Discovering Cover Songs for the First Time

musicWhen I was 8 and 9, I just assumed every song I heard on the radio was an original song by the artist. I didn't know artists could cover songs originally performed by other artists. So when I heard Tainted Love by Soft Cell, I just assumed that was Soft Cell's song. It wasn't.

In 1985, I was a big fan of Mötley Crüe's "Smokin' in the Boys Room". 10-year old Mike loved that tune. Here's the video.

Then, one of those ads for a 70s music compilation album came on TV, and it included "Smokin' in the Boys Room" by Brownsville Station. Wha-wha-what???

It was the same song, sung by a different band, over a decade earlier. What was this abomination?

I had discovered the cover song.

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Comments (31 - click here to join in!)

Ryan G

Some covers are arguably better than the original.

Example, Dream Academy's cover of The Smiths' "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want", which I believe was used in the museum scene of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, if i'm not mistaken.

May 28, 2012 @ 11:06 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

In 2002, my buddy and I complied Cover Me Badd which included these covers:

Aaron Lewis - Black
Cake - I Will Survive
Chronic Overboogie - My Heart Will Go On
Dynamite Hack - Boyz in the Hood
Elwood - Sundown
Everclear - Brown Eyed Girl
Fear Factory - Cars
Frente - Bizarre Love Triangle
Goldfinger - 99 Red Balloons
The Lemonheads - Mrs. Robinson
Limp Bizkit - Faith
Pearl Jam - Crazy Mary
Presidents of the United States of America - Video Killed the Radio Star
Save Ferris - Come On Eileen
Tori Amos - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Travis - Baby, One More Time
Tricky - Black Steel
Veruca Salt - My Sharona

IMHO, Pearl Jam's Crazy Mary is better than the original.

I also like Aretha Franklin's Respect better than the fine Otis Redding original and Ike & Tina Turner's Proud Mary better than CCR's.

May 28, 2012 @ 11:16 AM


@Ryan G

Dream Academy's cover is sensational, but the original is grand. Dream Academy's cover is also purely instrumental, so it's a difficult comparison to make.

A certain Ringo Starr-led Beatles track was improved by Joe Cocker.

May 28, 2012 @ 11:23 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

Related: Covers I Didn't Know Were Covers At The Time

Don't Be Cruel - Cheap Trick
If You Don't Know Me By Now - Simply Red
Once Bitten Twice Shy - Great White
I Saw Him Standing There - Tiffany
Red Red Wine - UB40
Respect - Aretha Franklin
Hey Joe - Jimi Hendrix
Blinded by the Light - Manfred Mann's Earth Band
Love Hurts - Nazareth
Higher Ground - Red Hot Chili Peppers

May 28, 2012 @ 11:27 AM

Ryan G


It's a subjective thing. I prefer DA's version. And, there is in fact a version with lyrics:

May 28, 2012 @ 11:29 AM

Mississauga Phil

I'm embarassed to say that 8-year old Phil did not know that Vanilla Ice sampled Queen for Ice Ice Baby. My dad was listening to Under PRessure and I said "hey that's VAnilla Ice"

My dad looked at me like he was about to disown me...

May 28, 2012 @ 11:40 AM


Um, what a totally fun topic.
Favourite cover song that I didn't know was a cover: 10,000 Maniacs cover of Roxy Music's More Than This.
Cover song I did not like but led to my discovery of the original which is so amazing and rumbly and I LOVE IT: Blinded by the Light.
Cover song I was deeply worried wouldn't be good because I deeply love the song AND Gwen Stefani and she totally pulled it off: No Doubt's It's My Life.
Cover song I find kind of funny even though there is a No Doubt diss and no one should really cover Morrissey: Reel Big Fish cover of We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful.
Song that should never, ever be covered and all covers make me angry: The Smith’s How Soon is Now.

May 28, 2012 @ 2:37 PM

Mississauga Phil

REally good cover - Check out Dave Matthews' Cover of Johnny Cash's Long Black Veil off of the Listener Supported Album

May 28, 2012 @ 2:40 PM


Talking Heads- Take Me To The River.

Played Van Morrison's Into The Music album for years before I realized his All In The Game was a cover, even though I was very familiar with the original/50's version.

