When An Artist Transcends The Material (A Covers Thread - Sort Of)

Wumpus, holy shit, those versions of the rap songs were awesome, thanks for the links. My time listening to them was split between laughing and marveling. The Dynamite Hack video did a hilarious job switching the theme to rich white.

In the same vein, I have always like the Me First and the Gimme Gimmes; their punky versions of classic slow songs are not necessarily better than the originals but they have enough talent to pull it off. Thanks to one of the old threads from right here at Qt3 for introducing me to the band.

In line with the thread topic, I have always liked LInda Ronstadt’s version of Roy Orbison’s Blue Bayou. I don’t know that I’d call Orbison’s version bad, but Ronstadt’s version is soo smooth.

Woah. I didn’t think anyone could really do that song justice except the original. That was an excellent job, and absolutely faithful to the source. Nice.

Not better than the original but posting this because D. Boon went out way too damn young


The original of this is by a PNW band I really love, a group called The Green Pajamas who put out a record every year and have been around since the early 1980s. The original is sort of weird and unfinished sounding.

Jimmy Ellison and the boys made it their own. RIP

The original “Red Balloon” is a very folkish tune by Tim Hardin, a very acoustic Dylanish thing.

The Small Faces turned it into a very British folk soul blues that totally owns the original, mostly thanks to Stevie Marriott’s insane vamping vocals.

In the late 1960s there was a terrible prime time Western/comedy/romance called “Here Come The Brides”. It was notable for having Bobby Sherman in it, as he was becoming an unlikely teen heartthrob, even though he sorta looked like he was 40. Anyway, Bobby “sang” the theme song, a tune called “Seattle”. It’s a song that manages to make the Brady Bunch theme feel as if it has gravitas. It’s a terrible, terrible theme song.

For whatever reason, Game Theory recorded a cover of it, and stuck it in as a bonus track on one of their CDs…and with just an acoustic guitar and no obnoxious horns and just Scott Miller’s fragile vocal, it’s a beautiful sounding, transcendent song. The chorus of “Like a beautiful child/Growing up free and wild” sound poignant and lovely here, not vapid and goofy the way they do when Bobby Sherman croaks them.

For comparison’s sake:

Lotta folks think “Police On My Back” is a Clash original. It sure fits with their canon of material. But the song was actually originally recorded by a beat-era British group, one of the few integrated London bands ever–The Equals. The Equals version is fun, but kinda primitive…and most notable for the presence of rhythm guitarist and baking vocalist Eddie Grant, nearly 15 years before “Electric Avenue”.

Anyway, The Clash take this to the next level…

For comparison’s sake:

By the time Pink Floyd had gone into the studio to record their second record, they knew they had a serious issue. Guitarist/singer/songwriter Syd Barrett was clearly in bad shape. He was shifting from catatonia to fugue states to briefer and briefer periods of lucidity. The group brought in Syd’s buddy, Dave Gilmour, to assist on the guitar tracks and when it became apparent that Barrett couldn’t continue, he was gently pushed from the band and Gilmour came on full time.

The only thing Barrett did that was remotely lucid enough to appear on that second record was a song called “Jugband Blues”. It is a troubled-sounding song, like bits of three or four songs smushed together in ways that only make sense if you’re Syd Barrett.

So a band called Opal covered that song. Kind of. First off, you know Opal, even if you don’t think you do. Opal was David Roback’s first band after leaving The Rain Parade, with his then-girlfriend Kendra Smith on bass and vocals. When Dave and Kendra broke up, Dave brought in his new girlfriend Hope Sandoval, and Opal became Mazzy Star. But back to Opal. Dave Roback took out the most lucid bits of “Jugband Blues”, Syd Barrett’s last song as a member of Pink Floyd, and made an actual cohesive song from it, retitling it “If The Sun Don’t Shine.”

Heh. Being The Clash I always assumed it was an obscure piece of reggae.

I should admit that like a lot of us in the thread, I am simply sharing covers of songs that try something different, just like most covers do. This isn’t in the spirit of the OP at all. Perhaps I can make a case for my wife’s pick (the first one below), in her words: the original doesn’t have the dark, intense mood that the wonderful lyrics demand, and Disturbed adds that.

The second pick is mine, and like the other rap songs in the thread that have been covered by folk artists, it’s really not about improving on the song. It’s about hearing it in a new context.

Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence performed as angst:

Justin Timberlake’s Sexy Back performed as folk:

Yeah, I’m not so sure Sounds of Silence belongs here either. But since it is, and I’ve already posted The Dickies once, why the hell not?

Yeah, I really like what Disturbed did with The Sound of Silence, but I still really like the original too.

Looking forward to checking out the rest of the ones in this thread when I get home from work and have sound ;).

I imagine just about anybody would take issue with my calling Hendrix’s “Little Wing” mediocre, and I wouldn’t exactly use that word myself to describe the song. I’d say it’s something of a lesser Hendrix song, more an idea or kernel of a song that didn’t really get followed through. But it’s one of those songs that lots of people have taken a pass at and turned into some pretty great covers - Clapton has a good one, Stevie Ray Vaughn has a great instrumental cover, and my personal favorite is by Sting. Yeah I know, but it’s got a fierce backing band, everything is really tight - this is back when Branford Marsalis was playing sax with him. But at the top of all that, the best thing about this song, is Hiram Bullock on guitar. I don’t know much about this guy, and I can’t think of anything else he’s done that I have heard, but this guy is amazing and this song has what is probably my single favorite guitar solo - it really puts me in mind of a bird taking flight, just a beautiful thing.


This one just came to me…Miracle Legion’s cover of John Cooper Clarke’s “A Heart Disease Called Love”. This is probably the best example I can think of where a band took an objectively terrible song and turned it into something lovely.

I don’t recommend it, but the original is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPJjNaDoADA

My two favorite covers:

The Bangles cover Simon and Garfunkle

and Crosby, Stills and Nash cover the Beatles.

As a general rule I don’t like covers, but both of these just send shivers down my spine.

What an awesome copy of a recent Reddit thread :\

With that, I give you the ultimate cover, the ultimate example of an artist taking another band’s song and just pwning it:

Joe Cocker, “With a Little Help From My Friends”


I know I had posted this video recently in another thread, but…Dancing in the Moonlight is not a necessarily a bad tune, and I don’t dislike Thin Lizzy, but you can tell it could be so much more than what came from the late-70’s instrumentation and production it received. The Smashing Pumpkins really made it come to life.

In this one, Kelley Deal takes a forgettable and largely throw-away GbV b-side filler and turns it into a rock anthem.

An this one probably doesn’t belong in this thread as Wonderwall is a perfectly good tune, but I can’t listen to Oasis doing it after hearing Chan Marshall sing it

Wow that is beautiful in an atonal, dissonant, post-melody kinda way