‘Cover Story’: Digsy’s List of Song Covers That Are Better Than The Originals

After too long of a respite, we are back with a new post for you all and one that is likely to gain us a few enemies. To the ardent fans we are about to commit blasphemy to, we do apologise (that you are offended because much like Liam Gallagher with his Twitter feed, we stand strong by our words and will defend them until the bitter end). Listed below are our top ten song covers (yes, we dare utter the word that sends shivers down the spine of a superfan).


  1. ‘I Wanna Be Yours’- Arctic Monkeys (2013)

Now this track is not technically a cover in the typical sense- yes, a great way to start a piece about song covers but we could not ignore this Arctic Monkeys song which closes their 2013 album ‘AM’. Originally a poem (yes, you read correctly- a poem?!) by Rock Poet John Cooper Clarke, Alex Turner borrowed it (thankfully excluding lines such as ‘I wanna be your dreamboat’) and moulded it into an intensely emotive song making it extremely difficult to imagine anyone turning him down when he repeats “I wanna be yours”.


  1. ‘The Man Who Sold The World’- Nirvana (1994)

If we need to tell you who the song is originally by we would be highly surprised. Oh, and that warning that this piece could gain us some enemies? Well here it is with potentially the most inflammatory choice on our list. First released by David Bowie from his album of the same title, Kurt Cobain redefined the song in 1994 from a psychedelic dream to a sombre recollection of a fallen man who is lost and without answers. Something about Cobain’s rendition compels us to listen more intently and whilst we will be some of the first to bow down in awe of the musical genius of David Bowie, on this one we believe the raw vocals of the Grunge-king Cobain were made for this hit song.


  1. ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’- The Byrds (1965)

This track was first released by none other than Singer, Songwriter and Social Activist Bob Dylan in 1963 as an acoustic guitar melody that has his signature sound. However, The Byrds quite literally jazzed up this number in 1965 proving that whilst an acoustic song has its merits (like other Bob Dylan track ‘The Times They are A-Changin’) sometimes we need more. In fact, the rendition by The Byrds is so well known that it is easy to forget that just two years before they released the song it was sung and written by Dylan.


  1. ‘(They Long To Be) Close To You’- The Carpenters (1970)

With a voice, much like the Michael Bublé of his day, this song was first released by Richard Chamberlain in 1963. Known more for his long acting and stage career, Chamberlain recorded the song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David but it was The Carpenters (particularly the delicate vocals of Karen Carpenter) who truly gave this track life in 1970.


  1. ‘Me and Bobby McGee’- Janis Joplin (1971)

This track written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster has been recorded by a plethora of artists but originally the song was released by Roger Miller in 1969. However, the cover we consider to be the best of the lot (and there really are a lot of them) is by Janis Joplin which was released posthumously. We would not blame anyone here for mistaking the song as an original from Joplin as she sings with such certainty, owning every word, that listening you would believe she really was telling us all a true tale about herself and Bobby McGee.


  1. ‘Hurt’-Johnny Cash (2003)

Trent Reznor, frontman of Nine Inch Nails and responsible for penning the lyrics to the song in question, was interviewed following the release of the Johnny Cash rendition saying “that song isn’t mine anymore”. If this isn’t indication enough that this cover deserves its spot in our top ten list then what is? Johnny Cash gives us a solemn and heartfelt rendition stripping away the elements that originally made this a highly praised (Grammy nominated no less) rock song and transforming it into a country classic and let us not forget the music video that brings the coldest of individuals to tears.


  1. ‘Twist and Shout’- The Beatles (1963)

This track was first written by Phil Medley and Bert Berns in 1961 and was recorded by The Isley Brothers and Top Notes before reaching The Beatles in 1963. It is The Beatles’ live performance of this track at the London Palladium in October 1963 that many mark as the beginning of ‘Beatlemania’ and we are not at all surprised! We do recognise that The Isley Brothers gave it chart success but the adaptation by The Beatles really is iconic (it is featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off after all).


  1. ‘Valerie’- Amy Winehouse (2006)

Over here at Digsy’s, if you asked us who originally performed Valerie, we would know that the answer is The Zutons but the cover by Amy Winehouse was much more successful in the UK charts. We would not be able to discuss successful cover tracks without this rendition entering our conversation. Mark Ronson provided a new backing to the track to fit Amy’s vocals which was also greatly inspired by hit song Town Called Malice by The Jam featuring the ‘Modfather’ himself, Paul Weller (this reason alone would make the cover worthy of our high praises!).


  1. ‘All Along the Watchtower’- Jimi Hendrix (1968)

We promise we have nothing against Bob Dylan we are actually big fans but here we find another Bob Dylan cover edging itself ahead of the original for our affection. A hit track from the ‘Electric Ladyland’ album, Jimi Hendrix completely owns the song written and sung by Bob Dylan. Hendrix created his own legacy with this song leading to further covers from the likes of U2 and Pearl Jam.


  1. ‘RESPECT’- Aretha Franklin (1967)

Finishing this list is none other than the late, great Aretha. Originally written by Otis Redding, a few lyrical changes and the powerful vocals of the R&B queen transformed the song in 1967 to an anthem of female empowerment. If anyone mentions R-E-S-P-E-C-T we all think first and foremost of the recording by Aretha Franklin- it seems wrong to refer to this one as a cover (but technically true nonetheless!).



So that’s our chosen ten! We of course had more, Whitney Houston’s cover of Dolly Parton track ‘I Will Always Love You’ goes without saying. Whilst we are among the first to sigh or scoff in unconditional loyalty to an artist, we do appreciate those who pay homage to their icons- after all, copying is a form of flattery isn’t it? Some others that made our selection but just missed out on the final cut were The Crickets’ ‘I Fought the Law’ sung by The Clash and Placebo sung a great cover of ‘Running Up That Hill’ by Kate Bush. Our love of the brothers Gallagher immediately excluded any Oasis covers from this list (although Ryan Adams we do appreciate your rendition of Wonderwall). See we went on about fiercely loyal fans who could be offended by cover tracks but plot twist it was us all along, unless you were offended then it was nice having you around for as long as we did.


Until next time,


Digsy’s Corner


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