A Spike Into Your Brain: Cover Versions That Miss The Point Part 2

Another collection of woefully misguided cover versions.

When we last explored the world of the clueless cover version, we were well aware that our handful of examples was simply scratching the surface and that we might – no, scratch that, absolutely would – have to come back to the subject. And so here we are.

We could’ve simply added these to the original exploration, but if clickbait sites have taught us anything it’s that the more content, the better. Not to mention that there is probably a limit to how far any of you are going to scroll down a collection of records too awful to contemplate in one go. So here we are, diving deep into a world of absurdity once again. As before, this isn’t simply a collection of bad cover versions or even ‘ironically weird’ covers, but rather ones that seem blissfully oblivious about what the song being performed is actually about – or are so completely disrespectful that they just don’t care.

Billy Idol – Heroin

The Velvet Underground‘s Heroin is a bleak, dark affair that sets to capture the grim seediness of addiction, but what it crucially lacked was a half-arsed techno beat. Step forward Billy Idol, who seems more influenced by Ecstacy than heroin on this woefully misguided recreation that also somehow mashes in Patti Smith’s Gloria because why not? If nothing else, this seven-minute-long track from Idol’s woeful 1993 misfire concept album Cyberpunk certainly makes the prospect of sweet narcotic oblivion seem that bit more attractive – because then at least you’ll never need to hear this again.

Kelly and Ozzy Osbourne – Changes

It takes a special skill to produce a clueless cover of your own fucking record, but Ozzy Osbourne manages it here, under the manipulative control of puppetmaster wife Sharon. This song was, of course, produced solely to boost Kelly Osbourne’s floundering music career that was itself something of a publicity stunt/vanity project based on the baffling popularity of scripted reality show The Osbournes (we might note that Ozzy never recorded a duet with his other daughter Aimee, who had a more credible music career but notably delined to be a part of The Osbournes freak show).

The original version of Changes was a Geezer Butler song about Bill Ward’s marital breakup – a somewhat atypical Black Sabbath track, it somehow works almost despite itself. The Ozzkell version rewrites the lyrics into a smug father/daughter love-in that has all the sincerity and authenticity of…. well, of The Osbournes, frankly. It came complete with dance remixes just to emphasise the shallow cynicism of the whole affair.

Aretha Franklin – Eleanor Rigby

OK, Aretha Franklin is a great, iconic artist – but my God, her version of the Beatles‘ sombre study of loneliness is so far off the mark and out of touch with what the song is saying that you have to wonder just what she was thinking. Not every track works as a funky soul number and this version is so extraordinarily misguided that it beggars belief.

All Saints – Under the Bridge

Now then, I’m no fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers but even I can see that a personal song about drug addiction is perhaps not the sort of thing for a plastic girl group, best described as a slightly edgier Spice Girls, to tackle. The song wasn’t exactly black metal to begin with, but here it is stripped of all essence and turned into a bland, pseudo R&B dirge that is stripped of all meaning and significance. Of course, it was a huge hit.

I imagine we’ll be returning to this subject again at some future point – as ever, suggestions are welcome but remember – it’s not just bad covers we are looking for, but those that spectacularly miss the point of the original recording.

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  1. Aretha was obviously a superlative vocalist but she really phoned-in some performances on songs she clearly didn’t give a shit about, like 96 Tears (not a patch onBig Maybelle’s) or possibly found morally objectionable, such as Dark End Of The Street’s adultery (or?) theme. It’s a let down, where one hopes she would turn in a stellar performance. Many misguided covers have assaulted these ears, few reaching the transcendent wrongheadedness of Billy’s Heroin – in fact I can’t help but get a kick out of it, as well as the Cyber punk Lp itself. Indefatigable, It’s like he is punk’s Alan Partridge, free associating into insanity, and I love him for it. He should release a double CD concept album about the internet right now, with CD-Rom content, it would rock! Another cover I hoped would be good is The Cars backing Bebe Buell, mortifying, the kind of record you stop listening to and no one speaks of again, even in jest. But I like Bebe , as I love all the aforementioned and don’t want to pick on her. And it’s dubious anyone can misunderstand the sing-song weirdness of ‘Little Black Egg’ (The Pagans cracked it)

    1. ‘Punk’s Alan Partridge’ is a magnificently accurate description! Though perhaps Billy was just more honest about his ambitions than some other anarchists in the UK who all really wanted to be rich and famous rock stars underneath the revolutionary bluster.

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