Rainmaker here… Being in a band, and a killer procrastinator, I have seen a lot of covers. Some of them good, some of them incredible. But some of them are terrible (that last one leads the abomination that is Leona Lewis killing Johnny Cash (and NIN)). There are some songs that no matter how well you play them, or how well you re-invent them, you just cannot cover. Here are these songs.
5 – Wonderwall
It may be he first song anyone ever learns on guitar, but it is the last song you want to play in front of people. Why? Because you will get bottled stoned or egged off the stage. This song is a classic, an anthem, and there is no one alive who hasn’t heard it. Also this song sucks. Yes, I just said that. If you remove the actual song from the crazy magic that happened when the Gallagher Bros. sat down and forged pure awesome from the same 4 chords being repeated in varying ways for 3 and a half minutes… then you get a bad song. The words are avs. at best and musically it’s samey. This means that when you try and play it, you take all the magic out of it, and then, inevitably, add nothing. Here is arch-mediocrity (how’s that for an obscure 19th century british politics reference? Can I get a Tamworth Manifestooooooo?), Ed Sheeran proving that this song is just plain boring.
4 – Hallelujah
This is an oddity: the reason you cannot cover this song is because it has already been covered too well. Its a good song, written by Leonard Cohen but the iconic cover is the one that was done by God himself, Jeff Buckley. The sheer amount of emotion he puts into mean that this is one of those songs that just makes everyone listening shut the fuck up. It was a wicked reinterpreting, and completely fairly gained him a tonne of fame. But this means that a lot of people who don’t know the rest of his music heard it, and thought they would also play it because thats fine. [spoiler=it isn’t] Those covering it go two ways, 1st, the do-it-the-same way. This is a very boring and pointless thing to do. There’s no reason to listen because doing it like Jeff will never be anywhere near as good as Jeff. The 2nd way is to reinvent it. This is even worse than the same way. Seems harsh. Two words – Alexandra Burke. Check it:
3 – Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)
Quick question – Who’s the greatest guitarist in the history of music? That’s right, Jimi Hendrix. Dude’s a wizard. Name a song of his? Yeh I know I already put it in the subheading but this is probably one of the top 5 guitar songs in the history of ever. Also, he was playing that riff and singing at the same time! It’s what you show people when you want them to understand why the guitar is awesome, and why Hendrix is awesome. If you cover this, chances are you’re going to play that riff. Why, God, why would anyone try and play that riff. It cannot be topped, ever. Any other version of this song just reminds you that the original is awesome and so much better than whoever’s playing it. Even this somewhat decent cover proves that:
2 – Stairway to Heaven
This only narrowly misses out on the number one spot. This is the greatest song of all time. This should not need much explanation. The best song of all time cannot be played ‘better’. This song has been covered well before, by Rodrigo y Gabriela. That version was the exception that proved the rule. It was not better than the original, merely an interesting way to listen to it. I once saw a band play this live. They played it faultlessly and it was a hell of a performance. It made me want to murder them. This is the greatest song of all time. The Golden Rule of Rock – Do Not Cover Stairway to Heaven.
1 – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Two warnings: 1, If you watch the video at the end of this, you may want to burn your entire record collection in outrage; 2, This one will be long.
In 1991 a band called Nirvana changed music forever. This is an objective fact, and i don’t know a teenager anywhere who couldn’t identify this song in 3 seconds or less. There are few songs with an impact as large as this, and the only other one that springs to mind is directly above you now. This song is everything that is good about pop, rock, metal and punk fused in to one bursting song. Teenage angst, rebellion, just fucking rocking out are all epitomised in this song. And we’ve been wrong about it the whole time. It’s a joke.
Comedians love to take the piss out of that fact that no one knows what the lyrics are. You’re not supposed to. They are intentionally stupid. Kurt Cobain wrote this song as a joke. It is designed to be the anti-anthem. When he first played it to the band they all laughed about how stupid it was. Then he made them play it for an hour and a half because it was so funny. Even the title is stupid. Kathleen Hanna, Kurt’s friend and awesome frontwoman of harcore feminist riot-grrrl grunge band Bikini Kill, sprayed it on Kurt’s wall. ‘Teen Spirit’ was an averagely popular deoderant brand, and the one used by the girl Kurt was chasing at the time. He adopted it for the title of a song that in his own words was ‘just making fun of the thought of having a revolution’. It mocks the idea that Teen Spirit is a revolutionary force, rather than just a product to be bought and sold. Remember that – It’ll be useful when you watch the video below.
Anyone who even thinks of covering it, is indubitably going to play it as if it is the anthem of teen revolution that Kurt was taking the piss out of. Not only is this song one of the greatest of all time, but the very act of covering it as you think it is, is going against the very essence of the song. And now I will kill your souls.
It was the great misfortune of mine to stumble upon a video recently. This video has the potential to scar you for life, it makes grown men weep in like babies. It makes music nerds burn their vinyl copies of Led Zeppelin IV. It is a video of a manufactured pop sensation covering the greatest anti-anthem ever written and ever played. I’m sorry.