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Music

Bad Cover Versions #248: Jamie Cullum Murders Radiohead's High and Dry

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Justin Bieber's Who Shot Ya And The Worst Cover Versions Of All-Time

by Joe Sparrow
5 March 2013 28 Comments

There we were, minding our own business, when it was brought to our attention that Justin Bieber had freestyled over Biggie Smalls' seminal Who Shot Ya on a radio show. Naturally, we were horrified, as you will be when you hear it ...

There we were, minding our own business, when it was brought to our attention that Justin Bieber had freestyled over Biggie Smalls’ seminal Who Shot Ya on a radio show. Naturally, we were horrified, as you will be when you hear it below. If you’ve recovered, go and have a butchers at five other hideous covers…

Rock isn’t all about releasing dazzling albums of pristine brilliance just like the Rolling Stones did – it’s also about whelping out lazy, ill-thought out, clunking records, just like the Rolling Stones did. Crafting a heinous cover version requires as delicate a touch as when writing a great song. Just as conscious thought was conspicuous by its absence when Keef created the Stones’ greatest moment -  he dreamt the riff to Jumping Jack Flash - so clear and intelligent thought was taking a cigarette break when Duran Duran decided that the best way to plough a new career furrow was to cover Public Enemy’s 911 is a Joke.

After hearing the horrifying results, it’s clear that the group’s collective common sense didn’t just nip out to the corner shop for 20 Bensons – they swam to Virginia to pick the tobacco by hand, and took a mini-break in Cuba for rolling lessons on the way back.

But there’s often a lop-sided beauty to be found in the activities of the truly stupid, and awful cover songs almost always fulfil this criteria: versions of songs that are so dreadful that repeat listens are – horrifyingly – almost obligatory. And the aforementioned Duran Duran seems like a good place to start…

Duran Duran cover Public Enemy’s 911 Is A Joke

The immediate question, as with all ill-thought-out cover versions, is ‘….but… why?…”. You must learn to immediately reject such notions. The key to truly appreciating excruciatingly bad cover songs is to disregard rational thought.

Rational thought, after all, would never have led to a soppy 1980′s quasi-boyband to cover the angriest song ever written by the angriest hip hop group there has ever been.

The secret is to revel in the detail:

  • Luxuriate! in the blunderingly stupid faux-bad-attitude styling of Simon Le Bon, as he hops around, busting middle-class stupid-fresh stylings and attempting to look menacing in skin-tight pink spandex trousers.
  • Shudder! at the dawning realisation that Simon Le Bon looks like a drunken escaped mental patient enjoying a night of freedom in a Karaoke bar.
  • Prepare To Sue! for the emotional pain caused by the ‘impromptu’ segue into a verse of Theme from Shaft. (This actually happens.)


Limp Bizkit cover George Michael’s Faith

In some respects, this cover is a resounding success: Teenyboppers can sing along to lyrics they know, and still feel edgy; TV network execs can rest assured that they’re being ironic and cool; and tedious jocks can do that snappy-finger-above-the-head thing and remark, “Dude, he just totally burned that fag Boy George Michael’s ass!” before chugging another Heineken and smashing the empty cans against their foreheads.

For the rest of us, normal, human beings, the misery associated with the original version of the song is forever compounded by Fred Durst and Co.’s plunge into the stinking depths of the corporate-friendly-cover-version sewer. Like, gnarly.


Sting covers Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing

This previously beautifully brief song is subjected to the same over-rich over-stuffing as the Gluttony victim in Se7en. Jimi’s Little Wing was 2 minutes 45 seconds long. Sting’s is nearly 9 minutes in length.

How – where – did he find the extra 6 minutes? What did he think he could add that Jimi Hendrix didn’t?

Sting, however, is a Man With A Mission – whether it’s saving the rainforest, or whelping woeful, bloated covers of rock classics. In his version, he sings the whole song twice. Only the most rampant of idiot egos could deem a whole song to only be truly useful as a verse. Abominable.


