Music

10 covers more popular than the original songs

Brought to you by Telstra

Some great songs never get the recognition they deserve. Give underrated songs a second chance.

Telstra’s 2nd Chance Song is enlisting artists to breathe new life into Bob Evans’ lost classic ‘Don’t You Think It’s Time’. JODY MACGREGOR looks at 10 classic songs that found success as covers.

You might like the original more but sometimes a cover comes along – whether by somebody better known, or reinterpreted in a more universal style – and steals its thunder, becoming the version most people identify it with. Sometimes a remake becomes so definitive a generation grows up not even realising they aren’t hearing the first version of a song, and you know you’re an adult when that makes you start grumbling about “the youth of today”. Here are 10 of those covers that supplanted the prior versions in terms of popularity.

Nirvana – ‘Love Buzz’

Nirvana’s very first single, released in 1988, was a cover of a song by Dutch band Shocking Blue from 1969. Where the original had psychedelic sitar and delicate vocals with a thick Dutch accent, the Nirvana version has fuzz and soloing and Kurt Cobain’s already distinctive scream. Shocking Blue had a hit with a song called ‘Venus’, another one you might be more likely to know from its cover version – this time by Bananarama.


Johnny Cash – ‘Hurt’

When asked in an interview with Alternative Press how he felt about Johnny Cash covering his song, Trent Reznor said, “that song isn’t mine anymore.” The Nine Inch Nails original was thoroughly remade by country legend Johnny Cash shortly before his death, winning a Grammy for video of the year and earning a spot at #60 in the triple j Hottest 100 Of All Time in 2009. When Nine Inch Nails play ‘Hurt’ live now they do it the way Cash did, which is the ultimate compliment a cover can earn.


Jimi Hendrix – ‘All Along The Watchtower’

Speaking of which, Jimi Hendrix’s version of the Bob Dylan song ‘All Along The Watchtower’ has become the default for so many that Dylan plays it Hendrix’s way at his concerts to this day and has said, “when I sing it, I always feel it’s a tribute to him in some kind of way.” The folky, acoustic original sounds unusual now, it’s been so thoroughly replaced by Hendrix’s electric wizardry.


Spiderbait – ‘Black Betty’

In Australia at least when you start singing “Black Betty, bam ba lam” people will assume you’re impersonating Kram from Spiderbait. But the tune was first made famous by blues musician Lead Belly in his 1939 reworking of a traditional African-American work song, and was later resurrected in 1977 by a band called Ram Jam, who had a hit with a rock version much closer to the one that gave Spiderbait their 2004 number one single.


Natalie Imbruglia – ‘Torn’

Spare a thought for poor old Ednaswap. The ‘90s grunge band released three albums of Hole-esque alternative rock in their heyday, but now they’re just a Wikipedia footnote in the story of Natalie Imbruglia, who covered their 1995 album track ‘Torn’ as her debut single two years later and made her name with it.

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