50. Pearl Jam – I’ve Got a Feeling (The Beatles cover)
The first grunge band on our list, and by no means the last. This was the era! Nirvana’s Nevermind came out in September; Pearl Jam’s Ten came out a month earlier. A month before that, Pearl Jam released their debut single, “Alive.” As this was also the era of CD singles, different versions came with different bonus tracks. One of them was this raw run at The Beatles’ Let It Be cut. Eddie Vedder tweaks a couple lyrics to pay tribute to Pearl Jam precursor Mother Love Bone (“everybody misses Andy” refers to MLB frontman Andrew Wood, who overdosed the year before). Here’s a live version to watch too.
49. Happy Mondays – Stayin’ Alive (Bee Gees cover)
Speaking of the Beatles, in 1990 Paul McCartney told NME, “I saw the Happy Mondays on TV, and they reminded me of the Beatles in their ‘Strawberry Fields’ phase.” However, for a cover the following year, the Madchester band draws from slightly more recent history, tackling the Bee Gees’ Saturday Night Fever smash. This sneering number, again, was a CD single B-side, backing up the band’s original song “Judge Fudge.”
48. Follow For Now – She Watch Channel Zero (Public Enemy cover)
The band Follow For Now took their name from a line in “Fight the Power,” but they picked a different Public Enemy song to actually cover. Coming out of the same Black punk-rock movement as Bad Brains and Living Colour, Follow For Now didn’t have those groups’ success, only releasing a single album, from which this cover comes. It does a great job bringing a rock edge while keeping the gangsta rap (now there’s a dated term for ya) authenticity intact.
47. Claw Hammer – Gut Feeling (Devo cover)
In 1991, California indie-rock band Claw Hammer took on the audacious task of covering Devo’s entire debut album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Not Devo! Honestly the whole thing is worth checking out, a punk roar that sounds less like Devo’s art-punk and more like the Sex Pistol’s punk-punk. To single out just one track, “Gut Feeling” brings an insane energy level and shows how much fun this project must have been to record. Singer Jon Wahl – here listed as the Devo-sounding Jon Mothersbrother – screeches and hollers while the band goes apeshit around him. One imagines Devo would approve.
46. David McComb & Adam Peters – Don’t Go Home with Your Hard-On (Leonard Cohen cover)
“Don’t Go Home with Your Hard-On” is no one’s favorite Leonard Cohen song. As Adam Peters told me when I wrote a 33 1/3 book on the tribute album I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen, that was sort of the point. Where everyone else went for some totemic song, “Bird on a Wire” or “Suzanne” or something (“Hallelujah” didn’t qualify…yet), he and David McComb of The Triffids wanted a song they could screw around with without anyone getting too upset. And screw around they did, bringing hip-hop elements inspired by Eric B & Rakim – as filtered through a couple of white dudes in Australia – and snippets of an Eddie Murphy character from Saturday Night Life. Other covers from that album will rank higher on this list, but none are as much silly fun.
45. Big Daddy – Welcome to the Jungle (Guns ‘n’ Roses cover)
Novelty oldies covers group Big Daddy, which performed modern songs in various ’50s and ’60s styles, had a number of contenders for this list from their album Cutting Their Own Groove (check out their “Graceland” and “Nothing Compares 2 U” as well). But ultimately, it was hard not to be impressed by how seamlessly they blended “Welcome to the Jungle” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” What would on paper seem to be a shoehorned connection forced only by the lyrical overlap – you know, “in the jungle, the mighty jungle”… – against all odds works seamlessly. They even work in a bit of “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” Maybe Axl Rose should be practicing his a cappella.
44. Teenage Fanclub – Like a Virgin (Madonna cover)
Scottish power-poppers Teenage Fanclub actually sound like they could be virgins on this cover, presaging the Weezer sound by several years. The guitars get distorted to hell without submerging an ounce of the bubblegum pep.
43. Antiseen – Psycho Killer (Talking Heads cover)
All strum und drang, with a gruff howl substituting for singing, these North Carolina punks’ “Psycho Killer” sounds like it might be sung by an actual psycho killer. The best part is where singer Jeff Clayton dispenses with Byrne’s chirpy “ai-yi-yi-yi”s in favor of a low guttural groan.
42. Julee Cruise – Summer Kisses, Winter Tears (Elvis Presley cover)
It’s become something of a cliché to say something sounds Twin Peaks-y. But this Elvis cover doesn’t just sound Twin Peaks-y; it’s performed by the same woman who sang the actual Twin Peaks theme song! And 1991 was peak Peaks fever, which likely explains how Julee Cruise landed on the all-star compilation Until The End Of The World alongside Talking Heads, R.E.M., and U2. In fact, this cover was produced by Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch himself.
41. Die Mimmi’s – Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand (The Beatles cover)
Beatles covers are a dime a dozen, but I’ve never heard anyone else cover the German version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Yes, as Anthology listeners will remember, the Fab Four re-recorded a couple of their earliest singles in German to break into German markets, despite not being fluent in the language (they did it phonetically). Unlike The Beatles, Die Mimmi’s actually are German, and subsequently sound a lot more natural tackling all those hard consonants.
The list continues on Page 3.