Top 5 Cover Versions

7 Mar

It’s a given that taste in music varies. With that in mind, the original is often the definitive version. Here’s a list of covers that we feel need mentioning for being simply awesome recordings in their own right.

5.Come Together – Ike and Tina Turner

A Head-Turner of a vocal line. Good game.

Okay, so we’re going to start strong. A Beatles song. Arguably, Lennon is one of the best songwriters of all time. Tina Turner’s vocals on this recording shows John Lennon how he wanted it done! Extra points are awarded for the fact Tina Turner was born in a place called Nutbush, TN (1939).

On the original Beatles recording, Paul McCartney didn’t record his backing vocals because John said he would overdub them himself.

4. All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix

Hendrix didn’t die – God just needed guitar lessons.

Bob Dylan’s songwriting and Jimi Hendrix’s guitar playing. Do I need to say anymore?

Jimi’s version was released 6 months after Bob’s. Dylan himself said ‘I liked Jimi Hendrix’s record of this and ever since he died I’ve been doing it that way…strange how when I sing it I always feel it’s a tribute to him in some kind of way’ in the booklet accompanying his Biograph album.

3. Hurt – Johnny Cash

RIP Mr. Cash

Originally by Nine Inch Nails, this song was one of  the last things legend Johnny Cash recorded before his death. Johnny Cash changed some of the words to fit in with his Christian beliefs – e.g. ‘crown of shit’ was changed to ‘crown of thorns’. This lyric change was also present on the radio edit of the NIN version.

Trent Reznor (lead singer of NIN) said of Cash’s version ‘I pop the video in and wow… Tears welling silence goosebumps… wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend because that song isn’t mine anymore…’ in Alternative Press Issue 194 (Sept. 2004).

2. Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley

Hallelujah – it’s Jeff Buckley

This song had very little success when Leonard Cohen first released it in 1984. John Cale had more success with his version but then came Jeff Buckley. His version is seen as the go-to version of this classic song.

The chord progression follows the lyrics in the first verse ‘it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, and the major lift’ following C, F, G, Am, F.

In contrast to the other writers in this Top 5, Leonard Cohen is dumbfounded by the sheer number of covers this song has spawned. The record company he was with at the time of writing it didn’t want to put it out. He’s been known to say ‘I think too many people sing it’. We agree – you only need one version and this is it (sorry Leonard!).

1. Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers

Someone unchained The Righteous Brothers in 1965.

Yes. I know what you’re thinking. Wasn’t that the original? No, unbelievable as it seems, the definitive version of Unchained Melody is a cover version.

The song was originally written by Alex North for the 1955 prison film Unchained (hence the title). Hy Zaret put words to the melody and a classic was born. The original was sung by Todd Duncan and was nominated for a 1955 Oscar (Best Song) but it was given to Love is a Many-Splendoured Thing. The Righteous Brothers have taken this original version and created a song that never needs to be recorded again…

Unfortunately it’s been recorded more than enough… and none of them come close to this version.

Okay… So some of these were a little predictable but we’re out to find the Top 5 of everything – it’s likely you’ve heard some of these before.


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