I’m generally the first to cry foul when I hear a remake of a song I love. It seems a travesty to redo something that was done perfectly well in the first place. But every now and then I run into an exception. Apparently, I’ve run into an exception ten times. And to prove it, I’ve listed my favorite rock cover song exceptions here in this list.
You’ve probably never heard of some of them. Others might have crossed your radar once or twice. But few get the attention they really deserve. Most of these are originally classic rock songs, but a couple are a little more modern.
So in backwards order, here are some of the best hard rock or punk rock cover songs that are most worth your listening minutes.
10. Mayday Parade: “When I Grow Up” by Pussycat Dolls
This is that non-rock song I was talking about. At least, it wasn’t rock until Mayday Parade got a hold of it. They really ran with the chorus, too. Quite honestly, I thought the original was pretty wimpy. Mayday Parade made the cover so good that even guys won’t be embarrassed to listen to it.
9. Green Day/U2: “Saints are Coming” from The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun”
Green Day and U2 sampled portions of The Animals’ classic rock hit “House of the Rising Sun” and turned it into an anthem for Hurricane Katrina in “Saints are Coming.” You’ve got to hand it to Billie Joe Armstrong and Bono for coming up with extra lyrics that actually seem to fit the theme without sounding forced.
8. Nickelback: “Saturday Night’s (Alright for Fighting)” by Elton John
If you didn’t think the original had enough electric guitar, give it to Nickelback and they’ll grunge the daylights out of it. Ordinarily, Elton John and grunge aren’t such a great mix, but in this case it works, especially since Chad Kroeger isn’t trying to get his vocals to sound like Elton’s.
But for the record, Elton John’s version is still the best ever.
7. Rise Against: “Any Way You Want It” by Journey
Unless you’re a Rise Against fan, you’ve probably never heard this rock cover because it doesn’t really get any radio play. But if you’re a Journey fan with a sense of humor, try the very rocked-out Rise Against version.
6. Metallica: “Turn the Page” by Bob Seger
If the Bob Seger version sounded too much like it belonged in a smoky bar in a rundown town, listen to the Metallica version. Now you’ve upgraded to a smoky bar with a TV and a wrestling cage.
But seriously, the grunge style again lends itself to the beat of the song, and since Metallica sounds absolutely nothing like Bob Seger any other day, it works.
5. Shinedown: “Happy Christmas” by John Lennon
I can hear the screams already. “Gaaaah!!! The audacity! The insolence!” But chill out – they’re not the first to remake the song, and they certainly won’t be the last. I personally like it because there’s less of the John Lennon whine and more of the Brent Smith acid. Definitely a must for rockers who ordinarily loathe Christmas music.
And again, you’ve probably never heard of it unless you’re a Shinedown fan (like myself). I tried even YouTubing it one time. I couldn’t even find it there. So it probably goes down as one of the most underrated covers in history.
4. Seether: “Careless Whisper” by George Michael
If you think a song is too girly, Seether will take care of that problem by adding as many electric bass and guitars they possibly can. And true, you can hardly understand the lyrics in the chorus as Shaun Morgan grates them out, but I think it’s a lot more enjoyable to listen to than Michael’s version.
3. Seasons After: “Cry Little Sister” by Gerard McMann
This hit song from the 1987 movie, The Lost Boys, sounded great in the 80’s when it was cool to do weird, non-melodic synthesizer in your songs. And I still love the original. But Seasons After does it much better with a more haunting verse (which reflects the theme of the film better, in my opinion) and a heavier, more metal chorus with deeper vocals and more instrumentation.
2. Everclear: “The Boys are Back in Town” by Thin Lizzy
The first time I heard this song I could barely tell the difference between the two. Then I heard the obvious differences, like a louder hook with a different guitar effect. Thankfully Everclear did not make this a grunge piece. They kept the song sounding pretty much the same as the original with just a slight difference in vocal sounds.
1. H.I.M.: “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak
Love them or hate them, the love metal rockers from Finland did “Wicked Game” much more justice than Chris Isaak ever did. Isaak’s sounds more like an Elvis Presley crooner, while H.I.M.’s takes it faster and louder with a more punctuated hook and better rhythm throughout. But there are two versions of their cover; they’re both good, but the one without the scratchy guitar hook at the beginning is better.