Big And Rich cover The Beastie Boys’ Fight For Your Right To Party

This cover is so wrong, it’s almost right. The thought of a slick, ultra-tight bunch of Country and Western session-musos heading into a $1000-dollar-a-day studio and re-recorded a dumb teen ode to smoking, playing truant and wanking is wonderful.

Except, of course, that would be too good to be true, wouldn’t it? So, middle America’s posterboys deemed the words ‘porno mag’ too offensive for the delicate redneck constitution, and replaced it with the words “country mag”.

“Hell – while we’re at it,” they thought, “why not stick some fiddles, some honky-tonk piano and some vague swelling choral harmonies in there too?” So they did.


Paul Young covers Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart

There is a certain amount of real bravery in covering a song so revered and treasured as Love Will Tear Us Apart. There is also rank stupidity, utter tunelessness and a suicidal urge for exposure to ridicule in it too. But there’s room for both, right?

From the first woeful strains of the exact same synthesiser sound that filled the gaps between montages in the Rocky movies, to the utterly facile hand movements of the backing-singers-from-hell, Paul Young manages to create – nay, craft – a song with all the dynamism, appeal and punch as warm, damp lettuce.

Brave to the last, Paul heaps absurdity upon absurdity, and wholly destroys the song that soundtracked a thousand suicides. Don’t complain though – simply appreciate that it was even possible to turn the world’s most crushing, most remorselessly glum ode to lost love into an upbeat pop number.

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Seth 12:47 pm, 3-Feb-2011

You've rather ballsed up the headings haven't you or is number 4 a quiz?

revolversk4 1:35 pm, 3-Feb-2011

I wish you'd mentioned that Limp Bizkit one. Forget the name.

Joe Sparrow - Author 2:02 pm, 3-Feb-2011

Revolversk4 - Limp Bizkit also covered The Who's "Behind Blue Eyes". It's almost too much to bear. Woeful.

Ed 3:03 pm, 3-Feb-2011

A group made up of white British boys taking a stab at a black american rap standard is simply ludicrous... then again, isn't this similar to W.A.S.Ps covering R&B numbers back in the 60's? Just an observation...

Joe Sparrow - Author 3:45 pm, 3-Feb-2011

Ed - true enough. I've not heard WASP's covers, but be assured I'm googling them now... I'm happy for anyone to cover any song, as long as it's not as overwhelmingly hopeless as Duran Duran's attempt up there.

Keith Wildman 3:59 pm, 3-Feb-2011

I have WASP's version of The Who's Real Me on 7"...

Mick 10:44 pm, 3-Feb-2011

Undercover's version of Baker Street is the worst cover version of any song ever. Gerry Rafferty, despite receiving royalties from its success said that it was ‘dreadful, totally banal — it’s a sad sign of the times’. Look it up on youtube and bear in mind that the whirring sound you become aware of is Gerry spinning in his grave.

Ed 2:46 am, 4-Feb-2011

Sorry Joe if I misled you. I wasn't refering to the band WASP, but rather white anglo saxons in general covering R&B music back in the 60's. R&B in the 60's or Rap in the 90's, the only difference is that mainstream music fans had never heard the original R&B numbers back then, so they ate up the watered down "white" versions.

Tim Russell 9:38 am, 4-Feb-2011

Look up Celine Dion's version of "You Shook Me All Night Long" on Google. I would post the link here but I might accidentally end up watching a bit of it, and it's taken me 3 years of therapy to recover from the last time I watched it.

