Feb 232024

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

beatles covers

Sixty years ago this month, The Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan Show. You don’t need us to tell you what a momentous occasion this was; entire books have been written on the subject. Suffice to say we’re using the anniversary as our excuse to finally devote a Best Covers Ever to perhaps the biggest band of them all. We’ve done Dylan. We’ve done the Stones. We’ve done Dolly and Springsteen and Prince. But there was one last giant remaining.

Though it’s difficult to measure this precisely, The Beatles are the most-covered artist of all time according to the two biggest covers databases on the internet (SecondHandSongs, WhoSampled). And that certainly feels right. “Yesterday” is often cited as the most-covered song of all time, though that needs qualifiers (a ton of Christmas standards would beat it). But, again, it feels right. The Beatles were ubiquitous in their day, and they’ve been ubiquitous ever since. They just had a chart-topping single last month, the A.I.-assisted “Now and Then,” which was duly covered widely. If “Carnival of Light” ever surfaces, no doubt a carnival of covers will soon follow. Continue reading »

Feb 012022

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty-odd years.

somethin stupid covers

What’s your favorite C. Carson Parks & Gaile Foote song? Hard to pick just one right? I’m kidding, of course. You probably couldn’t name one off the top of your head, but you probably do know one: “Somethin’ Stupid.” C. Carson Parks (the great Van Dyke Parks’ older brother, as it happens) wrote the song, and he and his wife recorded it in 1966 as “Carson and Gaile.” On his entertaining website, Parks itself explains the story behind this short-lived project: Continue reading »

Apr 012011

“Only Love Can Break Your Heart” seems to be in vogue for bold covers these days. A few months ago, indie pop artist I Blame Coco turned the Neil Young ballad into an off-kilter dance tune. Now, gypsy punk quartet DeVotchKa takes it back to its acoustic roots in a session for Crawdaddy, but with a DeVotchKa-ian twist: lots of accordion. Continue reading »


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Mar 232009

Lyrics are important, but it’s a shame the art of the hit instrumental seems to have been lost. Turn on oldies radio and from Booker T. to the Ventures, instrumental guitar jams pop up and now and again. The instrumental is on death’s door, but certain segments of the indie aesthetic are trying to revive it. Explosions in the Sky is an all-instrument post-rock band (whatever that means), and Andrew Bird released an instrumental disc to accompany his recent Noble Bird. While we wait to see whether the instrumental makes a comeback, let’s take a wander through time looking some instrumentals of the past and present. But remember: Walk, don’t run.

Bob Dylan – Rumble (Link Wray)
When Wray passed a few years back, artists like Dylan and Springsteen began covering this one in their live shows to pay tribute to the unheralded master of the distortion guitar. [Buy]

Orquestra America Romantica – Tequila (The Champs)
The original’s got that south-of-the-border vibe, so this Brazilian orchestra goes with that with blaring horns, flying percussion, and drunken shouting. Because yes, technically this song has lyrics I suppose, but it’s just one word. [Buy]

The Pink Fairies – Walk Don’t Run (The Ventures)
My favorite instrumental of the bunch, it doesn’t get much more dance-crazy fun than the Ventures’ original. To, their credit, the Fairies don’t try. Instead they produce a ten-minuet psychedelic swirl that Wire magazine proclaimed one of the best covers ever. They even come up with some vocals for the beginning! Groovy. [Buy]

The Juggernauts – Wipe Out (The Surfaris)
So many sound-alike covers of this one, it’s refreshing just to here something different. The Juggernauts give it a world music feel, playing theme on acoustic guitars while employing all manner of percussion, whistling, sound effects, bird calls, etc. for the drum breaks. [Buy]

Surf Champlers – James Bond Theme (Monty Norman)
I’ve been planning on doing a post on theme songs for a while, and still may, but I couldn’t resist putting this here. It’s a little more world music, lead guitar complemented by South American percussion and reggae strumming. [Buy]

Ironweed – Nashville Skyline Rag (Bob Dylan)
When Dylan went country in ’68, he didn’t mess around. His disc Nashville Skyline included a duet with Johnny Cash, a song about all the different types of pie he likes, a steel guitar instrumental. Ironweed takes it out of Nashville and up to Appalachia, giving it that bluegrass aesthetic with banjo, mandolin, and lots of old-timey pickin’. [Buy]

DeVotchKa – Overture (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
Accordion? Violins? Tuba? It’s a strange mix indeed, but what better to do a Nightmare tune justice. Not just a Nightmare tune though – a dozen of ‘em all mashed into the movie’s overture. DeVotchKa’s bizarre concoction incorporates them on as it thumps along. [Buy]

Figurines – New Orleans Instrumental No. 1 (R.E.M.)
The blogging gods over at Stereogum put together a whole set of Automatic for the People covers that included not one but two takes on this one (the other by Jana Hunter). Interestingly, both of them added wordless vocals. While hers was slow and dirge-like, the Figurines keep it fresh and bouncy. [Buy]

Cida Moreira – Fawn (Tom Waits)
Tom Waits’ sense of heartbreaking melody is second to none, so his knack for memorable instrumentals should come as no surprise. Coming from his work for the Robert Wilson play Alice, “Fawn” is a more recent example that gets a beautiful piano treatment by Moreira. Even though her wavery soprano comes in at the end, it’s just another instrument here. [Buy]

Danzo Rezno – Ghosts 38/Demon Seed (Nine Inch Nails)
Ticketmaster foe Trent Reznor did the world of instrumental music a huge favor last year when he released a four-disc set of new instrumentals, “a soundtrack to daydreams” he called it. Each song was titled Ghosts [#] and featured the dark, brooding sound that Nails fans expected. Danzo pulls out a piano take that starts out quiet until the guitars come in and then…well. He even incorporates an instrumental version of Trent’s “Demon Seed,” from his non-instrumental disc last year. Dude’s prolific to say the least. [Buy]