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10 of the worst cover versions of classic rock songs known to humanity

The worst cover versions ever - writing on a graphic image of a vinyl record
(Image credit: Future)

Although the term ‘cover version' might belong to the rock era, the concept is as old as popular music itself. And for as long as popular musicians have covered rock hits, the great results have been matched only by the cacophonous, the calamitous and the catastrophic. 

Here are some of the worst offenders. Please forgive us. 

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Gal Gadot And Famous Pals - Imagine

No ‘worst covers’ list would be complete without this horribly ill-advised, covid-era assault on John Lennon’s classic, on which Gal Gadot (aka Wonder Woman) and a bunch of Hollywood-ites tell us to ’Imagine no possessions’ and generally commit a-capella murder slowly and painfully. Presumably it sounded better in Gal’s head.


Limp Bizkit - Behind Blue Eyes

When Roger Daltrey sings this with The Who, it’s a pensive, cathartic rock ballad. In Fred Durst’s hands it is not. The nu-metal fratboys’ cover is so monstrously disingenuous, we’re still at a loss as to when it ever seemed like a good idea. If you’re really a sucker for punishment, try watching the official video. Go on. We dare you. 


Celine Dion and Anastacia - You Shook Me All Night Long

Oh, the horror! To be fair, Celine Dion and Anastacia do seem to be having a thoroughly good time as they make the AC/DC classic sound like two loud aunties hitting the wine at a wedding. Still, someone should dig a very deep hole and bury this blasted thing, lest future generations are detracted from the awesome original.


Motley Crue - Anarchy In The UK

Motley Crue had punk spirit in their prime, but this 1991 Sex Pistols cover was about as punk as Coldplay. The thrilling energy of the original is reduced to a bloated heap of dick-measuring and hairspray, with Vince Neil braying ‘Fuck the ratrace maaaan!’ like a borish old brat. If you ever wondered what Johnny Rotten and co. would sound like getting made over by Steel Panther and Peter Griffin from Family Guy, wonder no more.


Susan Boyle - Wild Horses

There’s a gross misconception – mostly among reality talent-show execs and people who don’t really ‘do’ music – that ‘high art’ attributes like opera vocals and orchestras automatically make any song classier – even a Rolling Stones classic with country roots and a rough, tender charm that’s all the better for its lack of frills. “Yeah, screw all that,” X-Factor winner Susan Boyle’s team presumably said, and thus this characterless, classical-to-order affair was born.


Black Label Society - A Whiter Shade Of Pale

There are plenty of Zakk Wylde fans who love this piano-led interpretation of Procol Harum’s 60s-defining hit. We disagree. It’s not that he can’t ‘do’ sensitive – the outlaw folk stylings on 2016’s Book Of Shadows II prove he certainly can – but here Black Label Society create a turgid, depressing moan-fest out of a song that was pretty damn depressing anyway.


Hilary Duff - My Generation

Your jaw will drop. Your toes will curl. You might even have a bit of a cry, such is the unforgivably saccharine, over-sanitised arse-bilge of a Who cover served up by pop starlet Hilary Duff. The worst is when she changes the key lyric to ‘I hope I don’t die before I get old.’ We can practically hear Keith Moon hauling himself out of his grave and running screaming to her producer’s office with a shovel.


Take That - Smells Like Teen Spirit

Back in 1995, when boy bands were still de rigeur – and things like bare, oily chests and ‘curtains’ haircuts weren’t harmful to their street cred – Earls Court hosted an unlikely imitation of Nirvana’s groundbreaking hit Smells Like Teen Spirit. Technically it’s a pretty straight cover, but galactically unconvincing, with a topless, arse-waggling Gary Barlow pogo-ing away in shiny trousers as if he were revving up an Ibiza crowd. Sorry, Kurt.


Madonna - American Pie

Unlike pop stars who need other people’s songs, Madonna is quite capable of writing (or at least co-writing) her own. This cover felt like a questionably tired, cringy wet fish of a thing. Tellingly, despite her American Pie going to No.1 in multiple countries, she didn’t include it on her 2001 Greatest Hits album. Stick with the Don McLean original.


Children Of Bodom - Oops!… I Did It Again

Okay, so this one’s a pop super-hit, covered by a heavy band. But it’s such a gigantic misfire that it seemed fair to include it here. In the Finnish metallers’ heads, the Britney Spears track probably sounded funny being put through the Children Of Bodom filter. But while music and comedy can be a great match, it’s also easy to get it very wrong. And this is very wrong.

Polly is Features Editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage) and writes a few things. She also writes for Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer, and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.