by Avalon Kenny & Anna Theodora

10-best-covers

Does a cover song ever beat the original? Is Devo’s version of “Satisfaction” better than the Stones original? Can a cover artist transcend the familiar echoes of the first version– and make the song even better? Does anyone really care?

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the Internet, we offer another knucklehead top ten list composed by two opinionated punks, Avalon Kenny & Anna Theodora. They are solely responsible for the list. So don’t blame us if you disagree, blame Avalon & Anna.

1. Great Big Kiss (Shangri-Las) – Johnny Thunders

Johnny Thunders was known for loving the girl groups of the 60s, so it’s really no surprise that he covered “Great Big Kiss.” He puts a more upbeat, rock n roll spin on the bubblegum original, and even throws in an allusion to one of his own songs (“she’s always looking like she’s born to lose”). He also paints the girl to be way more punk the dude the Shangri-Las crooned over, describing her leather pants and making her out to be a badass. (AK)


2. Police On My Back (The Equals) – The Clash

The Clash have a plethora of incredible covers – Bobby Fuller’s “I Fought The Law,” Junior Murvin’s reggae classic “Police and Thieves,” Toots & The Maytals’ “Pressure Drop” along with tons more – but the shining star for me is their upbeat, punk take on The Equals’ “Police On My Back.” The Equals are personally one of my favorite bands, but this quick tempo’d version, with the shrill guitar intro, gang vocals, and catchy chorus is worthy competition. (AK)


3. Mama Weer All Crazee Now (Slade) – Runaways

Slade were a highly influential glam band, and many bands copied their style and covered their songs. Quiet Riot, obviously, have the more well known covers, but The Runaways’ take on “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” blows any competition out of the water. The punk girl gang took Slade’s hit and turned it into their own.  Their version is still dripping in glam, but with Joan Jett’s signature sneer and power chords, it turns into some kind of punk teen anthem. While Quiet Riot basically garnered their success off their covers of Slade, The Runaways’ expansive discography spans more than just a few covers…and they were way tougher. (AK)


4. Pipeline (The Chantays) – Agent Orange

“Pipeline” has been covered by many artists spanning from The Ventures to Johnny Thunders. The most badass version may arguably be the one done by Agent Orange, though – the lead riff backed by chugging power chords and surfy drums. Their version is tougher and darker than most of the others. Living In Darkness also has a cover of miserly, another surf classic, worthy of checking out. As one of the original surf punk bands, it’s not really surprising they chose songs like this to cover. (AK)


5. Streets of London (Ralph McTell) – Anti Nowhere League

Notoriously nasty, most of Anti Nowhere League’s lyrical content is brash and vulgar. However, on their album, We Are… The League,  there is an unexpected cover of Ralph McTell’s “Streets of London.” The original is a folk ballad about poverty, but somehow, the League are able to turn it into a protest song; a war cry about socioeconomic status. It kicks of with a blisteringly tough take on “London Bridges Falling Down” that dives straight into pounding drums. Animal’s signature growl grabs you by the balls, his sneer managing to illustrate the song better than McTell. While the original folk song leans more sympathetic, the League seems to be trying to make the listener aware of these issues so they actually do something. (AK)


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6. Another Girl, Another Planet (The Only Ones) – The Replacements

Somewhat of a deep cut, as the only iteration of this cover was ever released on a live album and as a B-side, this version by the ‘Mats stands head and shoulders above other covers of this song by artists like Blink-182 and Belle and Sebastian. The Only Ones’ original continues to be an absolute power-pop classic, but the raw energy that had come to be expected of Paul Westerberg and co., with slurred verses and clashing guitars, breathes new dimensions and excitement into the track. Definitely a cover worth hunting down. (AT)


7. Viva Las Vegas (Elvis) – Dead Kennedys

The King is dead, and Jello Biafra is here to dance on his grave. A band whose strength always lay in their refusal to shy away from the weird, the manic, and the extreme, Dead Kennedys deliver a raw and sardonic take on the Elvis classic. The chaos of this track and the lyrical changes take aim at American rock n roll opulence, spinning the original on its head and improving it in the process. (AT)


8. The Passenger (Iggy Pop) – Siouxsie and the Banshees

Goths covering punks! While the Iggy Pop and David Bowie version of this song is nothing short of amazing, Siouxsie Sioux takes the dark undertones of the song and turns them all the way up. Crooning over the bass line, Sioux plays on the imagery of lurking through the shadows of a city while paying homage to the proto-punk and glam masterminds behind the initial version of the track. (AT)


9. Do You Wanna Dance? (Bobby Freeman) – The Ramones

The Ramones always excelled in bringing things back to rock n roll basics– three chords, under three minutes, and catchy as hell. “Do You Wanna Dance?” fit in seamlessly with all of the original songs on Rocket to Russia, yet stands out uniquely as a sweet and charming punk rock love song (that has no doubt made its way onto many, many mixtapes over the years). This Bobby Freeman cover, having been covered many times previously and since, became absolutely iconic when Joey Ramone crooned it to a starry eyed Riff Randall in the graffiti covered hallways of  Rock n Roll High School.  (AT)


10. Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen) – Downtown Boys

It was Emma Goldman who said that a “revolution without dancing was one not worth having.” Being, by far, the newest band to make this list, Downtown Boys premiered this cover of The Boss on their 2015 album Full Communism. Perhaps, at first glance, a strange artist to espouse by the fiercely political punks in Downtown Boys, vocalist Victoria Ruiz has spoken about the inspiration the band gets from Springsteen’s working-class ethos. Downtown Boys’ cover stands out so much because of the stylistic change; while speeding it up and adding Ruiz’ angry and commanding vocals, the instantly recognizable saxophone refrain remains in place and makes this cover truly unique and impressive.(AT)

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 by Avalon Kenny & Anna Theodora are contributors to PleaseKillMe.com

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