Cover me: songs that are better the second time around


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
Tiffany (original — Tommy James and the

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

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
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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