Top 10 Musicians Who Have Covered Their Own Songs

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Ever since the dawn of the record player, musicians have been recording their own versions of other musicians’ songs. Whether it was to pay homage or to kill time on an album, artists are always covering one another’s music. Few artists, however, do covers of their own work. When they do, they tend to do it to “update” the song for a new generation (AKA, we’ve come back to take this dead beast’s cartilage, since we’ve already made off with its blood years ago.)

While it’s not always for greed — sometimes it’s to celebrate a milestone in a career — it’s usually to sell parts leftover from the decrepit cadaver that got them famous. Here are ten cover songs by the bands who originally recorded it.

10. Black Sabbath: Black Moon (Originally Released 1987)

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The latter half of the 1980’s was hard on heavy metal legends Black Sabbath. Ozzy Osbourne was a solo megastar, Geezer and Bill had long left the band and, when guitarist Tony Iommi tried to record a solo album, record executives forced him to use the Sabbath moniker (1986’s Seventh Star.) So, probably with no other alternative Iommi, soldiered on as Black Sabbath, eventually releasing The Eternal Idol in 1987.

Originally the song “Black Moon” was a B-side to the album’s lone single “The Shining,” but when they released their European comeback album Headless Cross in 1989, they featured a new, slightly faster, slightly over-sustained version of it, with a whole bunch of extra ad-libbing by vocalist Tony Martin.


9. Mötley Crüe: Home Sweet Home (Originally Released 1985)

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This song, originally released on their 1985 album Theater of Pain, is generally regarded as the song that started that whole “power ballad” trend that dominated the latter half of 1980’s metal. Drummer Tommy Lee had stated that he wanted to use a piano in the original recording, but budgetary constraints forced him to use a keyboard instead. The song was remixed in 1988 for a Japan-only EP, remixed again in 1991 for the Decade of Decadence greatest hits album, and rerecorded twice: by Tommy Lee for the show “Californication,” and with Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington sharing lead vocals with the band, for charity in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.


8. Deep Purple: Hush (Originally Released 1968)

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This is one of those rare songs that is a cover of a cover the band had already done years before. In 1968, before Deep Purple got famous for Smoke On The Water, they were mostly a psychedelic pop band who did a number of covers. Their most well-known cover, as well as their biggest hit at the time, was a cover of the Joe South-penned Billy Joe Royal song “Hush,” from their first album Shades of Deep Purple, released a year after Billy Joe’s version.

Skip ahead twenty years, and for their 20th anniversary they re-recorded the song a second time, this time with the classic Gillan/Blackmore/Glover/Lord/Paice Mark II lineup, which was released on the live album Nobody’s Perfect.

7. Pantera: Down Below (Originally Released 1985)

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Before teaming up with Phil Anselmo and becoming groove-metal deities in the early ’90s, Pantera was a hair metal band. Yes, a hair metal band. With lipstick and all. Original singer Terry Glaze recorded the song “Down Below for their third album, 1985’s I am the Night. That album was to be Terry’s last; in 1987 he would part ways with the band and, upon hiring Anselmo, they rerecorded the song for 1988’s Power Metal album, Anselmo‘s first with the band. And the rest is history.

6. Aerosmith: Walk This Way (Originally Released 1975)

Originally released as a single from Aerosmith’s third album Toys in the Attic, the song was inspired by that famous “walk this way” vaudeville gag which they had seen in the Mel Brooks film Young Frankenstein.  Later on, in 1986, singer Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry collaborated on a hip-hop cover of “Walk This Way” with rap pioneers Run-D.M.C. on the group’s (coincidentally) third album Raising Hell. This version broke rap into the mainstream, revitalized Aerosmith’s lagging career, and ultimately propelled both acts into the Rock n’ Roll hall of fame.


