No.3 Toad the Wet Sprocket “Rock and Roll All Nite”
If there has ever been a song that’s become synonymous with a band, it’s’ “Rock and Roll All Nite.” Making its first appearance on KISS’ third album, 1975’s Dressed to Kill, it’s difficult to imagine anyone not recognizing this song and not knowing who it is.
Equal to its status as a feel-good party song is its status as probably one of the biggest clichesongs of all time. So what should a band do when tasked to cover the ubiquitous “Rock and Roll All Nite”? You might want to try what Toad the Wet Sprocket did — you slow it down, give it a downhome Lynyrd Skynyrd vibe, and turn it into a heartbreak ballad that’s completely different from the original. The cover appears on the 1994 KISS tribute album, KISS My Ass: Classic KISS Regrooved.
No.2 Johnny Cash “Hurt”
At the behest of Rick Rubin and his rap/label, Def American, country legend Johnny Cash recorded American Recordings. Four albums later in this partnership, Rubin and Cash recorded American IV: The Man Comes Around in 2002. On the album appeared a number of covers, but perhaps most famously is the cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” which has sold 2,051,000 downloads in the United States as of October 2016.
Although the NIN original is sad and relatively stripped down for the industrial band, Cash’s version offers an even greater minimalist approach and a deeper sadness. That sadness may be attributed to Cash’s difficult history, enduring through that history and facing the end of life in his twilight years. “Hurt” was one of Cash’s final hits and the “Man in Black” died in 2003.
No.1 Van Halen “You Really Got Me”
Van Halen wasn’t the first band to cover a song or to cover a song well, but their cover of The Kinks’ 1964 classic certainly set the bar high. Released on Van Halen’s self-titled 1978 debut, Van Halen’s “You Really Got Me” peaked at 36 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
With Eddie’s riffs the size of Everest and a bombastic vocal delivery from one of the best frontmen to ever hit the stage, this cover has remained a fan favorite and a live staple. Van Halen put their own stamp on this track and it’s so big that it would be easy to mistake this song for one of their own — and really pointless for anyone else to cover it.
Rock Hard \m/