The best cover versions ever

6 November 2019, 21:20

David Bowie and Kurt Cobain
David Bowie and Kurt Cobain. Picture: Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images & Kevin Mazur/WireImage/ Getty Images

The cover. It's a risk. It's difficult. But if you pull it off, you can create something incredible that completely overshadows the original. These songs did just that.

  1. Nirvana - Man Who Sold The World Vs David Bowie - Man Who Sold The World

    Is the cover better than the original? It's impossible to choose between Bowie's epic original and the cover made famous by Nirvana during their MTV Unplugged gig. Both versions are powerful in their own right, but the late Kurt Cobain's death and their game-changing MTV session arguably made their version more iconic.

  2. Johnny Cash – Hurt Vs NIne Inch Nails - Hurt

    Is the cover better than the original? What can we say? Producer Rick Rubin made the genius move of giving the 71-year-old veteran Man In Black this Trent Reznor classic to cover. Cash turned the song from a pouting teenager's grumbling missive into the coda to an impressive and legendary career. The song was released a few months before Cash's death and the poignancy is heartbreaking.

  3. The Futureheads – Hounds Of Love Vs Kate Bush - Hounds Of Love

    Is the cover better than the original? We wouldn't have a word said against Our Kate, but the Sunderland lads give her mystical, mysterious 1985 track a thorough going-over that gives it a huge new lease of life... without losing the wonder of the melody.

  4. Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah Vs Leonard Cohen - Hallelujah

    Is the cover better than the original? Everything about Buckley's rendition of Hallelujah is perfect. The performance; the composition; the delivery.

  5. Jimi Hendrix – All Along The Watchtower Vs Bob Dylan - All Along The Watchtower

    Is the cover better than the original? Watchtower was a throwaway album track by Dylan. It sat on his 1967 album John Wesley Harding album and was largely ignored. Hendrix's reworking pulled the melody forward, which was originally shrouded in the lyrical narrative and worked his apocalyptic guitar magic. As fighting in Vietnam intensified, this became the soundtrack.

  6. Muse – Feeling Good Vs Nina Simone - Feeling Good

    Is the cover better than the original? Originally written for the musicial The Roar Of The Greasepaint - The Smell Of The Crowd, Nina Simone's Feelin' Good is one of the greatest vocal performances in recorded music. But when the Devon trio added their furious rock n' roll distortion to the tune, the track took on a new life. Feelin' Good was no longer a jazz ballad, and instead was a rock anthem.

  7. José González – Heartbeats Vs The Knife - Heartbeats

    Is the cover better than the original? The Swedish musician's 2006 cover of The Knife's Heartbeats is the quintessential example of a cover eclipsing the original. The Knife's original is an electronic feast that's not without its own quirky charm, but Gonzalez's delicate, intricate cover became one of the most listened to tracks of the Noughties.