Joe Sparrow - Author 11:00 am, 4-Feb-2011

Ed - ha! Now there's confusion! WASP didn't strike me as an R&B lovin' band... Tim: you'll find that and more, equally dreadful covers, here: www.badcoverversions.com

trevy trev 2:09 pm, 4-Feb-2011

I heard the Paul Young version of Love Will Tear Us Apart before I'd heard the original and actually prefer it. In fact I like all the covers on No Parlez, it's bloody great album and Paul Young's shiny jackets were amazing.

fiery Jack 2:38 pm, 4-Feb-2011

RE Paul Young -those dancers!! When he's touching handa with the crowd and flowers are being thrown, I'm praying for the kitchen sink to land right on his feather cut. It's like Des O' Connor covering 'Raping a Slave' by Swans. Wrong.

Juzzy Jenkins 4:45 pm, 5-Feb-2011

Paul Young improved this and Wherever I lay my hat. I didn't know Leif Garret wore Product 250 ;)

gayle 2:45 pm, 6-Feb-2011

oh dear

Ryan H 5:49 pm, 8-Feb-2011

Andy Cole's reworking of The Gap Band's 'Outstanding'.

Melanie 6:30 pm, 8-Feb-2011

Bauhaus covering Ziggy Stardust, arrogant and pretentious.

Brunosis 1:18 pm, 10-Feb-2011

Aww, thst's not fair. Peter and the boys did a great job on Ziggy! I've always love the original, but I always thought the Bauhaus version was excellent. Hazel O Connor does a cool version of 'Rock n Roll Suicide' n'all. Worst cover version ever? Those X-Factor drones doing 'Heroes' maybe - truly hideous at the very least.

Andy 8:28 pm, 28-Feb-2011

Pepsi & Shirlies version of Free's All Right Now is painfully bad and would get my vote as the worst cover ever.

Andy 8:31 pm, 28-Feb-2011

Can I take back that last comment. I've just listened to Paul Young's cover of Love Will Tear Us Apart and can't find the words to describe how bad that was. I'm traumatised and going for a lay down.

Ben 6:18 pm, 11-Mar-2011

Susan Boyle murders Lou Reed's Perfect Day

Jimmy James Jameson 5:02 pm, 20-Dec-2011

Obviously Hendrix turned so violently in his grave, his legal people were forced to ban Sting's version of Little Wing from ever being viewed again. Re Bieber, has he just had an Home Economics lesson? He appears to be wearing a pinny.

Boll Weevil 9:31 pm, 20-Dec-2011

How about a list of great covers? Jimi; All Along The Watchtower Johnny Cash; Hurt Led Zepp; Babe I'm Gonna Leave You The White Stripes; Jolene That would be more worthwhile than waisting precious thought-energy on the dreadfulness of Justin Bieber.

Rebellious Jukebox 11:32 pm, 20-Dec-2011

Busted's (sacreligious) version of Teenage Kicks - nothing could possibly be a worse cover version

mike 4:46 pm, 21-Dec-2011

wish you were here by wyclef jean,i dont mind wyclef but floyd should never be coverd.

Roberto yo! 5:23 pm, 22-Dec-2011

Take That covering Smells Like Teen Spirit. Has to be seen to be believed. I f*cking hate Gary Barlow.

Marcus 7:16 pm, 4-Jan-2012

Roberto, you beat me too it. Though their "Another Brick In The Wall" is just as bad http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNNWHB7IthQ

Martin Quirk 7:48 pm, 5-Mar-2013

A Certain Ratio's cold blooded murder of the Banbarra's classic, 'Shack Up', takes some beating, and Oasis come close to it with their bludgeoning to death of 'I Am The Walrus'. But ,sparing Manchester's blushes, the clear winner, I think you will all agree, is Celine Dion and Anastacia's gruesome torture and cold blooded butchering of the mighty AC/DC's 'You Shook Me All Night Long' ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1niTEkP-6eo

Doesn't matter 12:42 am, 6-Mar-2013

Remember seeing Bill Bailey on Breakfast TV a few years back and he mentioned something I'd never heard of previously. So obviously I had to go look it up. Chris De Burgh - All along the Watchtower. What part of the thought process went wrong there? Dylan? Hendrix? I can top that! No Chris, no you can't. You fucking arsewart.

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