Sunday, February 5, 2012

Best Cover Ever?

I just heard Devo's "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" on the radio. It's easily the cover version which most surpasses its original. But might it also be the best cover ever?

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is great, but I'm not positive it is the best cover of that song, as I also like Cat Power's: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W97TF9PCKWg

Anonymous said...

Cat Power's chorus-free version is great too, but can Devo really top both Otis Redding's at the Whiskey A Go-Go or Phyllis Diller? http://www.youtube.com/embed/dTVpL4PmVXA

Anonymous said...

Devo's version is brilliant -- I also prefer it to the original but I am not sure if it is the best cover ever...

anonymouse said...

Anybody who says it's not the best cover ever owes us a competitor. Evidence, people.

Devo's version of Satisfaction is clearly the best cover ever. But this one is quite good: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZCdFq5Zw8Y

Nice discussion of covers here: http://whatisthewhat.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/music-club/

Anonymous said...

I vote for Pussy Galore's cover of Einst├╝rzende Neubauten's Yu Gung. Or the Brothers Johnson's cover of Strawberry Letter 23.

Glaucon said...

If it's not the best, it's right up there. Other faves include Talking Heads' cover of "Take Me To The River," The Feelies' "Everybody's Got Something to Hide (Except for Me and My Monkey)," the Gourds' "Gin and Juice" and of course it's hard to even think of Aretha's "Respect" as a cover. I remember a great Husker Du cover of "8 Miles High," too.

Anonymous said...

Siouxsie and the Banshees, "Dear Prudence" is the best cover ever

Anonymous said...

I say this is all just wind in sails.

Anonymous said...

I've long been fond of Dinosaur Jr's cover of "Just Like Heaven". It even ends sooner, for no good reason, something that would make a lot of songs better.

Anonymous said...

Uh...hello: John R. Cash, "Hurt."

Darius Jedburgh said...

Stiff Little Fingers "Johnny Was"
Feelies "She Said She Said" (live; don't know if there's a decent recording)
Elvis Costello & The Attractions "Knowing Me Knowing You" (ditto)

Anonymous said...

Hey, Rod Stewart has done some covers.

Jon Cogburn said...

No offense meant to Devo, who are wonder-working in their power, but. . .

Nirvana's interpretation of the brother's Meat? David Bowie? and improbably Leadbelly?

Speaking of Leadbelly- CCR's Midnight Special? Whomever it was who did the great 70s version of Little Black Bettie? Cash's version of "Stripes?" Bryan Ferry's version of Irene, Goodnight? etc. etc. etc.

Black Flag's country version of No Values?

For that matter, if (as with Flag) covering yourself counts, then certainly the Circle Jerks' slow version of When the Shit Hits the Fan (from Repo Man).

Angry Samoans version of Highway to Hell? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gh5Ar7tGiZg)

Cash's version of Bird on a Wire and The Beast in Me?

Never recorded, but legendary- the version of Route 66 from that one drug addled tour when Iggy Pop was singing with the surviving Doors (Pop was institutionalized shortly thereafter, after which David Bowie took him to Berlin).

I'm not saying these beat out Devo's No Satisfaction, which is a bit of rock and roll perfection (along with much of their original oevre), but I'm not sure that Devo's cover is *better than* any of the above.

Jon Cogburn said...

Sorry, two more.

The Dictators version of Search and Destroy-- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3XyJ0VjAw4

The Dictators were only punk band that AC/DC loved btw, so I'm impelled to add AC/DCs cover of Baby Please Don't Go, which also rocks my socks.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VlRUIHwygc

Anonymous said...

The Meatmen cover of "How Soon is Now" by The Smiths.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kQ2VtHFUe8

Anonymous said...

What? No love for Jimi?

"All Along the Watch Tower"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V008MjXP5Pg

And, technically, "Hey, Joe" is a cover, as well:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tUdUVmnWNc&feature=related

Lastly, though it's not quite in the "best cover" category, this did inspire me to pass my 10th grade driver's ed exam (on the second try, ahem). We pulled-out of the parking lot, I turned-on the radio, and I knew I was going to pass this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2hTBVDx7QQ

loong said...

