Growing up, I was a little snobby when it came to a cover version. I almost felt as though if bands or singers hadn’t written the track themselves, then I didn’t want to hear it.
However, my opinion of cover versions has now changed, and I even realised that certain songs weren’t originals, and they already belonged in the ‘like’ column for me.
So, here are seven incredible cover versions. I’d love to know what you think. What’s missing for you?
1. Guns N’ Roses – Live and Let Die
Originally penned by Paul and Linda McCartney and recorded by Wings for the 1973 film of the same name, Live and Let Die is deemed by many to be one of McCartney’s best. However, I strongly believe that the Guns N’ Roses version is far superior. Released in 1991, it was an instant hit in many countries, reaching number one in Finland and New Zealand. I adore how the riffs have been made even rockier, and this cover version gives me almost instant goosebumps – it’s even better live!
2. The Futureheads – Hounds of Love
I remember hearing this cover version for the first time in the mid-noughties and wondering what on earth was happening. I had been aware of the Futureheads for a while, but I wasn’t really into them. The title track and third single from Kate Bush’s 1985 album, Hounds of Love was judged 21st in the Top 50 greatest British songs ever by Q magazine. However, the Futureheads’ version was met with much more mixed reactions. Despite this, it got to number 8 in the UK singles chart in 2005 and NME awarded it best single of 2005.
3. Placebo – Running Up That Hill
The second Kate Bush cover in my list, and also from the Hounds of Love album, Placebo’s cover version of Running Up That Hill is exceptional. The most successful of her 80s’ releases, this single peaked at number 3 in the singles chart. The Placebo version is somewhat melancholic, originally released on the bonus disc that came with their 2003 album, Sleeping with Ghosts. I adore this version, and it is often on my regular playlist.
4. Manic Street Preachers – Theme from M*A*S*H* (Suicide is Painless)
Written by Johnny Mandel and Michael Altman for the 1970 film, M*A*S*H*, Suicide is Painless (known as Theme from M*A*S*H*) was covered and released by Manic Street Preachers in September 1992. In the UK, it was part of a double A-side, along with a cover by the Fatima Mansions, to raise money for the Spastics Society. A really great cover version and definitely worthy of being in my top 7! Of course, Manics were bound to be as I have been in love with them since the ’90s.
5. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Love Rollercoaster
Originally a 1975 hit for the Ohio Players, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ cover version is superb. Recorded for the 1996 soundtrack of Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, it instantly appealed to many across the world. Given its prominence on MTV, this was unsurprising, and the video was played almost on loop, featuring the band performing on and riding a rollercoaster alongside some clips from the film itself.
6. The Clash – I Fought The Law
I Fought The Law (I know you’re all singing “and the law won” now as I did whilst writing this) was written by Sonny Curtis (the Crickets) and made popular by the Bobby Fuller Four. However, the Clash’s version, in my opinion, is far superior and the most widely known one nowadays. It actually became the first single by the Clash to be released in the United States (July 1979).
7. Johnny Cash – Hurt
Released in 1995 as a promo for Nine Inch Nails’ second studio album, The Downward Spiral, Hurt was a huge success, earning itself a Grammy Award nomination for best rock single in 1996. Despite Trent Reznor’s initial reservations, Johnny Cash’s version along with its accompanying video actually moved him to tears, disproving his concerns that it might be a bit gimmicky. This cover version is sublime and a triumph.
So, what do you think of my Top Seven? I have thought long and hard about this, struggling to narrow it down to just seven and not repeating an artist (though I did write about two Kate Bush covers, I suppose).