May 28, 2012 @ 4:39 PM


Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton never should have done that duet of We Got Tonight. That's Bob Seger's song and Bob Seger is the best. Nobody copies his stuff.

May 28, 2012 @ 6:06 PM


Best cover song ever:

Joe Cocker - With A Little Help From My Friends. Both Beatles & his version are 2nd to NONE.

May 28, 2012 @ 8:01 PM

Teena in Toronto

The original was on K-Tel's "Fantastic" back in the 70s ... yes, I had it :)

May 28, 2012 @ 9:07 PM

Blind Dave

Lots of great covers out there, so I'll offer 3 more:

Brown Eyed Girl - Jimmy Buffett

Have You Ever Seen The Rain? - Spin Doctors


Lucille (yes, the Kenny Rogers song) - Beat Farmers (vocals by Country Dick Montana)

Now, the top two I like the original and cover equally.

The Beat Farmers version of Lucille will completely dissolve any memory of the Kenny Rogers version. :)

May 28, 2012 @ 10:25 PM

Suburb Steve

I was devastated to find out that Van Halen's "you really got me" was a cover. It was the early 80's and it was used for the Sweet Marie commercial. Like Mike I was about 9 and had no idea that a band could or would perform another artists material. In the 90's there were a few that I still enjoy a lot even now when I hear them, such as :
Wild Night by John Mellencamp
G'N Rs Live and Let Die
Hallelujah as so beautifully performed by Jeff Buckley
Whiskey in the Jar done by Metallica
Rod Stewart doing Downtown Train
Signs well performed by Tesla

But the Best of the Best would be

Join Mitchells Woodstock as performed by CSNY

Joe Cockers version of Help from my friends

Stay by Jackson Browne performed live (to this day I haven't heard the original)

Last Kiss by Pearl Jam

All Along the Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix

May 28, 2012 @ 10:42 PM


Tweeter and the Monkey Man by the Headstones managed to outdo the Dylan version with the Wilburys, and that's damned impressive.

And Johnny Cash's cover of NIN's Hurt is far and away the greatest cover song ever.


Peace, Love, and Understanding by Elvis Costello

Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O'Connor

Twist and Shout by some band from Liverpool I forget the name of

Piece of My Heart by Big Brother and the Holding Company

Sweet Jane by Cowboy Junkies

The Man Who Sold the World by Nirvana

I Fought the Law by the Clash

Crossroads by Cream

Der Kommissar by After the Fire

Superman by REM

Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin

Mad World by Gary Jules

I Heard it Through the Grapevine by CCR

Satisfaction by Devo

Hard to Handle by the Black Crowes

Everybody Knows by Concrete Blonde

Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon by Urge Overkill

Smooth Criminal by Alien Ant Farm

China Girl by David Bowie

Black Magic Woman by Santana

Summertime Blues by the Who

Stop Your Sobbing by the Pretenders

Istanbul by TMBG

Ring of Fire by Social Distortion

Try a Little Tenderness by Otis Redding

Get It On (Bang a Gong) by Power Station

I Love Rock 'n' Roll and Crimson and Clover by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Wild Thing by the Troggs

I Know I'm Losing You by Rod Stewart

May 28, 2012 @ 11:33 PM

Nigel Trousershrapnel

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
Best Cover Band. Period.

May 29, 2012 @ 8:03 AM

Mississauga Phil

To all the people talking about "With a Little Help From My Firends" - You should check out the version form the movie Across the Universe- No disrespect to Mr. Cocker, but I think this version is better...

May 29, 2012 @ 8:19 AM


Then there are songs that were covered by very successful artists, but should not have been covered in the first place because the song was insipid in the first place. I give you "Last Kiss" (Pearl Jam covering). Hated it in the 70s (I'm dating myself here) and no matter how good PJ may be, there was no way their cover was going to be more listenable. In one way, they did worse, by slowing down the pace of the song. It's a contest of sorts to see how quickly I can press a button to get to another song or station.

May 29, 2012 @ 8:52 AM


Then there's the likes of Eddie Vedder doing a straight on cover of Hard Sun. Hard to pick a winner.

