Jun 212024

Head back to the beginning.

30. First Aid Kit — Waterloo Sunset

The Söderberg sisters’ cover of “Waterloo Sunset” shines thanks to their strength as singers and their ability to blend voices and hit their trademark close harmonies. The song with its vulnerability and melodic leaps serves as a particularly great vehicle for First Aid Kit. – Tom McDonald

29. Sly Stone — You Really Got Me

One of the first songs Ray Davies ever wrote, in 1964, when he was just 20, “You Really Got Me,” was originally supposed to be a jazzy, bluesy song honoring artists like Lead Belly or Big Bill Broonzy. But 17-year-old Dave Davies thought that the song would be better as a rocker, with a guitar lead. And he was right. Dave created the famous, and innovative, distorted sound in a very early analog 1960s way—by literally slicing the speaker core of his amp with a razor blade and poking it with a pin (and by some accounts, thus invented heavy metal).

Only a couple of years later, Sly Stone, with his siblings Freddie and Rose, recorded a demo of the song. It’s a loose, funky, fun take that partially returns the song to its bluesy roots. It’s clear that Stone wasn’t really taking it all that seriously, which adds to the cover’s charm. Stone revisited the song with the Family Stone in 1982, in a slicker way, that feels a little by the numbers, and way less fun. – Jordan Becker

28. The Williams Brothers — Death of a Clown

“Death of a Clown” is probably Dave Davies’ most prominent songwriting contribution to The Kinks’ catalogue, reaching #3 in the UK and actually letting Dave dream about going solo for a minute. The second generation of The Williams Brothers take the underlying country feel of the original and put them at the forefront, most explicitly with a prominent pedal steel guitar part. That guitar replaces Ray’s contribution to the song, which gave the original a vaguely psychedelic feel in the refrain due to the echo on his voice. Instead it’s pure country, with the Williams Brothers providing classic country harmonies capturing the melancholy and frustration of Dave’s lyrics. – Riley Haas

27. Gravenhurst — See My Friends

This cover of “See My Friends” is, well, let’s just call it “mushroom-magical.” Gravenhurst (aka the late Nick Talbot) stretches the originally two-and-a-half minute, psychedelic lament about lost love/leaning-on-your-mates-in-maybe-a-romantic-way into a nine-minute (!) hypnotic hippie jam. It starts slow ‘n’ hazy, and gradually accelerates into a grungy groove before turning back around and returning to its moody beginning. It is epic. It is amazing. – Hope Silverman

26. Josh Rouse — A Well Respected Man

The best Kinks tribute album is This Is Where I Belong: The Songs Of Ray Davies & The Kinks. Three of its tracks feature on this list—Tim O’Brien’s “Muswell Hillbillies” at #34 and…we’ll get there. Plus I can confirm that many of the others were close contenders (I’d point you especially to Queens of the Stone Age’s “Who’ll Be the Next in Line” and Lambchop’s “Art Lovers”). It doesn’t get much better than this jangly bit of pop perfection from Spain-via-Nashville-via-Nebraska songwriter Josh Rouse. He was most active during the 2000s, touring with Mark Eitzel, Aimee Mann, and Vic Chesnutt; collaborating with aforementioned Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner on a joint EP; and having a song featured in Vanilla Sky. Every second of this is bliss, most especially when he hits the falsetto leading in the the chorus. – Ray Padgett

25. Yo La Tengo — Big Sky

Deep-cut covers have long been Yo La Tengo’s bread and butter. From the band’s covers-specific LPs and annual Hanukkah run of live shows to their infamous on-air covers-only marathon fundraiser broadcasts for WFMU-FM, the indie rock legends’ crate-digging tendencies have generated a broad catalog of hundreds, likely thousands, of YLT covers. So it seems extra special that the band’s very first recorded cover to appear on an album, their 1986 debut Ride the Tiger, was from none other than The Kinks. Their Track 2 version of “Big Sky” is relatively musically faithful to the original Kinks cut. But, at the outset of their career, it’s Yo La Tengo’s wide-eyed approach that stands out and feels a great match for the tune, offering a version that’s charming, jangly and surprisingly gentle. – Ben Easton