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loong said...

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Anonymous said...

Maybe not the best cover ever. But the original was so horrible and the cover is *so* much better that it deserves honorable mention.

Lily Allen's cover of Britney Spears' "Womanizer"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jOzuLsJIUE

Anonymous said...

I guess wigs are a kind of cover.

Anonymous said...

Devo's "Satisfaction" is a great cover. They absolutely WRECK the song, for which I thank them.

Another competitor: Elvis Costello "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?"

Anonymous said...

dinosaur jr.'s "show me the way"

Anonymous said...

Cowboy Junkies cover of "Sweet Jane".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4XVJj4jER4

Anonymous said...

I would very much appreciate it if someone offered some reasons for why this cover by Devo is so great. I've seen one so far, offered by 12:04. Apparently it is so good because they "WRECK" the song.

Anonymous said...

2:34-- the Devo version is so herky-jerky and disjointed that it is itself dissatisfying-- fits and starts. The Stones' version of performatively contradictory.

Anonymous said...

3:30:

Original poster asking for reasons here. Thank you! So then it's really the fact that the cover is a shitty piece of music *qua* piece of music that makes it such an excellent cover. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

Great song.

Anonymous said...

The Squirts' cover of the Pagans' "Eyes of Satan." At least if we narrow the discussion to Cleveland bands covering Cleveland bands.

Richard Greene said...

It's gotta be Hurra Torpedo's cover of Total Eclipse of the Heart for both categories (best cover and cover that most surpasses its original).

Enjoy!

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4462791062611472906

Jon Cogburn said...

Three more, in order of increasing awesomeness.

The Dead Kennedys cover of I fought the law-
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAdc2Rq9a4U

The White Stripes cover of Jolene- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4rYaLBUpLA&ob=av2n

Cash's version of 13 (orig. Danzig!)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33Kv5D2zwyc&feature=related

English Jerk said...

Maybe we should distinguish between a cover that's just a performance of a song someone else wrote and a cover that depends for its effect on invoking the original. So Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower" strikes me as falling into the first category: you can get what Hendrix is up to even if you have no acquaintance at all with the original (or even if you're unaware that it's a cover). Whereas Devo's "Satisfaction" clearly falls into the second category: it's a good Devo song on its own terms (if you like their plastic nerd rock aesthetic) but it also invites comparison with the Stones song in a way that reveals what was always ridiculous about it (baby baby baby baby baby baby baby baby baby). Similarly, the Kennedys' "I Fought the Law" seems to depend on prior acquaintance with the Clash original, though the relationship with the original seems more complex in that case. And even with something like John Cale's cover of "Heartbreak Hotel" (perhaps my favorite cover), the cover departs in style so dramatically from the original that the departure seems part of the point (and thus it needs to invoke the original in order to make the gap between them visible).

There's probably a third kind, namely a parody (like a Weird Al song), which has little or no value as a free-standing song and works entirely through its dependence on the original. But the most interesting kind is clearly the middle one, where it's both a free-standing song and invokes an original that it enters into some kind of relation with. --All of which is just a roundabout answer to the earlier question about why the Devo cover is so good.

Anonymous said...

For philosophical treatment of cover songs, check out:

http://www.popular-musicology-online.com/issues/02/mosser.html

and

http://www.fecundity.com/job/coversongs.pdf

Anonymous said...

"I Fought the Law" is not a Clash original.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPXnoLAEUSQ

Anonymous said...

Look up Alanis Morrisette's take on the execrable "My Humps."

Anonymous said...

Tori Amos covering "Smells like Teen Spirit"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaAI3jI7uCc&feature=fvwrel

You're welcome.

LWF said...

Devo's "Satisfaction" most surpasses its original? Hardly.

Elvis Costello's "What's So Funny..."? Outstanding.

But recorded only yesterday in glorious monophonic:

The Beach Boys "Do You Wanna Dance?"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzDLZ1crhgM

Anonymous said...

Holy shit that Tori Amos cover is outstandingly good.

Anonymous said...

Tori also covered Reign in Blood.

Pound Foolish said...

OCMS covering Dylan's unfishished, unreleased Wagon Wheel:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2vJUadjdmo

Gillian Welch doing the traditional Make Me Down a Pallet on Your Floor (first recorded by Mississipi John Hurt and Bunk Johnson):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWsWFjO9MlE

Dig it! The Bricats do Last Caress:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IV8uZEp9lgE

EN does Nancy Sinatra:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BiODjvVEOw

Minor Threat does The Monkees (first recorded by Paul Revere and the Raiders):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0uSGsB59ko

Pound Foolish said...

One more:

Joe Strummer doing Redemption Song brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dc5dg6oVXq0

Same with Cash joining Strummer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGVSTsgcCvw

Anonymous said...

9:39 AM

The song Amos covers is "Raining Blood" from the album "Reign in Blood". I prefer the original.

vonSydow said...

Psychic Television "Good Vibrations" (Beach Boys)

Bryan Ferry & Roxy Music "Jealous Guy" (J. Lennon)

Jonah Matranga "Savory" (Jawbox)

David Bowie "Cactus" (Pixies)

Einsturzende Neubauten "Morning Dew" (The Dead)

Saint Etienne "Stormtroopers in Drag" (Tubeway Army)

And I second the Minor Threat suggestion

Anonymous said...

Xiu Xiu's cover of Joy Division's "Ceremony" is fantastic. So is the Galaxie 500 cover of the same. But maybe that won't play around here.

Also Dinosaur Jr.'s acoustic cover of Greg Sage's "On the Run."

Anonymous said...

Another vote for Devo, Siouxsie, Cash, and Cowboy Junkies.

The Pixies' cover of "In Heaven" from Eraserhead is a contender:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IR0gb0NO5Q
(They're also good at the Beatles. The Pixies do a fun "Wild Honey Pie" and the Breeders do an awesome "Happiness is A Warm Gun.")

William Shatner/Pulp "Common People"is brilliant:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXWEM4gZhg4

Taken by Tree's "Sweet Child of Mine" is brilliant, because it distills the sentimentality of the original and plays it absolutely straight:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dqVDQ-lF4Q

Butthole Surfers/Donovan, "Hurdy Gurdy Man":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yQBs81DJh8&feature=related

Galaxie 500/Yoko Ono "Listen the Snow is Falling":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX-o3rN99pI

Bauhaus/Bowie, "Ziggy":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTyePL5JvVI

Sisters of Mercy/Rolling Stones "Gimme Shelter" (they do a good Iggy 1969, too):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BC3g5iRqic

Maybe we need a thread on best covers of particular artists, like Dylan, Beatles, Stones?

For great genre-reinvented covers:

Paul Anka, Rock Swings (pitch perfect sleezy lounge versions of Van Halen's Jump, the Pet Shop Boys' It's A Sin, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Love Cats)

Vitamin String Quartet (classical covers of Pixies, Metallica, Weezer's Pinkerton, 80s power ballads, and just about anything else).

Nouvelle Vague (bossa nova versions of "Too Drunk to Fuck," "Marian," "Guns of Brixton," "Love will Tear Us Apart")

And the most heart breaking covers album you'll ever fail to manage to listen to all the way through, The Langley Schools Music Project:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRZBvJx4XEE

Anonymous said...

No, you're all wrong. The best cover, hands down, is Sonic Youth's cover of The Carpenters' Superstar:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wbi67r13-uc

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Carpenters covers, there is of course also Shonen Knife doing "Top of the World"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ba360Dz1sQ

Anonymous said...

That's a great one. The pronunciation's fun, too: "I'm on Toppoda Wurd."

Anonymous said...

Mazzy Star's cover of Memphis Minnie's "I'm Gonna Bake My Biscuit":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-l4B6gyUIo

Anonymous said...

I think The Maine's cover of Akon/Snoop Dogg's 'I Wanna Love You' is pretty epic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6hxhLzPTR8