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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

March 08, 2006

Cover versions that are better than the originals

Ranting about film soundtracks and Kate Bush yesterday reminded me of two important facts. The first is that Kate Bush's version of Elton John's "Rocket Man" is miles better than the original. I had the single once, but I foolishly never kept it, probably concerned that my credibility had fallen off the bottom of the scale when I bought it.

The second important fact is that film soundtracks - even the annoying ones - are frequent sources of the new and improved cover version; the cover version that pisses all over the original.

A favourite of mine is Letters to Cleo's scorching version of Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me" from the best film ever made.* I love that so much that I was actually surprised that Dwight Yoakam's completely countrified version is even better. Yoakam takes no prisoners, concedes nothing to the "I don't really like Country but I sort of like this" crowd. He yelps, he yips, he does everything but shout "Yeeeee hah!" There's glorious pedal steel guitar, awesome Hammond, and a rockabilly beat. It's fantastic. Cheap Trick? What-ever.

Nicolas Cage classic Honeymoon in Vegas included a couple of belters - covers of Elvis songs! Travis Tritt utterly nails "Burning Love", and I will forever prefer his version to Elvis' original. Amazingly, Wynonna did the same song for Lilo and Stictch and her version is better than Elvis', too. Just so you know I haven't completely taken leave of my senses, I would have to concede that Dwight Yoakam's version of "Suspicious Minds" isn't quite up to the original.

Sticking with Travis Tritt, he recorded a version of The Eagles' "Take it Easy" for a tribute album a few years ago (frustratingly not available on iTunes) that also outdoes the original - he's just got such a superb voice. Shame about the beard.

I've always thought that the Beatles' version of "Words of Love" was better than Buddy Holly's original, and "Rock and Roll Music" from the same album is probably the best Chuck Berry cover of them all.

While Trisha Yearwood never records any of her own songs, she has done a couple of proper cover versions, in that they were first done by the better-known originators. I would much rather hear her version of Springsteen's "Sad Eyes." Another Springsteen cover version which (just) improves on the original is The Band's take on "Atlantic City," and it's again frustrating that you still can't get their post-Robbie comeback album Jericho on iTunes.

I'll book-end this post with another Elton cover. I'm very fond of Tim McGraw's cover of "Tiny Dancer," although in its arrangement it's very close to the original. But it was recorded 30 years later and has Tim McGraw's voice on it, so I think it's better.

*10 Things I Hate About You


  • there seems to be some sort of slippage going on here between elton john and david bowie - an easy mistake to make.

    words of love by the beatles, i always thought was the biggest waste of time. the only thing it lacks is a bontempi organ to make it completely crap.

    your version of stray paper i prefer to whoever it was did it first.

    By Blogger dog, at 6:59 am  

  • Duh. Rocket Man, Starman. Vietnam. I'm obviously very confused. I sort of think I knew it was wrong but couldn't work out why.

    By Blogger bot37363838, at 7:21 am  

  • I have tickets to Dwight Yoakam next week. You may commence worshipping me in ten minutes.

    For a good while, REM used to end their live shows with a slightly more upbeat cover of "After Hours" by the Velvet Undergound. Always kind of liked theirs better than Lou's. Same thing for David Bowie's cover of "Waiting for the Man."

    And then there's the country/bluegrass/honkytonk version of the entire Pink Floyd - The Wall album by Luther Wright and the Wrongs. I must admit I like the honkytonk cover of "Young Lust" better than the original.

    I will now wait for lightning to strike me dead...

    By Blogger Hammer, at 7:49 am  

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