The Best Rolling Stones Covers Ever

 Posted by at 10:31 am
Jul 262018
10. Lindsey Buckingham – She Smiled Sweetly

In the 1990s, Lindsey Buckingham was recording a solo album. Before it was finished, he was asked to rejoin Fleetwood Mac for 1997’s The Dance. The songs he’d recorded, but hadn’t yet mastered, came out in dribs and drabs over his next several records with and without the Mac. “She Smiled Sweetly” eventually showed up on 2011’s Seeds We Sow, but I prefer the unreleased original for its extra instruments and its backing vocals. Either way, it’s nice to hear Buckingham’s unerring acoustic and the quiet ache in his voice. – Patrick Robbins

9. Allman Brothers – Heart of Stone

Upon its release, the Allman Brothers Band’s 2003 album Hittin’ the Note was hailed as a return to form for the aging rockers. Recorded more than 30 years after the deaths of founding members Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, and the group’s first album without guitarist Dickey Betts, the album captures the feel of classic Allmans without sounding stale. Among the tracks is a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Heart of Stone.” True to form, the group transform it into one of their own. On vocals, Gregg Allman gives the track his heartfelt, world-weary spin, turning lyrics into an old man’s blues lament. Virtuoso guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks deliver some powerful licks, showing that they were worthy successors to Dickey and Duane. – Curtis Zimmermann

8. Bettye LaVette – Salt of the Earth

Clearly, I’m a sucker for Bettye LaVette’s covers, having written about her version of “Wish You Were Here,” for our Pink Floyd countdown. The album from which that came, Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook, also includes her soulful update of the Stones’ tribute to the working class. LaVette interprets the message of the song by subtly changing the lyrics, sometimes to make them more personal, and other times to update the sentiments (recognizing, for example, that soldiers now are not only straight white men with “wives,” or that HIV is a more pressing health issue than polio). And where the gospel choir in the original lent authenticity to a song sung by white Brits, the background singers in LaVette’s version feel more organic. – Jordan Becker

7. Linda Ronstadt – Tumbling Dice

Linda Ronstadt was at the height of her powers when she released her 1977 album Simple Dreams. The album contains a number of classic covers, including renditions of Buddy Holly’s “It’s So Easy” and Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou.” Backed by a who’s-who of ‘70s session players, she also delivers a fiery alt-country rock rendition of the Stones “Tumbling Dice.” With her signature vocal stylings, Ronstadt injects a bit of girl power into the notoriously male-chauvinistic Stones’ music. The end result is a cover that is equal to if not better than the original. – Curtis Zimmermann

6. Tegan and Sara – Fool to Cry

I’ve never gotten much traction with my semi-sincere argument that Black & Blue is secretly the best Stones album. But even its many (many) detractors generally agree that “Fool to Cry” ranks near the top tier of Stones ballads. It doesn’t get covered nearly as often as it should, but Tegan and Sara make up for the scarcity with a knockout performance. Commissioned by Lena Dunham for the Girls soundtrack, the Canadian duo brings subtle production touches and smooth-as-silk harmonies to a groovy electro-funk number. Maybe next they’ll try “Memory Motel” or “Hot Stuff” and really get a Black & Blue renaissance going. – Ray Padgett

5. The Sundays – Wild Horses

For a b-side, The Sundays’ “Wild Horses” is a gem. With a sweet jangly guitar, easy harmonies, and Harriet Wheeler’s piercing vocals, it’s a far cry from the original rock ballad. It became a sort of ’90s anthem since appearing in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer finale. – Angela Hughey

4. Merry Clayton – Gimme Shelter

If you type “Merry Clayton” into Google, this is the song that comes up first. Not entirely unreasonably, as she famously duetted with Mick on the original, which regularly tops best-Stones-songs lists. It is entirely appropriate that she gave it an entire crack on her debut solo, giving an altogether more rhythmic bluesy performance than the chilly proto-Americana of the template. And, should you wonder, on keyboards is sixth Stone and fifth Beatle Billy Preston. But it is Clayton’s voice that really cuts the mustard, soaring effortlessly above the beat. – Seuras Og

