Seeking Cover

People seem to be talking about covers of popular
tunes. And occasionally less popular tunes as well. Me, I’m not what you’d call a blogger of note, so I expect no great traffic on the topic, but I feel obliged to throw out something that I think has been overlooked, my favorite kind of cover song – the live cover.

I don’t know why live covers are as much fun as they often are; maybe it’s the combination of the crowd noise and the exuberant authenticity of a good live show, but a strong live cover is a wonderful thing, far more energetic or fun than any studio cover. And occasionally, if you’re lucky, the performers will put a whole new spin on the song, rejuvenating a classic or making an old non-starter worth listening to.

Here’s the kind of thing I’ve got in mind:

  • I’ve already mentioned Bjork and PJ Harvey’s live cover of “Satisfaction”.
  • In the Stones Covers vein, I also enjoyed U2’s cover of “Paint It Black”.
  • Taj Mahal’s covers of the blues classics “Dust My Broom” and “Ain’t Nobody’s Business.”
  • Buddy Guy’s live performances (any of his live performances, really) of Hendrix’s “Red House”. Damn near everything Buddy Guy’s done is phenomenal, of course.
  • Rage Against The Machine, covering N.W.A’s “Fuck The Police” – powerful stuff, but very wel suited to the Rage style.
  • Trent Reznor and David Bowie collaborate on an outstanding version of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”, which I heartily recommend to all concerned.
  • It’s hardly a cover, since the guy was right there, but Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits’ live collaboration on “Jersey Girl” is a pile of fun.

There’s a bunch of other stuff in that vein that I just can’t bring to mind, because I don’t have my MP3 collection with me right now, but that’s a start. I’m certainly not arguing some general case for all live covers, Limp Bizkit being the base case of the relevant counterargument, but I do loves me a good, innovative live cover. Anybody have any suggestions?


  1. bella
    Posted December 9, 2003 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know if there’s a live recording of it anywhere, but the Ataris doing “boys of summer” in the middle of the woods on a hot summer weekend had to be one of my favouritest experiences :D

  2. sean
    Posted December 9, 2003 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    I grew up listening to jazz… so “I put a spell on you” by someone like nina simone… to be covered by marilyn manson… let not forget all the loungified stuff done by richard cheese… my personal fav “Chop Sewy” formerly of System of the Down… and last but not least Sammy Davis Jr. does old blue eyes himself (easy now kids) with a tribute to “that old black magic”

  3. Posted December 10, 2003 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    It’s apparently not to everyone’s tastes, but I quite enjoyed David Usher’s cover-medley of “Crazy Train” and “Get This Party Started”. I’ve been casually searching for an MP3 of it since I heard him do it at some Canada Day concert one year, and it’s apparently a staple of his live shows.

  4. nick
    Posted December 11, 2003 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    in a diff vein, the late night cd one, i have to recommend “gamma ray” by joe strummer and the mescaleros. i picked up two of their albums, global a go-go and streetcore, and holy shit have i been having some good listening the past couple weeks. unfortunately, for some reason the clash’s cover of pressure drop isn’t so hot.