What are the worst cover songs?
January 18, 2005 8:28 AM   Subscribe

We've just had an extensive discussion of good cover songs, so it's time to ask the opposite question: what covers should be avoided at all costs? [+]
posted by SisterHavana to Media & Arts (81 answers total)
 
Hands down:

The Indigo Girls' cover of "Clampdown" by The Clash.
posted by inksyndicate at 8:32 AM on January 18, 2005


I'm not thinking of things on albums like Kidz Bop or those compilations like "Todays Hits Sung By The Countdown Singers," though many of those could qualify. I'm thinking songs by more established artists, when you listen to it and think "Who on earth thought this was a good idea?"

I'll start with a few:
"I Saw Him Standing There," Tiffany
"All By Myself," Celine Dion
"Faith," Limp Bizkit
posted by SisterHavana at 8:35 AM on January 18, 2005


Britney Spears cover of "I Love Rock & Roll." That bimbo dosen't even have a nodding acquaintance with rock and roll.

Also, I like the Grateful Dead, but all recordings of their version of "Good Lovin'" must be shot on sight.
posted by jonmc at 8:36 AM on January 18, 2005


"Hallelujah" was mentioned several times in the earlier thread, so it can be mentioned here too: avoid the versions by Bono and Bob Dylan.

Madonna, "American Pie"
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:36 AM on January 18, 2005


Can I mention William Shatner again?

Plus Light my Fire by Will Young always gets my blood boiling.
posted by qwerty155 at 8:40 AM on January 18, 2005


"Straight Outta Compton" by Nina Gordon
"Baby Got Back" by Throwdown
"Yellow Submarine" by Cathy Berberian is quite possibly the strangest cover out there.
posted by cmonkey at 8:40 AM on January 18, 2005


Oh, and Winger's execrable version of "Purple Haze." Possibly the worst idea in a career full of them.
posted by jonmc at 8:43 AM on January 18, 2005


I personally find that Mariah Carey cover of Def Leppard's "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" quite bizarre.
I don't know if I hate the cover, though, or if it just ties into my overall hate of everything Mariah Carey has ever done.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:44 AM on January 18, 2005


Jessica Simspon's cover of "Take My Breath Away" was indeed suffocating.
posted by icontemplate at 8:47 AM on January 18, 2005


Tori Amos' Smells Like Teen Spirit. In fact, avoiding Tori Amos at all costs is usually the best plan of action. (I know it got a nod in the other thread. I'm officially un-nodding it here.)
posted by contessa at 8:52 AM on January 18, 2005


inksyndicate-- holy shit! I came in here to make the same suggestion. That cover is soooo awful. Even worse than that Ice Cube/Mac 10 "cover" of "Should I Stay or Should I Go."
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:56 AM on January 18, 2005


Mostly Off-Topic Read At Own Risk!

I used to work at Toys R Us, and we sold those awful, AWFUL Kidz Bop Cover CDs. We had several of them returned by angry parents who bought them for their young children. The best was what was supposed to be a CD full of pop songs performed as lullabies. When a young couple put it on for thier child to fall asleep to, they discovered it was, in fact, Appetite for Destruction. We had at least four or five Kidz Bop CDs come back, all with proper KB labels, all G n' R.

Redeeming On-Topic Suggestions:

Any band that hits the big time because of a cover deserves the death penalty. See: Alien Ant Farm, etc. I find it fascinating that Smashmouth seems to have made a career out of performing covers for movie soundtracks.

Finally, Capn' Jazz's cover of "Take On Me" is simultaniously and in equal parts awful and amazing, heartbreaking and glorious.
posted by hughbot at 9:03 AM on January 18, 2005


Gorky Park's cover of The Who's "My Generation" is, without question, the worst cover ever produced. The link is NSF Ears
posted by piro at 9:03 AM on January 18, 2005


As much of an R.E.M. apologist as I am, the Michael Stipe and Mandy Moore duet of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" should be avoided at all costs.
posted by Robot Johnny at 9:04 AM on January 18, 2005


Point of order! I love Tori's cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
posted by mlis at 9:05 AM on January 18, 2005


Guns & Roses: Knocking on Heaven's Door
"Nock nock nockin on heaven's dough-ah-woah-ah-woah"
posted by TimeFactor at 9:07 AM on January 18, 2005


Speaking of G n' R, avoid their cover of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" like it was radioactive waste. Their lead singer should be taken out and beaten with "Nashville Skyline" album covers until he agrees to never attempt another Dylan song.
posted by tommasz at 9:09 AM on January 18, 2005


Any band that hits the big time because of a cover deserves the death penalty...

