Five Songs That Never Need to Be Covered Again


Cover bands are inevitable. There are far more musicians than there are great songwriters, so plenty of people get good at playing someone else’s stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s simply one of many ways to incorporate music into your life, and who are we to judge you? That being said, there are some really, deeply uncreative cover bands who will only play a song that’s already been done by another cover band. Possibly even done to death. The thing is, I’m sure these bands keep the forthcoming songs in their repertoire because people keep requesting them. Thus, you can’t fully blame the band for churning out cover after insipid cover of the same old crap. On the other hand, if the band didn’t make the option available, the crowds wouldn’t know that they could keep requesting the same songs. Or would they?

Writer’s Note: I want to stress the difference between this, a list of songs I am tired of hearing from cover bands, and a list of songs I simply hate. I “like,” or at least don’t “hate,” all the songs on this list.

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This is a collection of songs that have been done to death, to the extent that you’d have to be an insane genius to actually extract something new out of them. With Prince and Bowie dead, our insane genius supply is a little bit thin as of late. If you’re in a band, and you’re thinking of songs to cover, maybe skip these five.

5. “Yesterday” – The Beatles

I read somewhere (either The New York Times or Sports Illustrated for Kids, as these are the only publications I read) that “Yesterday” holds the distinction of being the most re-recorded pop song of all time. Nobody’s doubting the power of the original, even if it’s technically McCartney’s first solo record, but there’s a Liberace version and a Tom Jones version. There’s also a Bob Dylan version that was never released, most likely because everyone remembered that Dylan talked shit about the song when it came out.  Here’s Tom Jones sexing it up!


4. “Hallelujah” – Leonard Cohen

What? I thought Jeff Buckley wrote this song! Nope. Sorry. What do you think of his death now? Is it more or less meaningful?

It’s “less,” isn’t it?

I mean, he sang it beautifully. More so than Cohen, anyway, though one can’t accuse Cohen of trying.

But seriously. Who drowns?

Anyway, the very-much-still alive Leonard Cohen was the one who wrote the song, which means that Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, John Cale, and pretty much everyone else that has ever existed have been sucking all the creativity right out of it. Granted, they all turned out passable versions and it’s a great song, but it may be time to put this one to bed.

3. “I Shot the Sheriff” – Bob Marley

I might just hate this song, but I don’t think it’s as simple as all that. Marley’s version is classic and Clapton’s is passable, but after that my body just seizes up. Whatever faux-reggae spice you’re thinking of adding to the flavorless mush that you are inevitably going to produce, go ahead and abstain. Members of every race on Earth will thank you.

Bonus points for the clip below if you know French. Couldn’t find an English one. Don’t care.

2. “Heroes” – David Bowie

Look, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am still mourning in my own quiet way. In most cases, my Shiva period does not involve listening to Bowie songs performed by anyone other than Bowie. While it’s still difficult to believe that such an icon has been dead for almost 5 months, there has been a definite Bowie surge in both the karaoke and cover band industry. It’s as if we all feel the need to prove that we were into him back before it was cool, even though it has literally always been cool post-1969 to like Bowie. His first album should be burned on sight.

“Heroes” is often picked because it’s relatively simple to play, isn’t in an impossible key, and has already been blandly covered by the Wallflowers. So basically, you’re doing the Wallflowers doing David Bowie. You backed the wrong Dylan.

1. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” – Bob Dylan

Since we’re talking about Bob Dylan so much in this list anyway, we might as well discuss this shitty band mainstay. The original is nothing special and the Clapton one is a snooze. Hell, the best version might be by Guns n’ Roses, and I generally think they’re a mediocre band made unbearable by the force of their various personalities!

For some reason, lonely guitar players in formerly smoky coffeehouses (thanks a lot, Obama) tend to favor this one. I’ve probably seen 45 different versions in my lifetime, and I might live another 40 years (Don’t worry, I’m trying to cut that down)!

Let me be blunt: the chances of you surprising anyone and getting “discovered” in any sense of the word are nonexistent if this is what you choose to play. This version is cool because Axl Rose is doing a pretty great Louis Armstrong impression.


Glad you asked! Here are some great ideas for cover songs, free of charge.

National Anthem of the Soviet Union

“Martian Hop” – Rocky Sharpe and the Replays

“One Toke Over the Line” – Brewer and Shipley

“Peaches en Regalia” – Frank Zappa

“We Are the World” –  USA for Africa

“Baby Beluga” – Raffi

You’re welcome.

Photo credit: By Alberto Cabello from Vitoria Gasteiz (Bob Dylan) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

5 comments to “Five Songs That Never Need to Be Covered Again”
  1. How about a song I could write called ‘We are the Tasteless and Weird.’
    It would be about your (and no doubt a lot of other melody tone deaf people)strange and very elementary ‘taste’ in music…
    you know,
    like pop/rock and your ridiculous picks of top songs/groups.
    Dare you to print this,
    a Beatle-Stones- ELO and other real musical composers
    have a good day

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