Almanac Music: Favourite cover versions

In a recent post I made the claim that, for me, the best cover version of a song in the post-50s era is Vanilla Fudge’s take on the original Supremes song, ‘You keep me hanging on’. The Vanilla Fudge version featured in one of Col Ritchie’s regular music columns a few weeks ago.


I got to thinking about other cover versions which provide a better/enhanced/different-but-just-as-good-if-not-better interpretation of the original. I’ll run with just five here and invite Almanackers to add their picks.


First of all there’s Vanilla Fudge’s take on The Supremes’ ‘You keep me hanging on’ – see above.


My second choice is The Animal’s 1964 version of ‘The House of the Rising Sun’, a song with many roots, some going back centuries. Amazingly recorded in a single take, the 4+ minutes song was regarded as far too long to release as a single. But it took off and the rest, as they say…The opening guitar arpeggio by Hilton Valentine, Alan Price’s riveting organ, Eric Burdon’s gravelly vocals, the soul/blues combo feel, the aching narrative…Magical!



Then there is Joe Cocker’s 1968 seminal version of ‘With a little help from my friends’, originally from The Beatles’ ‘Sgt Pepper’s’ album. What was originally a nondescript filler for Ringo becomes a soulful, primeval scream in the hands of Joe and co. The studio version featured the likes of Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) and BJ Wilson (Procul Harum), and won the glowing approval of Paul McCartney. And what better version to share than Joe at Woodstock…



Next comes Australia’s own Doug Parkinson with his 1969 version of The Beatles’ ‘Dear Prudence’. Originally a sweet, uncomplicated, almost cheery and light-hearted ditty, Parkinson, blessed with a voice of rare quality and power, turned it into an impassioned, almost wailing lament on the back of Duncan McGuire’s hypnotic bass and Billy Green’s clean guitar work. One of the great song of the Australian catalogue!



And then, for something completely different, there’s Creedence Clearwater Revival’s take on Marvin Gaye’s classic ‘I heard it through the grapevine’. What was the essence of soul becomes classic brooding bayou in quintessential Creedence style. Doug Clifford (drums) and Stu Cook (bass) almost blend into the background behind Tom Fogerty’s driving rhythm and brother John’s aching vocals and lead guitar solos. It’s a case of two great versions of a classic song.



And that’s just for starters. I did hear a magnificent, clanging, metallic take on Bob Dylan’s ‘All along the watchtower’ while we ate in a restaurant in Vienna several years back but have never been able to track it down. It would have made the list.


What about you? Which covers have left a mark on you?


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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at


  1. Tony Forbes says

    Love the section on favourite cover versions. I’d like to submit the Town Criers version of Everlasting love and the Zoots reimagining of Eleanor Rigby. Also, the Vibrants did a great cover of ‘There’s something about you baby’. Somebobody’s Image covered ‘Hush’ a Joe South composition. Max Merrit and the Meteors did a great cover of Try a little tenderness(live version) and the Al Kooper composition ‘Hey Western Union man’.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Satisfaction by Devo

  3. Hotel California by the Gipsy Kings as featured with great dramatic and comedic effect in The Big Lebowski.

    Por el camino del desierto
    El viento me despeina
    Sube el aroma de colita
    Luna, luna de nadi’

  4. Colin Ritchie says

    The greatest cover version has to be The Byrds version of ‘Mr Tambourine Man’. It changed the face of music. Bob heard what could be done with a song and decided he wanted to go that direction as well. Without their version he may not have written ‘Like A Rolling Stone’.

  5. Mark Poustie says

    Ian great (and never-rending ) topic.Heres a few, original artist in brackets :
    1. The Man Who Sold the World – Nirvana ( David Bowie) – stunning rendition
    2. Over the Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwio’ole ( Judy Garland) – I realise the original is from the Wizard of Oz in the 1930’s, big Iz has been dead around 10 years – this has over a billion views on you tube.
    3. Girl You’ll be a Woman Soon – Urge Overkill ( Neil Diamond)
    4. All Along the Watchtower – Jimmy Hendrix ( Bob Dylan)
    and a couple of obscure ones with links below :
    * Firstly from Rockwiz live at the Espy Archie Roach and Sarah Storer singing Paul Kelly’s “From Little Things Big Things Grow” . It’s as much about watching a great duet perform as listening. Archie is fantastic.
    * Then from the 1976 movie “The Snapper” , Elvis’s ” Falling in Love with You ” by Lick the Tins featuring the brilliant Alison Marr (no it’s not Kirsty McColl). I was so enamoured by this version in pre you tube days I tracked it down by borrowing video for Video Ezy and scrutinising cover notes on the back of the video.

