10 classic hits that were actually cover versions
10 March 2021, 12:00
Remember these classic hits? Well, they were all originally recorded by somebody else! Or, in many cases, recorded by somebody else before THAT...
Blondie - Hanging On The Telephone
This huge tune kicked off the massively-popular Blondie album Parallel Lines and was a Top 5 hit in the UK. But while many thought Deborah Harry had come up with this classic, it was actually a cover of a song by LA punk band The Nerves. Hanging On The Telephone led off The Nerves' one and only EP in 1976 and was written by guitarist Jack Lee. While the band fizzled out by 1978, Blondie were on their way to stardom and even covered another of Lee's songs, Will Anything Happen.
The Clash - I Fought The Law
This rebel-rousing tune suited the image of Joe Strummer and The Clash perfectly when they used it as the lead track on their Cost Of Living EP. The record was issued in May 1979, just as Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister and the UK was struggling through a period of unrest. However, the song was made famous in 1966 by The Bobby Fuller Four, but even that was a cover - I Fought The Law was originally written back in 1958 by Sonny Curtis and recorded when he joined The Crickets following the death of Buddy Holly a year later.
Bjork - It's Oh So Quiet
If you thought that Bjork had caught the mood of a big band standard just right with this 1995 single, then you're spot on. It's Oh So Quiet was originally recorded in 1851 by Betty Hutton, best known for playing the lead in the movie musical Annie Get Your Gun. But again, that was a cover of a German song - Und Jetzt Ist Es Still, first recorded in 1948 by Horst Winter.
Happy Mondays - Step On
The Mondays' Top 5 hit from 1990 came about because they'd been asked to contribute to an album marking the 40th anniversary of the US label Elektra. New bands on the label were asked to cover a track by an old Elektra artist, but when Shaun Ryder and co were sent a cassette of possible songs, they picked the first one they heard: He's Gonna Step On You Again by South African musician John Kongos, which made Number 4 in the UK in May 1971. The result was so successful that Factory issued the Mondays' version as a single, while the band quickly recorded another Kongos song, Tokoloshe Man, for the tribute.
Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah
Music fans in the know were suitably smug when reality TV star Alexandra Burke took this song to Number 1 at Christmas 2008 following her triumph on The X Factor. They knew that it was made famous by the late Jeff Buckley on his only studio album, Grace, in 1994. But the song was written and originally recorded by Canadian poet and musician Leonard Cohen 10 years previously for his album Various Positions. When former Velvet Underground member John Cale covered the song in 1991 for a Cohen tribute album called I'm Your Fan, Buckley added the arrangement to his portfolio of songs. Strangely, the Cale version was heard on the soundtrack to the animated film Shrek in 2001, where it presumably came to the attention of the X-Factor bigwigs, and then to thousands of buskers at shopping precincts around the world.
The Beatles - Twist And Shout
Twist And Shout was The Beatles' calling card: raucous, wild and a good indicator as to what their live shows were all about. The song came to the world's attention when it capped their debut album Please Please Me with a recording that was captured in one take! The track was released on its own EP and was in the setlist when the Fabs played the Ed Sullivan Show to millions of Americans in February 1964. But it's not a Lennon and McCartney tune - it's one of the band's arsenal of great R&B covers honed across years of live shows. It was originally recorded in 1961 by an obscure doo wop group called the Top Notes, in a version produced by the legendary Phil Spector. One of the co-writers of the song, Bert Russell, thought Spector had done a rubbish job and produced his own version with The Isley Brothers in 1962. The Isleys had a huge hit with the song Shout! so the combination of that title, plus the gratuitous inclusion of the then-fashionable Twist dance craze made it a smash.
Jimi Hendrix - Hey Joe
The Jimi Hendrix Experience kicked off their career with this murderous blues back in December 1966, which demonstrated the star's dexterous guitar skills. It wasn't an original song, but a composition that had been doing the rounds of blues, country and garage rock clubs for a number of years. It's been attributed to Californian musician Billy Roberts, while his former girlfriend Niela Miller claims that it owed a lot to her song, Baby Please Don't Go To Town. By the time Jimi came to record the song, garage rock bands like The Standells and The Leaves had all made rocked-up versions of the track, but Hendrix took his cue from the recently-released version by London-based American singer Tim Rose.
Joan Jett And The Blackhearts - I Love Rock 'N' Roll
"Put another dime in the jukebox, baby." You know the one, right? Joan Jett & The Blackhearts took this to Number 4 in the UK and Number 1 in the US in 1982, prompting everyone from Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears to record it. It even topped the charts at Christmas 2019 by Ladbaby in a version called I Love Sausage Rolls. But the song was originally recorded by London teen heart-throbs The Arrows in July 1975 and their glam rock stylings could be seen on their own series ever week on kids' TV the following year. Despite all this, their version of I Love Rock 'N' Roll didn't even make the charts.
Led Zeppelin - Dazed And Confused
This howl of authentic blues coupled with extreme volume seems tailor-made for Led Zep, but it's technically another cover. Dazed And Confused was written by folk singer Jake Holmes and was recorded in 1967 for his debut album The Above Ground Sound Of Jake Holmes. Future Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page was touring the US with his band The Yardbirds around the same time and the song was brought to his attention. The Yardbirds jammed around both the music and the lyrics of Holmes' piece and when Page launched a new band, Led Zeppelin, the song became part of their set. When Zeppelin's debut album was released in 1968, their take on Dazed And Confused was credited to "Jimmy Page". It took until 2010 for Holmes to get a credit for his original composition and the song is now attributed to "Jimmy Page, inspired by Jake Holmes".
Muse - Feeling Good
Yes we know that Nina Simone's version of Feeling Good is one of the most famous performances of all time. And it inspired Matt Bellamy to create one of his own classics when Muse took the song on in 2001 for their second album Origin Of Symmetry. However, Ms Simone's recording was a cover version - the song was written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for the British stage musical The Roar Of The Greasepaint, The Smell Of The Crowd in 1964, where it was first performed by actor Cy Grant.