Inching towards mediocrity.


Under the covers. (Now with 38% less action under said covers!)

Well.

Been AWOL for a while, but I now return with another entry in my ever expanding cache of pointless lists that nobody asked for.

Recently I was involved in a discussion about cover songs. No, I don’t know why. The point is, it spawned this little ditty –

The Top Ten Cover Songs You Probably Didn’t Even Realize Were Cover Songs.

It really is exactly what it says.

Ten: “The Man Who Sold the World.” (Nirvana)

I almost hate to admit it, but I think I genuinely prefer Nirvana’s live, unplugged version of this song to David Bowie’s 1970 original album version. While such a statement may seem somewhat blasphemous, in Nirvana’s defense I heard their version first – and, to add insult to injury, it’s really good. I suppose that your enjoyment of this song, like most on this list, simply boils down to when you were born, or when you first heard it. If you’re a child of the ’70s, you’ll probably prefer Bowie’s version. If, however, you are a child of the glorious ’90s, you’ll probably go for Kurt’s take on it. Regardless, the irony of the situation does not seem lost on Bowie himself. Thanks to Cobain covering it, even to this day when Bowie performs the song himself he comes across “kids that come up afterwards and say, ‘It’s cool you’re doing a Nirvana song.’ And I think, ‘Fuck you, you little tosser!'”

I think even Kurt Cobain could get behind that one. And he wasn’t really known for shooting off his mouth. (Just the area above it.)

Nine: “Black Magic Woman.” (Santana)

I honestly was not aware, literally up to this very moment, that this was originally a Fleetwood Mac song. Peter Green wrote it in 1968; Santana made it a hit in 1970. Better luck next time, Peter Green. Well, at least you still have Fleetwood Mac who I’m sure is going to be huge andOH YOU QUIT THE BAND.

BTW…who the fuck is Peter Green?

Eight: “Mr. Tambourine Man.” (The Byrds)

Bob Dylan is probably one of the most covered artists of all time. I say “probably” because I don’t know for sure and I’m too lazy to look it up. But rest assured, he’s gotta be, like, top twelve at least. Anyways, this is another instance of a song taking me by surprise. I’m sure more people are familiar with the Byrd’s trippy version of this song than Dylan’s original – myself included. Either version is solid, though – in fact, it has the (meaningless) honor of being only one of three songs to be included twice on Rolling Stones list of the 500 Greatest Songs. Not too shabby for a song about tambourines that (at least in Dylan’s version) doesn’t include any tambourineing.

Seven: “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.” (The Barenaked Ladies)

Little bit of Canadian content for y’all.

The Barenaked Ladies are a strange beast. They’re all fairly talented musicians who can write a hook filled pop masterpiece seemingly whenever they want to. It’s usually combined with bizarre to nonsensical lyrics that range from obscure pop culture references, to abstract fragments, to genuinely insightful commentary – all the while being either rapped by Ed Robertson or operatically sung by Steven Page with gleeful abandon.

Occasionally, they have curbed their wackier tendencies to produce something much more subdued and restrained, which can at times border on being fully beautiful.

Like their cover of this Bruce Cockburn song. After it’s release in 1991 (fittingly for a Cockburn tribute album) it became a Canadian radio staple – a certifiable hit for the band. Even now it continues to crop up on the radio from time to time, though you rarely – if ever – hear Cockburn’s original.

Six: “No More I Love Yous” (Annie Lennox)

This song easily could have made my Thirteen Guilty Pleasure Songs You Hate to Love. (Or Love to Hate) list as well. But it didn’t, and luckily it’s found itself a new avenue for infamy on my blog as being a catchy as hell song we all instantly recognize as an Annie Lennox ditty, but was in fact originally written and performed by some band called “The Lover Speaks.” No, I’ve never heard of them either, and when I type the name into Google image search, a confusing array of pictures, none of which features anything remotely similar to a band, comes up. So apparently even the internet has forgotten about them as well.

I think that what I’m trying to say is, cover though it may be…I think Annie’s pretty much got a monopoly on this song. Good for her!

Five: “Downtown Train.” (Rod Stewart)

Rod Stewart covers Tom Waits. There’s something funny to be said here, but I honestly don’t know what it is.

No, not funny – weird.

The Stewart song is the radio friendly one; the Waits version is the “good” one. In fact, if there ever comes a time when you’re contemplating downloading or buy Rod Stewart’s entire discography, I urge you to just download Wait’s 1985 masterpiece Rain Dogs instead. You can thank me later.

Four: “Hallelujah.” (Jeff Buckley)

Now, to be fair, I think people are about as aware of the Buckley version of this beautiful song as they are of the Leonard Cohen original. Both versions are excellent, by the way – thanks to Cohen’s poetic lyrics and simple, yet evocative melody. But it will forever be associated with Buckley – partly due to his untimely and tragic death, and partly do to his stunning and haunting arrangement of it. Cohen wrote a classic, artistic ballad; Jeff Buckley perfected it.

Three: “Nothing Compares 2 U.” (Sinead O’Connor)

I had no idea this was originally a Prince song. I suppose the number “2” and the letter “u” in the title should have helped tip me off, but it didn’t. I truly thought this was an original song by Sinead. And, after hearing Prince’s version, I’d like to continue thinking that, please.

Incidentally, this song title was the inspiration behind U2’s name.

No it wasn’t.

Two: “Respect.” (Aretha Franklin)

“Respect” is to Aretha Franklin what “Nothing Compares 2 U” is to Sinead O’Connor – a signature song. A song that we immediately identify with these artists, and, when thinking about these artists, it’s usually the first one that pops into our noggins’. It seems odd then, that both these womens signature songs should be covers. I don’t really know what that says about them, except that they both totally own these tunes. Otis Redding may have been the first to spell out the word “respect” for mass audiences, but it was tailor made for the Queen of Soul. I’ve never heard Otis Redding’s version of the song, and have no need to; no one could possibly come close to matching Aretha.

One: “All Along the Watchtower.” (Jimi Hendrix)

Dylan’s was good. HIS was better.

From the iconic opening guitar riff, to the whacked out solo, this is the definitive version of Bob Dylan’s tune. It’s been covered countless times since, but Jimi’s 1968 version remains the one to top. It’s a song that makes people go “REALLY?” whenever somebody mentions that it’s not a Hendrix track, but one of Dylan’s.

Which I think perfectly sums up just what this list is all about.

Well.

There were a few more songs that I came across that would have fit this list, but I tried to wittle it down to the best ten. Feel free to tell me what I missed and mock my attempt in general below.

So, until tomorrow, enjoy some Annie Lennox.

And you damn well know you will.

Doo doo doo doo doo doo…WHOA OH.

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