Yes, the number of woeful covers in the world vastly outnumbers the wonderful; hell, the ratio is something like a million to one. But the fact is, done right, a cover can be a beautiful, joyous and sometimes thought-provoking thing – coaxing new meaning, resonance and listening pleasure out of a song.
Take ‘Tainted Love’, for example: a ’60s northern soul anthem recorded by Gloria Jones, it was turned it into an anxious, imploring synth-pop thumper by Soft Cell 15 years later; five years after that, Coil’s clammy, stricken version alluded to the AIDS epidemic – something its writer, Ed Cobb of The Four Preps, couldn’t have imagined in his wildest dreams, or indeed nightmares.
Songs – good songs, at any rate – are flexible, plural, open to limitless interpretations and metamorphoses. Often it’s the most surprising interpretations which make the biggest impression, and so, over the next two pages, we highlight 10 cover versions that were completely unexpected, but which remain enjoyable for reasons above and beyond mere novelty. Well, in most cases.