And when a band suddenly starts doing covers when it hadn't previously usually means that they've run out of ideas and the end is near.
posted by TimeFactor at 9:10 AM on January 18, 2005


Mariah Carey covered Def Leppard? I can't even begin to imagine that.

Can't forget Will To Power's "Baby I Love Your Way/Free Bird." Two bad covers in one!
posted by SisterHavana at 9:11 AM on January 18, 2005


The entire Duran Duran covers album is best forgotten, but especially "911 is a joke."
posted by jeffmshaw at 9:12 AM on January 18, 2005


Heh, tommasz.
posted by TimeFactor at 9:12 AM on January 18, 2005


Dang, missed your post. But man, that song does get me angry.
posted by tommasz at 9:15 AM on January 18, 2005


I'd say most any Beatles cover, but you know, usually those covers (even if by otherwise horrible bands) are at least listenable, only because the songs themselves are so good that they are able to override any bands's attempt to butcher them.

The worst cover I've heard recent years has got to be 311's take on The Cure's "Love Song." Simply unlistenable.
posted by thirdparty at 9:17 AM on January 18, 2005


tommasz, it's just funny that we had the exact same response at the exact same time.
posted by TimeFactor at 9:23 AM on January 18, 2005


Last weekend I had the unforgettable experience of driving 5 hours in a rental car with a cover band CD jammed in the player. Whoever they were, and hanging's definitely too good for them, they must be first up the wall when the revolution comes for even doing a cover of the theme to Arthur, a song that should be left safely in its grave with a stake through its heart anyway.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:29 AM on January 18, 2005


If you thought Britney's cover of "I Love Rock and Roll" was bad, you've obviously never heard her cover of "(Can't Get No) Satisfaction"... It is what the word 'excrable' was invented for...
posted by benzo8 at 9:30 AM on January 18, 2005


Curley:
"Oh, you grow UP and you calm DOWNN..."

This superb book has an excellent guide to the worst Dylan cover versions ever.
posted by inksyndicate at 9:38 AM on January 18, 2005


Tom Jones cover of Prince's Kiss.
posted by Juicylicious at 9:40 AM on January 18, 2005


Marylin Manson's cover of "Sweet Dreams." I'm so glad his fifteen minutes are over and done with.

I recently read some horrible pop-ish cover of the RHCP's "Under the Bridge." I have no idea who it was but it was just so awful.
posted by bondcliff at 10:26 AM on January 18, 2005


Eric Clapton's lounge-style "cover" of his own "Layla"--a song I never liked very much to begin with, but the "unplugged" version is an old man's money-grubbing at its crassest. Yawn.
posted by scratch at 10:31 AM on January 18, 2005


Contessa beat me to the punch on Tori Amos' "Smells Like Teen Spirit." But even as a Cash fan (I voted his version of "Hurt" as a "better than original" cover in the last thread), I have to say second place for awfulness goes to Johnny Cash's cover of "Personal Jesus." Makes me want to laugh each time I hear it--in a bad way.
posted by availablelight at 10:37 AM on January 18, 2005


Freebird. Especially drunk requests for Freebird.
posted by sled at 10:42 AM on January 18, 2005


(MLIS): Point of order! I love Tori's cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

Point noted, but dies on the table for lack of supporting debate. Meeting adjourned!
posted by contessa at 10:45 AM on January 18, 2005


I'd say most any Beatles cover, but you know, usually those covers (even if by otherwise horrible bands) are at least listenable

You haven't heard Saga's cover of "Taxman." Yes, Saga.
posted by kindall at 10:49 AM on January 18, 2005


Ironic punk covers of cheesy pop songs. Were so over by 1992. And yet they do not diiiiie.
posted by furiousthought at 10:49 AM on January 18, 2005


Capn' Jazz's cover of "Take On Me" is simultaniously and in equal parts awful and amazing, heartbreaking and glorious.