3. The Concretes – Miss You

I wasn’t ready for the Stones going disco when Some Girls came out, although I got there in the end. But quite what I would have thought then about this glorious minimalist take I cannot imagine. Roll on a decade or two and it is the morning after chill after the excesses of a night before, the lyric all the more wistful in that context, right up to the a cappella final entreaty. The Concretes come from Sweden and this version first appeared as the B side of their second single in that country. Their own material shares the same dreamy ambience. – Seuras Og

2. Ruth Copeland – Play with Fire

The cover of Ruth Copeland’s second album I Am What I Am will not prepare you for this performance. It presents a white (very white) English girl donning some skimpy Native-American-belly-dancer garb (questionable at best) in front of a gentle woodsy background. It looks like Sandy Denny meets Olivia Newton-John. But if you made it past the album’s cover into the liner notes, some names might inspire a second look. The band turns out to be four members of Parliament-Funkadelic, including Bernie Worrell and Eddie Hazel (he of “Maggot Brain” fame, aka the greatest guitar solo ever performed). Despite appearances, Copeland moved in George Clinton’s orbit for a few years; the man himself co-wrote a few songs on this album. The sonic tour de force of “Play with Fire” immediately makes clear just how misbegotten that cover was. Far from some light folk-pop crooner, Copeland possessed a voice-cracking belt that could hold its own against Merry Clayton herself. Dynamic shifts, percussion breakdowns, and Hazel’s extended axe theatrics make the seven-and-a-half minutes rush by, but it’s Copeland’s powerhouse vocal performance that sends shivers. Don’t judge a book – or an album – by its cover. – Ray Padgett

1. Devo – Satisfaction

Every great artist has a signature song, but it’s hard to think of a more epochal pairing than the Rolling Stones and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” With the first blast of Richard’s bratty fuzztone riff, the band finally made the leap from a sloppy, attitudinal R & B covers band into something altogether fiercer and more compelling.

Almost immediately, many fine artists began turning in their own cover versions. But nearly 15 years after it was released, it would be Devo—a surreal, puzzling and unabashedly geeky band from Akron, Ohio—that would truly own it. Unsatisfied with simply stripping down the Stones’ four-chord stomper, Devo instead plunged the song into a vat of caustic industrial waste. What emerged was a jittery, clattering machine, the sound of a Chevy Citation breaking apart in real time. Where was the downbeat? Where was the riff? (On the recorded version, it doesn’t even appear till the final 30 seconds.)

None of this mattered. In Devo’s hands, “Satisfaction” became an anxious, bilious and yet somehow still danceable take on the wasteland of mid-70s America. Within a few years, “Whip It” would cement the band’s place in the pop firmament. But just as it had for the Stones, it would be “Satisfaction” that summed up nearly everything the band had to say in one short, sharp, and perfect blast. – Seth Lorinczi

Check out the Best Covers Ever of Fleetwood Mac, Talking Heads, Beyoncé, Pink Floyd, and more here.

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  12 Responses to “The Best Rolling Stones Covers Ever”

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  1. I love Devo’s version – not least for the way it utterly deconstructs the original, guaranteed in the late ’70s to annoy the hell out of grumpily aging classic-rockers – but The Residents’ version makes Devo’s sound like muzak.

    And then halfway through, Snakefinger comes in with a guitar solo that was probably used to test the durability of paint strips.

  2. Good choices, but I would have put Jane’s a lot higher on the list. If your readers are interested, here’s a ton more Stones covers…

  3. You know what this needs? Five or six more covers of “Beast of Burden.” Sheez …

  4. Montrose “Connection”
    Chubby Checker “Under My Thumb”

  5. You forgot Alex Chilton’s cover of Jumpin Jack Flash

  6. I can’t believe I’m not seeing anything about Bette Midler’s cover of Beast of Burden. Not only is it awesome, Mick is in her video.

  7. The Lantern by Mac Ribell, a 60´s brazilian fuzz band….

  8. Townes Van Zandt “Dead Flowers”

    The way Mick & Keith wanted to sound.

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