Rock song remakes: some are good, some are bad, some are just plain ugly (Pat Boone’s version of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, anyone?). But every so often, a cover version of a song turns out to be better than the original. Oops!
Here are 10 rock song remakes that actually blew the original versions away.
“California Dreaming” – Jose Feliciano. The 1965 original version of this song by The Mamas and The Papas was good, no question. But throw in a little Latin acoustic guitar and mom and pop get blown away. Jose Feliciano’s cover of “California Dreaming” is more than dreamy, especially the Spanish verse at the end.
“Wild Horses” – The Sundays. Although it’s a beautiful ballad, even Rolling Stones fans thought the band’s 1971 song “Wild Horses” was a tad wimpy. It’s much more suited for a female voice- and no, I don’t mean Susan Boyle’s (her version is well sung, it’s just so slow and sad). English alternative rockers The Sunday’s remake of “Wild Horses” is by far the best of this Stones song. And while the Stones’ version reached #28 on the Billboard charts, The Sundays cover is the version that will stick in your head.
“Higher Ground” – Red Hot Chili Peppers. I love me some Stevie Wonder, but the Red Hot Chili Peppers nailed this song on their 1989 album, Mother’s Milk. And the Chili Peps even gave Stevie Wonder a shout out when, at the end of their cover version, Anthony Keidis rapped, “And Stevie knows that nobody’s gonna bring me down- me and Stevie we’re gonna be sailin’ on that funky sound…”
“Hurt” -Johnny Cash. Nine Inch Nails fans may think of Trent Reznor’s original song as an integral piece of The Downward Spiral puzzle, but even the most diehard fans can’t deny that Johnny Cash’s cover is powerful. Cash’s haunting version nabbed Video of the Year at both the 2002 Grammy Awards and Country Music Awards. After hearing Cash’s version of “Hurt”, Reznor was said to have remarked, “That song isn’t mine anymore”. But he meant that in a really good way.
“Mad World” -Adam Lambert. The American Idol alum first debuted this song during “Songs From the Year They Were Born Week” during the eighth season of Idol. Thank goodness Lambert was born in 1882. He chose the Tears for Fears song “Mad World”, slowed it down a lot and made magic with it. Actually, according to MTV, Lambert didn’t singlehandedly rearrange the song which was originally a mid-tempo dance tune. Instead he resurrected a version performed by Gary Jules in the 2001 movie Donnie Darko. It turned out to be a brilliant move for Lambert, though. His performance of “Mad World” was a turning point for him on American Idol.
“Gold Dust Woman” -Hole. Love her or hate her, Courtney Love rocks. And while Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks penned original version of this song from the 1976 album Rumours was mesmerizing, Love’s updated version has a heavier edge that blows the lid off of the old school original.
“All Along the Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix . The Jimi Hendrix Experience covered this Bob Dylan tune back in 1968, blowing even Dylan himself away. In a 1995 interview with the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Dylan said of Hendrix’s version of the song, “It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day”.
“Baby One More Time” -Travis. This alterative rock band’s acoustic version of Britney Spears’ freshman year hit single shows that you don’t have to wear sexy schoolgirl attire to get your point across. As this bare bones version shows, sometimes less is more.
“Hallelujah “- Jeff Buckley. I’ve watched enough seasons of American Idol to have heard bazillion renditions of this Leonard Cohen song, but nothing touches Jeff Buckley’s 1994 cover, inspired by an earlier John Cale version.
“You’re No Good” -Van Halen. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Linda Ronstadt’s 1974 version of this 1963 Betty Everett song- until Van Halen covered it on their 1979 album, Van Halen II. Those riffs! Those Diamond Dave squeals! Sorry Linda, but your cover has been blown!