Top 5 Covers of Elvis Costello Songs

Elvis Costello is one of the most accomplished songwriters in popular music history, so naturally, there is an abundance of great covers of his material. Given the deftness of Costello’s own performances, it’s an unenviable task to put one’s own spin on his tunes. When an artist manages to record one of Costello’s songs in such a way that reflects their own personality while doing justice to the original version, it’s a real feat.

Videos by American Songwriter

These five covers of Costello originals do just that. While none may actually eclipse the quality of the original, each is a highly enjoyable listen on its own.

5. “Miracle Man” by Outlaws

These Southern rockers might not seem like an obvious candidate to cover a Costello song, but then again, this is the same band that pulled off a rollicking cover of the 1940s country classic “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky.” Still, putting their stamp on this tune from My Aim Is True required another gear, and they still made it work. The Outlaws version is more muscular but it still grooves, and the guitar solo makes this rendition of the song uniquely theirs. Credit goes to whoever realized that Outlaws could perform a more than credible Southern rock version of this Costello classic.

4. “Party Girl” by Linda Ronstadt

This was one of three Costello covers that Ronstadt recorded for her 1980 Mad Love album (plus she covered “Alison” on the preceding 1978 album Living in the U.S.A.). Ronstadt doesn’t wait for the outro, as Costello does, to turn up her vocal intensity, though she fully delivers in the song’s dramatic conclusion. Absent from Ronstadt’s version are the backing vocals that help create the final build-up in the original, but she creates enough power in her own vocal performance so that those additional vocals aren’t missed.

3. “Two Little Hitlers” by Todd Rundgren

Todd Rundgren put his version of the Armed Forces closer on his 1989 Nearly Human album. Right away, Rundgren differentiates his cover from the original by starting the song off with a drum roll instead of going straight into the vocals. His rendition also adds horns to the mix and features a splashier beat, creating a livelier version of this song about a relationship where each member of the couple is more interested in control than in communication. Toss in Rundgren at the height of his vocal powers, and the result is a thoroughly enjoyable listen.

[RELATED: Top 10 Todd Rundgren Essentials]

2. “Deep Dark Truthful Mirror” by Tasmin Archer

This is one of four Costello covers that appear on Archer’s 1994 Shipbuilding album. (The U.K. version of the record is a four-song EP consisting of only the Costello covers.) Gone are the piano and horns that dominate Costello’s original, as Archer replaces them with acoustic guitar and Hammond organ. Granted, it would be enjoyable to hear Archer sing the words from a furniture assembly instruction manual, but hearing her belt out this gorgeous Costello composition is a real treat.

1. “Tear Off Your Own Head (It’s a Doll Revolution)” by The Bangles

The Bangles thought enough of this cover to make it the opener and title track of their 2003 Doll Revolution album. Susanna Hoffs nails the lead vocals in her inimitable style, and the song is enhanced by The Bangles’ trademark harmonies. It’s almost as if Costello wrote it expressly for them. Then again, The Bangles have a way of making every cover they do feel that way. The track plays like a statement announcing their triumphant return, given that it kicks off their first studio album in 15 years.

Leave a Reply

The Meaning Behind “All I Want Is You” by U2

The Meaning Behind Zach Bryan’s Jack Kerouac-Inspired “Burn Burn Burn”