Fake Plastic Tunes - 20 great cover versions
Updated: May 7, 2021
I am a bit cover version crazy - every now and then I get a bit obsessed about them. Some completely transform a song you love into something entirely different; others simply tweak and twist something - it's even interesting just to hear a different voice to the one embedded in your memory. Here are 20 of my favourites.
1. Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra - Get Ur Freak On (Missy Elliott)
Quentin Tarantino needs to use this to soundtrack his next film. Stunning.
2. Hot Chip - Transmission (Joy Division)
Slower, with the sound of steel drums. If you’re gonna cover JD, this is the way to do it.
3. Bow Wow Wow - I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish (The Smiths)
I was not fan of Bow Wow Wow, they sort of bypassed me in the 80s, but this stomping double drummed rockabilly romp through one of The Smiths’ last singles is not the sacrilege I feared, but dare I say it, is even better….
4. The Futureheads - Hounds Of Love (Kate Bush)
On paper a bunch of Geordies with angular guitars covering La Bush does not sound good, but this is canny, splendid and fun.
5. Johnny Cash - Hurt (Nine Inch Nails)
Genuinely moving, and to me far superior to the original, the video had me in tears. The song takes a very different meaning as Cash approached the end of his life – Reznor agrees, saying “the song isn’t mine anymore”.
6. Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Born To Run (Bruce Springsteen)
No one, absolutely no one, agrees with me, but this version is better than The Boss, simply for the way Holly can jubilantly yell “Ha!”.
7. Tricky - Black Steel (Public Enemy)
Completely transforms Public Enemy’s Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos into a sinister, hard rocking, noir thriller.
8. The Killers - Shadowplay (Joy Division)
Lots of people hate this, it’s criticised for losing the brooding minimalism of Joy Division’s original, but surely that’s the point? To take a different angle – this pop rocker is still recognisably Joy Division, just updated and clearly approved by the remaining members, given it’s on the soundtrack to Ian Curtis biopic, Closer.
9. Paddy Casey feat. Dublin Gospel Choir - Grandma’s Hands / No Diggity (Bill Withers / Blackstreet)
Recorded for one of the Even Better Than The Real Thing Irish charity albums, this is simply superb, morphing Bill Withers into Blackstreet effortlessly (Blackstreet’s original sampled Bill‘s song Grandma’s Hands). Everyone I've played this to likes it.
10. Tracey Ullman - They Don’t Know (Kirsty MacColl)
My friend Loz and I used to sing along to this at the top of our voices, whilst friends looked on like we were mad. We finally saw Ms Ullman sing it live at a tribute to Kirsty after she tragically was killed. Ullman was gracious and grateful, acknowledging that the song was one of the milestones in her career and confessing that Kirsty had to sing the high note as she couldn’t do it. I use this phrase too much, but this remains life-affirming.
11. The Leisure Society - Cars (Gary Numan)
Gonna cover Gary Numan? Then use acoustic guitars, ukuleles, violins, flutes etc. Obviously.
12. William Shatner - Common People (Pulp)
The maddest song you will ever hear.
13. Ben Folds - Get Your Hands Off My Woman (The Darkness)
I briefly succumbed to the hype, but soon realised The Darkness were chancers and not very good ones. But this is a great song and Ben’s storming piano driven blast through it far exceeds the original.
14. Stevie Wonder - We Can Work It Out (The Beatles)
There are lots of covers of The Beatles (the whole of Oasis’s catalogue for starters), but Stevie’s is exuberant, funky, with a sense of joy that even the original can’t top.
15. Frente! - Bizarre Love Triangle (New Order)
This is just beautiful, stripping down the song to show it’s not just the army of electronics, but at its core, it’s just a simple love song.
16. The Puppini Sisters - Panic (The Smiths)
Cocktail dress doo-wop cover versions of miserable Mancs? It shouldn’t work, but it really does.
17. Brian Kennedy - Dry Your Eyes (The Streets)
Again, part of the Even Better Than The Real Thing cover series, this is Brian Kennedy’s finest moment in my opinion, a stripped down heart wrenching ballad. Even better than the original.
18. Mark Ronson and Daniel Merriweather - Stop Me (The Smiths)
Completely transforms Mozzer and Marr’s Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before (my favourite Smiths song) into a dramatic, horn and strings driven soul stomp.
19. Sebastian Bohm - Blue Monday (New Order)
Recorded for the Wonder Woman 1984 film, this is just HUGE.
20. Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)