Five Rock Songs You Didn’t Know Were Cover Versions

 Original Songs Made Popular By Other Bands

Badfinger photograph

Badfinger (l-r) Pete Ham, Mike Gibbins, Tom Evans, Joey Molland

There are literally hundreds of songs that qualify for this category: hit songs, that are not the original version. Among these are some songs you probably never knew were cover versions. We’re focusing on classic rock songs so let’s cut right to the chase.

First we’ll present the more famous cover version, followed by the original.

Hanging on the Telephone

Blondie’s 1979 breakthrough album, Parallel Lines, opens with a telephone ringing which is the intro to the frantic opening track Hanging on the Telephone. The album contains one catchy song after another. In a June 2008 interview with Sound on Sound magazine, producer Mike Chapman says he told the band, “Think of being onstage. Imagine you’re playing this to an audience, because we’re trying to record something that you’re going to have to listen to for the rest of your lives. So if this is not a high-energy performance, you’re going to say, ‘How come we now do it better live than on the record?’ In the case of ‘Hanging On The Telephone‘, that’s probably the best track on the album in terms of energy, although ‘One Way Or Another‘ has a similar edge.”

The Nerves, were a power trio comprised of Jack Lee, Paul Collins and Peter Case. They released only one four song EP in 1976 which included Hanging on the Telephone. In 1973 composer Jack Lee came up with the title for the song  after reading The Illustrated Beatles. The book contained a cartoon of a woman with a phone wrapping around her neck. The illustration was above the lyrics of All I’ve Got To Do. Lee thought Hanging on the telephone and kept repeating it to himself.

The next day the lyrics just came to him in a flash. He began playing G and E flat chords and banged out the song. Lee says,  “the quality of hanging of the telephone is a lot was sacrificed in time and in tension into that song and I think it really gave me such confidence in my skill. Because before anybody gave me any validation on the song I know I was on to something
and also the reaction I was getting from people that had other agendas other than to give me  unsolicited compliments that I knew that I was on to something.”

The Nerves never broke big, but Hanging on the Telephone results in a continuing music publishing income stream for Jack Lee.

Without You

Harry Nilsson had a string of top 10 hits in the late 60s through the mid 70s including  Everybody’s Talkin’; I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City, Coconut; Jump in the Fire and many others. But Nilsson’s career defining song was a 1971 release, Without You.

Without You was written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans of Badfinger and released in 1970 on the album No Dice. Badfinger is much better known for No Matter What, Baby Blue, Come and Get It (written by Paul McCartney) and Day After Day. Their catalog of great songs runs deep.

But due to mismanagement, most music fans are familiar with songs the band released during its abbreviated period of popularity. Stan Polley, manager of Badfinger, should have his picture in the dictionary next to the word evil. Ham hanged himself in the garage of his Surrey home in 1975 implicating Polley for his despondency. In his suicide note Ham wrote, “P.S. Stan Polley is a soulless bastard. I will take him with me.” Eight years later in 1983 Tom Evans, was arguing with bandmate Joey Molland about the royalties for “Without You.” Evans put down the phone, went to the garden and hanged himself. Many of Evans friends believe he had never gotten over Ham’s suicide. A sad story attached to a sad song.


The first big hit for Deep Purple was Hush in 1968 with their original singer Rod Evans and bass player Nick Simper. 52 years later, the only remaining original member remaining in Deep Purple is drummer Ian Paice.

Hush was originally written by Joe South a professional songwriter with a long string of hits usually performed by other acts. South’s best known songs are Down in the Boondocks, Games People Play and (I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden. South was also an accomplished session man and played guitar on Simon & Garfunkel’s album Sounds of Silence.  It wasn’t until 1970 that South recorded his own version on the 1970 LP Games People Play. Hush first appeared on Billy Joe Royal’s 1967 release.

Do Ya

The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) originally did not belong to one man, Jeff Lynne. It was a group effort led by guitarists Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne and drummer Bev Bevan. Wood left ELO early on in their career and Lynne asserted complete control of the band.

Do Ya became one of ELO’s biggest hits in 1976.

The thing is, is that the band that Wood, Lynne and Bevan were previously in, The Move, had recorded and released Do Ya previously in 1972 with Wood on lead vocals.

Since You Been Gone

Finally there is Rainbow with Since You Been Gone. SInger Graham Bonnet appeared only on one album with Rainbow, Down To Earth, after replacing original singer Ronnie James Dio in 1979. Bonnet made the album his own. Since You Been Gone a soaring anthem of lost love gave Rainbow its first huge radio hit.

The song belongs to master songwriter, guitarist and singer, Russ Ballard of Argent. Ballard who wrote New York Groove, I Know There’s Something Going On; Winning; Liar; You Can Do Magic and dozens of other songs recorded by other acts, does actually perform his own material. It’s just that other bands have made Ballard’s songs more well known than he has. The similarity between the two versions here extends to the fact that apparently you should wear sunglasses while performing.

Which versions do you prefer? Original or cover?

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1 thought on “Five Rock Songs You Didn’t Know Were Cover Versions

  1. Kevin

    The remakes except for “Do Ya.”
    Another song you should compare is “Money Changes Everything”. The original indie single version by the Brains is better than their album remake or Cyndi Lauper’s.


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