Take it and Make it Your Own!

I’m warming myself up to write something clever and witty, darlings, but until I get my groove back (note to self: find out how Stella did that, or perhaps cross-reference with that Disney movie about the Emperor who got turned into a Llama — I think it was called Beauty and the Beast, but I could be wrong there) I’m going to share some songs with you. I had this idea pop into my head last night on my drive home, and I hope I can remember them all.


You know, it wasn’t always expected of singers to write their own songs, and it really wasn’t until the influence of singer/songwriters like Bob Dylan and Simon/Garfunkel on Rock and Roll that we as hipster musical snobs turned our noses up at people who didn’t write their own songs, and spoke the words cover band with an air of contempt.

So I am here today to enlighten you, as well as showcase some of the greatest covers that ever were. Some of these songs have been made so famous by the bands that covered them that you might not even have realized (unless, like yours truly, you are terribly clever) that they were covers at all. Some have even been praised by the original songwriters as the definitive version of the song, such as this first one:

All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix (originally by Bob Dylan)

Tainted Love – Soft Cell (originally written by Ed Cobb, performed by Gloria Jones, 1964)

Now, I bet you thought that the Soft Cell version was the original, and the Marilyn Manson was the first cover. Not so — this Soft Cell cover is the definitive version of the song, but not the first!

Brand New Cadillac – The Clash (originally by Vince Taylor, 1958)

Because the Night – 10,000 Maniacs (originally written by Bruce Springsteen/Patti Smith, recorded by Patti Smith)

Blinded by the Light – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (originally by Bruce Springsteen

Twist and Shout – The Beatles (originally recorded by The Top Notes in 1961, and then covered by everybody else, including Ferris Bueller, later)

Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor (originally by Prince — no, really)

With a Little Help From My Friends – Joe Cocker (originally by The Beatles, and the fact that people know the Joe Cocker version better than The Motherfucking BEATLES is quite the accomplishment. Or it could just be that The Wonder Years is still a big part of the public consciousness.)

(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding? – Elvis Costello (originally by Nick Lowe)

Take Me To The River – Talking Heads (originally by Al Green)

Honourable mentions: These are great cover versions, but it’s not fair to say that they are definitive. Nirvana did a great job with The Man Who Sold The World, but it’s not like anyone’s going to forget it’s a Bowie song. Same with Ryan Adams’ version of Oasis’ Wonderwall or Johnny Cash’s take on NIN’s Hurt.

What songs have I missed? What are your favourite covers?


18 responses to “Take it and Make it Your Own!

    • Oooh… the Cake one I’ll definitely get on board with — Cake does great covers (Strangers in the Night, Mahna Mahna) — The Cure’s Love Song will always stay the original and true for me, though it’s been covered a number of times (sometimes good, sometimes bad). If you can find Tori Amos’ cover (youtube?) it’s amazing — she uses the countermelody as the piano line.

  1. You didn’t miss mine. Sinead is my very favorite. This is a great list. I have the Top Notes version of Twist and Shout in the car right now.

    Your calendar made it back safely. I will get it in the mail tomorrow. All secrets safe.

    Please forgive me for being away. I tried to let people know about the problems I was having, but I finally just threw up my hands and tried to get the briefest posts possible up every day. The internet was very dicey, and my WordPress app kept crashing when I tried to read or comment. I managed to get a few through here and there, but I finally gave up. I am very glad you won a prize in spite of my poor performance with reading.

    • You have an amazing music collection, darling. If I were tied to a chair and asked upon pain of death who Twist and Shout was by, I would have said the Isley Brothers, but I learned differently by making this post. That you’ve got it right there in the car is amazing! I did miss you around the water cooler, but there’s nothing to forgive. I’ve enjoyed living vicariously through your pictures. And as you can see by my sporadic posts (I’m struggling through!) you haven’t really missed anything groundbreaking from my end. Always nice to hear from you!

  2. Thanks. Natalie Merchant is one of my favorite singers. How about Patty Smith’s version of Gloria? When I first heard it as a clueless youth I thought it bullshit. I now see the error of my ways. It’s so powerful. Of course Hendrix’s Watchtower is sublime.

    • Believe it or not I have heard the Miley Cyrus version I think that’s one of the first articles of yours I ever read. I had meant to put Jeff Buckley’s hallelujah on here, but I guess I forgot. And I actually thought it was a Jeff Buckley song for the longest time (lilac Wine that is)

      • I did, too. I had a friend correct me this past weekend, which is what made em think to add it here! Man, Jeff Buckley gets credit for EVERYthing. Most people think he wrote Hallelujah as well. (Leonard Cohen is a demi-god to me, so I always correct them.)

      • Yes, but Cohen’s version of Hallelujah is bloated and overproduced. The version that everybody knows (Even if they don’t realize it) is John Cale’s arrangement (it’s the one in Shrek, and is the version pretty much everyone who has done it since is basing their version on.)

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