  6. Warren Tapner says

    Hey Joe by Otis Taylor, and Bow River by Troy Cassar-Daly.
    Rock with banjos – love it!

  7. Country Roads (Take Me Home) by Toots and the Maytals, with the great opening lines and in the chorus as well:

    Almost heaven, West Jamaica

    Country roads take me home/To the place I belong
    West Jamaica, my ol’ mama/Take me home country roads

  8. Correct Tony, the Zoot version of Eleanor Rigby is great.

    Always liked Eddie Cochran. Jeanie, Jeanie,Jeannie with its ripping guitar riff is very strong for early 1958; an under rated classic. But the Stray Cats cover in 1981 with Brian Setzer’s guitar work is even better.

    Rock on !


  9. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit’s version of Neil Young’s seminal “Like A Hurricane”. Guitar is just as good but better vocals.
    Bruce Springsteen & the E Street’s version of our own The Saints “Just Like Fire Would”. Rollicking song but the trumpets on Bruce’s version elevate it.

  10. Disturbed doing a cover of The Sounds of Silence from Simon and Garfunkel is a ripper.

  11. Liam Hauser says

    My favourite cover version of a song is the Byrds’ version of Turn! Turn! Turn! (To everything there is a season). The original was by Pete Seeger, and there have been many covers of this song which is based on the book of Ecclesiastes. To say the Byrds’ version is heavenly would be an understatement.

    The Byrds’ version of Bob Dylan’s Mr Tambourine Man is similarly majestic (The Byrds did plenty of other Bob Dylan covers too).

    My other favourite cover versions are as follows (in no particular order):

    The Moody Blues version of Go Now (written by Larry Banks and Milton Bennett; originally performed by Bessie Banks);

    Fleming and John’s version of Eldorado (original by my all-time favourite band Electric Light Orchestra. I had never thought anyone could outdo an original ELO song, but Fleming McWilliams is simply breathtaking with her rendition. Admittedly, Eldorado was never one of my favourite ELO songs);

    The Move’s version of The Last Thing on My Mind (original by Tom Paxton, although there have been many versions);

    Simon and Garfunkel’s version of Anji (an instrumental, original by Davey Graham);

    Booker T and the MG’s version of Sunday Sermon (an instrumental, original by Art Jerry Miller).

  12. Love this, Ian!
    Two Aussie covers from me:
    1) The Whitlams had a magnificent version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Tangled up in Blue’:
    2) Paul Dempsey has done so many great covers…but I nominate his cover of MGMT’s ‘Time to Pretend’ as his best one:

  13. Grand Funk Railroad’s version of Gimme Shelter almost eclipses the original.

    Patti Smith’s version of Because the Night is shit hot.

    Springsteen’s version of Jimmy Cliff’s Trapped is awesome.

    I’ll take The Replacements version of Black Diamond over KISS every time.

  14. Luke Reynolds says

    Great choices Ian & others!

    Some other covers I really like-

    “It Must Be Love” by Madness
    “I Believe” by Hunters & Collectors (cover of Ray Charles’ “I Believe To My Soul”)
    Hoodoo Gurus do a cracking version of “A Hard Day’s Night” on their ‘Electric Chair’ album
    Martin Plaza’s version of “Concrete and Clay”
    Really like Midnight Oil’s version of the Russell Morris classic “The Real Thing”
    Catherine Traicos greatly improves The Jesus And Mary Chain song “Just Like Honey” in her cover

    And if we count Rockwiz versions, nothing surpasses Tim Rogers’ (with Vika Bull) version of “Gimme Shelter”, and Ella Hooper’s version of The Divinyls “Pleasure & Pain”.

  15. The Clash, Brand New Cadillac.

    Ian, yer gunna have to put a Spotify playlist together!

