Many cover songs turn out better and are more popular than the original. Jimi Hendrix took All Along the Watchtower to a place Bob Dylan never could have imagined. Joe Cocker’s With a Little Help From My Friends improved an already great Beatles tune. But most cover songs obviously aren’t an improvement on the original. We’ll put the following covers in that category, but they’re all so unusual they’re fun to watch. Some were released on CD, others are performed by aptly named cover bands or YouTube artists.
10 ‘Hotel California’ … Without Instruments
It’s just another band covering the Eagles’ classic Hotel California … except, wait a minute, they don’t have a single musical instrument. The quintet hits — or tries to hit — almost every note, from drums to guitar solos, with their voices. The guy in the red shirt “mouthing” the iconic lead solo at the end really gets carried away.
9. ‘We’re an American Band’ in Halloween Costumes
This cover of the 1973 Grand Funk Railroad song is a somewhat faithful recreation of the original, down to Mark Farner’s lead guitar solo. But those costumes, for a Jimmy Kimmel Halloween special, really put this over the top.
8. Pat Boone Sings Alice Cooper’s ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’
The 1950s crooner covered many hard rock/heavy metal songs on a strange 1997 album, In a Metal Mood. Boone said he really appreciated the metal music, but his Christian fan base was not amused when he showed up at the American Music Awards that year wearing leather, a dog collar and temporary tattoos. The furor eventually blew over. In addition to Alice Cooper’s No More Mr. Nice Guy, the album also includes Metallica’s Enter Sandman and Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train.
7. ’Nuff Said: Ukulele Cover of ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’
Ukulele Underground artist Aldrine not only performs Rolling Stones classics, he’s got ukelele tutorials/covers on YouTube for many other artists, from Eric Clapton to Lynyrd Skynyrd.
6. Zakk Wylde Plays Black Sabbath on ‘Hello Kitty’ Guitar
The headline for this really says it all. Wylde is best known for his work as guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne and founder of the band Black Label Society.
5. Santana on Sitar
It turns out the sitar, India’s classical music instrument, is much more versatile than we thought. There are countless sitar covers of classic rock songs on YouTube, including this version of Santana’s 1970 hit Black Magic Woman.
4. School Kids Cover Zeppelin Classic … On Xylophones
The xylophone is tough to spell, but a favorite of kids everywhere. But using it to perform Led Zeppelin’s standard Kashmir? These Louisville students show anything is possible with the right imagination and arrangement.
3. Trombonists Rock Out ‘Carry On Wayward Son’
Oh, the lowly trombone, relegated to second-tier status in the high school marching band behind the trumpets, drums and others. This Kansas cover by Maniacal 4 must be empowering for trombonists everywhere. Noted one commentator on YouTube, “As trombone player, can’t express how much I love this.”
2. William Shatner Covers the Beatles, With Fun Results
The actor who rose to fame for portraying Captain Kirk in the 1960s Star Trek series launched a music career with the 1967 album The Transformed Man. Shatner’s album featured this “spoken-word” cover of the Beatles’ Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Shatner’s performance has been widely parodied in the years since.
1. ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Gets Japanese Classical Treatment
That stringed instrument the women are playing is a Nijugen-koto, a 20-string Japanese musical instrument (take that, Jimmy Page and your iconic double-necked guitar). After a short intro, the classic Stairway to Heaven intro begins at the 1:00 mark. The group has performed a wide range of other cover songs, from Michael Jackson to Eric Clapton’s Layla.