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THE TOP 100 COVER SONGS
PART ONE #100-#76

For certain, cover songs have it easy.  As any bar band will testify to, cashing in on the nostalgia of an existing work is an easy way to get your music heard.  But throughout the history of modern popular music, there have been cover songs that have dared to dream beyond the boundaries of the original version that inspired it.  Some are better than the first take, some compliment and respect it perfectly, while others often have such a unique, bizarre, or completely different twist on the source material that becomes something completely new and wonderful.  With the aid of Bradley Mason Hamlin, and hundreds of retroCRUSH readers we've compiled a list that pays respect to our Top 100 choices. 

I tried to limit the list to songs that were at least somewhat well known songs before they were covered.  There's certainly an ocean of songs that were plucked from obscurity and made much more famous by others, but that's a list for another time.  And of course, I'm sure to be missing your favorite song an am an idiot for choosing others instead, so feel free to email me at rberry@retrocrush.com and let me know what's what.

DIVIDED INTO FOUR SECTIONS CLICK THE LINKS BELOW TO CONTINUE
100-76   75-51   50-26   25-1

 

#100 "Gold Dust Woman"
by Hole
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Fleetwood Mac

Courtney took the Stevie Nicks written classic and gave it a kickass rock flavor that actually made the soundtrack to The Crow City of Angels worth buying.  Just think, in a few years people might actually do sappy covers of Courtney's work. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A SAMPLE

#99 "Surfin Bird"
by The Cramps
ORIGINAL ARTIST: The Trashmen

Though nobody's ever going to outdo the original version of this crazy classic, The Cramps definitely flip it upside down and knock it on its ass.  Lead singer Lux Interior sounds like he's broadcasting straight out of some LSD trip-out.   The overdubbed echo effects make the track sound like insanity personified. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A SAMPLE

 

#98 "The Banana Splits Theme"
by The Dickies
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Richie Adams/Mark Barkham

It seems almost cliche for punk bands to do silly cover songs, but The Dickies were breaking new ground by doing wacky takes of classic TV themes including such gems as "Gigantor" and "Eep! Opp! Ork! Ah-Ah!" (from "The Jetsons").  But it's their cover of "The Banana Splits Theme" that brings the biggest smile to my face.    Also not to be missed is their 1978 cover of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid". CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A SAMPLE

#97 "Behind The Wheel/Route 66"
by Depeche Mode
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Bobby Troup/Nat King Cole

80s techno greats Depeche Mode really never loaded up on cover songs, but their unlikely take on "Route 66" was great fun, especially when mixed with their single "Behind The Wheel".  The two songs blend together so seamlessly it's hard to think of one without the other. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A SAMPLE

#96 "Mighty Love"
by Todd Rundgren
ORIGINAL ARTIST: The Spinners

The review of Todd Rundgren's "A Capella" album in Rolling Stone Magazine was so intriguing that I asked to get it for Christmas without hearing a single song from it.  The entire album is full of great songs that feature massive vocal dubbing with only minimal (if any) instruments on each track.  The album closes with the rousing "Mighty Love" which has remained one of my favorite songs to this day.  Imagine my surprise when I picked up the soundtrack to Spike Lee's "Crooklyn" at a yard sale and learned that it was a remake of a 70s hit from The Spinners.  It was mighty bizarre to hear the original version that was more slow and groovy than Rundgren's spazzy engergetic take.  Here's a sample of each so you can enjoy them both.
CLICK HERE to LISTEN TO THE SPINNERS ORIGINAL VERSION
CLICK HERE to LISTEN TO TODD RUNDGREN'S REMAKE

#95 "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey"
by Ice T and Perry Farrell.
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Sly and The Family Stone

This is one of those great unreleased songs that's just begging to be unleashed.  During the first Lollapalooza festival tour, Ice T and Perry Farrell traded the verses back and forth from this Sly and The Family Stone classic.  Perhaps we'll get some special Lollapalooza boxed set someday.  You can read more about the song and how it came together if you CLICK HEREHere's a clip on YouTube of the two singing it, from Perry Farrell's film Gift.

#94 "Redemption Song"
by Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Bob Marley

How can you not love a duet cover of Marley's classic done by two of the coolest guys in music history?   What a lucky bastard Rick Rubin was to be there and watch these legends go at it.  According to the liner notes, Strummer showed up at Cash's place, as many musicians had, and was a bit nervous, hanging around outside.  Once he came in, they played some Bob Marley songs, and Johnny picked "Redemption Song".  With both of these icons dying within a year of each other, it's a beautiful tribute to listen to, that still gets me teary. CLICK TO HEAR A SAMPLE.  It's too bad there's not video of the two singing it together, but HERE'S A COOL TRIBUTE VIDEO of Joe's solo version.

