One of my favorite bands of all time, The Afghan Whigs, recently reunited and has released a new song, a cover of the 1970 song “See and Don’t See” by Marie “Queenie” Lyons. The Afghan Whigs are actually a great cover band, and have never been shy about releasing EPs filled with covers, such as 1994’s “What Jail Is Like,” which features excellent covers of songs by artists such as The Supremes and soul classics such as “The Dark End of the Street.”
The new Afghan Whigs song got me thinking about covers, and how much I enjoy them. Good covers are really a lot of fun, because they put a new spin on a much beloved song and allow you to hear it in a different way. Or at least that’s the idea. And sometimes a good cover will lead you back to the source, and introduce you to cool music you didn’t know about. Anyway, here is a list of my 20 favorite cover songs.
20. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Tori Amos — The Nirvana original is just about perfect ... but this haunting cover is pretty good, too.
19. “Ring of Fire” by Social Distortion — A California punk band takes a famous Johnny Cash song, and does it justice.
18. “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” by the Violent Femmes — A great alternative rock band does Boy George
17. “Lake of Fire” by Nirvana — Nirvana pays tribute to one of its favorite bands, The Meat Puppets, with this grim tune.
16. “Landslide” by Smashing Pumpkins — I wasn’t a Fleetwood Mac fan ... until I heard this great cover.
15. “Mad World” by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules — This stripped down version of the 1980s hit by Tears for Fears appears on the “Donnie Darko” soundtrack.
14. “One” by Aimee Mann — Mann did some great work for the soundtrack to the film “Magnolia,” and this cover of the Harry Nilsson song (made famous by Three Dog Night) is a particular standout.
13. “Romeo and Juliet” by The Indigo Girls — The Dire Straits original is good, but this energetic, accusatory cover is better.
12. “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix — This is a Dylan song, but the Hendrix version is the one people remember.
11. “Brown Eyed Girl” by Lagwagon — There are a billion punk covers out there, but this supercharged take on the Van Morrison classic is one of my favorite.
10. “Everybody Knows” by Concrete Blonde — A great Leonard Cohen song. He must be a really good songwriter, or something.
9. “Black Diamond” by The Replacements — An angst-ridden version of a classic Kiss song.
8. “Knowledge” by Green Day — A poppy version of one of the punk-ska band Operation Ivy’s better songs.
7. “Nothing Compares to You” by Sinead O’Connor — I love Prince, but his version isn’t nearly as good as this devastating cover.
6. “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” by Urge Overkill — A Neil Diamond song given new life when Quentin Tarantino decided to put this mesmerizing cover on the “Pulp Fiction” soundtrack.
5. “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell — I love this song, which was originally recorded by Gloria Jones, but I understand it has its detractors. Whatever. They’re wrong.
4. “Band of Gold” by the Afghan Whigs — The Afghan Whigs do Freda Payne, with excellent results.
3. “Kiss” by Tom Jones — The Prince original is better ... but not by much.
2. “Hurt” by Johnny Cash — This shattering Nine Inch Nails cover is one of the best things Johnny Cash ever did.
1. “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley — The Leonard Cohen original is a masterwork. This cover is, too.
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