May 29, 2012 @ 9:24 AM


@Nigel Trousershrapnel
Yes I love lots of their stuff. My favourite of theirs is "I'll Be There" - such a happy song instead of a sentimental ballad. I also enjoy their covers of "Nothing Compares to You", "San Fransisco" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
Punk covers are fun in general. Some of my favourites aside from the Gimmes are:
Gob - "Painted Black"
MXPX - "Take On Me"
The Ramones - "What a Wonderful World"

"House of the Rising Sun" by the Animals is amazing too... Especially since the song was recorded in just one take.

May 29, 2012 @ 12:16 PM


Hmm. I learned something here - I didn't realize that Prince had recorded "Nothing Compares 2U" before Sinead. I knew he wrote it, but thought he gave it to her to record. Same for Bowie and "China Girl".

A few years ago Kim Mitchell released an album that probably went completely unnoticed, but has a pretty bangin' cover of Spirit's "I Got a Line on You"

May 29, 2012 @ 1:01 PM


Oh how I love covers. Here are some I enjoy:

- Frente!’s version of New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle
Bonus......Open Up Your Heart and Let the Sunshine In ( I loved the original when it was on the flintstones)

- Dixie Chicks version of Fleetwood Macs Landslide

- Tina Turners version of CCRs Proud Mary

- Ben Folds version of Elton Johns Tiny Dancer

- Annie Lennoxs version of The Clashs Train In Vain

- Alison Krauss version of The Beatles I Will

- Gary Jules version of Tears For Fears Mad World

- The Killers version of Romeo and Juliet

- Greg Laswells Version of Girls Just Want To Have Fun

-Duffy singing the song from dirty dancing...Cry to me.

- Eddie Vedder singing Tom Pettys, I won't back down.

Oh how I could go on & on.


May 29, 2012 @ 1:20 PM


Almost forgot Pet Shop Boys cover of Always On My Mind. SOOOO good
lovvvve Last Kiss by Pearl Jam & Dixie Chicks Landslide

May 29, 2012 @ 3:31 PM


The covers I like lately
Chromatics - Into The Black (Neil Young)
PS I Love You - Subdivisions (Rush)
Needle And The Damage Done - Laura Marling (Niel Young)

William Shatner & Ben Folds do a nice job of Common People (Pulp)
ShinyToy Guns suit Stripped (Depeche Mode)
Emir Kusturica and The No Smoking Orchestra do a great cover of Lost In The Supermarket (Clash). A big brass funky reggae phonetic version by the Serbian group.

May 29, 2012 @ 4:44 PM


I thought John Mellencamp did the original of Wild Night. Guess not, but that's the only version I heard. Also Ian and Sylvia cover Gordon Lightfoot songs better than Gordon Lightfoot. Their versions of Early Morning Rain, Changes, and For Loving Me are fabulous, much much better than gordon Lightfoot.

May 29, 2012 @ 5:53 PM

Blind Dave


I'm a huge Lightfoot fan and his early stuff is awesome. In fact, quite a few of the oldies were written FOR bands like Ian & Sylvia. So there's a very good reason why they cover his songs so well!

May 29, 2012 @ 8:15 PM

Suburb Steve


Van Morrison's original version of Wild Night is also very good. You should give it a listen.

May 29, 2012 @ 10:22 PM


Hole's cover of Gold Dust Woman is pretty much bottled awesome, too.

May 29, 2012 @ 10:51 PM


Also Sean Hogan's cover of Bad Case of Loving You is much better than the original by Robert Palmer. A really bad cover though is Terri Clark covering We're Here for a Good Time. Nobody does that song better than the original by Trooper.

May 30, 2012 @ 8:42 PM


I'll take funerary opus 7+ minute cover version of We're Here For A Good Time by The Besnard Lakes. They put that song to rest..

May 31, 2012 @ 2:25 PM

Suburb Steve

I just heard Golden Earrings "Radar Love" and was reminded of what at the time seemed like a killer cover by White Lion. I remember seeing the video repeatedly on Muchmusic at the time, (early 90's" ?) and couldn't get enough of it.
I'm gonna have to check it out again and see how it holds up.... Anyone else remember the White Lion version?

May 31, 2012 @ 5:32 PM

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