What about their cover of "Winter Wonderland"? That one's just bizarre.
posted by oaf at 10:51 AM on January 18, 2005


Bill Cosby's cover of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" is not so much bad per se, but it's a wonderful slice of sublime weirdness, as is Cos' "Hooray For the Salvation Army Band," which is a thinly disguised cover of "Purple Haze," with different lyrics.
posted by jonmc at 10:52 AM on January 18, 2005


I recently read some horrible pop-ish cover of the RHCP's "Under the Bridge." I have no idea who it was but it was just so awful.

All Saints, whose fifteen minutes are All Gone.
posted by icontemplate at 10:54 AM on January 18, 2005


Tori Amos' Smells Like Teen Spirit.
posted by contessa at 8:52 AM PST on January 18

I agree with this. Toris Amos raped this song, and I've been showering ever since.
posted by orange clock at 10:59 AM on January 18, 2005


Bruce Willis's cover of 'Under The Boardwalk' is the worst piece of shit I've ever heard, ever.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 11:03 AM on January 18, 2005


Speaking of Britney, what about her awful rendition of "My Prerogative"? It's pretty horrendous, except if it's the video, and it's muted. ;)

Come to think of it, in retrospect, the original is quite awful, too.
posted by LouMac at 11:34 AM on January 18, 2005


OK, I'm an Indigo Girls fan, and I'm not real familiar with The Clash, so I figured I'd listen to this cover that I'd never heard before that everyone was dissing.

I didn't like it, either. It seems to me that the guts of the song got ripped out and it's just left hanging there, limp. Just a biased opinion---I really thought I'd like it.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 11:38 AM on January 18, 2005


Phil Collins: Groovy Kind of Love
posted by m@ at 11:38 AM on January 18, 2005


April Winchell has a howlingly awesome collection of horrible music, including a bunch of covers. The foreign-language Abba stuff is horrible. And by horrible, I mean awesome.
posted by mkultra at 11:39 AM on January 18, 2005


Er... linky...
posted by mkultra at 11:39 AM on January 18, 2005


Hole covering Hungry Like the Wolf.

And if we're talking really godawful Tori Amos covers, "Heart of Gold" cannot be left out. If you thought she raped Nirvana, wait'll you see what happens to Neil Young.
posted by u.n. owen at 12:08 PM on January 18, 2005


Personally, I find the work of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes to be very, very bad. Not bad-meaning-good, and not so-bad-it's-good (some of the Kidz Bop songs fit into this category for me, mainly the ones whose lyrics are utterly inappropriate for children), but just bad.

And Lil' Romeo, Nick Cannon and 3LW's version of 'Parents Just Don't Understand' just might be the worst song I've ever heard in my life.
posted by box at 12:13 PM on January 18, 2005



Ironic punk covers of cheesy pop songs. Were so over by 1992. And yet they do not diiiiie.


Sometimes, they can be elevated to an entirely new level. I submit to you The Gobos.

I mean, when you cover Neil Diamond and Bonnie Tyler on the same album you gotta be doin' somethin' right.
posted by TeamBilly at 12:13 PM on January 18, 2005


Madonna's "American Pie"
Metallica's "Turn the Page"
Girlschool's cover of Sweet's "Fox on the Run", one of those rare things to which the phrase "Wrong on so many levels" actually applies.

And this one really pains me — Rush's "Summertime Blues"
posted by Wolfdog at 12:38 PM on January 18, 2005


Big Mountain's cover of Frampton's "Baby, I Love Your Way" from the Reality Bites soundtrack. Yarg.

Sidebar:
Can we include the sad fate of good songs that were prominently placed in hit movies so much that the movie is now permanently associated with said song? Case in point: Since being featured in Wayne's World, Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" is now known as "That Wayne's World Song."
posted by grabbingsand at 12:47 PM on January 18, 2005


Girlschool's cover of Sweet's "Fox on the Run", one of those rare things to which the phrase "Wrong on so many levels" actually applies.

