Jan 282022

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20. The Mayries – Asleep

Swedish duo The Mayries (Matilda Ekevik and Sofi Lindblom) have covered songs by everyone from Bob Dylan to Billie Eilish, imbuing every single one with lustrous harmonies and an air of wistful sweetness. But their version of “Asleep,” one of the darkest and most heart-wrenching songs in the entire Smiths discography, is their finest recorded hour. It’s faithful, not fancy, and has a welcoming rustic alt-country flavor to it. It is also a mind-blowingly gorgeous magic trick, for they have somehow made this soul-crusher of a song sound optimistic. Amazing. – Hope Silverman

19. Greg Laswell – Half a Person

Greg Laswell has a knack for miserabalizing songs; go check out his “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” But for “Half a Person,” already on the gloomy side, he outdoes himself. Stripping it back to piano and a more mellifluous croon than in the original, the plaintiveness is accentuated, the residual archness of the lyrics excised. Even the conceit of a possible vacancy for a back scrubber sounds believable and entirely feasible. The song comes from Please, Please, Please, a 2011 tribute album, that, Laswell and Tanya Donelly apart, is largely a bevy of lesser-known artists. Nonetheless, still well worth a listen. – Seuras Og

18. David Ford – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

Few can pull off a cover as well as UK singer-songwriter David Ford. When he sinks his teeth into a song, he can bring a heaping helping of pathos to it (witness his revelatory version of Northern soul gem “The Snake”). “There Is A Light” appeared as a bonus track on his 2007 debut solo album Songs for the Road (hope it’s not the road with the double decker bus). When he told us about his favorite covers, he picked Tom Waits’ version of West Side Story’s “Somewhere.” His “There Is a Light” feels cut from the same cloth. – Ray Padgett

17. The Ukrainians – Koroleva Ne Pomerla [The Queen is Dead] (The Smiths cover)

The Ukrainians started as a spin-off of the Wedding Present, who, after playing a well-received traditional Ukrainian song on John Peel’s show, added Ukrainian musicians (in addition to their guitarist Pete Solowka, of Ukrainian descent) and even performed a few Ukrainian Peel Sessions. Solowka left the Wedding Present, along with the two new recruits, singer and violinist (Len Liggins who actually spoke Ukrainian), and mandolin player (Roman Remeynes), to form The Ukrainians. They followed up their 1991 debut album with an EP of Smiths covers, one of which, “Koroleva Ne Pomerla (The Queen is Dead),” also appeared on their second album, Vorony (“Ravens”, I think). Sung in Ukrainian, and featuring both rock and traditional instrumentation, the cover splits the difference between Manchester and Kyiv. – Jordan Becker

16. Bobby Bare Jr. – What Difference Does It Make

Classic country is a description seldom, if ever, applied to the songs of the Smiths. And possibly neither to this, even if it’s the aim of the project. As archetypal a Morrissey lyric as any, somehow Bare has the ragged lack of gravitas to give an unironic conviction the writer never quite managed. The fact it ends up a bit like Ringo’s version of “Act Naturally” is all part of the charm. The steel guitar would probably make Morrissey squirm, but I love what it does to the song, a subversion of all that is so revered by the lovers of the band. From Bare’s 2002 debut, Young Criminals Starvation League, which also includes a Shel Silverstein cover. – Seuras Og

15. The Beautiful South – Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

Imagine Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” with a cha-cha beat and you’ll begin to get a sense of what The Beautiful South concocted for the Smith’s first top ten single. The Paul Heaton-led collective of former Housemartins mates and others, buried this gem on the “B-side” of their 2004 “This Old Skin” single. Enjoy the tinkling keys, baritone sax, a mixed male/female chorus, and a poppy Heaton sounding like Morrissey in a good mood. The track bounces along danceably before breaking just after midway, repeating the “kick in the eye” lyric – maybe the happiest rendition of that line ever. Heaton croons before the horns blast to bring things back… and then it all quickly winds down. Hard to be miserable here! – Frank Minishak

