The History Of Modern Music Culture In Cover Versions


   In the second decade of the 21st century, the mystifying art of the cover song has been almost completely corrupted by the incessant chirruping of all those desperate TV talent show wannabes and neverwillbes. Popstars, Pop Idol, Fame Academy, X Factor, The Voice, those programmes are everywhere, filling up every last minute of our dull weekends. Versions of old classics or recent best sellers remain their staple diet, watered down, homogenised, bland and very, very beige. But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

   The first golden rule of doing a cover is if you don’t have any new flavor to add to the original, then don’t bother in the first place. In the hands of adventurous music makers, covers can be a great device for speaking in a more colloquial tongue. It doesn’t matter how deviant or extreme the execution, what matters is how that close encounter with a familiar melody or hook speaks to even the most casual listener.

   Some re-contextualise the classic’s, some shine a light on the brilliant writing at the heart of the original, while others elicit a wry smile of recognition with just the right amount of humour and reverence. Despite the familiarity so central to their very core, covers are always at their best when offering an entry point into music that is beyond our normal experience, so providing an easy way in to those new listening experiences we all crave so much.

   Listed here, edited down from literally hundreds and thousands, are some of my favourites from the past four decades in a vague attempt to tell the history of modern music culture in cover versions. Some you will know, some you will not, some are radical reconstructions, some just provide a bit of oomph, but all are suitably thrilling remakes, twisting perceptions of their original sound and meaning.     




1. Muse / Feeling Good

Best Known release Nina Simone June 1965 LP ‘I Put A Spell On You’ 


2. Chris Eckman / Yellow Submarine

Original release The Beatles August 1966 Single


3 The Slits / I Heard It Through The Grapevine

Best Known release Marvin Gaye August 1968 Single


4 Laibach / Sympathy For The Devil

Original release Rolling Stones December 1968 LP ‘Beggars Banquet’


5. Paul Quinn & Edwyn Collins / Pale Blue Eyes

Original release The Velvet Underground March 1969 LP ‘Velvet Underground’


6. Flying Lizards / Sex Machine

Original release James Brown July 1970 Single


7. Saint Etienne / Only Love Will Break Your Heart

Original release Neil Young August 1970 LP ‘After The Goldrush’


8. Trent Reznor & Karen O / Immigrant  Song 

Original release Led Zeppelin October 1970 LP ‘Led Zeppelin III’


9. Sonic Youth / Superstar

Best Known release The Carpenters August 1971 Single


10. Black Box Recorder / Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide

Original release David Bowie June 1972 LP ‘Ziggy Stardust’


11. Placebo / 20th Century Boy

Original release T.Rex March 1973 Single


12. The Young Gods / Hello Hello I’m Back Again

Original release Gary Glitter April 1973 Single


13. Red Hot Chili Peppers / Higher Ground

Original release Stevie Wonder July 1973 Single


14. Alabama 3 / Hotel California

Original release The Eagles December 1976 LP ‘Hotel California’


15. Faith No More / Easy

Original release The Commodores March 1977 Single


16. Lily Allen / Mr Blue Sky

Original release Electric Light Orchestra October 1977 LP ‘Out Of The Blue’


17. R.E.M. / Strange

Original release Wire November 1977 LP ‘Pink Flag’


18. Jeff Buckley / Lilac Wine

Best Known release Elkie Brooks January 1978 Single


19. The Fall / Lost In Music

Original release Sister Sledge January 1979 LP ‘We Are Family’


20. Grace Jones / She’s Lost Control

Original release Joy Division August 1979 LP ‘Unknown Pleasures’




1. Afghan Whigs / Lost In The Supermarket

Original release The Clash December 1979 LP ‘London Calling’


2. LCD Soundsystem / Slowdive.

Original release Siouxie & The Banshees October 1982 Single


3. Aztec Camera / Jump

Original release Van Halen December 1983 Single


4. T.A.T.U. / How Soon Is Now? 

Original release The Smiths August 1984 Single


5. The Futureheads / Hounds Of Love

Original release Kate Bush September 1985 LP ‘Hounds Of Love’


6. Luna / Sweet Child O Mine

Original release Guns’n’Roses July 1987 LP ‘Appetite For Destruction’


7. Sunday Girl / Where Is My Mind?

Original release The Pixies March 1988 LP ‘Surfer Rosa’


8. Tricky / Black Steel (In The Hour Of Chaos)

Original release Public Enemy April 1988 LP ‘Nation Of Millions’


9. Nada Surf / Enjoy The Silence

Original release Depeche Mode February 1990 Single


10. Polyphonic Spree / Lithium

Original release Nirvana September 1991 LP ‘Nevermind’


11. Ben Folds / Bitche’s Ain’t Shit

Original release Dr Dre December 1992 LP ‘The Chronic’


12. The Gourds / Gin & Juice

Original release Snoop Dogg November 1993 LP ‘Doggystyle’


13. Ryan Adams / Wonderwall

Original release Oasis October 1995 Single


14. The Vines / Ms Jackson

Original release Outkast October 2000 LP ‘Stankonia’


15. Eels / Get Ur Freak On

Original release Missy Elliott March 2001 Single


16. The Cliks / Cry Me A River

Original release Justin Timberlake November 2002 Single


17. Snow Patrol / Crazy In Love

Original release Beyonce May 2003 Single


18. Yael Naim / Toxic

Original release Britney Spears November 2003 LP ‘In The Zone’


19. Manic Street Preachers / Umbrella

Original release Rihanna March 2007 Single