Cover me: songs that are better the second time around

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Last week, some boys at The Onion‘s A.V. Club compiled a list of “23 Songs That Should Never Be Covered Again.”

I thought it would be a fun list, but I found it kind of boring because it was full of songs that have been covered well (“All Along the Watchtower,” “Respect,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”) and songs I’ve never heard covered (“99 Luftballons,” “Come On Eileen”). So I quickly found that I did not care.

But it did get me thinking, and I eventually came up with a list of my own: covers I like even more than the originals.

5. “I Think We’re Alone

Now,”
Tiffany (original — Tommy James and the

Shondells)

Don’t hate me because I like

this song. I love the Tommy James version of the song, and I was never

a Tiffany fan. But there’s something about her cover (mall performances

and all) that is very memorable and — dare I say? — good. My affinity

may be influenced by my early college memories surrounding the song,

but there’s something about her perky, raspy voice that just works.

4. “Proud Mary,” Tina Turner (original — Creedence Clearwater

Revivial)

Lest you despaired of my taste

in music based on my previous choice, here is proof that I do actually

have some. The Creedence Clearwater Revival original is a fine, distinctive

song. And then there’s Tina Turner (and, to be fair, the late Ike Turner.

But he used to beat

her
and I don’t

like him). She owns both this song and the best set of legs in show

business. I saw her perform it live in 1993, and damn, I was blown away.

Dar Williams is probably my

favorite singer-songwriter — and the only artist whose albums I always

buy the day they’re released. As much as I like her original tunes,

I’m a big fan of her many of her covers (like Richard Shindell’s “The Ballad

of Mary Magdalene” and the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple”), and “Wilder Than

Her” is the best of the bunch. As one listener commented, “The cover of ‘Wilder

Than Her’ is a stunning reinterpretation of the song, and reveals

a side of Dar that isn’t heard elsewhere.” She also gets extra points

for making the song sound all lesbian by not changing the pronouns. If you’re unfamiliar with the song, check the lyrics here.

2. “Get Together,” Indigo Girls (original — the Youngbloods)

This is another one that is

strongly influenced by my college memories. I spent a lot of time driving

around Los Angeles in a friend’s truck singing along to this song in

1989, but at the time I recall thinking that it was better than the

original. And listening to both today, I still do.

1. “Hazy Shade of Winter,” the Bangles (original — Simon and Garfunkel)

I love the Simon and Garfunkel

original. And I’m loath to say that a cover of Simon and Garfunkel

is better than the original. But the Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter”

is one of the best covers in the history of covers. It is eclipsed

only by Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower,” Aretha Franklin‘s “Respect” and Janis Joplin‘s

“Me and Bobby McGee.” Less Than Zero may have been a mediocre movie, but this song gave it a hell of a soundtrack.

So what song covers do you think surpass the originals? Or which ones do you just really like?

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