20 of the best acoustic versions of of rock songs

6 February 2024, 19:00

Kurt Cobain, Alex Turner, Florence Welch and Liam Gallagher
Kurt Cobain, Alex Turner, Florence Welch and Liam Gallagher. Picture: Frank Micelotta/Getty/Radio X/YouTube

Here are some of Radio X's favourite tracks that have been stripped back and unplugged.

  1. Nirvana - All Apologies

    The whole of Nirvana's MTV Unplugged gig from 1993 is pretty special, particular highlights coming with the David Bowie cover The Man Who Sold The World and a devastating take on the Nevermind closer Something In The Way. It gave the world one last, memorable impression of Kurt Cobain taking place just five months before he died. The rendition of All Apologies, however, struck a particular chord with people, bringing to the surface the delicate intricacies of the song.

    Nirvana - All Apologies (MTV Unplugged)

  2. Arctic Monkeys - Do I Wanna Know?

    In September 2013, the Sheffield quartet released their game-changing fifth record AM to MASSIVE commercial and critical success and the singles were dominating the radio. So when they unveiled this acoustic version of the opening track for us on the weekend of their Finsbury Park shows in May of 2014, we knew we had something special.

    Arctic Monkeys - Do I Wanna Know (Radio X Session)

  3. Foo Fighters - Best Of You

    In 2006, Foo Fighters released Skin And Bones, an acoustic live album recorded in L.A. For a band that had mastered stadium-filling rock songs, this collection of back-to-basics tracks was a real head tuner. The acoustic album was a statement of intent from Dave Grohl, displaying how far he'd come from his Nirvana days.

    Foo Fighters - Best Of You (from Skin And Bones, Live in Hollywood, 2006)

  4. Damon Albarn - Out of Time

    When Damon Albarn went solo at the tail end of 2013, it sounded like the halcyon days of Britpop were long behind him. However, his tour saw the Blur frontman playing tracks from across his whole discography. His solo piano rendition of Out Of Time in Paris beautifully fused his classic Blur sound with the bold, considered style of his solo album. Just look at his smiling face!

    Damon Albarn - Out Of Time - Alhambra Paris 2014

  5. Richard Ashcroft - Bitter Sweet Symphony

    Bold, brave and inspirational. The Verve frontman played his 1997 classic during a performance for Radio X in 2018. A hymn to the healing power of music, it sounds as relevant today as it ever did.

    Richard Ashcroft performs Bitter Sweet Symphony live for Radio X

  6. Radiohead - No Surprises

    Radiohead's No Surprises is one of the band's most tender moments. But at their acoustic concert in Paris in 2003, the song was taken down even further. The gig saw Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood play some of Radiohead's most iconic tracks (including Everything In Its Right Place, There There, Karma Police and more) but their version of No Surprises held the audience's attention so intently you could hear a pin drop.

    Thom Yorke & Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead) - No Surprises | Live on Music Planet 2nite, 2003

  7. Noel Gallagher - Morning Glory

    Taken from the Oasis There And Then DVD, this acoustic version of Morning Glory was recorded live at Earls Court in 1995. Not only does it capture a band at the most exciting point of their career, but also Noel's future potential as a frontman. Armed with just his guitar, Gallagher senior holds the crowd in the palm of his hand, with the audience's vocals almost drowning him out.

    Oasis - Morning Glory (Noel, acoustic at Earls Court)

  8. Paul Weller - English Rose

    Weller was never sure of this song back in the days of The Jam - he left the title off the cover of the band's 1978 album All Mod Cons because he felt the lyrics meant nothing without the music. Nowadays. however, the Modfather is justifably proud of this delicate song.

    Paul Weller-English Rose (Acoustic)

  9. Liam Fray - Not Nineteen Forever

    Middleton's finest, stood in the Radio X studio with keyboard player Adam Payne in the summer of 2017, playing his signature song. Pure class - and a whole new level of poignancy to the indie favourite.

    Liam Fray - Not Nineteen Forever

  10. Florence + The Machine - Cosmic Love

    Florence Welch shows off her amazing voice as the Machine play this romantic ballad for the station KEXP in 2010. Beautiful.

    Florence and the Machine - Cosmic Love (Live on KEXP)

  11. Blossoms - Your Girlfriend

    The Stockport lads crammed their gear into the Radio X studio earlier this year to play one of their fine pop songs. The steel guitar is gorgeous.

    Blossoms | Your Girlfriend | Radio X Session

  12. The Kooks - Naive

    Let's show some love for classic Noughties indie bangers - this is a great performance by the Brighton band in the bowels of the Radio X studios in 2018.

    The Kooks - Naive (Radio X Live Session)

  13. The Wombats - Let's Dance To Joy Division

    This is the most unusual location for an acoustic session - up in a pod on the London Eye, overlooking the capital as a spercial performance for Chris Moyles' birthday show in February 2018!

    The Wombats play Let's Dance To Joy Division

  14. Manic Street Preachers - Motorcycle Emptiness

    We feel that James Dean Bradfield doesn't get his due as being one of the great rock voices around, so take a look at this acoustic set performed at the Rough Trade East store in London in 2012. The audience are pretty impressive, too.

    James Dean Bradfield - Motorcycle Emptiness Acoustic - @ Rough Trade East 06/11/2012

  15. Brandon Flowers - Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine

    When the Killers man went solo in 2015, he delivered this exceptional take on the opening track from the band's debut Hot Fuss as a country murder ballad. It works really well!

    Brandon Flowers (The Killers) - "Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine" [LIVE @ SiriusXM] | Alt Nation

  16. Stereophonics - Traffic

    One of Kelly Jones' beautiful observational tunes, filmed at a tribute to the band's late publicist Scott Piering in 2002.

    Stereophonics - Traffic - Live at Scala London 2002

  17. Brian May - Tie Your Mother Down

    This no-nonsense hard rock song from the album A Day At The Races is turned into a sleazy blues for a VH1 session in 1998.

    brian may - tie your mother down (with intro story) (live unplugged)

  18. Chris Cornell - Black Hole Sun

    Another example of the beautiful arrangements behind some of the hardest rock songs, this Soundgarden classic was recorded for CBS news just a month before Cornell's tragic death in May 2017. Such a loss.

    Chris Cornell - Black Hole Sun Acoustic

  19. The Cure - Just Like Heaven

    From the golden years of MTV Unplugged, the great British cult band recorded this set in 1991, stripped back and sat down. This is the classic 1987 single given an acoustic makeover.

    The Cure - Just Like Heaven (MTV Unplugged)

  20. Liam Gallagher - Wonderwall

    A triumphant version of one of his brother's greatest ever songs, Liam took to the roof of the Radio X studios on a crisp February night in 2018 to play some of his solo and Oasis material acoustically.

    Liam Gallagher - Wonderwall live at Radio X