The 10 worst cover versions ever

(Image credit: Patrick Ford/Redferns)

There are various reasons why a band might elect to release a cover version. They might perhaps wish to pay tribute to a formative influence. They may have found a way to unlock a hitherto unheard dimension in an inspirational artist’s work and cannot deny the world a chance to listen in shock and awe. They may have been too distracted to write enough decent songs for their album. Or they may simply be dancing like cute little puppets for a record company that really, really would like some radio airplay with a tune people might actually know, thank you very much. Whatever, to quote the title of that 2003 Limp Bizkit album that no-one remembers, let alone owns, results may vary. Here are 10 covers that really, really shouldn’t have happened.

10. New Noise – Anthrax

Anthrax are a heavy metal institution whose recording history features a fabulous array of classy cover versions alongside their own estimable originals. Sometimes though, even the smartest bands take wrong turns, and the New Yorkers’ take on the highpoint of Refused’s seminal The Shape Of Punk To Come album goes horribly awry from the moment that Joey Belladonna opens his mouth here. Can I scream? By all means Joey, but it’d also help if you had the tiniest sliver of empathy with the words you’re screaming and the intent of the original song, as opposed to delivering your lyrics with all the passion one might reserve for reading the terms and conditions on a home insurance policy. The result is that Anthrax sound like middle-aged men trying pitifully to look young and relevant, and it’s difficult to listen to this without squirming with embarrassment. There are two positives here: 1) this cover is tucked away as a hidden track on _Worship Music_ so it’s easy to pretend it doesn’t exist and 2) at least it’s not fucking Crazytown.

9. Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting – Nickelback/Kid Rock

There’s a number of brilliant songs on the splendidly entertaining _Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle_ soundtrack, but this isn’t one of them. Elton John’s raucous 1973 original is a rock standard, of course, but here it’s transformed into lumbering bar band boogie for Nickelback and Kid Rock’s target audience of strip club patrons and wrestling fans. No doubt all concerned – including Dimebag Darrell who contributes the ripping guitar solo – had a marvellous time recording this red-blooded tribute, but listening to it is about as appealing as having your head repeatedly ducked in a sink full of cold vomit in an Alabama truckstop while simultaneously being punched in the kidneys.

8. Blue Monday – Orgy

When ‘alternative’ rock broke into the mainstream at the beginning of the 1990s, it felt like a breath of fresh air. But by the end of the decade, as a succession of careerist chancers co-opted left-of-the-dial sounds in a bid to look kooky and edgy, the format began to stink like a pepperoni fart. With their roots in hair metal and funk rock, LA poseurs Orgy re-styled themselves as ‘death-pop’ in the mid ‘90s, and became platinum-selling MTV favourites thanks to a) the patronage of Korn frontman Jonathan Davis and b) this dead-eyed industrial-lite cover of New Order’s landmark 1983 single. Orgy’s debut album was called Candyass: truly the nu-metal era was a different time.

7. Shock The Monkey – Coal Chamber and Ozzy Osbourne

More shitty nu-metal, this time from a bunch of ‘spooky-core’ cock-wombles who revisionist commentators have inexplicably started pretending were somehow relevant at the tail-end of the 1990s. By the time the LA quartet released their second album Chamber Music in 1999 the gimmick of ‘metallizing’ alternative rock anthems was firmly established as a route onto KROQ and MTV playlists, and here Coal Chamber’s manager Sharon Osbourne shamelessly wheeled in her doubtless bemused husband to phone in guest vocals for added commercial appeal. The single reached number 90 in the UK charts. So, well done everyone.

6. Oops!… I Did It Again – Children of Bodom

One minor problem with metal bands taking the piss out of pop artists with light-hearted cover versions is that the process rather tends to highlight just how mediocre their own songwriting is by comparison. Superstar producer Max Martin, who co-wrote Oops!… (and a mere 22 US Number One singles) is a former metalhead with a masterful understanding of melody and dynamics, and every song he’s written could easily be transposed to a rock/metal format, so Children Of Bodom’s jokey cover falls painfully flat once the initial LOLZ wear off. Still, respect, for pissing off the Troo metal elitists.

5. Love Will Tear Us Apart – Fall Out Boy

Well, this really is quite something. Taken from Fall Out Boy’s 2004 EP My Heart Will Always Be the B-Side to My Tongue – try reading that again without gnawing your fist in embarrassment – this utterly unnecessary cover finds the Chicago pop-punks turning Joy Division’s desolate, heartbreaking 1980 single into the sort of off-key acoustic thrash American college frat boys play at 4am to show their sensitive sides before uncorking the GHB. The YouTube commentator who wrote ‘I never knew anyone could hate Joy Division this much’ pretty much nailed it.

4. Wherever I May Roam – Yashin

Kudos to the defunct Scottish metalcore troupe for trying something different, but unfortunately every single diversion from the original composition is as about welcome as an infestation of lice. The ‘clean’ vocals are perhaps the most grating aspect here, particularly on the chorus, but we defy you not to burst out laughing at least once as the lads get all over-excited about tackling this Black Album behemoth. Sleep well Yashin, you are wiv da angles now.

3. Anarchy In The UK – Mötley Crüe

The most entertaining thing about Mötley Crüe’s spectacularly wretched version of the Sex Pistols’ 1976 classic is the image of them all listening back to this in the studio shouting ‘Fuck YEAH, dude!’ at one another. Tossed off for the quartet’s Decade of Decadence greatest hits collection, it’s the sound of four Californian moonbeams trying to tap into genuine rage and disaffection without the slightest clue why they’re bothering when they could be out banging and riding their Harley-Davidsons. From Vince Neil’s Mockney accent and hilarious ad-libs (‘Fuck the rat race man!’) to the glossy gang vocals, this is about as far away from punk rock as it’s possible to be. Vince Neil claims that John Lydon called him up afterwards to tell him how brilliant this version is: if he did, which we seriously, seriously doubt, he was taking the piss, you muppet.

2. Behind Blue Eyes – Limp Bizkit

Yuck. Where to start? An attempt by nu-metal’s jock-in-chief to convince the world that deep down he’s just a sensitive little snowflake, this take on Pete Townshend’s thoughtful ballad from Who’s Next might just be the most insincere, disingenuous cover version in musical history. Look at the Limp Bizkit frontman here, all doe-eyed and pained, with his Kurt Cobain and Elvis tattoos glistening on his oiled-up moobs, sleazing around Halle Berry in the most unpleasant display of self-love since Marilyn Manson spied his grandfather whacking off in the attic. Quite honestly, hearing that you’ve moments to live would be infinitely preferable to listening to this soul-sucking bilge a second time.

1.You Shook Me All Night Long - Celine Dion and Anastacia

Okay, we’re cheating slightly here, as this isn’t a rock artist murdering a well known song, but really let’s just take a minute or two to contemplate the sheer horror of this assault upon AC/DC’s Back In Black standard. From the teeth-clenching awfulness of the opening air guitar strumming to the ad-libbed ‘Come on girlfriend!’ to the cannot-be-unseen spectacle of the Titanic-soundtracking diva grinding her arse at one minute 35 seconds in, this is a masterclass in aural and visual terrorism, an abomination which transcends time and space to echo forever in our darkest nightmares. We’re done, please, no more, for the love of Satan.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.