My Pick: The 10 Best Rock Covers of All Time
Covers are awesome. It’s a homage from one artist to another, a sign of great respect. While some covers are merely a shadow of the original, every once in a while, a breakthrough cover destroys all expectations and sometimes even outdoes the original.
So here’s my list of top 10 rock covers - across the board, not restricted to any particular sub-genre:
10. Miley Cyrus featuring Johnzo West — “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”
I know, I know. But stay with me here!
Before Miley Cyrus went full-metal-Disney, she did some cool stuff! This cover of Bob Dylan’s You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go is one such instance.
With a firm grasp on her inherited folk/country roots, she whips up a cover that adds some much needed soul — let’s face it, Dylan, although a legendary wordsmith, didn’t have the most palatable voice! (on a side note, Jimi Hendrix admits in his biography that he gathered the courage to sing from Bob Dylan — but I digress)
Overall, great production value, a simple sound and a beautiful voice puts this unlikely contender at the 10th spot.
9. Rush — Heart Full of Soul
The Yardbirds ripped through the electric age of the 60’s with some gripping riffs and flower-powered lyrics. The whole gritty feel, packaged under 3 min, convenient for radio cuts is what made them such a good balance of rock raw grit and popular acclaim.
The band boasts a line up of legends — Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton (aka God) and Jimmy Page. Trying to challenge legends is no easy gig. Unless of course you’re Rush! In their cover of The Yardbirds’ Heart Full of Soul, Rush amplifies the already soulful song and takes it all the way to 11!
The lolling guitars with Neil Pert’s inimitable percussion puts Rush at the #9 spot on the list.
8. The Byrds — Mr. Tambourine Man
Ok so it’s no big secret that The Byrds basically shot to fame by covering Bob Dylan. But there’s a reason they weren’t dismissed as some band trying to reconstruct the glory of the ballads of the old days. That reason is 100% pure uncut skill.
The Byrds took Dylan’s drawl and added a whole new psychedelic rock twist. If you’ve never listened to Dylan on acid, you can get a pretty close feel by checking this cover out, which puts it at a respectable #6 on the list.
7. Cradle of Filth — Hallowed Be Thy Name
Cradle of Filth had a knack for sending shivers down your spine. What they did with Maiden’s Hallowed Be Thy Name is that they took a mournful power-ballad chronicling the last few moments of a convict’s thoughts before he’s sent to the ‘gallows pole’ — and turned it into a madman’s ravenous call-out to authority.
Dani Filth, bleats a painful, bone chilling shriek as he screeches the eerie lyric out. In contrast to Dickinson’s defeated, vengeful declaration, Filth’s version is one of irrepressible rage, a howl against the injustice of the system and a haunting cry for unfulfilled revenge.
Almost twice the tempo of the original, with a lot more noise and distortion, Cradle of Filth’s cover of Iron Maiden’s Hallowed Be Thy Name proudly grabs the 7th slot on the list.
6. Pantera — Planet Caravan
Pantera is LOUD! Few bands of their time— maybe barring Rage Against The Machine — exude that amount of raw anger and energy on screen. If you hooked up some cables to a Pantera concert, they could power the world for about a mili-second!
Now, what Pantera did with Black Sabbath’s Planet Caravan was borderline shock art. Dimebag Darrel strays from the usual overdriven distortion and strums melodic harmonies instead. The vocals are drugged, heady and loose, with immense reverb. No screaming, no jumping, no spitting, moshing, stage-diving, nothing! Sometimes, it takes great restraint to produce a masterpiece.
5. Cake — War Pigs
Speaking of Black Sabbath…
Cake’s funk cover of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs takes no 5!
The song was a sensation in the 60’s for satirizing the capitalistic war machine that had engulfed life back then. Cake shows us the timelessness of War Pigs by still keeping the lyric relevant in the 2000's.
The best part of the song —Tony Iomi’s solo is played on the trumpet. Because, why not? Right?!
Full points for innovation. Touche.
4. Nirvana — Man Who Sold The World
Unplugged was the one good thing MTV ever did!
And this is probably the most popular, mainstream thing to originate out of Unplugged, but it would leave the list bare if I didn’t include Nirvana’s cover of David Bowie’s Man Who Sold the World.
There’s a mash-up of two of the most iconic crazies of the Rock n Roll world — Kurt Cobain and David Bowie. All in all, a fantastic tribute.
3. Opeth — Soldier of Fortune
Ok so here’s the top 3…
The second runner up is Opeth with their unconventional, soulful cover of Deep Purple’s Soldier Of Fortune. It’s a very rare occasion when we get to hear Mikael Akerfeldt sing with clean vocals for one entire song. And Opeth does quite a number with the sound-scaping and atmosphere. Martin Mendez’s bass-line resounds the drum beats of war for the soldier of fortune.
This song is a personal favourite. One that I believe — although my friends don’t agree — has outdone the original by a fair mile.
2. Johnny Cash — Hurt
At #2, we have the unforgettable Johnny Cash with a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt.
For starters, I think it outdoes Reznor’s rendition by a mile, but OK, that’s just Johnny Cash. The media at the time of the release called it a publicity stunt. A feeble attempt on the part of Cash to cash out big. But the music video shut everyone up.
Watch it. Do it. It’s right up there ^.
His last single before his death, Cash’s rendition is a melancholy caw, welling with tears and fatigue — fatigue from living life. It sounds resigned, perhaps a song he’d pick out for June Carter (Cash’s deceased ex-wife).
To make things more interesting, Trent Reznor admitted publicly that “… that song isn’t mine anymore…”.
Johnny Cash. You Legend. R.I.P.
1. Jimi Hendrix — All Along the Watchtower
Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix (who by now I’m sure have appeared an annoying number of times in this article already) had a pretty intense relationship.
As an immortal tribute to Dylan, Hendrix covers All Along the Watchtower in his legendary album, Electric Ladyland. Dylan, on listening to the song immediately declared that Hendrix defined new meaning to the song. He magnanimously disowned the song and declared it to be Hendrix’s own!
With the signature sweeping style of Hendrix, heavily over-driven guitars, tremolo, wah-wah and all that jazz, Rolling Stone’s top rated guitarist of all-time authoritatively grabs the top spot on my list of Top 10 Rock Covers of All Time.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more.