Listen cover songs that are better than originals
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – I Love Rock and Roll
Joan Jett has made a pretty good living covering other people's music. She has a long list of them to her credit. A short list includes: Crimson and Clover (Tommy James), Do You Wanna Touch (Gary Glitter), A.C.D.C. (Sweet), and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (AC/DC). But by far, her most successful cover is I Love Rock and Roll, originally done by British band the Arrows.Jett was still in the Runaways when she discovered this song on TV performed by the Arrows. She wanted to record it, but the Runaways weren't interested. In 1979 she cut the song with Paul Cook and Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols. This version is owned by Polygram, and they weren't impressed with either Joan or the song, so they did nothing with it. Once Joan scored a recording contract, she recut I Love Rock and Roll with her new band the Blackhearts in 1981, and her version is far more vibrant. It's possibly the most successful cover song ever recorded, and it made Joan Jett a true star.
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
Jimi Hendrix – All Along The Watchtower
Bob Dylan wrote and recorded a country-folk version of this song for his album John Wesley Harding in 1967. Watchtower has been re-worked by numerous artists over the years including Eric Clapton, U2, and Neil Young. But it was Hendrix who took Dylan's gentle version and lit the song on fire – and it's arguably one of his finest moments. Howling the lyrics passionately and burning through 3 incredible guitar solos. Jimi's version is simply inspired and takes the song to another level entirely.
Dave Mason, guitarist in Traffic, met Hendrix in a semi-private club in London one night and they discussed the recently released John Wesley Harding album. The 2 musicians hit it off so well that Hendrix invited Mason to play acoustic guitar on All Along The Watchtower.
Jimi Hendrix Experience
Them – Baby Please Don't Go
There's a reason Baby Please Don't Go has been inducted into both the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's one of the most covered songs in history. Baby Please Don't Go was originally recorded by Big Joe Williams in 1935. The song established Williams' recording career, and he re-recorded in 1941 with Sonny Boy Williamson on bass, and again in 1947. Many other blues legends recorded it as well and it became a blues standard. Notably, Muddy Waters electrified it in 1953 with Little Walter on harmonica.
John Lee Hooker also recorded it in 1949 as Don't Go Baby, and it's from this version that Them – fronted by a teenaged Van Morrison - took the song to new heights in 1964 by speeding up the tempo and giving it a rock and roll identity. Subsequent rock and roll covers, notably by AC/DC, have been based on Them's version.
Big Joe Williams
The Beatles - Twist And Shout
When the Beatles recorded their debut album Please Please Me in 12 hours, they recorded this song last. Lennon who was suffering from a cold and a sore throat barely made it through the song. But in the end, he delivered one of his most powerful vocals. The band attempted a second take, but Lennon's voice was already gone. Twist and Shout has to be the most famous single take in rock history, and it became a staple of their concerts.
This song was written by Bert Berns who made no bones saying he copied La Bamba. It was originally recorded by a Philadelphia group called the Top Notes in 1961, produced by Phil Spector. Berns felt that Spector had ruined the song so when the Isley Brothers decided to record it the following year, Berns took it upon himself to show Spector how he wanted it done and produced it himself. The Beatles took their version from the Isley Brothers. The Beatles version was also a hit in 1986 when it was included on the soundtrack to Ferris Bueller's Day Off. It was also used in another big 80's movie, Back To School starring Rodney Dangerfield.
The Top Notes
Ram Jam – Black Betty
The origins of this song have been debated. Lead Belly claimed authorship when he recorded Black Betty in 1939. Although he certainly popularized it, the earliest recording is by another convict, James Baker in 1933 who recorded it acapella while in prison in Texas.
There have been several versions of this song – including one by Tom Jones. But Ram Jam's hard rockin' version is perhaps the best known. Their electrifying version with searing guitars and steady dance beat gave Ram Jam their first and only hit.
Off Rock contributor Mike Lang is a longtime rock radio broadcaster. In his day, Mike has covered plenty of songs. None of which are memorable. Follow him on Twitter @theemikelang