Since the Earvolution staff put together their list of best cover songs, I thought I might as well get them to list the worst ones. No objective criteria here, but most of these songs either want to make the reviewer turn the dial or cringe when its an otherwise good artist making a mistake. Here goes:
Me (Jeff Davidson):
Zwan – Don’t Let Me Down, Beatles.
Of course, most Zwan songs were pretty bad so its no suprise their cover of this great tune didn’t cut the mustard either.
Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes, The Who
I’ll be honest – I just don’t like Fred Durst. I tried to like him back in the early days, but I just can’t and therefore turn the channel anytime this overplayed song comes on.
Sheryl Crow – Sweet Child ‘O Mine, GNR
I like Sheryl, but this one just doesn’t cut it. As crazy as old Axl is these days, he rocked this tune and Sheryl’s sweet voice just doesn’t do it justice.
Perhaps the worst in recent history that I have heard is:
Uncle Kracker’s cover of “Drift Away.”
The original by Dobie Gray, or even the cover by the Doobie Brothers is so much better. Gray’s voice is soulful. And Uncle Kracker, well… Every time, I hear the cover on the radio, it gets the automatic channel change from me.
Dancin’ in the Streets
Original Artist: Martha and The Vandellas (Released as single, 1964)
Cover Artist: Grateful Dead Terrapin Station (1977)
The original locked up the 40th spot in Rolling Stones’ “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” The cover is scorned by both Deadheads and classic rock lovers alike. As one might expect, the Dead managed to play outstanding versions of the song outside the confines of the recording studio. Check out Dick’s Picks Volume 3 for a tasty version that features lengthy, focused and hypnotic leads by Garcia during a year in which the band was atop its game.
The First Cut is the Deepest
Original Artist: Cat Stevens New Masters (1967)
Cover Artist: Sheryl Crow One Tree Hill Soundtrack (2005)
Although casual music lovers tend to attribute the song to Rod Stewart based on his 1976 studio recording of the tune, the track was actually penned by Cat Stevens and first recorded by female soul vocalist P.P. Arnold in 1967. (Arnold’s album was actually released before Stevens’ New Masters.) The website Catstevens.com lists six artists besides Crow who have covered the tune. If only it could have remained at six. Crow takes a well-written, introspective song and successfully turns it into a pop nightmare. Thanks, Sheryl.
Crimson & Clover
Original Artist: Tommy James and the Shondells Crimson & Clover (1969)
Cover Artist: Joan Jett & The Blackhearts I Love Rock ‘n Roll (1982)
The haunting, tremolo-laced 1969 original seems like an odd choice for treatment by Joan Jett, until one discovers that the Shondells’ keyboard player worked with Joan Jett since the beginning of her solo career. Distorted guitars substitute for the original instrumentation, destroying the very vibe that makes the Tommy James original so appealing. This, however, did not stop Ms. Jett’s version from reaching the Top Ten. The original peaked at Number One.
Madonna “American Pie” (Don Mclean)
Before Madge was British she felt justified in taking on this slice of Americana. While crappy canned beats may have started in America ,hearing any reference to a Chevy over top of them gives you that orange juice after you brushed your teeth feeling.
Rufus Wainwright “Hallelujah” (Leonard Cohen)
This cringe inducer almost ruined “Shrek” for me. Not only is this a feeble cover of Buckley’s cover, but Wainwright abandons the poetic license meant for the rhyme. He sings “… how to shoot somebody that out drew you.” rather than “… that out drew ya.” Making the title seem out of place.
The Scissor Sisters “Comfortably Numb” (Pink Floyd)
You have to really hate a song to cover it the way The Scissor Sisters cover “Comfortably Numb.” The song is just recognizable enough to infuriate any one who has ever heard a guitar. A disco beats and trill vocals have no place, well anywhere really but giving that treatment to such a well crafted classic rock standard constitutes fightin’ words. A bad Gap ad waiting to happen.
The Presidents of the United States of America,
“Video Killed the Radiostar” (The Buggles)
This cover isn’t even good enough to warrant biting witty criticism, so instead you get puns. Man this cover is so bad these guys should be impeached. They should be
called the Commanders in Grief. I hope they get assassinated (okay that one isn’t so much a pun as just a statement.)
George Thorogood “One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer” (John Lee Hooker)
Thorogood has built a pretty successful career on ruining good Country and Blues
songs with corporate rock gloss. He turns this down-on-you-luck story of heartbreak into a chant for balding men reuniting with their old “frat bros.”
Phil Collins “Tomorrow Never Knows” (The Beatles)
It’s real easy to poke fun at Phil Collins. Some may think he is an unfairly easy target. I happen to love Phil Collins, and air drum with my entire soul to “In
the Air Tonight.” It’s sad that this cover is forced onto the same album as such a schlocky masterpiece. It’s like Hinduism stripped of soul and mysticism.
Limp Bizkit “Behind Blue Eyes” (The Who)
It’s actually quite a nice understated song that speaks of a quiet desperation that is universally identifiable. So, please stop yelling Mr. Durst.
Christopher O’Riley “True Love Waits: Christopher O’Riley Plays Radiohead”
I couldn’t decide which reworking on this album a hated the most, so I chose the whole muzaky thing. A lot of overzealous Radiohead fans convinced me to buy this (being an overzealous Radiohead fan myself I took the bait.) Trouble is I hate elevator music. This is the perfect record for the office of a dentist who is trying to assert his hipness without offending anyone.
