Jun 212024

Head back to the beginning.

20. Joan Jett — Celluloid Heroes

In 1990, Joan Jett released The Hit List, an all-cover collection. You would think, if you learned that she covered both AC/DC and the Sex Pistols on the album, that her Kinks cover would be one of their early, garage-y songs. But Jett threw a giant curveball by choosing “Celluloid Heroes,” a melancholy look at the haves and have-nots and how eventually you can’t tell which is which. Dave Davies called his brother’s original “One of my favorite songs ever, by anybody,” and Jett shows equal respect in her version, letting the detachment and regret permeate her performance. It was a brave choice for a cover, but nobody ever got rich calling Joan Jett a coward. – Patrick Robbins

19. Ana Egge — Sitting in the Midday Sun

Few can match the balmy listlessness of Ray Davies’ own languid drawl, but Egge gets mighty close, in part courtesy the dreamy brush of drums, and sparse clangs of guitar, alongside her own unrushed strum. Egge is a Canadian based in Brooklyn, yet manages to convince her transatlantic audience as to quite what a currant bun, in this context, might be, and what soaking in it might entail. This comes from her 2007 covers project Lazy Days. Somehow, her own description of this being made as a result of genuine laziness detracts not one jot, as those are exactly the vibes she exudes across all the songs. A laziness we can all aspire to and seldom get to fulfil. – Seuras Og

18. Mark Lanegan — Nothin’ In The World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl

Mark Lanegan’s “Nothin’ in the World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl” is roughly 100x more ominous and sinister than the acoustically-driven, singalong original. It is a dark ‘n’ dusty declaration that sounds more like a warning than a melancholy admission. Multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes serves up some genuinely creepy-handsome picking on the cover, but the fabulously grizzled Lanegan vocal is what gives this quietly menacing thing its emotional heft. – Hope Silverman

17. Toots & the Maytals — You Really Got Me

Can “You Really Got Me” survive without its iconic guitar power chords? Sample the many covers of the song, including those included in this list and those excluded, and it turns out that it not only survives, but thrives. This ska version, by Toots and the Maytals, from the 1998 album Ska Father, is fabulous, and not only because Toots Hibbert and band were generally fabulous. It’s an upbeat, uptempo, ska arrangement, with horns (which always make songs better, right?). And, if that’s not enough, the album has a longer “dub” version. – Jordan Becker

16. Black Pumas ft. Lucius — Strangers

This cover starts out like a piano bar lament with a much more pronounced piano replacing the simple acoustic guitar strum of the original. Then throughout, strings capture the swelling of emotion. In fact, this version could almost be a church hymn, with a choir joining in at times and the subtle “ahhhhh”s in the background. There are two main vocals, first taking turns, then coming together. This blending and layering of vocals, truly two as one, contrasts the original where the “we are not two, we are one” line has a dash of vocal backing, but otherwise a single voice carries the message of the song. The original has a strong drumbeat closing out the song, evoking a march of sorts, where here the vocalists close out, acapella after a hint of organ, asserting one more time that “we are not two, we are one.” – Sara Stoudt

15. Kate Nash — All Day and All of the Night

“All Day and All of the Night” helped popularize power chords and contributed to the invention of hard rock. English singer-songwriter Kate Nash has little reverence for this legacy, at least at first. To start, her cover is a vaguely European-sounding electro track, with a pulsating bass, a prominent synth playing the hook, with Nash speaking the lyrics. It’s only as the verse progresses that an electric guitar comes. The prechorus and chorus are much more conventional rock, but played slower than the original, with a nearly sludgy feel. The desperation and hunger in Nash’s vocal performance make explicit the lyrics and her second runthrough of the chorus contains frenzied backing vocals. It’s a fitting revision of the song, keeping the essential nature of the desperate lyrics but transforming the performance. – Riley Haas

14. Cheap Trick — Father Christmas

Power-pop legends Cheap Trick really deck the halls of this “Father Christmas.” While the Kinks’ original was all rambunctious energy—blasting through changes, less concerned with finesse—this version is more bedazzled and thoroughly produced, taking its time with the festive musical flourishes: mega-wobbly guitar trills, extended vocal peaks, booming Wall of Sound drum fills, high-stakes vibrato as vocalist Robin Zander’s default mode. Cheap Trick don’t have The Kinks’ juvenile flippancy here, but they make a point to truly trick things out with yuletide bravado. – Ben Easton

13. Goo Goo Dolls — Catch Me Now I’m Falling

Way back in 1979, “Catch Me Now I’m Falling” was in very, VERY heavy rotation on FM radio in the USA (definitely in NY, man oh man). The politically themed hook-fest features some ace shredding from Dave Davies, a dirty li’l sax solo, the primary riff from “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and enough sonic twists and turns to satisfy even the neediest melody hound. The fact that this fabulous thing never managed to penetrate the freakin’ Billboard Top 100 remains pop-nerd confounding to this very day.

This cover by Buffalo’s beloved rock ‘n’ roll sons the Goo Goo Dolls may be pretty slick and faithful in arrangement, but it is seriously amped up in terms of delivery. John Rzeznik wails with pure love and conviction. It is punchy, it is aggressive (translation: louder), it is just plain fun (dammit). – Hope Silverman

12. Modern Studies — Harry Rag

“Harry Rag” has the feel of a classic English folk song, even though it’s about an extremely modern addiction. Scottish chamber pop band Modern Studies really lean into that feel. They use a harmonium as the main instrument, and vocalists Emily Scott and Rob St. John sing it as if it’s an olde English lament about a lost love. The group adds percussion, cello, piano and other instruments to give the song a more traditional feel, even if those instruments wouldn’t have been used in a folk performance in past centuries. It’s really the vocal delivery that completely reveals the traditional nature of the melody. In Modern Studies’ hands, “Harry Rag” sounds like it has existed forever. – Riley Haas

11. Oingo Boingo — You Really Got Me

This 1981 track greets the listener with swirling, repeating snippets of vocals, wandering bass, insistently pounding drums and discordant horns. Welcome to the Fun House that is the Oingo Boingo cover of “You Really Got Me.” As the verse starts, despite the vocal affectations, the song at least starts to allow you to gather your bearings. Don’t worry, that won’t last. The drums continue to go way off the beaten path and Danny Elfman’s vocals are, honestly, unhinged. About two minutes in we get a bridge that feels like the soundtrack to a fever dream before we’re dropped back into the relative safety of the verse. As the song comes to a close, there’s a sense of “what the heck was that?” mixed with “let’s hear it again.”- Mike Misch


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  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

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