  16. Nina Simone’s takes on Just like a woman and Here comes the sun are spectacular.

  17. Peter Crossing says

    Thanks Ian. Well, crank up the jukebox. Some great suggestions above. Everybody has their own heroes and there are many, many covers as the songs are passed along.
    Early Beatles and Stones – Please Mr Postman, Rock and Roll Music, Anna, I’m A King Bee, Not Fade Away etc etc. Apparently when Bobby Womack heard the Stones version of It’s All Over Now, he said, “Who are those guys singing my song”, or words to that effect. He relented when the royalty checks started rolling in.
    Duane Allman plays slide guitar and dobro on Aretha Franklin’s cover of The Band classic, The Weight, and the Boz Scaggs version of Fenton Robinson’s Somebody Loan Me a Dime. Brilliant. Naughty Boz listed the song as his own at first, until Fenton objected, mightily. Boz again with covers of Sick and Tired and T-Bone Shuffle are impossible not to shuffle your feet to.
    There are a million Dylan covers; Madeleine Peyroux’s You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, Joan Baez singing It’s All Over Now Baby Blue and of course Jimi.
    The Chicago Transit Authority’s huge and seemingly endless cover of I’m a Man is atypical of the soft rock Chicago they eventually became.
    Both Tina Turner and Solomon Burke have done covers of Proud Mary, the former a raunchy version from the entertainment floor of the riverboat, the latter direct from the engine room.
    On his seamlessly identical cover of Little Town Flirt, Jeff Lynne (ELO) pays faithful homage to his hero Del Shannon. Lynnie in the Mirror, as it were.
    Somewhere in a shoebox I have aging cassette tapes with many covers of Big Joe Williams’ Baby Please Don’t Go, from the laid-back Lightning Hopkins to the brilliant Them featuring a youthful Van the Man and even AC/DC.
    And so it goes.

  18. Anything by the late Eva Cassidy. But ‘Fields of Gold’ the pick for me. End-of-the-night music.

    ‘Til there was you’ by The Beatles

  19. This is an excellent topic, IJH, and probably worthy of one of my Top 50’s!!!!

    If I were to do a Top 50 of my faves, these would be on my list (multiple entries by one artist not permitted):

    1. Beatles – Rock n roll music,
    2. Byrds – Mr Tambourine Man
    3. Pogues – Dirty old town
    4. Pixies – Hang on to your ego
    5. Pointer Sisters – Fire
    6. Graham Bonnet – It’s all over now, baby blue
    7. Soft Cell – Tainted love
    8. Rolling Stones – It’s all over now
    9. Jerry Douglas and Mumford & Sons – The Boxer
    10. Indigo Girls – Romeo and Juliet
    11. The Clash – I fought the law
    12. Mental as Anything – Working for the Man
    13. Foo Fighters – Baker Street
    14. Janis Joplin – Me and Bobby McGee
    15. Patty Smith – Because the Night
    16. Tom Petty – I’ll feel a whole lot better
    17. Niravana – The man who sold the world
    18. Matthew Sweet – And your bird can sing
    19. Sinead O’Connor – Nothing compares 2 U
    20. The Who – Summertime Blues
    21. Linda Ronstadt – Blue Bayou
    22. Jimmy Hendrix – All along the watch tower
    23. The Living End – I’ve just seen a face
    24. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Blinded by the light
    25. Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah
    26. Robert Palmer & UB40 – I’ll be your baby tonight
    27. Thin Lizzy – Whiskey in the jar
    28. Sex Pistols – (I’m not your) steppin’ stone
    29. U2 – Helter Skelter
    30. Dropkick Murphys – Baba O’Reilly

    Thanks Ian.

  20. Johnny Cash – Hurt
    Nirvana – Where did you sleep last night
    Metallica – Turn the page & Whiskey in the jar
    Townes Van Zandt – Dead flowers (end credits of The Big Lebowski)
    Mary J Blige & U2 – One
    Aerosmith & Run DMC – Walk this way
    Pixies – Winterlong

  21. Quiet Riot – Cum on feel the noize (80’s school disco staple)

  22. Wow! this is a great subject that could be changed-refined in all manner of ways eg: Think of Australian artists and/or bands that have covered other Aus artists/bands or Aus bands that have done versions of internationals etc . WPA doing The Triffids Wide Open Road comes to mind.
    When I first saw the heading my head went straight to Doug Parkinson and Dear Prudence and there it was. I have to add Respect – I love Otis Redding’s own, but Aretha Franklin’s is hard to beat. At the same time Otis singing Try A Little Tenderness (live version) is superb.

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