The 50 best cover versions

The Telegraph pick the best covers of songs that shine a new light on the originals, from Jimi Hendrix to the Happy Mondays, there’s a few goodies in here but surely they’ve missed a few?

16987j / Jimi Hendrix at the Marquee Club
Howling: Jimi Hendrix covered Bob Dylan in 1968

Don’t Leave Me This Way – The Communards, 1986

orig. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, 1975

It was camp enough to begin with, but Jimi Somerville and Sarah Jane Morris’s triumphant falsetto-basso profundo duet on this cover of the 1975 disco classic takes the phrase “row of tents” and flings it in the air like a glittery handbag on an underlit dancefloor. One suspects that the singers swapped voices for a laugh.

Key moment: The final, monumental “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah BABY!” just before the last chorus.

Going Back to My Roots – Richie Havens, 1980

orig. Lamont Dozier, 1977

Woodstock star Havens caused barely a ripple in 1980 with his impassioned rendition of a song first recorded by Lamont Dozier. But eight years on, it was rediscovered, becoming an arms-in-the air anthem to a million British ravers. As the battered Havens larynx pours out Dozier’s vision of the things that really count in life, the goosebumps take over.

Key moment: a truly storming piano intro.

Step On – Happy Mondays, 1991

orig. John Kongos, 1971

The Manchester baggy anthem, driven by a trademark acid house piano riff, is a hugely inventive remake of He’s Gonna Step on You Again by long-forgotten South African singer-songwriter Kongos. Shaun Ryder added his own inimitable lyrical touch, contributing a new saying to the British pop lexicon with his opening declaration: “You’re twisting my melons, man!”

Key Moment: When it all breaks down to reverb-drenched female backing vocals singing the spookily threatening chorus line.

SHAUN RYDER
Happy Mondays

Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) – The Wedding Present, 1990

orig. Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, 1975

John Peel indie favourites the Weddoes gave Harley’s classic the angry makeover its sardonic lyric was crying out for. Gone were the acoustic thrummings and sunny Ooooh-la-la-la backing vocals, replaced by thrashing electric guitars over blistering drums, seemingly at twice the original’s speed.

Key moment: The 15-second mid-song pause, silent except for a wavering note of guitar feedback. Then Dave Gedge’s Yorkshire growl returns: “There ain’t no more, you’ve taken everything.”

The Robots – Señor Coconut & His Orchestra, 2000

Orig. Kraftwerk, 1978

German musician Uwe Schmidt found a little cha-cha-cha in his waters when he moved to Chile, and felt moved to recreate the clinical oeuvre of Kraftwerk with the magical addition of Latin swing. This is the highlight of his wonderful experiment, a sashaying, hip-clicking antidote to the Düsseldorf automatons’ metronomic precision.

Key Moment: The horn flourish and celebratory “Olé!” before the vocals kick in.

Rock el Casbah – Rachid Taha, 2004

orig. The Clash, 1982

Franco-Algerian bad boy Taha idolises Joe Strummer, but sensing something patronising in the original, he recorded this storming Arabic version of the Clash warhorse. Lutes and strings twang and swoop against a thundering rhythm track and exultant chorus. But it’s the guttural attack of Taha’s vocal that makes your hair prickle – a technique he learnt from records of old and obscure Algerian singers.

Key Moment: The plaintive desert flute that kicks it all off.

Oops I Did it Again – Richard Thompson, 2003

orig. Britney Spears, 2000

The sparky old folk-rocker toured with a self-explanatory show (and recorded a live album) called 1,000 Years of Popular Music. This was one of his examples of 20th-century songwriting, and in his hands – acoustic guitar, percussion, lots of echo on the voice – Britney’s song actually becomes quite scary.

Key moment: He tries to get the audience to sing along. Mostly, they laugh.

Hazy Shade of Winter – The Bangles, 1987

orig. Simon & Garfunkel, 1966

Who knew that Paul Simon could write a great heavy metal riff? The circling, folky-psychedelic guitar part of the original, turbocharged by legendary producer Rick Rubin for the Less Than Zero soundtrack, rocks hard here. The all-girl Bangles’ slick vocal harmonies turn it into a faultless piece of ’80s power pop.

You can see who else made the list on the Telegraph Newspaper website

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