Top 15 Cover Songs From ‘Like a Version’
Cover songs are a risky venture for musicians as the listeners are either going to love you or hate you for it. Sometimes they’re so good that they surpass the original like Hendrix’s version of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ and Cash’s version of ‘Hurt’. Other times they can be so painfully awful that they tarnish the reputation of the song through association – I’m looking at Fred Durst squawking through ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ and Alien Ant Farm’s awful ‘Smooth Criminal’ here.
Australian radio listeners are in a lucky situation when it comes to cover songs, because we have ‘Like a Version’. As 80% of our readers are in America and another 15% are elsewhere other than Australia (shout out to our one Cuban reader!) we may need some context. Every Friday morning the government funded youth radio station hosts a segment where musicians and bands visit the studio to perform a live version of a song they want to cover. The bands involved and their song choices cover a huge range of styles. Some of the results have gone on to be released as B-Sides by the artist and become part of their live routine. The annual Like a Version CD is a must buy for many Australians.
For Like a Version virgins (see what I did there?) this is but a sample – check out the Triple J website and youtube for more. We’ve provided links to videos where readily available.
Magic Carpet Ride – Stonefield
The world doesn’t need another cover version of ‘Magic Carpet Ride’, but it does need more Stonefield. The group came to nation-wide attention recently due to another of Triple J’s efforts, the annual ‘Unearthed High’ competition that gives high school bands the opportunity to pick up a recording contract. The four sisters went from performing in their high school gym to Glastonbury festival in a matter of months and lend their remarkable talent to this well known track. If you haven’t heard of Stonefield yet they’re well worth keeping an eye out for. There’s also a cover of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ floating around the internet.
Sex on Fire/Hits From the Bong Mash-Up – Something With Numbers
When recording this oddity Something With Numbers said that the most memorable Like a Versions were the unusual ones. In response they created ‘Sex From the Bong’. And, against all logic, it totally works and it’s now a regular at their live shows.
Rehab – Paul Kelly
When Australian music legend Paul Kelly appeared in the studio for Like a Version he went a little further afield from his usual material than expected with Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’ (a track made all the more awkward in hindsight). A very, very different take on the hit song which is, strangely, much more fun.
Dancing Queen – Whitley
Just to be clear – I fucking hate Abba. There are very, very few bands I’d comfortably say that about but there’s nothing I like about these guys. Not the style, not the look and especially not the music. There’s not a single song of theirs that I can tolerate listening to. Since the office I work in is pre-dominately the target Abba demographic it gets especially painful whenever Mama Mia is on tour. No, I really don’t think I’d like it even if I’m not an Abba fan, shut up already. Now that’s been said you can appreciate what it means when I say that this is a really good track. Whitley completely shifts the tone of the song, giving it a solemn sound that delivers the message in a way disco couldn’t manage.
Clint Eastwood – The Vines
The Vines have been a regular feature on the Australian music scene for quite some time, and they’ve made their mark on the alternative genre by mixing the modern style with 60s garage rock. It’s an unusual but totally workable style to apply to the electronic sound of the Gorillaz. Somehow Craig Nicholls manages to sing the entire song without taking a breath.
I Was Only 19 – The Herd
‘I Was Only 19’ was original performed by Redgum and is a significant part of Australia’s modern history, telling the story of a young man being conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War. The personal voice given to the topic gave the song a strong impact and most Australian high school students taking History would have encountered it in the classroom. The Herd gave it a new lease of life when they chose it for Like a Version, and the success of the song in the charts reflects the impact it can still have.
These Boots Were Made For Walking – Little Birdy
Nancy Sinatra had a very distinct singing voice. Regardless of the topic – in this case taking authority over someone – she managed to come across as sultry. Although this particular song has been covered seven ways to Sunday few performers have the vocal skills to match the original. Enter Katy Steele, lead singer of Little Birdy, who is ideally suited to the song. Take a listen if you want to find out what I’m talking about.
Video Games – Bluejuice
Bluejuice are an odd bunch. They smash together many of styles with punk, ska, hip-hop, funk among others and put on stage shows that include bright yellow jump suits and inflatable giant lizards. For reasons that only make sense to them they chose the soulful ballad ‘Video Games’ for their most recent Like a Version. The more up-beat, up tempo take on the song is a good contrast with the lyrics. Certainly one of the oddest clips to watch here.
My Happiness – Clare Bowditch
Clare Bowditch is a busy, busy Australian. She has a full music career that involves touring with Leonard Cohen, she stars in an acclaimed television drama, she organizes concerts as a political activist, she runs a business helping ‘creative minds get started in their own businesses without sacrificing their integrity’ and she’s raising twins. Some time between all that she managed to record her own take on the Powderfinger smash hit ‘My Happiness’. We’re glad she made the time.
Not Fair – Bob Evans
Bob Evans has also appeared on Like a Version under his real name (Kevin Mitchell) with his band Jedediah, and he always goes with something a bit left of center. One time they covered ‘The House of Pooh Corner’ and it was great. For sheer bizarreness the nod has to go to his cover of Lily Allen’s tune about the perfect boyfriend who is rubbish in the sack. Hearing Evans croon earnestly about having to sleep in the wet patch is downright hilarious.
Dance the Way I Feel – Gossling
A year after Ou Est Le Swimming Pool struck gold with their debut track ‘Dance the Way I Feel’ lead singer Charles Haddon leaped to his death while backstage at a festival, distressed that he had caused a serious injury to an audience member. The up-beat dance track and it’s passionate vocals take on a different meaning when remember the singer’s tragic end. Gossling’s rendition of the track lends it a melon-colic tone that serves as a fitting reflection on the event.
Kids – The Kooks
For a while there ‘Kids’ by MGMT was freaking everywhere. Not that we minded, it’s still a fantastic song. There’s more than a couple of different versions doing the rounds by this point of varying quality, but one of the best is the one that The Kooks performed for Like a Version. The British band provide a stripped down, acoustic rendition of the indie chart topper that is like hearing the song anew.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Hey Ya! – Sarah Blasko
Some may claim that I’m cheating by rolling two songs into one entry in order to avoid picking one over another. I would counter by pointing out that it’s my list and I’ll do what I please. Besides, there’s simply no way to put one of these unique and entertaining tracks over the other. First we had Elton John’s classic track given an alternative spin. It’s a great vocalist covering a great track. Then we have the hip-hop track from Andre 3000 and Out Kast ‘Hey Ya!’ given a very mellow treatment. Pick your own favorite.
Pumped Up Kicks – Owl Eyes
‘Pumped Up Kicks’ was a smash hit track that came out of nowhere, propelling Foster the People into stardom. Owl Eyes started her career on local talent show/annual annoyance ‘Australian Idol’, which has produced some surprisingly good quality performers who never, ever get voted as winners on the show. Owl Eyes shows her real talent with her post-‘Idol’ career, especially this fantastic cover. Listen and enjoy.
Real Love – Regina Spektor
‘Real Love’ was a very, very later addition to the Beatle’s official output, having been unreleased after six attempts at it in the studio. The three remaining members of the band reworked it and released it in 1996, making it the last Top 40 song released by The Beatles. These days it’s commonly heard being performed by Regina Spektor who has performed it on Like a Version and a number of charity concerts. She has subsequently recorded and released her live rendition of the song.