from stone cold classics to utter butcherings, there are few musical subjects more likely to stir people’s passions than the humble cover version. Last week, I asked for your favorite covers, and the response has been frankly preposterous: easily the most popular callout since we started asking for your cultural recommendations just under a year ago.
So this week we’re devoting the bulk of the newsletter to your suggestions. There’s a great mix here, from covers that have become more famous than the original to unsung gems. And of course there are some controversial opinions to get stuck into! Thanks to everyone who sent in their suggestions – had we included them all this would be the longest newsletter in recorded history.
Kate Bush: Rocket Man. Better than the original, despite the ukulele. – Alan Redman
Joe Cocker – With a Little Help From my Friendsand She Came in Through the Bathroom Window. The Beatles had been so cloyingly Martinized that these interpretations brought me back to the realization that they were the greatest pop songwriters ever. – Robert Sarson [Ed note: a popular choice – quite a few of you suggested both of these].
Feeling Good performed by Muse. Matt’s voice, the megaphone, the drums … they created a rock version of a jazz masterpiece and nailed it! – Angela Wade
I loved Whole Wide World by Wreckless Eric, from the minute Stiff Records released it and I saw Eric perform it on the legendary Stiff Live Stiffs tour. I was a 15-year-old idiot living in Bootle without a girlfriend and no sense of if I’d ever have one, and Wreckless Eric’s heartbreaking anthem seemed to perfectly capture this hopelessness. Many, many years later Ian Broudie (who knows how to knock out a decent tune himself) and the Lightning Seeds displayed remarkably good taste by covering the song. The recorded version is great but watching them cover it live is wonderful. – Kevin McManus
I Heard it Through the Grapevine by The Slits. A true reinterpretation, rather than just imitation! – Joanna Sapsford
Mike Westbrook Orchestra’s cover of the galloping (Lone Ranger theme) bit of Rossini’s William Tell Overture, especially the live version recorded in Zurich. – Tim Auburn
John Martyn’s version of Strange Fruit is as sparse and spooky as Billie Holiday’s version. He doesn’t sing all the words of the original poem but it would probably be unbearable if he did. If it doesn’t bring the hairs on the back of your neck up then there is no hope for the human race! – Steve Clark
Talking Heads’ Take Me to the River is far superior to Al Green’s. – Liam Healy
We Have All the Time in the World (originally Louis Armstrong) by David Gedge. awesome. Plinky piano and the lyrics fit Gedge’s worldview. In another life he could have written it. I’m sure he hasn’t suffered Lazenby’s Bond’s heartache exactly, but if he has/does he’d be hard pressed to beat this, despite near 40 years of practice. – Mark Clement Jones [Ed note: Gedge and The Wedding Present are dab hands at covers – I also love their version of Take That’s Back For Good!]
I always find that the best covers are the ones you wouldn’t expect to work. So, honorable mentions go to: Arctic Monkeys – Red Right Hand (originally Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds); Sonic Youth – superstar (originally The Carpenters); Lightspeed Champion – Xanadu (Nice Olivia Newton-John connection there). – Julie Cowan
Has to be Cud, doing Hot Chocolates I Believe in Miracles. Just beats Devo with Satisfaction. – Rob Bearder
Walk on By, the Bacharach/David classic made famous by Dionne Warwick, was surprisingly covered by the Stranglers and immediately became one of their most iconic recordings. Every member of the band was showcased and Hugh Cornwall’s aggressive vocal added an extra dimension to the lyrics. A six minute classic. Burt Bacharach hated it!!! – JF Noakes
Johnny Cash’s version of Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt. He completely transformed it, so much so that it became his song, a lament to aging and loss. And the video is intensely moving. – Steve Waller
Baltimore by the Tamlins has an understated lead vocal and an incredible Sly & Robbie rhythm that is still being versioned today. – Steve Yates
And, of course, where would we be without a cover of that most covered of songs, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Here are two of many recommendations!
My favorite cover version of a song is kd lang’s version of Hallelujah. Especially if heard live, it will rip your heart out. – Pat Winstanley
It’s got to be Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah. Accept no other cover version for this song! I personally prefer the passion of this version to the rather lugubrious original. – Lesley Goldie
WATCH If you’re a parent struggling through these summer months, you’ve probably been waiting for this moment for a long time: yes, season three of Bluey, the finest kids’ TV show around, has finally dropped on Disney+. And if you’re unfamiliar with Bluey and want to know why everyone from Natalie Portman to the New York Times are raving about an Australian animation about the adventures of a six-year-old dog, you’d do well to read Tom Lamont’s deep dive into the series from earlier this summer. Plus: here are seven more shows to watch this week.
CUE UP It was one of the saddest, strangest football stories of recent years: the death of Argentinian striker Emiliano Sala, killed when the light aircraft he was traveling in crashed on the way to his new club Cardiff City. The murky aftermath saw Cardiff and Nantes argue over whether Sala’s transfer fee was legitimate, and worrying details emerge about the flight itself. BBC Wales’s new nine-part podcast Transfer: The Emiliano Sala Story recounts exactly what happened on that evening in January 2019.
LISTEN You pretty much know what you’re going to get with Panda Bear, alter ego of Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox: warped, looped samples; sinister drone noises; the occasional sunburst of lovely harmony. Still, he always finds a way to make something new out of those component parts. His latest album is a collaboration with longtime producer Sonic Boom, AKA ex-Spacemen 3 man Peter Kember. Using Kember’s extensive record collection, the pair have built a bed of 50s and 60s samples for Lennox to coo amiably over the top of. The result is Panda Bear but somehow even more so, and timeless in the most eerie way possible.
This week, inspired by Bluey, I’m after the best TV shows or movies for kids that adults can also enjoy. The Iron Giant, Wall-E, The Magic Roundabout? Send me your suggestions by replying to this email or emailing me at email@example.com