The following is an excerpt from Dylan Jones's The Biographical Dictionary of Popular Music [Picador, $25.00]:
They are often redundant, frequently pointless, and rarely remembered. Some are little more than cheap photocopies, with someone hitherto unknown (or, increasingly, far too well known) colouring in the original and trying not to go outside the lines. Some can be transformative, but often they are nothing but corruptions of your favourite memories (I feel ambiguous towards it, but I would imagine if you had formative experiences with, or fond memories of, New Order's “True Faith”, you would probably think George Michael's cover is rather redundant; ditto Robbie Williams' live version of Blur's “Song 2”, or Simple Minds' frankly confusing version of Prince's “Sign O’ The Times”). Others are just plain perverse: does anyone really want to hear William Shatner cover Pulp's “Common People”? Maybe Shatner’s agent and Jarvis Cocker's publishers, but anyone else? The cover version has become such a cheap, reductive shot, a contrary “interpretation” that appeals to a no-brow sensibility, it’s now a risky strategy. Which makes the best ones even better.
Here are 15 of the best musical covers of all time. Let us know what you think in the comments!: