Top Ten Cover Versions

The cover version is a strange beast. I generally have a natural aversion to them, seeking out originals instead. However, ocassionally a cover can live up to or surpass the original. For example, whilst not one of my top ten, All Along the Watchtower is synonymous with Hendrix, despite being a Bob Dylan composition. This is a list of my ten favourite covers, I believe they all at least do justice to the original.

Small Faces – You’ve Really Got a Hold of Me. For sixties British bands Motown was a source of inspiration and material and many covered ‘The Sound of Young America’. However, whilst The Beatles versions of numbers by The Marvelettes and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles never did the originals justice, this Small Faces cover of Smokey’s ‘You’ve Really Got a Hold of Me’ is excellent.  A reggae cover of this by Derrick Harriott is also worth a listen.

Delroy Wilson – This Old Heart of Mine. Old Delroy loves a cover of a Motown standard and several of his could have made the list – ‘The Same Old Song’ and ‘I Can’t Help Myself’ were serious contenders – however I have plumped for this.  The instrumentation and Delroy’s voice capture the love sick yearning of the original whilst putting an obvious reggae slant on what was a soul song.

The Style Council – Paris Match (Tracey Thorn Version). This technically isn’t a cover version, as both versions were released by The Style Council, however, it’s not Weller singing so I’m going to include it. Another reason for its inclusion is the fact that it is achingly beautiful. I want to sit by the Seine on a sunny day, sup 1664, smoke Gauloises and listen to this on repeat.

St Etienne – Only Love Can Break Your Heart. The band’s first single, St Etienne have not reached the heights of this Neil Young cover since. For me it is the pinnacle of the indie/dance crossover of the early 90’s that produced hits like ‘Beats Internationals – Dub Be Good to Me’. It is as likely to be played on Kiss as it is on XFM and is sure to evoke some nineties nostalgia.

Johnny Cash – Hurt. I’ve never listened to the Nine Inch Nails original, as I decided a long time ago they’re probably not my cuppa tea. However, this cover from the last of his albums produced by Rick Rubin – ‘American IV: The Man Comes Around’, seems almost to soundtrack Cash’s impending death; haunting and deeply moving. The video is equally emotional.

The Pogues – Dirty Old Town.  Many assume that this is about Dublin or Derry because of versions by the Dubliners and The Pogues, however it was in fact written by Kirsty MacColl’s father Ewan about his hometown of Salford. The imagery evoked by the lyrics of a dirty old town of canals and factories seems to fit perfectly with Shane McGowan’s rough around the edges vocals.

LJM – Ooh La La. A Lover’s Rock Reggae version of a blue eyed soul record by Teena Marie, this is produced by Sly and Robbie and is simply fantastic.

Esther Phillips – And I Love Him. Whilst the Beatles pilfered excessively from Black America, the favour was more than occasionally returned. I’m not the world’s biggest Beatles fan but this is a beautiful version of one of their better songs. The ‘Fab Four’ were so impressed with the cover that they flew Esther to Britain for her first performances outside of America.

The Supremes/The Temptations – I’m Gonna Make You Love Me. Whilst this Diana Ross and Eddie Kendricks duet from The Diana Ross and The Supremes Join The Temptation album might be the most famous rendition of the song, it was in fact initially recorded by Dionne Warwick’s younger sister Dee Dee and penned by Philly Soul pioneers Gamble and Huff rather than Motown songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland.

Nirvana – The Man Who Sold The World. Recorded as part of their MTV Unplugged gig and released on the subsequent live album this is one of Nirvana’s most celebrated recordings and often features highly on many greatest covers lists. This benefits, as do many original Nirvana recordings from being stripped down to an acoustic guitar for the Unplugged concert and I don’t think I’m alone in preferring it to the Bowie version, despite being a big fan of his.

By Callum West


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