SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT
Ahmet and Dweezil Zappa:
This is one of my go-to examples of a cover better than the original. Not hard when you pick a kinda mediocre song to start with.
Maybe not exactly better, but noteworthy: Diamond Head, who Metallica covered extensively, released an album in 2020 where they covered Metallica (and also updated some old classics) and honestly, I dig it:
They also have a cover of Immigrant Song on that same album, and while I hesitate to call it better, it sure does get the blood pumping:
Oh! There’s also Panzerchrists’s cover of Metal Church’s “Metal Church,” noteworthy for its slight addition of double bass:
Some of my favorite covers that I personally think are better than the original
Life of Agony’s cover of Don’t You(Forget About Me)
Some people think that Placebo’s Cover of Running up That Hill is better than Kate Bush’s original, Kate Bush’s original is amazing!
DJ Magnet (via a Booty Mashup release) asked
¿Pour Que No Dos?
Brass Against does a nothing but covers, and I love them for it, but them doing Cult of Personality is what sealed my love for them
(It’s hard to say they’re better than RatM but fuck me one of the most cathartic moments of my life was screaming with them at the end of Killing In The Name when I saw them in NYC, I was too young to really appreciate RatM when I saw them back in '99)
and I’m going to stop there >>
Not to continue picking on Led Zeppelin, they’re one of my favorite bands, but this lyric-free mandolin version is just beautiful:
More heresy, but I prefer Mindy Smith’s version of Jolene over Dolly Parton’s. I find Smith’s version to be more haunting and powerful:
Also, I don’t know if I like this better than the White Stripes’s original, but Postmodern Jukebox’s cover of Seven Nation Army, featuring Haley Reinhart, is awesome:
Stairway to Heaven is one of the most overrated songs of all time. It doesn’t surprise me that you think it can be improved. If anyone listens to the original recording now, without knowing its status as a classic, they wouldn’t react at all, or just be disappointed with both the recording quality and the dodgy editing.
Speaking of Jolene covers, Lingua Ignota turns the despair and despondency to 11 with her interpretations. You feel the anguish of the song in a way that by contrast comes off more as confrontational or daring in the more traditional versions of the song.
I’ve always had a strong feeling it was a time and place thing. Zeppelin is outclassed today, but I’m willing to bet that song was mind-blowing at the time.
I had a conversation like this with a guy I know who’s a good bit older than me (mid-50’s) who still keeps up on rock. He was telling me about seeing Guns n’ Roses live when they were still basically nobody, and how mind-blowing it was to hear “Welcome to the Jungle.” The riffs are outclassed today, but the experience of hearing a new sound for the first time is profound.
I had this moment personally trying to talk about the significance of the Beastie Boys to a much younger coworker. Similar to the “Seinfeld isn’t funny” problem, a group that causes a profound shift in the musical landscape can be forgotten two decades down the road because their sound became common.