#93 "El Tango De Roxanne"
by Ewan Macgregor, Jose Feliciano, and Jacek Koman

ORIGINAL ARTIST: The Police
The soundtrack to Moulin Rouge! is full of crazy unlikely covers, most of which work rather well, but the real standout is the insane version of Roxanne that takes great Tango guitar by Feliciano and Polish born Jacek Koman's Argentinian accented vocals, and throws in another song by Ewan MacGregor, and it blends into a perfect passionate and exciting song.  Honorable mention to Eddie Murphy's brief "Roxanne" cover in Another 48 Hours. CLICK HERE FOR A SAMPLE

#92 "Don't Leave Me This Way"
by The Communards

ORIGINAL ARTIST: Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
After leaving Bronski Beat, lead singer Jimmy Sommerville joined up with The Communards and made this remake, and perhaps does the disco diva vocals even better than Thelma Houston's 1976 remake.  Also not to be missed is Sommerville's equally fun remake of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love." CLICK HERE FOR A SAMPLE

#91 "18 And Life"
by Nina Gordon

ORIGINAL ARTIST: Skid Row
I stumbled on Nina's website when somebody linked her unlikely cover of NWA's "Straight Outta Compton."  What a neat surprise to see a ton of fun cover songs in the "Sights and Sounds" section of her page.  Her take on Skid Row's "18 and Life" gives the song a simplicity and fun that the original was sorely lacking.  Nina was half of the 90s pop duo Veruca Salt, and her gentle crystalline voice lends a innocent touch to the songs.  I don't believe any of these have ever truly been released on CD, but thankfully she has full versions on her site for easy and free listening.  Also worth checking out are her performances of "Nobody's Fool" and "One More Night".
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO SOME GREAT NINA GORDON TUNES

 

#90 "Spider-Man TV Theme"
by The Ramones
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Howlin' Man-Wolf

The Ramones could have sang the phone book and I would have enjoyed it.  They are so raw and fun, one can't help but rock out to any of their fine tunes.  Their cover of the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon theme is no exception.  Joey's nasal vocals with the shotgun guitars of the rest of the band are fantastic.   If you can find the Cartoon Network produced "Saturday Morning" album, which features a lot of fun cartoon theme covers by other bands as well, it's worth ever penny.  Particularly good are Collective Soul's recording of "The Bugaloos", and The Butthole Surfers take on the theme from Underdog. CLICK HERE FOR THE AMAZON PAGE with SAMPLES OF ALL THE SONGS.  Plus, CLICK HERE for a very cool amateur jam version of the song on You Tube by Laurie and David played on piano and guitar.

#89 "Landslide"
by Smashing Pumpkins
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Fleetwood Mac

It's not too often that a male version of a song originally intended for female vocals works as well as this.  Billy Corrgan's Big Birde-like voice and simple guitar offer a beautiful take on the Fleetwood Mac classic, that much more sincere than the going through motions version by The Dixie Chicks, years later.  Also not to be missed is The Pumpkin's version of Depeche Mode's "Never Let Me Down." CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A SAMPLE

#88 "Got The Time"
by Anthrax
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Joe Jackson

I'd honestly not heard the Anthrax cover of Joe Jackson's "Got the Time" until readers Kombo H, Jack M, and Kevin B suggested it for the list.  While Anthrax's cover/duet of Public Enemy's "Bring The Noise" made a lot of people, it was ultimately too quirky and silly to be all that good.  "Got The Time" is a home run, though. CLICK HERE FOR A SAMPLE

#87 "Mony Mony"
by Billy Idol
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Tommy James

Billy already covered his Gen X era "Dancing With Myself", and made The Deathstars "White Wedding" into a hit, so digging out the 1968 "Mony Mony" wasn't a surprise.  This is one of those songs where the lyrics make me want to bash my head into a wall, but the delivery is so great, all is forgiven. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A SAMPLE

 

#86 "Dancing In The Street"
by David Bowie and Mick Jagger
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Martha Reeves

Though some will argue that the cover by Van Halen is better, the over the top pop version by Jagger and Bowie is the one I prefer.  Maybe it's just the goofy ass visual of them dancing around like the biggest queens of the world in the campy video, but I love it.  The cover by The Grateful Dead is a fun version, too. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A SAMPLE

#85 "Comfortably Numb"
by The Scissor Sisters
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Pink Floyd
It's such a ludicrous version of the Floyd classic, with a techno beat and a falsetto delivery that would make The Bee Gees jealous, but it works. 

