15 Great Rolling Stones Covers

rollingstonesbannerWhy are there so many more Beatles covers than Stones covers? Well the Beatles wrote more great songs, but that’s only part of the story. I would argue it’s harder to cover the Rolling Stones than the Beatles, because so many Stones songs were written specifically for their own well-cultivated bad boy persona — a built-in, smirking, swagger that can be difficult for other artists to pull off convincingly. Nevertheless, there are some great Stones covers, here are 15 of my favorites:

15. David Bowie – Let’s Spend The Night Together

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Ed Sullivan made the Stones change the lyric to “let’s spend some time together” before they performed it on his show, but if he had hung around another couple of years to see Bowie perform this on his stage, old Ed would have dropped dead on the spot.

14. Manic Street Preachers – Out Of Time

Showy, superficial and self-absorbed, it’s the perfect marriage of artist and song. I can’t imagine these guys covering any other Stones track.

13. Allman Brothers – Heart Of Stone

A gem from the Brothers’ final studio album, a real suitable Stones cover for the band, and even without Dickey Betts, some pretty nice work from Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks.

12. Turin Brakes – Moonlight Mile

I’ve always considered this to be one of the Stones most artful and moving compositions, swagger-free, and one of their very best songs. The arty British band gives the song a treatment that brings light to its mystical undercurrent, but I find myself missing Nicky Hopkins’ deft pianistics from the original.

11. Dwight Yoakam – The Last Time

The Stones were originally a blues-based band, but by the 1970s their affinity for country music began to ooze out like Texas tea on the Clampett homestead. Surely, though, the Stones could never sound this country.

10. Motorhead – Sympathy For The Devil

This song really should be left un-covered, but inexplicably there have been many attempts at it, almost all of them lame. This version just came out a couple of months ago, though, and I love it. Jagger delivers an all-time great vocal on the original, but Lemmy’s groggy croak is just so bloody perfect as the voice of the devil. It’s so good that it’s almost a little bit spooky.

9. Musiq Soulchild – Miss You

In Mick’s starry dreams, tucked between his satin sheets, he imagines himself sounding as soulful as this.

8. Townes Van Zandt – Dead Flowers

It’s a powerfully poignant moment when legendary folk hero and junkie Townes Van Zandt sings about a needle and a spoon and another girl to take the pain away. You might remember this version from the final credits of The Big Lebowski.

7. Gob – Paint It Black

There are easily two dozen punk or post-punk Stones covers, and since they’re all variations on the same idea, I wanted to pick the best one. The Ramones really only go through the motions on their Stones covers, but Gob managed to maintain the tunefulness and the spirit of the song while they were kicking serious ass.

6. Linda Ronstadt – Tumbling Dice

Linda substitutes sass for swagger and makes it work. It’s good clean fun that proves you don’t need to be salacious to be sexy (as if we needed any proof). And as always, an impeccable performance from her and the band.

5. Soup Dragons – I’m Free

As far as I can tell, the only Stones cover to be a bigger hit than the original. Good on these guys, wherever they may be now, to take an obscure Stones track and make it forever their own. It still regularly shows up in TV commercials, for better or for worse.

4. Taj Mahal – Honky Tonk Women

I bet if you asked them, this would be one of the covers that Mick and Keith are most proud of. It’s a real authentic validation of their songwriting. And I bet if Robert Johnson were still alive, he’d probably want to cover the Stones too.

3. Merry Clayton – Gimme Shelter

She performed the famous backup vocal on the original, but got a chance to carry the song on her own, and it may be even better than the original. Merry Clayton has recently faced some devastating hardships, and she’s not just an amazing singer, she is an amazing human being.

2. Marianne Faithfull – As Tears Go By

Well of course we’ve got two choices for this entry, but as the artist herself noted, the song is much better suited for a 40-year old than it is for a girl of 17. The song reminds us that gracefully surrendering the things of youth did not come so easily to the pioneers of the Rock generation.

1. Devo – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

This is the big enchilada, the bridge between the old world and the new, as bold a statement in 1977 as the original was in 1965. It was and remains a litmus test separating open-minded music lovers from 1960s-nostalgia cravers. You know who you are, go ahead and pat yourselves on the back for loving both versions.

Other Stones covers I love include: Blind Boys of Alabama – Just Wanna See His Face / Liz Phair – Mother’s Little Helper / Steve Earle – Before They Make Me Run / Bobby Darin – Backstreet Girl / Clarence Gatemouth Brown – Ventilator Blues / Tegan & Sara – Fool To Cry.

So what’s your favorite Stones cover?

Photo credit: By Jim Pietryga (https://www.iorr.org/tour15/) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

6 comments to “15 Great Rolling Stones Covers”
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