There is so many that have done good covers it is hard to just dismiss them completely. Take for instance Eric Clapton with songs like "Cocaine" and "I Shot The Sheriff". I grew up near Detroit and one of my early exposures to metal was the group Frijid Pink. If you know the band than I am sure it is because of their terrific electric cover of "House Of The Rising Sun". Of course there is Hendrix doing "All Along The Watchtower" or "Hey Joe" and even Elvis with "Hound Dog". To the casual listener these ARE the original versions. Few will even know where these songs originated.
Many of the major metal acts have added covers to their repertoire. Quiet Riot was one of the acts that fueled many a high school adventure and with their penchant for the group Slade and their music it is little wonder that "Cum On Feel The Noize" and "Mama We're All Crazee Now" were the accompaniment for many a teenage exploit. Another band that was always nearby at the time was Kiss. We cannot forget that they were not the first band to record "God Gave Rock and Roll To You". Nazareth was another who found fame with a cover song. "Love Hurts" was originally done by The Everly Brothers but I bet few from the 70's knew that when the song hit the airwaves. Then there is Van Halen who hit the charts a few times with cover songs. "Pretty Woman", "Dancing In The Streets" and "You Really Got Me" were all remakes. We can even go back to the birth of The Beatles and "Twist and Shout". Cover songs have been an integral part of rock and roll and there is no denying it.
There has also been a multitude of bad and just boring examples of covers also. Full albums by Ozzy Osborne, Poison and Tommy Shaw are just a few that should have never been made. The absolute worst of the lot is one of my favorite artists but when Peter Gabriel put out "Scratch My Back" it was more like scratching fingernails on the chalkboard. If I was David Bowie for one, it would have been a merciful thing to have Peter's massacre of the song "Heroes" removed from the disc but that could have been said about every tune on there also. Queensryche is another that put out a less than stellar album of covers which really fits with their dwindling amount of creativity.
When it comes to covers the bad does outweigh the good by far but just like any other music you have to search sometimes to find the gems. The best ones are going to be done with creativity and the crap usually is nothing more than a note for note copy with a different singer.
We also cannot forget the more modern bands that have tasted this market. Metallica did very well with an innovative version of Thin Lizzy's "Whisky In A Jar" and come to think of it, Thin Lizzy took that from an old Irish folk song! The Metallica version was taken from their cover album Garage Inc. which has some amazing remakes of some classic rock tunes. Dream Theater had a cottage industry with their cover work doing whole albums of other artist. The traveling guitar trio known as G3 which has Joe Satriani and Steve Vai along with a special guest star has also used the cover song as a concert closer and a way to highlight the talent of these virtuosos. It is usually the highlight of the concert with a jam of by these legends taking a song that is known by all and crafting it into a six string spectacular. Iced Earth was another who put out a very good cover album called Tribute To The Gods with very good versions of songs by KISS, Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper and a host of others.
So, like it or not, the cover song has been with us forever and will remain. Some will be good, some will stink just like all the other forms of music out there. Here is a list of some of the most influential covers that I have not mentioned so far. These songs are usually associated with the cover and not the original recording.
I Just Wanna Make Love To You/Foghat(Muddy Waters)
Summertime Blues/The Who(Eddie Cochran)
Mr. Tambourine Man/The Byrds(Bob Dylan)
Knockin' On Heavens Door/Guns 'N' Roses/Warren Zevon(Bob Dylan)
Blueberry Hill/Fats Domino(Gene Autry)
Blue Suede Shoes/Elvis Presley(Carl Perkins)
You Shook Me/Led Zeppelin(Muddy Waters)
Train Kept A Rollin'/Aerosmith(Tiny Bradshaw)
With A Little Help From My Friends/Joe Cocker(The Beatles)
Black Magic Woman/Santana(Fleetwood Mac)
Turn Turn Turn/The Byrds(Pete Seeger)
(What's So Funny Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding/Elvis Costello(Brinsley Schwarz)
Parchman Farm/Cactus(Mose Allison)
American Woman/Lenny Kravitz(The Guess Who)
Baby I'm Gonna Leave You/Led Zeppelin(Joan Baez)
Hello Hooray/Alice Cooper(Judy Collins)
The list is long but you will see one thing in common. Very often the remake is thought to be the original version. Now doesn't that say something about covers?
Here are some heavy metal covers that are really worth checking out. These ones are changed into something that really reflects the bands doing them and some real imagination.
Message In A Bottle/Machine Head(The Police)
Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2/Korn(Pink Floyd)
Summer Breeze/Type O Negative(Seals & Croft)
The Wind Beneath My Wings/Sonata Arctica(Bette Midler)
The Final Countdown/Norther(Europe)
Sound of Silence/Nevermore(Simon & Garfunkel)
Don't Stop Believin'/Northern Kings(Journey)
Oop's I Did It Again/Children Of Bodom(Britney Spears)
Love Gun/Axel Rudi Pell(KISS)
Lady In Black/Ensiferum(Uriah Heep)
Money/Gary Hoey(Pink Floyd)
A Day In The Life/Jeff Beck(The Beatles)
Eleanor Rigby/Pain(The Beatles)
Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting/Flotsam & Jetsam(Elton John)
Not Fade Away/Rush/The Rolling Stones(Buddy Holly)
Purists call it blasphemy when it comes to cover songs but then again, somebody needs to complain no matter what. For them all I can say is too bad on what you are missing and check out Lillian Axe and their cover of "No Matter What".