When cover songs are good, they’re very very good, but when they’re bad, well…
Some songs fairly cry out to be covered. Good material, but somehow the original version doesn’t live up to the song’s potential. Think the Everly Brother’s “Love Hurts”- good song, Nazereth made it great. Or, “Get Ready”- the Temptations version is a bit too smooth for my taste, but then Rare Earth came along and put some grit into it, and that’s the version most of us remember. And Deep Purple’s “No One Came” (tucked away on Fireball)- since the moment I first heard it, I have wanted to see what David Lee Roth, backed by just the right band, could do with it.
Some songs are fine the way they are, but a rocked-up version of a slower song can really get a girl’s estrogen pumping- think Rainbow’s version of “Still I’m Sad” and Rainbow’s version of “Still I’m Sad” (a song so nice, Blackmore covered it twice, once as an instrumental, once with the lyrics, both totally kick ass).
A lot of times a cover will work just because the covering band had freakin’ attitude- the Dead Kennedeys “Viva Las Vegas”, “My Way” Sid’s way, the Circle Jerks cover of “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” (if you’ve never heard this last, try to lay your hands on it, it’s hilarious- part of a medly, IIRC, but still well worth a listen, and that’s from someone who hates medleys)
Then there are songs that should be left exactly the way they are- “American Pie”, for one, and just about anything by Black Sabbath or Gordon Lightfoot.
But many, if not most, covers, fall on their butts, because some producer thought it would be a great idea to cover a great old song, but with more “modern” background music. And really, the Bananarama version of “Venus” just doesn’t do anything for me.