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Great Songs Re-recorded

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published January 3rd 2019
Doing it again, only better
Artists are strange creatures. They lurk at night, doing things indescribable to normal humans, and yet leaving a lasting impact on all those they touch. No, hang on – that's vampires… No, I was right first time. Artists.
editor, vampire, artist
An editor I worked for once... or twice.

One thing about artists, though, is that once they have produced a work, that's generally it. It's done, dusted, out there, let the cards fall as they may. But sometimes the artist does not stop creating, and suddenly they take an old work and turn it into something wonderful. There is evidence Mona Lisa was not the first version of that painting. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card started life as a short story in Analog magazine before being transformed into a very good novel. And it has been the same with music.
writing, paper, ink
Of course, it was much harder in the old days.

It has been said that this redoing smacks of desperation, and sometimes there might be validity in that. But sometimes the artist grows older, potentially wiser, more intrigued in revisiting the past, and what can come of that is something that, if not surpassing the original, at least gives an interesting new take on it. (And, yes, I have done this; 1 of my published works was – in my opinion – a better rewrite of previously published crap. Self-justification? Ah, well, there might be something to that…)

So, here are some songs remade by the people who originally did them. Some rules first (always with the rules!). These are re-recorded and different studio versions. Live versions – especially stripped back, acoustic, unplugged live versions – don't count (which discounts Clapton's awesome unplugged 'Layla'). If an acoustic version was studio recorded, though: fair game. Demo versions do not count; alternate recorded versions that are not demo versions are fine. Also, translating a song from its original language into English doesn't count (e.g. Nena's '99 Luftballons'). Now, I also decided that, if a band recorded the song originally, if one member of that band re-recorded the song, it counts.

And not re-releases! Queen have released 'Bohemian Rhapsody' three times, and each time it charted, but it was just the same song! This is a re-recordings list.

Two honourable mentions to start. Queen and Brian May both released versions of 'Too Much Love Will Kill You'. Both are incredible. But there is very little to distinguish them, apart from the singer. 'Don't Worry Baby' was released by Everly Brothers with The Beach Boys as backing singers, the latter having done the original. But they are really a glorified harmony chorus and, while the song is beautifully done, The Beach Boys just aren't prominent enough.

And that leaves 10! Again, as is usual in these things, these are songs I actually like. Your mileage may vary. And probably will. My tastes, while veering towards classic rock, are nothing if not eclectic. I reckon. So… to the list!

'We're Not Gonna Take It' – Twisted Sister; Dee Snider
Twisted Sister released this version in 1984 and, on the back of a funny video featuring Needlemeyer from Animal House, it rocketed to them to the top of that sort of new glam rock genre the 80s produced (unfairly dubbed 'Poodle Rock'). Fast forward 30-plus years. On lead singer Dee Snider's frankly awesome 2016 solo album We Are The Ones appeared a stripped back version, after he originally re-recorded it for a cancer trust. It changes it completely. Both are great, and I can't tell which is better.
1984 Twisted Sister version

2016 Dee Snider version

'The Twist' – Chubby Checker; Chubby Checker and The Fat Boys
One of the biggest dance songs of the 1960s, 'The Twist' was a catchy song with a simple dance move that spawned a string of imitations. Then, in the 1980s and the "everything can be turned into a rap song" boom, The Fat Boys invited Chubby back to rerecord the song with them, and – surprise! – it's listenable and danceable and fun.
1960 Chubby Checker version

1988 Chubby Checker and The Fat Boys version

'Paradise City' – Guns N'Roses; Slash with Fergie and Cypress Hill
From the stunning Appetite For Destruction album came this piece of hard rock goodness, featuring a full-on Axl Rose vocal assault and Slash's amazing guitar playing. Then Slash was on the outer with the band and, on a glorious solo album, rerecorded it with the female singer from Black Eyed Peas and a hip-hop group. It should not have worked, but it did. Brilliantly.
1987/1988 Guns N'Roses version

