The Six Best Cover Songs By Ska Bands

Categories: Nitpick Six

ska cover.jpg
About ten years after its decline, third wave ska still seems like an oddity in the history of rock and roll. One principal tenant of the genre was the cover song. It was sometimes a formulaic practice, but it continues to be a way for the ska community (yes, such thing exists and its bonds are stronger now than ever) to take ownership of an outside song. Here are the six best covers by ska bands. Let us know your favorites in the comments (ska-ments?) below. Skank you very much.

6. Save Ferris - "Come On Eileen"
Come on Eileen by Save Ferris on Grooveshark
Save Ferris was a decent enough female fronted ska band. The group was stuck in a career purgatory, lacking the crossover success of No Doubt and the credibility of Dance Hall Crashers. Its biggest success was its version of "Come On Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners, which received moderate airplay back when bands like Save Ferris could actually receive airplay. Of particular note is the end chorus, where the group follows an accelerating bridge with climactic stops and shifts tempos for maximum drama.

5. Mu330 - "Vacation"
Vacation by MU330 on Grooveshark
The local boys in Mu330 know all about vacations. When the band released its cover of The Go Gos' "Vacation" on a split 7" with Chicago's Blue Meanies in 1997, the group was traveling constantly (between 1988 and 2001, Mu330 had racked up over 1,300 shows). "Vacation" is the perfect fit for the band - slightly punky, happy but not too happy, and the band treats it like a stadium rock anthem.

4. Less Than Jake - "I Think I Love You"
I Think I Love You by Less Than Jake on Grooveshark
Less Than Jake is known for turbocharged, sugar-buzzing pop punk with horns, so it initially seems like a poor fit for a slasher film. The band's contribution to the Scream 2 soundtrack was The Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You." Even though LTJ barely changed an ounce of the song's core, its version comes off as sinister.


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22 comments
jdprocknow
jdprocknow

Mad Caddies did an ABBA cover of SOS which I thought was good.  Ska King Crab covered the Inspector Gadget theme.  Monkey Man's been covered by both The Specials and RBF.  Attaboy Skip nailed the Ghostbusters theme, which itself was a rip off of Huey Lewis' "Want a New Drug."  And Thumper did a Crazy Train cover.  Got more but those are some of others.

jdprocknow
jdprocknow

I would have omitted LTJ (ska band, not really a ska cover) in favor of one of the covers of "Walkin' on Sunshine," originally from Katrina and the Waves.  Similar to "Take On Me," it probably was easy to cover but sounds awesome.  Fitting with your title, Jeffries Fan Club would probably go in there instead, with a great trombone solo.  Ghoti Hook has a great one too, but they aren't a ska band.  Insyderz also did one in 2001 and there's a easy-to-find-always-incorrectly-attributed Brothers From Different Mothers cover as well.  Grooveshark has it as a RBF song or a Five Iron Frenzy song.

I have some other covers but don't have my list in front of me.  Might add some later in case they are not as well known.

rnlatimer
rnlatimer

Pretty solid list, never heard that English Beat cover before, its interesting. Still I love the Mustard Plug version of 'The Freshman' better than the original because I think its how the song should be presented. You have someone trying to tell themselves its not their fault, and whether or not they believe that, they're not going to say it in slow and dour tones.

 

This list would be hard for me myself, Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish have done a few great covers that really didn't feel like ska with Surrender for the former and for the latter New York, New York & Story of My Life (which just seemed like they just added some horns instead of making it their own). Goldfinger's 99 Red Balloons and Streetlight Manifesto's Linoleum falls under this too.

 

'The Freshman' almost stands alone as one cover that transcended the original.

 

So as far as who got left out and their best covers:

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones covering The Clash's 'Rudie Can't Fail'

Streetlight Manifesto covering The Postal Services' 'Such Great Heights'

Big D & The Kid's Table covering The Specials' 'Little Bitch'

 

Then the bands you had, did you pick their best covers?

 

Less Than Jake has covered quite a few songs, all of 'Greased' is fun, but feels more like a punk cover because the guys with the horns just didn't show up; the same with Cheap Trick's 'Surrender' and Tommy TuTone's '867-5309 (Jenny)'. All of what I would consider their ska covers show up on their 'Goodbye to Blue and White' album, with The Partridge Family's 'I Think I Love You' being obviously the best.

 

I could make arguments for Reel Big Fish's cover of Operation Ivy's 'Unity' and Duran Duran's 'Hungry Like the Wolf' but I think 'Take on Me' was just a huge cover that everyone has heard, even has its own music video, and is hard to dispute as one of the best.

RyanATX
RyanATX

Blue Meanies, "Ace of Spades" should have made this list easily. Hot Stove Jimmy's "Sweet Caroline" should have made this list as well especially after being sued for it.

BlackOps
BlackOps

Why six? I guess most people did stop caring about ska after 2000...I'll round it out for you. Here are some of my favorite ska-punk covers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2KrP5lKoqM - Simmer Down done by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGI4vDAyUBg - Movin' Out done by The Supervillains

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0MLMm7cj1M - Linoleum done by Streetlight Manifesto

And my fave, no horns but a ridiculously good band:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykyjlP9ggBY - Walk of Life done by The Bastard Suns

kristantharris
kristantharris

You missed I Voted for kodos who did an amazing cover of Good Riddance by Green Day

 

reverendfitty
reverendfitty

@AMBabka @RiverfrontTimes Haven't clicked yet, better include Save Ferris "Come On Eileen"

tenant
tenant

"One principal tenant of the genre was the cover song." i think you mean *tenet.

BullseyeW
BullseyeW

Having horns, we use 2 of these cover versions in our own shows. RT @rftmusic The six best covers by ska bands http://t.co/xPKJX6Cg

GinnyBeastley
GinnyBeastley

@rftmusic Thanks for the lunchtime playlist! #SKA

GinnyBeastley
GinnyBeastley

@RiverfrontTimes I would have chosen Waiting Room instead of Freshmen, but Mustard Plug is awesome either way.

travisbursik
travisbursik

@rftmusic @RyanWasoba For the record, Mustard Plug (& Verve Pipe) are from Grand Rapids. Also, their cover of "Waiting Room" is top notch.

RyanWasoba
RyanWasoba

 @kristantharris  WOAH! I forgot about I Voted For Kodos. They were one of those mp3.com ska bands, back when that was a thing.

AMBabka
AMBabka

@reverendfitty @RiverfrontTimes My fave - not listed - is @ReelBigFish's version of Kiss Me Deadly. #SkaCovers

reverendfitty
reverendfitty

@AMBabka After our convo, .@ReelBigFish started following me. Sellouts...

reverendfitty
reverendfitty

@AMBabka @RiverfrontTimes @ReelBigFish No @Goldfinger "99 Red Balloons"... Denied...

reverendfitty
reverendfitty

@ReelBigDan Sweet, cause I'd eat people if it were legal... #SeeWhatIDidThere

ReelBigDan
ReelBigDan

@reverendfitty AND I'm 100% beef!

reverendfitty
reverendfitty

@ReelBigDan @AMBabka @reelbigfish Congrats! You just beat the Taco Bell twitter as the most famous person to tweet at me!

ReelBigDan
ReelBigDan

@AMBabka @reverendfitty @reelbigfish tee hee!

AMBabka
AMBabka

@reverendfitty Of course they did! @ReelBigFish are actually pretty swell folks. I bet @reelbigdan would Twitter-chat with you.

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