If you know me, you know I love lists. I love them so much I make lists of my lists.
I received not one, not two but three!! links to lists yesterday from people who like to feed my obsession. One is the new AFI 100 greatest movies, one is the RetroCrush worst covers songs list, and one is some list of annoying songs voted on by British people, meaning I have no clue what some of those songs are. But the number one song was James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful, so I’ll just put that list aside as “things some Brits and I agree on.”
Now, I’ve written about cover songs a billion times on both ASV and FTTW. But it’s a timeless subject, one that changes and evolves each time someone puts up their own take on the matter. What are lists for if not to disagree with?
I started scrolling through the RetroCrush list and immediately saw that I would have to dismiss half of their choices, as my rule for debating cover songs is “no novelty tunes.” By novelty, I mean anything sung by someone whose day job involves pretending to work on a spaceship. I’m looking at you, William Shatner. And your buddy Nimoy, too. This means I also dismiss anything done by actors or actresses who don’t normally sing for a living.
So I read through the list again, ignoring Bill Cosby and Burt Ward.
I ran into trouble at #78. Vanilla Fudge’s cover of the Supremes’ You Keep Me Hanging On. Whenever I’ve done a list of favorite cover songs, this one appeared on it. In my eyes (or ears), this tune represents what a cover song should be about; taking someone else’s song and making it your own. Otherwise, what’s the point of covering it? Take the Lemonheads cover of Mrs. Robinson, for instance. They did nothing different with it. Why bother? If you are going to use someone else’s material, whether in tribute or jest, you need to leave your own personal mark on it otherwise you give me no reason to listen to it.
Vanilla Fudge took this song and ran with it. They changed the sound, the pace, the entire essence of the song. The took a pop hit best heard at parties and turned it into an emotional, heavy song best heard while laying on your bed with your headphones on, wallowing in misery and engulfed in a cloud of bong smoke. I’m not saying that’s a good thing for everyone, but it certainly set the standard, for me, for what a cover song should do.
Time to scroll the list again. I have no problem with the rest of the first page (I had no idea Winger covered Purple Haze and I am not going to make any effort to hear it).
Let’s add a new rule to perusing cover songs lists: American Idol renditions of tunes do not count. Just on general principal.
At #37, we come upon Ugly Kid’s Joe version of Cats in the Cradle, which happens to be my most hated song next to Paradise By The Dashboard Light, so I’m going to say that it sucks no matter what. Plus, it’s Ugly Kid Joe. It has to be bad by default. I could go into a whole rant here about depressing, overwrought songs, but I’ll save that for another day.
#28. Blue Monday by Orgy. Now, I love New Order. I love Blue Monday, if not for the song itself, but for the good times memories associated with it. And I like this cover. Then again, I’m one of the 12 people on earth who loved that whole Orgy album, so I may not be the best judge of this.
As I’m scrolling down, I’m wondering what the number one song is going to be and I’m crossing my fingers that the fine folks at RetroCrush and I agree on the worst abomination of someone else’s song in existence. We’ll see.
#19: Kidz Bop songs should not count. Otherwise, we could take their whole catalog, print it out and call the list done.
#18, The Cure’s Love Song by 311. I used to love this band. What the hell happened to them? The first time I heard this cover I nearly cried, both for what they did to a great tune and for the apparent demise of what used to be a pretty cool band.
There’s a lot of Celine Dion songs on this list. But she’s Canadian, so she doesn’t count. I’ve been musically mad at Canada every since Bryan Adams.
#4 Brings us to what I was hoping to be number one. Behind Blue Eyes by Limp Bizkit. Granted, I hate this band and I loathe Fred Durst so I may be biased, but seriously. Durst either has huge balls or suffers from delusions of grandeur for even attempting to cover this one. And I’m pretty sure he has no balls.
And here is the number one worst cover song at RetroCrush:
Layla, as covered by……Eric Clapton?
Really, guys. How can you put this on the list at all, let alone at the top spot? I’m not a huge Eric Clapton fan and I’ve been sick of Layla since Steve Malone played it 16 times in a row on a road trip and we finally had to rip the cassette out of the deck and throw it out the window on the Jersey Turnpike, but cut the guy a break. It’s his song and he can do what he wants with it, no matter how much of a trainwreck it turns out to be. YOU CAN’T COVER YOUR OWN SONGS. You can rework them, remix them, give them a whole new feel, but I don’t think, in the true definition of cover songs, that you can take an artist’s new version of his own song and put it on this list.
Maybe I’m just disappointed Behind Blue Eyes wasn’t first.
My short list of songs that are missing from that list:
Guns N Roses – Live and Let Die
Mick Jagger and David Bowie – Dancing in the Streets
Billy Idol – LA Woman
Scissor Sisters -Comfortably Numb
Guns N Roses – Knockin On Heaven’s Door
No Doubt – It’s My Life
Motley Crue – Anarchy in the UK
Twisted Sister – Leader of the Pack
Those three hobags that did Lady Marmalade
Elvis Presley – In the Ghetto (I didn’t even know this was a cover song. I’m glad it is so I can put it on this list because that is one of the most godawful songs in the history of music)
I’ll try to tackle the AFI greatest films list later, if I get a break from renovation stuff. And I’ll do a “best cover songs” list later in the week.
Meanwhile, because I can’t resist posting it again, the worst cover song ever by an unknown band.