The 10 greatest Classic Rock cover versions

14 June 2024, 09:00

Great covers from great artists: Thin Lizzy, Joan Jett, Jimi Hendrix and Blondie.
Great covers from great artists: Thin Lizzy, Joan Jett, Jimi Hendrix and Blondie. Picture: Alamy Stock Photo

Radio X Classic Rock picks 10 of the best cover versions to have come along across the decades.

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By Radio X

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  • The humble cover version is testament to the timeless and versatile nature of rock music. A decent cover will breathe new life into a classic track, offering a fresh interpretation that resonates with a new generation.
  • A fresh interpretation of a classic song can introduce fans to artists they might not have otherwise discovered and form a bridge between different eras of music.
  • So which of the best cover versions in the age of Classic Rock have endured? Radio X looks at some of the most popular covers...
  1. The Animals – House Of The Rising Sun

    The Animals - House of the Rising Sun (1964) HQ/Widescreen ♫ 59 YEARS AGO

    A traditional folk song, also known as Rising Sun Blues, this cautionary tale topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic when the Newcastle band The Animals covered it in the summer of 1964.

  2. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – I Love Rock 'N' Roll

    Joan Jett & the Blackhearts - I Love Rock 'N Roll (Official Video)

    Many though that former Runaways guitarist Jett had written this classic and issued it as her debut single, but it was actually recorded by London-based glam-era band The Arrows in 1975. It failed to chart in the UK, while Jett's version peaked at Number 4.

  3. Guns N'Roses – Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

    Guns N' Roses - Knockin' On Heaven's Door (Visualizer)

    Bob Dylan wrote this gospel-influenced song for the film Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid in 1973, and 18 years later, GNR covered the track for Use Your Illusion II (they also did their own version of Paul McCartney & Wings' Live & Let Die, another big hit from 1973).

  4. Jimi Hendrix – All Along The Watchtower

    The Jimi Hendrix Experience - All Along The Watchtower (Official Audio)

    One of the most famous cover versions of all time, Bob Dylan wrote this song for his 1967 album John Wesley Harding. It was only a few weeks later that The Jimi Hendrix Experience began recording their cover at Olympic Studios in London, and it was issued as the penultimate track on their Electric Ladyland album in October 1968.

  5. Blondie – Hanging On The Telephone

    Blondie - Hanging On The Telephone

    Debbie Harry and co made this song their own in 1978 when they took Hanging On The Telephone into the UK Top 5 - it also opened their breakthrough album Parallel Lines. The song was, however, written by Jack Lee for his band The Nerves and issued on their sole EP in 1976.

  6. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Blinded By The Light

    Manfred Mann - Blinded by the Light

    Written by Bruce Springsteen and included on his debut album Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ in 1973, this freeform word association-filled tune was covered by Manfred Mann's band for their 1976 album The Roaring Silence. It made Number 6 in the UK and topped the US chart.

  7. George Harrison – Got My Mind Set On You

    George Harrison - Got My Mind Set On You (Version II)

    Originally recorded by R&B star James Ray in 1962, this track was covered by former Beatle George Harrison for his big "comeback" album Cloud Nine in 1987. The song gave George his third US solo number 1 and made Number 2 in the UK.

  8. Thin Lizzy – Whiskey In The Jar

    Thin Lizzy - Whiskey In The Jar 1973 Video Sound HQ

    A traditional Irish folk ballad about a highwayman, it gained popularity in 1967 when The Dubliners recorded it for their album More Of The Hard Stuff. Dublin-based band Thin Lizzy covered the song for a 1972 single, issued off the back of a successful tour with glam legends Slade. It topped the Irish chart and made Number 6 in the UK.

  9. David Bowie – China Girl

    David Bowie - China Girl (Official Video)

    Bowie and his friend Iggy Pop wrote this song in the summer of 1976, where they were recording Pop's solo album The Idiot and Bowie's masterpiece Low. The lyrics were about Iggy's relationship with a Vietnamese woman, Kuelan Nguyen, who was present at the sessions, and their subsequent language problems. In 1982, Iggy was struggling with his finances, having released a series of flop albums, so Dave came to the rescue and covered his pal's song on his million-selling album Let's Dance.

  10. The Clash – I Fought The Law:

    The Clash - I Fought the Law (Official Video)

    Originally recorded by Buddy Holly's backing band The Crickets after their leader's death, this tune became better known via a cover by The Bobby Fuller Four in 1965. This was the version that came to the attention of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, who were recording with The Clash at a studio in San Francisco, which had a well-stocked jukebox of garage classics. The band's version of I Fought The Law became the lead track on The Clash's Cost Of Living EP in May 1979.