Girlschool's cover of ZZ Top's "Tush" on the other hand is a treat, as is the Motorhead/Girlschool joint cover of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates "Please Don't Touch." Of course Girlschool in their initial incarnation were basically Motorhead with breasts, so that kinda makes sense.
posted by jonmc at 12:51 PM on January 18, 2005


Once you've heard Celine Dion singing "You Shook Me All Night Long," you will pray for deafness.

Honorable mention to Quiet Riot. Those guys should be playing weddings and bar mitzvahs, not small-town hockey arenas and KlassiK RokK clubs.
posted by chicobangs at 12:54 PM on January 18, 2005


Simple Minds did an album of covers of songs they found influential (much like Duran Duran's similarly ill-conceived Thank You). It's mediocre at best, except for their happy techno version of Love Will Tear Us Apart, which is an absolute atrocity.
posted by O9scar at 1:02 PM on January 18, 2005


Limp Bizkit's cover of "Behind Blue Eyes" by The Who really ticked me off. The video was mostly soulful closeups of Durst's face while he Emoted(TM), and included a Speak n' Spell in the background saying "L...I...M...P...". It eventually showed up in one of those worst-of-the-year recaps, so I don't think I was the only one offended.
posted by brism at 1:03 PM on January 18, 2005


I'm with MLIS, I love Tori's ...Teen Spirit. In fact the whole of that EP is stunning (Led Zep's "Thank You" and Joni's "Case Of You" being the other two tracks). They got me through some tough times.

I'd add another vote for Britney's I Love Rock N Roll. If I never hear that again, etc. Generally, any "sign as many pre/barely pubescent teen moisteners as possible and see what sticks" act covering a song is bad. Oh, and GNR's Dylan thing...
posted by TheDonF at 1:11 PM on January 18, 2005


Madeleine Peyroux’s cover of Elliott Smith’s “Between the Bars” is horrid. (If you want to hear it, search on my weblog, where I've posted a link.)
posted by thebabelfish at 1:20 PM on January 18, 2005


Counting Crows cover of "Big Yellow Taxi". I might not mind it if not for the oversampled sound of the "mmmbopbopbop" line...

And as per thirdparty's comment about Beatles covers, I have to say in the case of U2 covering "Helter Skelter", it was better than the Beatles recording.
posted by MrBobaFett at 1:32 PM on January 18, 2005


Once you've heard Celine Dion singing "You Shook Me All Night Long," you will pray for deafness.

JFC. I must hear that. [fires up emule] It can't be as horrible/wonderful as I imagine but I'm willing to take the chance on deafness to find out.
posted by TimeFactor at 1:42 PM on January 18, 2005



Freebird. Especially drunk requests for Freebird.
posted by sled at 10:42 AM PST on January 18


Ok. Fine. I'll stop now.





Are drunk requests for "Crazy Train" still ok?
posted by electro at 1:44 PM on January 18, 2005


Not that the original was all that great, but Tesla's cover of "Signs" is pretty lame.
posted by me3dia at 2:00 PM on January 18, 2005


Mates of State's cover of "Starman" is 31 flavors of ass. (And for the record, William Shatner's version of "Common People" is actually quite good, and not just in a "so bad it's good" kind of way, either.)
posted by gigawhat? at 2:14 PM on January 18, 2005


I'd say most any Beatles cover, but you know, usually those covers (even if by otherwise horrible bands) are at least listenable, only because the songs themselves are so good that they are able to override any bands's attempt to butcher them.

IMHO, Joe Cocker's version of With a Little Help from my Friends was actually better than the original.

Urgh, this thread has listed a couple of covers that I really want to listen to now, just so I can be utterly offended and indignant.

*tries to imagine Celine Dion doing AC/DC*

On preview:
*Tries to work out if Celine Dion having sex with Angus Young is better or worse than her covering one of his tunes*
posted by qwerty155 at 4:22 PM on January 18, 2005


Anytime anyone covers "How Soon is Now?"

