jones hit "Handy Man." Personally, I never cared for Donna Summer's version of "MacArthur Park" and I like most of Donna Summer's hits.
Everyone has covered "Do You Want To Dance?" and "Money," but Bette Midler and the Flying Lizards did those songs different than any other act.
Many of theses are either, rocker becomes ballad, soft rock becomes heavy metal or disco, even a psychedelic pop song turned into a bluegrass song and a bluegrass song from a 60's rural sitcom turned into a Celtic dirge. Even a British rock band doing a goofy Perry Como song about mannequin lust. So lets take a listen.
NOTE: I realize the sound is bad on this. I'm using "borrowed" equipment, so I don't have control of the sound quality. My apologies. I also used a "guest announcer" for this podcast.
"Young At Heart" The Bluebelles 1984 (Original recording by Bananarama 1983)
"For Once In My Life" Stevie Wonder 1968 (Original hit Tony Bennett in 1967)
"Summertime Blues" Blue Cheer 1967 (Original hit by Eddie Cochran 1958)
"Do You Want To Dance?" Bette Midler 1972 (Original hit by Bobby Freeman 1958)
"Love Buzz" Nirvana 1989 (Original recording by Shocking Blue 1969)
"Hooked On a Feeling" Blue Suede 1974 (Original hit by B.J Thomas)
"I Put a Spell On You" Nina Simone 1965 (Original hit by Screaming Jay Hawkins 1955)
"There Is a Time" Solas 2008 (Original recording by The Dillards with Maggie Peterson 1964)
"Fever" Peggy Lee 1958 (Original recording by Little Willie John 1956)
"Diamonds & Rust" Judas Priest 1977 (Original hit by Joan Baez 1975)
"Careless Whispers" Seether 2009 (Original hit by Wham 1984)
"Handy Man" James Taylor 1978 (Original hit by Jimmy Jones 1960)
"The Locomotion" Grand Funk Railroad 1974 (Original hit by Little Eva 1962)
"Bette Davis Eyes" Kim Carnes 1981 (Original recording by Jackie DeShannon 1975)
"Money" The Flying Lizards 1980 (Barrett Strong 1959)
"Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)" Marilyn Manson 1994 (Original hit for The Eurythmics 1983)
"Satisfaction" Devo 1980 (Original hit for The Rolling Stones 1965)
"Fox On the Run" Tom T. Hall 1976 (Original hit by Manfred Mann 1969)
"Summertime" Billy Stewart 1966 (Written in 1937, first rock era version by Sam Cooke 1957)
"Never Gonna Say Goodbye" Gloria Gaynor 1974 (Original hit by the Jackson Five 1972)
"You Keep Me Hanging On" Vanilla Fudge 1968 (Original hit by The Supremes 1966)
"MacArthur Park" Donna Summer 1980 (Original hit by Richard Harris 1968)
"Woodstock" Mathews Southern Comfort fall 1970 (Original hit by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young March 1970)
"With a Little Help From My Friends" Joe Cocker 1968 (Originally recorded by The Beatles in 1967)
"Walk On By" The Stranglers 1980 (Original hit for Dionne Warwick 1962)
"Proud Mary" Ike & Tina Turner 1971 (Original hit for Creedence Clearwater Revival 1969)
"Light My Fire" Jose Feliciano 1968 (Original hit by The Doors 1967)
"Knock On Wood" Amii Stewart 1979 (Original hit by Eddie Floyd 1966)
"I'm a Man" The Yardbirds 1965 (Original hit by Bo Diddley 1955)
"House of the Rising Sun" Frygid Pink 1970 (Original hit by The Animals 1964)
"Hey Joe" Jimi Hendrix 1967 (Original hit by The Leaves 1965)
"Glendora" The Downliners Sect 1966 (Original hit by Perry Como 1956)
"Ain't No Mountain High Enough" Diana Ross 1970 (Original hit for Marvin Gaye & Tami Terrell 1967)
And last but not least:
"Blinded By The Light," "For You" and "Spirits In the Night" Manfred Mann's Earth Band 1976-1980 (Original recordings by Bruce Springsteen 1973).
P. S: Before you say "You left off The Cowboy Junkies version of the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane." It is different than the version of the Loaded LP." True, but the Cowboy Junkies version is identical to the version The Velvet Underground performs on the Live 1969 LP. So it doesn't count.