Top 10 Kinks Covers

raydaviesRay Davies has written dozens of great songs, but you’d never know it if you’ve ever listened to classic rock radio over the past forty years. It’s the same nine or ten Kinks songs that get wheeled out over and over again. “Lola” is such a brilliant song, but radio beat it to death so badly you need dental records to identify it now.

It’s obvious the Kinks catalogue needs better exposure, so let’s get this party started. Some of these songs belong to the Overplayed 10, and some do not, but they are all brilliant, no matter who’s playing them. Theirs is a catalogue first and foremost about the songwriting. God Save The Kinks!


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1. Van Halen – You Really Got Me (1978)

You want proof of this song’s greatness? Look how many have covered it: Metallica, Robert Palmer, Mott The Hoople, Sly Stone, Iggy Pop, Toots and the Maytals, The Smithereens, David Essex, 801, Rick Derringer, Oingo Boingo. This version has got to be the big kahuna, although for me, David Lee Roth’s squeals always bring the movie Deliverance to mind, and it’s not a positive association.


2. Pretenders – Stop Your Sobbing (1979)

How could Ray Davies not fall in love with Chrissie Hynde after she took his obscure album cut, improved it and made it her own, then turned it into a big hit? And if not him, how about his accountant? In any case, nobody had ever heard a voice or seen an attitude anything like Chrissie Hynde’s before, and that’s why she dances with the giants.


3. Peter Gabriel – Waterloo Sunset (2010)

The dean of Rock critics Robert Christgau called this “the most beautiful song in the English language”, and it’s got to be right up there – a more perfect union of poetry and music. Peter Gabriel pares the song down to its wistful and foggy English essence — that voice of his is still so amazing — and I don’t think it has ever sounded more beautiful than this.


4. The Stranglers – All Day And All Of The Night (1987)

It’s like an homage to the Eighties before they had even finished. The Stranglers found themselves here in a no-man’s-land between irony and reverence. Eighties music began with an embrace of early-60s Mods and a denial that the late-60s had ever existed. Eighties music ended when people realized just how limited those silly parameters were.


5. David Bowie – Where Have All The Good Times Gone (1973)

One of my very favourite Kinks songs, it’s edgy, it’s funny, great riff and hooks galore. Who else would have the balls to quote a Beatles lyric: “Well, yesterday was such an easy game for you to play / But let’s face it things are so much easier today”. Bowie nailed the wink and upgraded the sass for a new decade.


6. Kirsty MacColl – Days (1989)

Only a brilliant songwriter could create a song that was so happy and so sad at the same time. Deceptive simplicity is a trademark of Ray Davies’ genius, as is the cheek to throw a brief, classically-inspired middle eight into a three-chord singalong. And props also to the great and still sadly missed talents of Kirsty MacColl.


7. Queens Of The Stone Age – Who’ll Be The Next In Line (2002)

Like Ray Davies, Josh Homme knows how to punch up a song in the right place, and how to find the sweet spot in a dark space. This song is a great fit for the Queens lyrically and musically — its choppy, syncopated chords are a signature element of Homme’s own songwriting.


8. The Melvins – Victoria (2013)

This might have even amused Queen Victoria, the song’s subject, had she been an amphetamine freak. Who knows for sure? It’s the perfect Kinks rocker for cranking up the knobs, and I’m still amazed these guys from the Melvins can hold the harmonies at that speed and volume.


9. Golden Smog – Strangers (2006)

Golden Smog was a side project for Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, whose music has been clearly influenced by the Kinks — the passive-aggressive vulnerability, the penchant for clever transitional song sections. Also, I wanted to include a song written by Dave Davies, a vastly underrated talent in his own right and the poster boy for bullied little brothers.


10. Jimmy Buffett – Sunny Afternoon (1994)

This one falls in the so-bad-it’s-good category. Apparently Jimmy didn’t realize we are supposed to feel contempt for the song’s lead character, so he wears the misanthropic mantle with pride, changing only the words “drunkenness and cruelty” to “parrotheads and parties”, as if that makes the scenario any less unappealing.


Honorable Mentions

Big Star – Till The End Of The Day
Madness – Lola
The Jam – David Watts, Waterloo Sunset
Green Day – Tired Of Waiting
Herman’s Hermits – Dandy
Josh Rouse – Well-Respected Man
David Bowie – Waterloo Sunset
Stereophonics – Sunny Afternoon
Bob Geldof – Sunny Afternoon
Chris Spedding – I’m Not Like Everybody Else
Norah Jones – Strangers
Yo La Tengo – Big Sky
Elvis Costello – Days
Scorpions – All Day And All Of The Night

Photo credit: Jean-Luc/Wikimedia Commons

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