#84 "Pipeline"
by Dick Dale and Stevie Ray Vaughn
ORIGINAL ARTIST: The Ventures

Pipeline is one of those standards that any surf-guitar players worth their salt will cover at least once, but when Dick Dale and Stevie Ray Vaughn made their version, there was just no point in trying anymore. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A SAMPLE

#83 "Top of The World"
By Shonen Knife
ORIGINAL ARTIST: The Carpenters

Such a fun cover, from the compilation CD, "If I Were A Carpenter".  Nearly every song these gals have recorded make you feel happy and great, but this one really sticks out.  And the way they struggle to sing "world" makes it all the more charming. Their cover of The Monkees "Daydream Believer" is also worth a listen  (thanks to retroCRUSH readers Colin G, Tim S, and Paul B for the suggestion!) CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A SAMPLE

#82  "Peace Train"
By 10,000 Maniacs
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Cat Stevens

I'm not a big fan of Natalie Merchant personally, but her voice does it to me every time.  Her cover of this Cat Stevens classic was a wonderful inclusion on their debut album "In My Tribe", but her removal of it from later printings to protest Stevens' implied support of Salman Rushdie's death sentence did little more than cheat her fans that make any kind of change in the world.  It may have even inspired her to butcher The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy For The Devil", which is one of the most unforgivably bad covers of them all.  For a special treat, CLICK HERE To watch  a cover of "Peace Train" on YouTube by some guy named Yusef Islam that's pretty good, too.

 

#81  "Smooth Criminal"
By Alien Ant Farm
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Michael Jackson

How these guys took such a ridiculously stupid song from Jacko and made it such a rocking classic is a miracle to me.  The guitar is great, and the video further compliments the tune, with all sorts of odds and ends from the Neverland universe appearing within. It's too bad Michael Jackson didn't get the joke, as his people rejected an offer to let them play on one of his masturbatory TV concerts years ago.

#80  "Rawhide"
By The Blues Brothers
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Frankie Laine

The late '50s/early '60s TV theme is such a wonderful part of pop culture, and during The Blues Brothers film, when Jake and Elwood literally whip out the classic to appease an angry room of bottle throwing country fucks, it's one of cinema's funniest moments. 

#79 "Lean on Me"
By Club Noveau
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Bill Withers

Though Withers' original version is such an emotional and outstanding masterpiece by Bill Withers, the hip-hop variation by Club Noveau was a hip instant classic when it debuted in 1986.  The Sacramento based band escaped one hit wonder status with the equally cool "Why Do You Treat Me So Bad" shortly after. CLICK TO LISTEN TO A SAMPLE or CLICK HERE to watch it on YouTube.

#78 "Suspicious Minds"
by Fine Young Cannibals
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Elvis Presley

Talk about a group that should get back in the studio!  Though they've never officially broken up, Fine Young Cannibals hasn't recorded a new album since 1989.  Apparently, Roland Gift's tremendous vocal talents have been squandered in pursuit of an acting career (I saw him in the horrible [and deceivingly titled] Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, which should have been hint enough to stop).  Their cover of the Presley classic is a bit overproduced, but that's part of the charm, with great horns and guitar throughout.  Also worth checking out is their cover of The Buzzcocks "Ever Fallen In Love?" CLICK TO LISTEN TO A SAMPLE.  You can see the FYC video on YouTube if you CLICK HERE, or watch Elvis sing it HERE in a 1973 clip.

#77 "Ain't That A Shame"
by Cheap Trick
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Fats Domino

Next to Richie Cunningham's stirring rendition of "Blueberry Hill", the best Fats Domino cover of all time has to be Cheap Trick's take on "Ain't That A Shame".  Their rockin' version from the immortal "At Budokan (Live)" album kicks all kinds of ass. "Budokan", by the way, still ranks as one of the best live albums of all time. Cheap Trick has a new album, "Rockford", that just came out, and it's getting great reviews.  We'll have one up shortly.  I hope the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wakes up and finally gives these guys the credit they deserves.  They've been consistently putting out great stuff since they've started.  You can see what they're up to and listen to some tracks from their new CD by visiting CHEAPTRICK.comCLICK HERE to see them perform a kickass version of it on YouTube.

#76 "Higher Ground"
by The Red Hot Chili Peppers
ORIGINAL ARTIST: Stevie Wonder

Covering a Stevie Wonder song is no easy task, as he pretty much breaks the mold and gets it so right the first time, there's no point in even trying.  But the hyper insane extra voltage version by The Peppers kicks all kinds of ass.  It's respectful to Wonder but different enough to not be an outright copy.  You can't help but bang your head in appreciation. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A SAMPLE and CLICK HERE to see the video on YouTube.

DIVIDED INTO FOUR SECTIONS CLICK THE LINKS BELOW TO CONTINUE
100-76   75-51   50-26   25-1

 

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