A cover song is usually easily recognizable, since they tend to sound pretty much exactly like the original. But a great cover is when a band takes a song and reworks it in their own style. But you could also take it a step further, and cover something that is from a completely different genre. There are some really great examples of heavy metal and rock bands who have done covers that are completely out of left field, and made them their own, with some even scoring a bigger hit than the original artist. Let’s take a look at a few really cool metal and rock covers of some of the biggest pop hits since the sixties!
Guns N’ Roses - “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”
Even though Guns N’ Roses version of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” might be the one song on this list that is the most faithful the original, it still completely took fans by surprise when it first appeared on the Days of Thunder soundtrack in 1990, and on Use Your Illusion II the following year. The melodic ballad bore no resemblance to the heavy rock music fans had gotten accustomed to with Guns’ classic debut Appetite For Destruction. Nevertheless it was a huge hit for the band, and the song got them tons of new fans thanks to the video being in heavy rotation on MTV. For guitar fans, the best parts of the song are Slash’s solos after each chorus. Check out this 12 minute live version of the song with Slash playing his black Gibson EDS-1275 Double Neck:
Disturbed - “Land of Confusion”
You instantly know a Disturbed song when you hear it. The band has such a unique sound that even though you may not have heard the song before, it is usually pretty obvious that it is a song by the famous heavy metal band. For their 2005 album Ten Thousand Fists, Disturbed decided to cover the Genesis classic “Land of Confusion.” The song sounds great with Dan Donegan’s heavy metal guitar treatment, and David Draiman’s distinctive singing style. Disturbed’s version of “Land of Confusion” made it all the way to number one on Billboard’s US Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, with help from the accompanying Todd McFarlane animated video.
Marilyn Manson - “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”
In the mid eighties Eurythmics were one of the biggest pop bands in the world, with a number of hit records to their name. But who would have thought that ten years later shock rocker Brian Warner, aka Marilyn Manson, would turn one of Eurythmics’ biggest hits in to an angst ridden dark rock tune? Marilyn Manson covered “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” on the Smells Like Children EP in 1995. Filled with heavy fuzz guitars, and weird effects, all accented by Manson’s drone-like singing, the song was a huge hit for Marilyn Manson, playing a major part in establishing a main stream following for the band. It probably earned Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart a hefty royalty check as well.
Van Halen - “Dancing In The Street”
On their fifth album Diver Down, Van Halen took on the Marvin Gaye penned Martha and the Vandellas 1964 hit “Dancing in the Street.” The song was a top forty hit for Van Halen in the US. Here’s what Eddie Van Halen had to say about the song’s reception in an interview with Guitar Player, by Jas Obrecht in 1982: “It takes almost as much time to make a cover song sound original as it does writing a song. I spent a lot of time arranging and playing synthesizer on 'Dancing in the Streets,' and they [critics] just wrote it off as, 'Oh, it's just like the original.' So forget the critics! These are good songs. Why shouldn't we redo them for the new generation of people?”
Megadeth - “These Boots”
Thrash metal and Nancy Sinatra seems like a weird combo doesn’t it? Well, Megadeth covered the song “These Boots Are Made For Walking” on their 1985 debut Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good!. The song is not a straight up cover, Megadeath mainman Dave Mustaine altered the lyrics. The song’s composer Lee Hazlewood requested “These Boots” be removed from subsequent pressings of the Megadeth album, citing the offensive lyrics as the reason. The song was actually removed from pressings of the album made after 1995, but reappeared in 2002 with altered lyrics.