Marilyn Manson “Suicide is Painless” (Michael Altman/ Johnny Mandell)
The original is introspective, fits in perfectly with the film M*A*S*H and given its
context in the film works on at least 12 different levels (it’s melancholy, it’s macabre, it’s hilarious etc.) Manson’s cover fits in with Blair Witch 2: Book
of Shadows because dreadful shite that should have never been made loves company. When subjected to this cover one may view suicide as sweet relief rather than
Beck and Emmylou Harris “Sin City” (The Flying Burrito Brothers)
This one may not be as overtly bad as some of the others, but it just hurts so much more. Beck, Emmylou and The Burrito Brothers are all brilliant writers and performers that are capable of and deserve so much better. The songs falls on its
face as it is stripped of all emotion. Did L. Ron Hubbard put him up to this one?
Satisfaction – Britney Spears covering Rolling stones – how dare she!?!
Sittin’ on the Dock – Michael Bolton covering Otis Redding – how f-ing dare he!?!
Heroes – Oasis covering David Bowie – sounds like a weak tribute band covering Oasis trying to play Bowie. Abysmal.
What’s Goin On? – Bono and Chris Martin covering Marvin Gaye – they just don’t have Marvin’s pain.
Mrs. Robinson – Lemonheads covering Simon and Garfunkel – sounds like a bunch of college shitheads arsing around with their new electric guitars.
Dixie Chicks with Sheryl Crow covering Bob Dylan’s “Mississippi”
It’s hard to even enumerate everything that’s wrong with this. There is the insipid fiddle riff that’s been added. There is the peppy tempo added to what is, essentially, a very sad song. There is the odd mimicking of early Dylan vocal style, even though that’s not the voice that was recorded with. And most importantly, there is the idea that the Dixie Chicks seem to think they can do this song justice just because it’s called “Mississippi” and because they are, ostesenibly, country musicians. Atrocious.
All Along The Watchtower – Dave Matthews Band covering Bob Dylan
This plodding cover tune has become a staple of every Dave Matthews performance, often as the closing tune. In a misguided effort to duplicate Dylan’s restrained fury, the DMB version is simply dreary and weighed down with by the band’s own sense of self importance. Oh yes, the fact that Jimi Hendrix’ laid the blueprint for the perfect way to play the song doesn’t help.
Heroes – The Wallflowers covering David Bowie
In a bizarre decision, Heroes, a song inspired by an East German tryst David Bowie observed by the Berlin Wall, was selected to be the signature piece for a Godzilla remake. The Wallflowers, who were in their heyday at the time, unfortunately signed on to record a cover of Bowie’s signature piece. Devoid of the passion that the song deserves, the Wallflowers created an unemotional recitation that simply falls flat.
Live And Let Die – Guns & Roses covering Paul McCartney & Wings
Guns & Roses possessed a relatively good track record when choosing songs to cover as evidenced by their relatively restrained version of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. However, on Live and Let Die, the band’s bombastic approach is too heavy-handed and Axl’s screeching is distracting.
Time Will Tell – The Black Crowes covering Bob Marley
The Black Crowes may be many things, but a reggae band is not one of them. Making the odd choice to close their Southern Harmony & Music Companion with a Marley tune, the Crowes attempt a straight cover without bothering to learn a reggae beat. It ends an otherwise solid album on the flattest of notes.
I Shall Be Released – The Band covering Bob Dylan
It is time to finally discuss the elephant in the room by pointing out that Richard Manuel destroys this song with his cracking wheezing voice. Rather than play the song in a key in which he can sing, the Band chooses one that makes it sound like Manuel is having an asthma attack. Instead of an anthem of peace, the Band created the musical equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard.[JD note: There’s a solid live version of I Shall Be Released on the U2 “Covering Them” bootleg when Bob joined the lads onstage in LA back in 1987. He also sat in for Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, also on that same disc.]
Ripple – Janes Addiction covering the Grateful Dead
Perry Farrell added a host of effects and distortion in a wrongheaded effort to create a trippy version of the Dead classic. The result was a muddled, confused mess. This is a road that no one should travel.
I Got You Babe – UB40 & Chrissy Hynde covering Sonny & Cher
The original version was essentially a novelty tune that worked because Cher was three times the size of Sonny Bono. It neither needed re-recording nor a reggae beat, yet that didn’t stop UB40 from enlisting Hynde in this doomed venture. Even more disturbing, the logistics don’t work out – Cher had Sonny, Chrissy Hynde has what, the entire band?
The Raven – Lou Reed covering Edgar Allen Poe
Lou’s genius takes him many places where the rest of us wouldn’t go. Other times it leads him in directions best left unexplored. Reed’s profane interpretation / adaptation of The Raven ignores Poe’s inventive and intricate wordplay and the result is an angry, vindictive, directionless poem recited over a lackluster guitar beat.
Candle In The Wind (Lady Di version) — Elton John covering Elton John
No one can blame Elton John for taking his wonderfully poignant ode to Marilyn Monroe and regurgitating it with different lyrics for his friend Lady Di. However, we can all blame Bernie Taupin for taking part in this venture. Surely, he should have known better. When John Lennon died, the pair came up with Empty Garden. Had the well run that dry that needed to infringe on their own copyrights? Where the original has poetry, the Lady Di version sounds like a plagiarized assignment for 10th grade English class.
Nutrocker – Emerson Lake & Palmer covering Tchaikovsky
Not wanting to reserve their pretentiousness to solely classical music, ELP thought they could cover ballet as well. Their ill-advised marriage of synthesizers and the Nutcracker Suite fails to conjure visions of sugar plum fairies. Rather, it raises images of the apocalypse and how if it came before the end of the song, it might not be a bad thing.Powered by Sidelines