There’s a lot to be said about cover songs and the love-hate relationship people have with them. When they’re hated, they’re often used as filler music, offering nothing new or changing it in a way that fans hate. When they’re loved, a band has made that song their own, added something awesome to it that people love, and in many cases, shows a connection with both the band performing it and the original band who played it for them.
The reason many bands do them is often two-fold: First, as most bands form, songs by other musicians are what they have to start with – each musician bringing their favorite songs together and hoping everything gels into a solid song. Second, it’s tribute to the bands that inspired to grab that guitar, drum kit, DJ table or microphone.
I love cover songs, because it tells a lot about the bands playing them and bands that inspired them. Sometimes it opens me to an original I hadn’t heard before; other times it gives a new personality on a song I already love. Because of this, this list is a two-a-day listing of 10 of my favorites. Some of them are favorites of the fans; some have caused controversy and hatred. All of them demonstrate the qualities above.
(And before you ask: This has nothing to do with America, Patriotism or the 4th of July – it’s not that I’m unpatriotic, it’s that I have something else in mind for that day.)
Turn the Page, covered by Metallica, originally by Bob Seger
Why I like this version: Metallica’s one of the few bands today that can cover a song, and even people familiar with the original will think it’s theirs. They’re also one of the few bands that I was split on what to choose: among my favorites are “Whiskey In the Jar,” “Tuesday’s Gone,” “Overkill,” “So What?,” “Am I Evil?,” and “The Small Hours.” They also know how to capture the character of a song, and to make it their own, which is what they did here. This is one hated by most of my friends, who love the Bob Seger’s bluesy bar room piano and smoky saxophone, but I think the grit and grunge of the guitars they bring give it a rougher, rawer sound that fits equally. Moreover, I think this is one of the few songs almost any band can play, where the challenge is not to be able to play it well, it’s to make it their own – something Metallica was very successful in.
Forty Six and 2, covered by Aaron Okeefe’s kids, originally by Tool
Why I like this version: Sometimes who is performing a song can make a huge difference in both meaning and scope. Aaron’s Youtube page is full of covers performed by kids who have exceptional talent, and other than for voices (One of the few things these kids can’t easily match,) you’d have a hard time distinguishing between the original and their version. While I’m a fan of a few of Tool’s songs, there’s a lot of their music I hadn’t listened to – so this re-awoke a need to explore that section of my catalogue again. (It had been years since I used to listen to that CD all the way through!) Their version’s not quite as good as the original, but it might have been a long time had friends not shared this version online.