Almost every musician I know has spent time figuring out a few cover songs as part of learning his or her craft. In some cases, the ability to play songs by other people is one of the major motivations that make people want to learn an instrument to begin with. After spending a few years active on guitar Internet forums, I was surprised to discover just how true that was. In fact, a huge percentage of players seemed drawn to the instrument primarily so they could play cover songs, and quite a few of them were regularly gigging in bands that played covers exclusively, often for pretty decent pay. I was told by more than a few players that in some cities, clubs book only cover bands, because that's what most audiences want to see, so there's also that consideration.
I've sat through some great and not-so-great cover bands over the years, with quite a few falling somewhere in between, but there are a few too well-worn songs that I really never want to hear played by anyone ever again. Here are a few of the covers I wish bands would permanently retire.
6. Almost Anything AC/DC Ever Recorded
Look, most people seem to love AC/DC these days, and while it's kind of shocking to see middle America dragging its kids out to watch a band that was considered "mildly dangerous" three decades ago, I get it — Angus and company have written quite a few classic rock songs over their careers. The problem with cover bands tackling their repertoire is as simple as the songs AC/DC blasted — everyone seems to do the same ones. I never want to hear another band playing the group's version of "You Shook Me All Night Long" or "Highway to Hell" ever again. It's been done. That dream is over. If a band must cover AC/DC, then it should at least look for a few deeper cuts like "Squealer," because nothing makes me want to bolt from a bar faster than hearing a local band firing up the opening riff to "Back in Black."
5. The Stevie Ray Vaughan Blacklist
Living in Texas, I've stumbled into more than one bar with a band working its way through Stevie Ray Vaughan's material — like hot summers, it's inevitable. The man was talented, and deserves the legions of fans who love his music, but as with AC/DC, a few SRV songs get covered more than they probably should. The sheer number of bands playing covers of "Pride and Joy" or "Cold Shot" on any given night in Texas is probably staggering, and it would be fine with me if they knocked it off and played "Rude Mood" instead.
4. Black Sabbath Paranoia
Okay, I love Black Sabbath, and they're one of the bands that really shaped my musical taste and guitar playing from an early age. I can put "Master of Reality" on an almost endless loop and not get tired of it. Anytime I see a live cover band pull a Black Sabbath song out of its hat, that's a good day by my standards, but it would be a lot more refreshing if more of them steered away from doing "Paranoid." I mean, it's a great song, but it's the go-to Sabbath cover for some reason, and I understand why — it's a really simple song to play, and catchy as hell. It would be a lot more refreshing to hear a band have a go at "The Straightener" or "Into the Void," though.
3. Play "Freebird"!
While it's become a live-music joke, I've never seen a band actually perform a cover version of "Freebird." Honestly, while I'm not a huge Skynyrd fan, "Freebird" would be a pretty tough song for the average band to pull off live, as would be "Stairway to Heaven," another fabled cover I've never seen attempted by anyone. However, I have seen a few bands dive right into "Sweet Home Alabama," and I wish they'd shelve that one, too. If Southern rock is on a cover band's radar, it would be refreshing to hear "Green Grass and High Tides" by the Outlaws Instead.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
2. "Don't Fear the Reaper"
I'm a big fan of Blue Öyster Cult, and even their overplayed hits don't make me want to scream quite as fast as many other bands do. These days any cover band attempting to run through "Don't Fear the Reaper" would run the risk of being mocked with "More cowbell" comments, and so might avoid the song altogether. It would be way cooler to hear someone take a shot at "Transmaniacon MC" or "Stairway to the Stars," though.
1. Nirvana and Teen Spirit
When Nirvana redefined popular mainstream music in the early 1990s, I knew that I would be hearing versions of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for decades to come. Boy, was that a dismal realization, and it was painful to see that prediction come to pass. I'd rather hear almost any other song by the Seattle trio, but there are only two or three anybody seems to cover. Play "Molly's Lips" or something else, please.