I'm looking at you, now defunct fake lesbian TATU!
posted by Quartermass at 4:27 PM on January 18, 2005


All these comments and no one mentioned any of the over 5,000 covers of Feelings? What's wrong with you people!
posted by billsaysthis at 4:47 PM on January 18, 2005


how about "china girl" by bowie... not to flog a sacred horse. but is covering yourself after iggy not some kind of weird necro-thing?
posted by grimley at 4:50 PM on January 18, 2005


"baby i love the way/freebird" ... don't know the name of the group but it was a hit and it sucked

"grease lightening" ... a medley of songs from grease that became a rather unmusical hit, too

phil collins for "a groovy kind of love" and "you can't hurry love"

the grateful dead's post-pigpen versions of "good lovin" weren't all that great, but pigpen's ruled
posted by pyramid termite at 5:46 PM on January 18, 2005


Seems like every emo/pop-punk band covered "just like heaven" in the last couple of years and they're all awful.

As for Tori you gotta appreciate how you can picture exactly how she would cover any song. Try it... imagine Tori covering "yellow submarine"... arpeggiated piano, extra reverb, everything goes minor and slow...

I have U2 doing a cover of Dancing Queen which falls into the so-bad-its-good-again category...
posted by softlord at 5:59 PM on January 18, 2005


Canonically in this category if you are a working musician:

Louie Louie
Sweet Jane
Desolation Row
Danny Boy
Inna Gadda Da Vida
Free Bird
Hotel California

I believe this may, in fact, be the compleat list, exclusive of bluegrass, country, and jazz.
posted by mwhybark at 6:46 PM on January 18, 2005


I might clarify that you are also required to be able to cover at least Louie Louie and Sweet Jane, however weakly. The 'do not cover' rule stems from unending audience requests for these songs, often in jest, but certainly not always.
posted by mwhybark at 6:55 PM on January 18, 2005


I believe this may, in fact, be the compleat list

What about Whiter Shade Of Pale, People Get Ready, I'm A Man...
posted by jonmc at 7:04 PM on January 18, 2005


I adore Art Garfunkel despite his lackluster solo career. But, has anyone heard his cover of "When a Man Loves a Woman?" Just unbelievably terrible..
posted by sophie at 7:16 PM on January 18, 2005


I think Nina Simone was the only person to successfully cover Screamin' Jay Hawkins "I Put a Spell On You", everbody else's was just lame. (Brian Ferry's especially.)
posted by black8 at 1:28 AM on January 19, 2005


Any cover of "Spirit in the Sky", it never goes well and it just seems like such a sure sign of desperation from a band.
posted by milovoo at 9:23 AM on January 19, 2005


mwhybark, you forgot "Mustang Sally," or any song the Commitments put on every friggin' wedding band playlist for the rest of our productuive lives.

But especially "Mustang Sally. If I never hear that song again, it's proof that my years doing good deeds are paying off.


(And I kinda liked Creedence's "I Put A Spell On You," but I know that's not unanimous.)
posted by chicobangs at 10:55 AM on January 19, 2005


And Manfred Mann's "Blinded By The Light" takes what little meaning was in Springsteen's original (it was a clunky song to start with, admittedly) and renders it almost unintelligible, like they were learning Berltz English during the session itself. Eugh.
posted by chicobangs at 10:56 AM on January 19, 2005


A Perfect Circle released an album mostly full of covers a couple months ago titled eMOTIVe. I like A Perfect Circle but these covers range from bland to total rubbish. Bleh. What the fuck, Maynard?
posted by DyRE at 11:35 AM on January 19, 2005


Yes! I second the Celine Dion version of You Shook Me All Night Long. I was channel surfing one night and stumbled across it. I was sure that I was hallucinating, but sadly, I was not.
posted by electroboy at 11:45 AM on January 19, 2005


In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy by Pat Boone may win the prize. Scary.
posted by isotope at 12:16 PM on January 19, 2005


"Mustang Sally," ruled in.

"Whiter Shade of Pale," etc, jonmc: dunno. I've never fielded a request for any of that stuff, but it sure is in the AOR bar band guild-approved set.

The requests are part of the reason to avoid 'em - the requester usually isn't interested in your version, just a version they can drunkenly caterwaul to, seriously annoying your audience.
posted by mwhybark at 8:20 PM on January 22, 2005


oh, wait, I kinda said that already. sorry!
posted by mwhybark at 8:22 PM on January 22, 2005


All the tracks on The Beautiful South's Golddiggas, Headnodders & Pholk Songs are terrible.
posted by bonaldi at 8:51 PM on January 22, 2005


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