I grew up with music, from playing drums at age 5, to graduating to several local bands in the Youngstown, Ohio area; music has been a major part of my life. I used to listen to Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” every Saturday morning with my boom box waiting to record on cassette tape my favorite song (this is a dated reference I know, but this was pre internet and downloads).
Recently at my work place, a colleague and I were discussing music and the topic became “What cover song is just as, or even better than the original?” This got us on a several day tirade and I decided to share a few of my favorites on the subject.
Now keep in mind that I am not including songs that are most popular associated with remakes, for instance, Whitney Houston’s version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” or Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along With Watchtower,” are just as good (or in my opinion better than their originals as does Elvis Presley’s version of “Hound Dog.” I want to focus on rare songs that most people may not heard or even forgot about when discussing the topic. These are a few of my favorites (it is my blog) and hopefully you will check it out on youtube or whatever music channels you use and discover a few gems. None of these are in order, so the number listings are just for separation purposes.
1. “Stuck In The Middle With You”-The Jeff Healey Band. This song has a personal happiness for me because I used to play this version in one of my early bands in the late 1990s. Healey’s version came off of an all covers album, and has a more blues/rock feel to it, as opposed to the original by Stealers Wheel from 1972. Healey’s version is a more crunchy sound as well, opposite of the original’s funky bass line. The fact that Healey was very underrated as a guitar player, his solo is rocking and incredible in this song.
2. “This Old Heart of Mine”-Wild Cherry. Most people know Wild Cherry as the band that hit the charts with “Play That Funky Music,” but they recorded some great songs in their brief four-album career. The band from Steubenville, Ohio’s (not far from where I live) take on the old Isley Brother’s 1966 hit, is probably my favorite version of the song, even better than the more famous 1989 version where Ron Isley sang with Rod Stewart. Wild Cherry’s was a very good band that most people lump into One Hit Wonder status. Check out Wild Cherry.
3. “Radar Love”- White Lion. White Lion was a very underrated band in the 1980s-1990s , and did not get their just recognition. They are lumped into the “Hair Metal” genre (a term I HATE-a rant for another time), and I think their version of the #13 hit by Golden Earring is actually better than the original. I think the original sounds dated, even though White Lion’s take only reached #59 on the U.S. Charts, the video was in heavy rotation on MTV in the day. Most people forget about White Lion, but they were a great blues-rock band (I tend to lump them more with Cinderella) and all their music should be checked out.
4. “Just My Imagaination”-The Rolling Stones. This song is kinda rare when talked about The Rolling Stones, but this is one of my favorites. I love Motown music, but this more up-tempo version of The Temptation’s 1971 hit is better than the original. There are a few versions of this song, which debuted on the “Some Girls” album in 1978, but I fell in love with it during the “Shine A Light” concert movie.
5. “That’s Rock N Roll”-Shawn Cassidy. This cover of Eric Carmen’s song became a #3 hit for Cassidy in 1977, when the 1970’s Teen Idol explosion was happening and Cassidy was having many hits. The brother of David Cassidy puts more feeling into the song than the original, and is great teen pop.
6. “Da Do Ron Ron”- Shawn Cassidy. I was never a fan of the Crystal’s 1963 hit, which reached #3 on the U.S. Charts, but in 1977 Cassidy took it to #1. As the same with “That’s Rock N Roll, “ Cassidy put more feeling into the song. Cassidy was one of the top Teen Idols during this time and had several chart hits. This one is one of my favorites that he recorded (His version of The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA” is one of the worst). This version has a more rock sound and doesn’t seem as dated as the original
7. “Dream Lover”-Rick Nelson. I am a fan of Bobby Darin’s music, but I would name Rick Nelson (who by this time changed his name from the teen Ricky) as one of my all time favorite artists. Most of his really creative works were done later in his career, even though many forgot about him at the time. This song was not released as a single that I know of, but he did perform it in 1979, when he hosted “Saturday Night Live” in hopes of a come back. According to VH1’s’ Behind The Music,” Nelson’s record company sat on the single for months until a full album was made, which killed the momentum he had from his TV appearance. This version is a slower ballad version, and shows Nelson’s crooning voice, which made him famous early in his career.
These are just a few of the songs I feel are just as, or better than the original recordings. A few more Honorable Mentions goes to: Poison’s “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” Phil Collin’s “A Groovy Kind Of Love,” Rick Nelson’s “I Shall Be Released,” and Nelson’s “She Belongs to Me.” Hopefully you will check out some of these, and feel free to send your own comments and suggestions