5. U2: One (Originally Released 1991)

On the verge of breaking up due to creative differences and personal matters during the recording sessions of Achtung Baby, U2 became revitalized when The Edge figured out the chords to the song “One“. Released in 1991, the song was a massive success and made U2 even more popular than they were in the 1980’s. It is often heralded as one of the best, if not the best song they have ever written. In 2006, R&B singer Mary J. Blige recorded a cover of “One” on her album The Breakthrough, which was recorded as a duet with the band, and released as the album’s third single.

4. Tina Turner: Nutbush City Limits (Originally Released 1973)

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This song was recorded by Tina Turner in 1973 while she was still married to Ike Turner. The song, coming from the eponymous album, was semi-autobiographical, in which she commemorates her rural hometown of Nutbush, Tennessee. Ms. Turner has released several versions of this song over the years, the first being a rather awful dance version released on her 1991 compilation album Simply The Best. Later on, in 1993, she did another re-recording of it for the What’s Love Got to Do With It soundtrack, this time more akin to the original version to the one she released twenty years before, while still with Ike.


3. Whitesnake: Here I Go Again (Originally Released 1982)

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Whitesnake is primarily known for “Here I Go Again’s” music video from 1987, featuring Tawny Kitaen dancing around on those two Jaguars, and that little nip-slip during one of the driving scenes. The song itself was a huge success though, breaking the band through in the United States.

The thing is, Whitesnake had already been big in Europe for years, having top 10 albums in their home England for years. “Here I Go Again,” originally appeared on Whitesnake’s 1982 album Saints And Sinners. The original recording is more rhythm-and-blues influenced than the 1987 recording. Reaching #1 in Canada, hitting the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, and making #9 in England, the song (both versions) is a testament to the songwriting abilities of the band. But, everyone just remembers the music video. It’s a shame, really.


2. KISS: Kiss Klassics (Individual Songs Released Throughout Their Career)

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As a companion disc to their 2009 album Sonic Boom, KISS rerecorded pretty much all the songs their fans really cared about: “Detroit Rock City”, “Hotter Than Hell”, “Rock and Roll All Nite”, “Shout It Out Loud”, and so on. Apologies to all two fans of The Elder out there; you‘ll just have to be satisfied listening to that one cover Cher did.

Honestly, the most surprising thing about something like Kiss Klassics is that they didn’t do it sooner, considering Gene Simmons’s penchant for pimping out the band’s name to the highest bidder like Liam Nesson’s daughter in Taken. We all know Gene did this for the money, and also as a middle finger to Ace, Vinnie, and Peter, but that doesn’t make this album exist any less than it did before.

1. Elton John – Candle in The Wind (originally released 1973)

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No matter which version you listen to, you can’t help but appreciate its beauty. Both songs were written as a tribute: the original to Marilyn Monroe, and the 1997 version to his dear friend Diana, Princess of Wales. The 1997 release gave Elton John his 4th #1 UK single, his 9th #1 US single, the only single ever certified Diamond, and a Grammy.

Since the original recording session, and the 1997 tribute performance, he has never played the Diana version again, and vows never to do so unless asked by her sons. In fact, it has never been re-released on any of his albums, or even the 2-disc Diana: Princess of Wales Tribute Album. This shows Elton never did it for the money; he did it to honor his beloved, fallen friend, which makes the song even more special than it already is.

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6 Comments

  1. A couple more:

    King’s X: Goldilox (original 1989, covered on “Ogre Tones”)

    Steve Taylor: I Wanna Be a Clone (original 1984, covered a cover of his song on “Liver”)

  2. The re-recording of “Free From the Chain Gang Now” Johnny Cash did on a Hundred Highways should have gotten a mention.

  3. I don’t think the author knows what the word “top” means. Sheesh, he didn’t even include the Beatles (Revolution) The Stones (Honky Tonk Woman) or even David Bowie (Fame). If you want to get more obscure, you could go with the Minutemen (Little Man with a Gun in His Hand) Devo (Jocko Homo) or even The Residents (Eskimo). The list would have been better titled “Top 10 Lame Metal Bands Recycling Nonsense for Clueless Fans”. Even with that criteria, Hush should not have been included because IT’S NOT THEIR SONG!

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