The first covers list was so much fun to put together that I thought I would extend the list to another posting. There were quite a few covers that were left over from the first post – would have just made it too long – so in this expansion I will empty the back pocket. The premise and criteria for the posting remains the same: bands who pay homage to classic rock songs by actually putting in the time and effort it takes to do a great cover, but have made the song their own by doing in the style of “covering” band. A little bit the same, a little bit different to get to a great result, where everything old really can be new again.
15. School’s Out (Alice Cooper) by GWAR
GWAR is hardcore thrash band from Richmond, Virginia, and has been on the music scene for close to 25 years. They are known for their outrageous stage show and highly controversial lyrics and song subject matter. And they pre-date Marilyn Manson, just to get that straight! Alice must love this version of his classic anthem covered by a bunch of hard rocking freaks, and damn if they don’t do a great job of it. GWAR’s totally hardcore thrash style, with the guttural raunchy singing and the profanity in their poetic license taken with the lyrics definitely make the song their own….”I never went to school; if I did I would have majored in killing”. Whoa…
14. Papa Was a Rolling Stone (Temptations) by Was (Not Was)
Was (Not Was) is a funk-styled pop band fronted and founded by “stage brothers” David Was (David Weiss) and Don Was (Don Fagenson). The “Was Brothers” were childhood friends who grew up in Detriot, dreaming of making some money in music. And they did. Don Was is highly respected for his musical and production talents, and has gone on since the band’s heyday to produce foro some of the biggest names in modern music. Was (Not Was) were big in the 1980′s and into the early 1990′s, and had several hits such as Walk the Dinosaur, How the Heart Behaves and I Feel Better Than James Brown. However, among their most loved songs is their rendition of Papa Was a Rolling Stone, which takes the classic and adds some rap to the verses to expand the storyline of a neglectful father. The song is performed brilliantly by the band, which is filled with incredible musical talent in its own right, and had the added bonus of contributions from Iggy Pop, Leonard Cohen, The Roches, and Syd Straw. This cover version is much more than the sampled re-make; it really does take the classic to new heights with full respectful and artistic integrity.
13. Heroes (David Bowie) by Oasis
Apologies in advance for the sound quality of this song, but it was done at a live concert recording. This song is completely Oasis. Liam Gallagher’s voice and singing style is very distinctive, as the melodies and the hooks at the end of the verse lines often go up in tone instead of down, as the “anticipating” note is expected to do. The sound is reminiscent of the first time Oasis burst on the scene with Wonderwall. Click here for an electric version of the band doing the song.
12. Beast of Burden (Rolling Stones) by Bette Midler
So campy, so ballsy – so Bette. She has this talent for making a production of everything, including this song, the way she tells the whole story in her act and moves. There is no doubt that this gal was born for show biz, and she rocks this Stones tune in her own special way.
11. Call Me the Breeze (JJ Cale) by Lynyrd Skynyrd
This song was written by blues legend JJ Cale, who also gave us other classics like After Midnight, Crazy Mama, Any Way the Wind Blows and a whole lot more – and has been covered by many legendary musicians. Probably the best known covers are by Eric Clapton and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I chose this version for the list because Skynyrd really stamped their trademark sound into it and gave it the groove and tone that only they can do. So, this said, Clapton just oozes through this with his guitar, with that sort of snaky feel that makes him part of the music. His version is here as he get up on stage with JJ Cale himself.
10. Working Class Hero (John Lennon) by Marianne Faithfull
Marianne Faithfull, which is her actual given name, was born in England to parents of combined military and royal backgrounds. She is actually a member of Habspurg royal family and holds the title of Baroness Sacher-Masoch (in fact, a famous 19th century erotic novel by a family member is cited as the root of the term Masochism and the creation of that word is credited to her family lineage). So from the roots of royalty to the world of rock and roll is quite a journey, where her prominence on the London social scene of the early 1960′s brought her into contact with the rocking bad boys of the day, the Rolling Stones. Her music career began with performing As Tears Go By, led to a long relationship with Mick Jagger and eventually to a period of drug addiction and street life. She emerged with what was called a new “whiskey-soaked” voice and managed to re-invent her career as a musical artist. This cover of John Lennon’s classic song is particularly poignant given her beginnings and path in life, and she has the real world experiences necessary to put the true emotion that the song expresses.