2009 Slash, Fergie & Cypress Hill version

Not a proper video

'We Will Rock You' – Queen; Queen & John Farnham
'We Will Rock You' is one of Queen's most recognisable songs, with that driving percussion beat and then blistering guitar solo. It is one of the ultimate sing-along songs. Then, in 2003, Brian May and Roger Taylor teamed up with Australian pop royalty Farnham to re-record the song for the Rugby World Cup, subsequently released on Farnham's greatest hits album. He did an amazing job and rumours at the time even said he was being considered as a new singer (subsequently denied… but I think he could have done it vocally).
1977 Queen version

2003 Queen and John Farnham version

Not a proper video

'Undecided' – Masters Apprentices; Jim Keays
Masters Apprentices were one of Australia's foremost bands of the late 60s, early 70s. Their music, in my opinion, was the basis upon which Australian pub rock was built. And this song, their debut single, is one of their finest. Then, in 1987, lead singer Jim Keays decided to release his own, updated version of it. It has a different sound and struck me from the first time I heard it. Now, for this list, there were a few Masters Apprentices' songs I could have included: 'Turn Up Your Radio' was remade by the Masters themselves in 1988 and also re-recorded with the Hoodoo Gurus; they also remade 'Because I Love You' in 1988. But I included this one because the re-interpretation is actually different.
1966 Masters Apprentices version

Not a proper video
1987 Jim Keays version

'American Woman' – The Guess Who; Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings
American Woman is a rock classic. With it's driving organ and fuzz-tone guitar, it is instantly recognisable to classic rock aficionados. Then the two guitarists from The Guess Who came together in 2007 to release a criminally under-appreciated album of cover versions called Jukebox, and on that album they re-recorded their classic hit. Its stripped back sound updates the song successfully and magically. I reckon I do prefer the new version…
1970 The Guess Who version

2007 Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings version

'Born In The U.S.A.' – Bruce Springsteen
When he was getting ready to record the mammoth [Born In The U.S.A. album, the demo of the title track was a Dylanesque protest song, which was then recorded in that manner. However, the whole band also recorded a version, the more amped up one, which became the anthemic version released on the album. But the original did not go away; it appeared on the Tracks box set and was THE highlight.
1984 album version

1984 Tracks version

Not a proper video

'Crying' – Roy Orbison; Roy Orbison and k.d. lang
A soaring lost love song by one of the best voices in rock, this song is one of the best releases of the pre-Beatles years. Then, in 1987, for the soundtrack of a movie, a young up-and-coming Canadian singer, k.d.lang, paired with Orbison to re-record the track. To many people, the redone version is the better one; to me, I think it's close, but the original just has that "something". Still… great re-recording.
1961 Roy Orbison version

1987 k.d. lang and Roy Orbison version

'Walk This Way' – Aerosmith; Run DMC with Aerosmith
A decent track from the Toys In The Attic album was given a new life and became a mammoth hit when the rock-rap fusion was started by producer Rick Rubin suggesting Run-DMC record a cover version. The fact Aerosmith decided to get involved and re-record their parts was amazing at the time; they built a career resurgence on the back of it, so it worked out brilliantly for them. For what it's worth, I prefer the remake.
1975 Aerosmith version

Not a proper video
1986 Run-DMC with Aerosmith version

'Runaway' – Del Shannon
And to finish, three for the price of one! 'Runaway' was a huge hit for Del Shannon. With its amazing solo in the middle and his incredible voice, it deserved to be a hit and to be remembered all the way until today. Yes, it is a classic song. Then, in 1967, he released a slower version with a string backing, updating the sound for the time, a version that also reached the charts. And then, in 1986 he re-recorded the song again with 1980s drum sound and ubiquitous 80s' sax solo for the television show Crime Story and this also reached the charts. The only artist to reach the charts three times with three different versions of the same song, all of them good.
1961 version

1967 version

Not a proper video
1986 version

And there you have it. What do you think? Any I've missed?
Hope you enjoyed it, and comments are always welcome.
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Why? Reimagining a song can work.
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