This weekend, Rolling Stone is looking for the Worst Cover Song of All Time, and given the sheer length of All Time, there are no doubt thousands of nominees, though I wouldn’t include, for instance, No Doubt’s version of “It’s My Life,” which wasn’t half bad, despite the fact that something about Gwen Stefani’s voice grates on me.
For me, the situation is complicated by the fact that Trini was fond of sending me cover versions, most of which were quite good, and by my devotion to Brian Ibbott’s podcast Coverville, where I’ve heard a lot of good ones, and inevitably a few that made my skin crawl.
Since I don’t go out of my way to find really bad remakes, I can’t think of one that truly deserves dishonoring as The Worst, though the following annoy me enough not to play very much, if not enough to move me to delete them from the pile:
- The Dead Kennedys’ “I Fought the Law” is properly energetic, though Jello Biafra felt compelled to rewrite it to refer to the murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone, and his narrative is too elliptical to fit in the structure of a traditionally-styled rocker. (On the other hand, the DKs did a bang-up job on “Take This Job and Shove It,” which they manage to finish off in a mere 85 seconds.)
- Harry Nilsson’s oft-covered “One,” the first substantial hit by Three Dog Night, was turned into a vaguely-industrial screamfest by Richard Patrick, who got it onto the soundtrack of the film The X-Files, credited to Patrick’s band Filter, though apparently no other member of Filter appears on the track.
- “Big Yellow Taxi” was never my favorite Joni Mitchell song. That said, an ad-hoc aggregation called the Neighborhood put out a cover version based on the dubious premise that the best part of “Taxi” was the bop vocal. (In the “video” you can see the jacket for an old various-artists LP, a copy of which I have.)
- Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” is technically not a cover, but structurally it’s a mashup of “Werewolves of London” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” neither of which deserved this sort of treatment, which includes a chorus in which “things” is rhymed with, um, “things.”
- And while I don’t think either of them have put it out on record yet, neither Miley Cyrus nor Hannah Montana have any business singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” (I don’t actually have a copy of this.)
Your own suggestions will be appreciated.