9. Hey Bartender (Floyd Dixon) by Blues Brothers
This is not strictly a classic rock song, but even though the classic tune by Floyd Dixon falls into an R&B category, I just had to put something by the Blues Brothers on the list! What looked to have started as another character sketch in the prime-time years of SNL we soon discovered was a great ride with a band that became famous in its own right. Belushi and Ackroyd showed us that they could hold their own as the front men of a blues band stacked with huge talents. They chose some definitive songs to play, with this being one of the favorites. We miss John and this song is posted in tribute to him, Floyd Dixon and all the blues greats whose music started us down the road to rock.
8. This Flight Tonight (Joni Mitchell) by Nazareth
Talk about making the song your own! Not much is so far from the original as Nazareth?s interpretation of This Flight Tonight. The original by Joni Mitchell is done in her trademark acoustic style with softly lilting vocals and deeply resonating acoustic guitar. Nazareth kicked up the beat, fuzzed up the vocals and added droning electronics to the lead riff – making an instant hit of this cover version. It is funny to watch this video – not sure why it is on a disco show – and see the 70?s styles and fashions in retrospect. Thank goodness that has not cycled back again!
7. Powderfinger (Neil Young) by Beat Farmers
The Beat Farmers definitely add some beat to this rendition of the Neil Young ballad about a boy left to defend his home all alone. They put their recognizable vocal style and straight ahead beat into the song, along with some cool “twangy” harmonies, that gives it a real country-punk feeling. This is shorter than original, with one less guitar solo, but is a great version and a good listen nonetheless.
6. I Got the Music in Me (Kiki Dee) by Heart
Woo-hoo, shake your booty! I think this song was a guilty indulgence for a lot of people. It was cool to hate disco – “disco sucks!” – but in private there were a lot of catchy hooks, like this song. Then Heart, true rockers, came out and did this cover, which sort of legitimized one of the formerly “forbidden” disco beats. The Wilson sisters can sing anything and make it sound good. Unfortunately there is no video to go with it, so we can just enjoy the track.
5. Satisfaction (Rolling Stones) by Aretha Franklin
The Queen of Soul gives us her special version of the Stones classic. It?s the little things like how she brings her voice up when she hits the first note on “I” cant get no or when says “useless” information that transform this song. The arrangement with the horns punching it out on the chorus, along with Aretha?s phenomenal voice makes this rock tune total R&B, which is really a fitting sentiment considering the huge influence that the genre had on the British Invasion bands of the 60′s, including the Stones and the Beatles.
4. Me and My Uncle (John Phillips) by Joni Mitchell
This song was written by John Phillips, Papa of the Mamas and Papas fame (father of Mackenzie Phillips of One Day at a Time fame, for anyone old enough to remember that show). This is one of the Joni Mitchell’s first performances, and the song has since been covered by many bands, perhaps most famously by the Dead. Joni was amazingly fresh and gorgeous, with music just exuding from her as she sings. Though she played a song written by someone else for this appearance, she proved to be one of the stunning songwriting talents of her generation. She sure makes this song her own.
3. Enter Sandman by Apocalyptica
This group proves that the cello is not just for Bach. They have wicked attitude, totally attacking the scary mood of this song. Check out the crowd that they draw, bouncing around waving the metal horns. Gotta love it. If you want to hear the cleaner studio version click here (this will open in a new window).
2. Born in Chicago (Paul Butterfield) by The Pixies
This song is was made famous the 60′s blues-based band, The Paul Butterfield Band, given the name of its founder and front man. The Pixies covered the song for a retrospective album from Elektra, in which Elektra had several of its better known artists do cover songs of their choice. The concept was interesting and produced many great covers by the Elektra family of bands, with this being one of my personal favorites.
1. Hot for Teacher (Van Halen) by Dillinger Escape Plan
Van Halen get thrashed by this group, but in a good way. Dillinger Escape Plan is described as a heavy metal band under the mathcore style (linked if you want to know more about this genre; it is too detailed to really get into here). Really just a cool ground up version of this classic, which is a fast paced song to begin with and given some extra juice by the Dillinger gang.
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