Top Ten - Unlikely Cover Versions

Celebrating those which just shouldn't work...
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Sometimes in life it's the unexpected things which work. Banana on toast. Chilli and chocolate. Neil Young's fast and frequent changes of musical direction. In this spirit, we at Clash Magazine have compiled a list of the unlikeliest covers around.

Turn up, tune in, drop out.

The Slits – I Heard It Through the Grapevine

The sadly departed Ari Up's girl gang covered this classic Marvin Gaye song of agony and infidelity whilst still in their teens. “Do you plan to let me go for this other guy you knew before?” Up squealed – fusing punk and reggae like no other. Working its way to a dubby funk breakdown and ghostly backing vocals – sharp, incisive guitars gnash away angrily. Marvin's voice may have sent a chill down the spine, but The Slits gave you a kick in the teeth.



Jesus and Mary Chain – Surfin USA

Taking the Californian sunshine of the Beach Boys original, transporting it into a cloudy and fractured brotherly bond, coating the whole thing in a candy-floss of distortion and training the guitar-lines to stab where the other ones sung – East Kilbride's own Jesus and Mary Chain nail this summer classic. I doubt their peely-wally bodies ever saw a surfboard – but it certainly doesn't sound like it.




Johnny Cash – Hurt

Everyone knows this song, the accompanying video and how closely it is bound up with the loss of the irreplaceable Cash. But what is not as widely-known is that it was originally written by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Reznor was amazed by the cover, claiming that the words he wrote – in his bedroom, about being scared and alone whilst on tour – wound up reinterpreted by a legend from another era and style, yet still “retained sincerity and meaning – different, but every bit as pure”




Satisfaction – Devo

A million miles away from the conventional rock sleaze of the Stones' classic, DEVO instead provide us with a taut, jittery punk-funk jam which is strangely devoid of any emotion, but loping rhythms and an indominable sense of rhythm. Unbelievably, hysterically funky – it must be heard to be believed. Would you argue with a band with a manifesto?



A Case of You – James Blake

The darling of post-dubstep tackles that patron saint of sensitive girls:Joni Mitchell. His voice, usually lost in a web of distortion and AutoTune, is allowed to shine through on this sparse, piano-backed track. Losing none of the potency of the original, moving his sound away from production wizardry allows a proper showcase of the phenomenonally talented Blake. This is the straightest version of a song we've heard from him yet – and if we're honest, one of the most impressive.



The Fall – Lost in Music

And so we swing from sincerity to horror. Mark E.Smith, notorious grouch and singer in the Fall, covers Sister Sledge in an unguarded moment of lunacy. Taken from the album 'The Infotainment Scam', which also featured a cover of Steve Bent's 'I'm Going to Spain' – a song first performed on talent show New Faces in the 70s, that later resurfaced on a compilation titled “The World's Worst Record”



Fools Rush In – Bow Wow Wow

Written by Johnny Mercer, this was a song which passed around the 50s teen idols from Ricky Nelson to Elvis Presley. But when Malcolm McLaren's teenage proteges got their little paws on it, they ripped up the country cornball which had existed before and instead made it a potent new pick'n'mix of punk-funk-bongo, carried along on the sheer energy of Annabella Lwin.



St. Etienne – Only Love Can Break Your Heart

About as far from the folky Neil Young original as it is possible to get, this reeks of 90s house. With Moira Lambert's vocals backed by Italo-house piano, this is a record about tears on the dancefloor and all that good stuff. Check out the video for a chilling reminder of what people used to wear in the 90s.



Orange Juice – L.O.V.E.

Glasgow trio fond of sandals, socks and post-modern irony in covering Al Green shocker. The good Rev's soul classic – full of transcendental images of love and the spirit – gets the full post-punk treatment, as Postcard Record's poster-boys lend their chiming guitars & Edwyn Collin's crooning to the cause.



Sam Cooke – Blowin In the Wind

Probably the most gifted vocalist the world has ever seen, Sam Cooke's cover of the Bob Dylan game-changer twisted it into a clap-along bouncy pop song. But the message wasn't lost on Cooke – a black man singing a song written about equality, and making it acceptable to the pop-loving masses was the most powerful move to make at the time.

Remember that Cooke himself wrote 'A Change is Gonna Come' – one of the most important songs of the civil rights debate, and one of the most powerful songs in history.



Words by Marianne Gallagher

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