12 Rock + Metal Cover Songs That Are Better Than the Originals
Covers songs are always an intriguing concept. Do you try your best to mimic the original? Do you rework the whole song instead? It's a game of extreme hit and miss and in the case of these 12 Rock + Metal Cover Songs That Are Better Than the Originals, it's all about hits.
Just because the cover version may be better than the original recording doesn't by default mean those originals were bad in any way, though some of them listed here were just fairly average with their true potential being unlocked by another artist. In rock's heyday, a cover song was practically mandatory and a guaranteed way to ensure some radio play that would help break a band on the national and international stage.
These days, cover selections are still a major aspect in developing artists and, at other times, it's just plain fun.
Scroll through the list below to see which artists bested the originals and you may even find out you didn't know some of these tracks were covers to begin with.
Judas Priest, "The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)"Originally by Fleetwood Mac
The Peter Green era of Fleetwood Mac has always taken a back seat to the more popular Stevie Nicks era, but it has its place in rock history and, to this day, still carries a more underground following. It was certainly on Judas Priest's radar, though, as they transformed the subtle lurching qualities of "The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Prong Crown)" into a pounding metal anthem that is rightfully celebrated as a high point among their all-time originals.
Metallica, "Whiskey in the Jar"Originally by Thin Lizzy
Let's get this out of the way before going further: "Whiskey in the Jar" is a traditional Irish folk song, not a Thin Lizzy original.
With that said, Metallica absolutely approached their take on the track with Thin Lizzy's version in mind. It's a bit of an apples vs. oranges comparison — James Hetfield is gritty and rhythmic where as Phil Lynott's voice was fluid with some soulful qualities. What's really cool here is Metallica maintain those traditional melodies, but offer an Americana twist to wholly remake "Whiskey in the Jar."
Jimi Hendrix, "All Along the Watchtower"Originally by Bob Dylan
Jimi Hendrix had the Midas touch. It seemed the groundbreaking guitar legend was incapable of doing any wrong during his all-too brief career, even besting the great Bob Dylan when he took "All Along the Watchtower" for himself.
Released just one year after Bob Dylan issued his original recording, Hendrix's Electric Ladyland recording practically erased the original from everyone's minds as they hailed rock's latest guitar god.
Led Zeppelin, "Dazed and Confused"Originally by Jake Holmes
The A-side closer on Led Zeppelin's mammoth debut LP is uncontestedly a massive improvement upon the baked-in-the-sun original by Jake Holmes. "Dazed and Confused" is one of the many triumphs of the Zeppelin catalog and its barren, sweat-soaked foundation afforded crooner Robert Plant to just unload with one of rock's most passioned vocal efforts. Holmes had to be stunned when this dropped just a couple years after he toured as an opening act for Jimmy Page's The Yardbirds.
Ramones, "California Sun"Originally by The Rivieras
If it weren't for pop-oriented surf rock bands, the world may have never been graced with punk rock greats The Ramones.
Despite their overtly loud, roaring guitar sound, The Ramones' songs went down quite easily thanks to their bubbly nature and their take on The Rivieras' "California Sun" is the ideal example to show where that all came from. When it comes to this band, it's tough to say anyone did it better — even artists who originally wrote one of the songs.
The Clash, "I Fought the Law"Originally by Bobby Fuller Four
Clashing with authority is what punk is all about! (See what we did there?) However, that doesn't mean the punks were always victorious. The law is the law no matter what, and even The Clash recognized that when turning this jingle-jangle pop tune into a frenzied corker. If you consider this song to be a timeless classic, it's because of The Clash, not the Bobby Fuller Four.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Higher Ground"Originally by Stevie Wonder
We're not afraid to get a bit controversial in this list, as evidenced by our pick favoring the Red Hot Chili Peppers over Stevie Wonder on "Higher Ground." Both versions are tremendous, but what's most amazing about what the Chilis did was that they didn't go all-in on the funk side like they easily and capably could have. Instead, this a heavy effort from RHCP, something totally unexpected that still mystifies all these years later.
Rage Against the Machine, "Renegades of Funk"Originally by Afrika Bambaataa
Rage Against the Machine's versatility and dynamism put them at the forefront of rock in the '90s and it's with that musical expertise that they completely owned Afrika Bambaataa's "Renegades of Funk." The curious thing about the original is that it really wasn't all that funky, stooped in '80s experimentalism as artists played around with state-of-the-art digital instruments. Despite the quirkiness of the original, this comes off as a bona fide Rage Against the Machine track.
Quiet Riot, "Cum on Feel the Noize"Originally by Slade
One listen to Slade's "Cum on Feel the Noize" will make you understand why the record label insisted Quiet Riot cover the track on their Metal Health album. The vocals are practically identical and despite Quiet Riot's reluctance to cover the track (they consciously tried to make a terrible effort at recording it) the song became an instant hit and helped the band's album ascend to No. 1, marking the first Billboard 200 chart-topper for all of heavy metal. Oops!
Type O Negative, "Summer Breeze"Originally by Seals and Croft
If there's a contest between Type O Negative and anyone else, it's almost a guarantee we'll side with Type O every time. Their cheeky, gothic twist on Seals and Croft's soft rock hit "Summer Breeze" was an indictment on the band's egregious sense of humor, which they always weaponized to maximum effect. If this were any other band — one who took themselves seriously — this would've been a deplorable throwaway.
Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, "I Love Rock 'n' Roll"Original by Arrows
We're willing to bet a great deal of you didn't even know this was a cover tune. "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" is perhaps the most well-known song from Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, but was originally performed by Arrows. Both versions are pretty thunderous, but it's Jett who is the difference maker with her sultry, sauntering vocal delivery.
Manfred Mann's Earth Band, "Blinded By the Light"Originally by Bruce Springsteen
Upstaging "The Boss" Bruce Springsteen is an unthinkable task, especially for the otherwise not-that-well-known Manfredd Mann's Earth Band. While they may have not authored a transcendental hit on their own, the group cooked up some genuine magic on this spellbinding rendition of "Blinded by the Light," which has dominated classic rock radio for decades.