14. Among The Oak & Ash – Bigmouth Strikes Again

The tongue-in-cheek lyrics are delivered with a straight face in this cover that stays fairly faithful to the sound of the original. This version is a little softer, no drums, and guitar solo interludes don’t come on as strong. There are still harmonies on lines like “Now I know how Joan of Arc felt” and “bigmouth la da da da”, but now they sound less electronic since sung by a vocalist rather than the original approach of altering Morrissey’s voice to sound higher. – Sara Stoudt

13. Kirsty MacColl – You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby

Having brought her unique talents as a backing vocalist to the Smiths’ 1986 UK hit “Ask,” Kirsty MacColl tackled “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby” as a solo artist in 1988. It was a song the band unbelievably scrapped as a single the year before, and a song MacColl made entirely her own in the first five seconds, such was her way of creating an epic, Ronettes-style intro out of her trademark layered harmonies. In fact, she gave the whole number a glorious girl-group sheen, care of her exuberant yet strangely melancholy voice, and the heaps of attitude she poured into those resentful lyrics: “I have tried for so long, it’s all gone wrong.” She even acquired the services of Marr himself, who complemented her airy vocals with the best jangly guitar lines in the business, all making for one heck of a contribution to the soundtrack to John Hughes movie She’s Having a Baby. – Adam Mason

12. Reel Big Fish / Zolof The Rock & Roll Destroyer – Ask

Reel Big Fish offer a ska-punk version of “Ask,” with blow-out horn lines and power chords aplenty. Drawn from a 2007 split release that features Rachel Minton of Philly pop act Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer on duet vocals, Reel Big Fish dial up a strain of sugar-rush energy. The band cut nearly all of the indoor-kid moodiness and reverb from The Smiths’ original cut too, bringing the song to a much more electric present moment (all the more rife for a proper skank). The whole thing is maximalist and droll, the kind of thing to which Morrissey, if found in the right nihilistic mood, might not immediately say “No” to, if asked… – Ben Easton

11. NAIMA – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

Maybe the best song on The Queen is Dead, an album filled with great songs (although it wasn’t released as a single until after the band had broken up), “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” may be the perfect marriage of Johnny Marr’s jangle and Morrissey’s ambivalent depression. Naima, a Spanish jazz band based in Valencia and named after John Coltrane’s ballad, gives the song a subtle, piano-driven jazz treatment, with enough interesting edges and flourishes to allow it to stand up to the original (and the many other covers of the song, both on and off this list). – Jordan Becker


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  8 Responses to “The 40 Best Smiths Covers Ever”

Comments (8)
  1. The Dream Academy “Please Please Please…” didn’t make it? wow. The instrumental version was in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.

  2. What about J. Mascis’ version of “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side”?


  3. Oh my land and garters, that version of “This Charming Man” !!!

    Consider me an instant fan of The Skints forthwith.

  4. The best smiths cover is “Please please please let me get what i want” it’s not even close but according to this clown is not even in the top 40.
    It’s obviously one man’s taste but it seems like these lists are always made by people who are clueless .

  5. Dang Alex and all, those are harsh words for what I consider a well-appointed list. Sure, we may disagree on some choices, but ‘clueless’? Not even close. Ray is an astute music fan and has a better sense of these things than many.

    I’ll put it a different way: aside from this list not having what you’d like, did you discover any new versions you hadn’t heard that are cool? I sure did.

  6. A superb range of covers! One of Cover Me’s best compilations ever imho. I knew a handful of the more obvious covers (Shaw, Buckley, Ronson, Eurythmics), but so many great ones that I wasn’t aware of. Noel is right about the Skints. Who knew about Bow Wow Wow and t.A.T.u.? Twin Shadow, Dum Dum Girls, Stars. That live E.B.T.G. cover. Best discovery – for me – Mayries – simply gorgeous and makes you want to immediately investigate their catalog further. And the write-ups – warm, sometimes funny, informative, but mostly music lovers just wanting to share. Huge round of applause to all involved in pulling this together. I love this site.

  7. No Love Spit Love version of How Soon? Wow.

  8. What about Death Cab For Cutie’s cover of “This Charming Man”? It sounds a tiny bit heavier than the original version and it is enjoyable overall. I thought it was worth mentioning on this list.

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