24. Bill Frisell — Tired of Waiting for You

One day in the early ’60s, Dave Davies took a razor blade to his amp’s speaker. The filthy tone it produced helped defined an era. It is that era that Bill Frisell pays tribute to in his Guitar in the Space Age! album, recorded six decades after Davies set down the razor. On “I’m Tired of Waiting for You,” Frisell and band filter out the grit and tension of the Kinks’ hit and give the song a spacious sound; the guitars are languorous and atmospheric, there’s only the barest trace of a power chord in the ether. But soon a more manic energy takes over, followed by graceful mayhem. We don’t turn to Frisell to re-create songs we’ve heard a few hundred times before, but to renew them. Frisell was a child when he first heard the Kinks, and there’s a childlike spirit in Frisell’s ability to go with his own idiosyncratic flow while allowing his bandmates to do the same. – Tom McDonald

23. Steve Wynn — This Strange Effect

A song written by Ray Davies for teen idol Dave Berry and only ever performed by The Kinks live, it stands out among their mid ’60s songs for its eastern-sounding guitar and plodding pace – not very Kinksy. Legendary guitarist Steve Wynn of The Dream Syndicate takes advantage of the song’s prominent lead part, digging into that melody and surrounding it with distortion and feedback. He ups the pace, especially in the chorus, to give the song more momentum, making it sound a little more Kinks-esque in the process (at least in the chorus). Wynn keeps things restrained, sticking to the runtime and only indulging in a tiny little bit of his trademark feedback. – Riley Haas

22. The Damn Truth — Yes Sir, No Sir

“Yes Sir, No Sir” from the Kinks album Arthur begins with its marchy snare and heartbeat-like bass drum. Next comes the lax strumming, and finally the bass and lyrics. “What do I do, what do I say?” he asks. “Permission to speak sir, permission to breathe sir?” The original feels like a bluesy, sarcastic jam–an in-your-face sonic middle finger toward authority.

How could this tune possibly get any more emotive? The answer would be: The Damn Truth, a four-piece Canadian rock band. Donning a police-style hat, aviators, and ’60s/’70s feeling garb inside a room full of tapestries, the quartet has made a statement before the first note. The Damn Truth takes the instrumental parts and keeps the notes and structure true to the original, while vocalist Leela Baum soars over the musical backdrop. She belts the words with a new flavor, adding little stings and sauce to the ends of the phrases. Something about this cover is invigorating. Is it the new timbre of the guitar? The extra grit, heaviness, and sass they collectively add? Perhaps it’s the synergy of all of it. Either way, this one will leave you sticking it to the man. – Aleah Fitzwater

21. The Fall — Victoria

As satirical songs about British patriotism in the age of British Empire go, “Victoria” is right up there, as the massively influential English post-punk group The Fall knew back in 1988. That’s when they recorded it for their Frenz Experiment album, being on fire in the covers department with their version of R. Dean Taylor’s “There’s a Ghost in My House” also in the mix. Mark E. Smith, ever the acerbic frontman, stepped up to the mark to pour contempt on a country made wealthy on class division and colonialism. And really, who else could sing “I was born, lucky me / In the land that I love” with such scorn and disgust? Add to that a more declamatory intro than on the original, an edgy retelling of that electric blues riff, some marvelous drumming, and a middle-eight marked by Smith sort of hiccupping, and you have an absolutely gloria-s Kinks cover. – Adam Mason


Cover Me is now on Patreon! If you love cover songs, we hope you will consider supporting us there with a small monthly subscription. There are a bunch of exclusive perks only for patrons: playlists, newsletters, downloads, discussions, polls - hell, tell us what song you would like to hear covered and we will make it happen. Learn more at Patreon.

  One Response to “The 50 Best Kinks Covers Ever”

Comments (1)
  1. Thanks for the wonderful Kinks covers great work So many good artists and great versions

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>