Almanac Music: Great and Surprising Cover Versions – ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ by Regurgitator


Regurgitator, performing live in Melbourne, 10 August, 2018. [Wikipedia.]


Great and Surprising Cover Versions – ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ by Regurgitator


A great cover version should serve the original song in a way that brings out its best aspects, whatever these may be, and also shows the artist performing the cover at their best – or close to it, anyway. Furthermore, perhaps most importantly, a great cover shouldn’t rip off the style and approach of earlier performers. Rather, it ought to do something different and highly worthwhile to the song concerned, and thus add meaningfully to the performance history of it.


And what constitutes a surprising cover version? The answer is highly subjective, but basically a surprising cover is one that is unexpected by the listener, because of who is performing it and/or the manner in which they are doing so.


My choice for a great and surprising cover version is the ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence’, by Australian band Regurgitator, known as an alternative and sometimes controversial group (the latter mainly because of certain ‘obscene’ song lyrics). Regurgitator’s version appeared in 1998 on a CD wittily titled To Hal and Bacharach, a collection of Hal David/Burt Bacharach songs by non-mainstream Australian artists. I love the thrashy, alternative, lo-fi slant Regurgitator bring to the country/pop song that was originally a big hit for American singer Gene Pitney in 1962. (Incidentally, Pitney’s version of ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ wasn’t included in the classic Western film of the same name, also released in 1962, even though it was based upon the film’s plotline.)


So, Almanackers, please feel free to add one of your own ‘great and surprising cover versions’ in the comments section. I’m sure there have been quite over the years.








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Kevin Densley is a graduate of both Deakin University and The University of Melbourne. He has taught writing and literature in numerous Victorian universities and TAFES. He is a poet and writer-in-general. His fifth book-length poetry collection, Please Feed the Macaws ... I'm Feeling Too Indolent, was published in late 2023 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    The Reels made an art form of the unexpected MOR cover in the early 80s, until it became the main part of their shtick for a while.

    Their cover of Band of Gold was quite appealing –

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Swish. Many thanks for “Band of Gold’ – it’s typical of The Reels, with its poppy, indie, jaunty, witty feel.

    It wasn’t a cover, but I think my favourite Reels song is ‘Prefab Heart’ from 1979.

  3. Daryl Schramm says

    Canadian Folk ensemble, ‘The Once’ covering Queen’s ‘You’re
    My Best Friend’ First heard it live at WOMADelaide a few years ago. Probably not linked so much to the parameters in your article but whenever I get an opportunity I often throw this one out. This and Eva Cassidy’s OTR.

  4. Nick Cave, & Shane MacGowan, do a superb cover of ‘What a wonderful world’.


  5. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for your two contributions, Daryl – fine songs with lovely vocals and acoustic instrument work.

  6. Kevin Densley says

    Cheers, Glen! Yes, Cave and MacGowan – what a beauty!

  7. Sorry KD but I just regurgitated my lunch. It’s like they said, hey, our version will be the same song minus its essence.

    Dave Warner does a ripper version of Yella in Me and Eve of Destruction.
    The Replacements show KISS how to do Black Diamond
    Grand Funk Railroad almost do a better version of Gimme Shelter than the Stones
    I like Dolly’s version of I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby more than The Louvin Brothers
    and Alison Krauss & Robert Plant absolutely nail Killing the Blues
    Streets of Baltimore by Gram is streets ahead of Bobby Bare and everybody else!


  8. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for your comments, Rick – it’s always highly interesting for me to read them.

    We will have to agree to disagree regarding Regurgitator’s ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ – I’d argue that the Regurgitator cover highlights the song’s best aspect – it’s lyrics/narrative. To me, their thrashy, lo-fi musical backdrop very much allows the original words – and fine words they are – to come to the fore. Besides that, I like the sheer fun of the Regurgitator version; sure, in a sense, they are taking the piss out of an old pop/country song, but, more importantly, I believe they are having fun with, and paying homage to, these words at the same time.

    I’ll certainly listen to the covers you’ve listed with considerable interest – many thanks for putting them forward.

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