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Last Updated: Friday, 16 January, 2004, 01:39 GMT
Cover versions: John Peel
All this week, BBC World Service's The World Today programme is looking at cover versions - songs re-recorded by another artist - to find what makes a great cover, and why.

John Peel is one of the most respected and lasting names in music broadcasting. Here he outlines what, for him, makes a good cover version.

I know loads of cover versions that are regarded as being better than the original.

John Peel
Sometimes there has been a really good original and then an even better cover.

I like cover versions. I don't like cover versions when they're just a faithful replica of the original - you get an awful lot of that and it seems to me to be utterly pointless.

But when somebody comes along and does something original that you wouldn't have expected, then that is particularly welcome.

One of my all-time favourite records is a 12-inch by some people called Moloko. This was a single released in 1989, and it's a cover version of Wilson Pickett's In The Midnight Hour.

In The Midnight Hour is a great record, but this is In The Midnight Hour done soukous style. It was recorded in Florida, but it's got this extraordinary soukous guitar playing.

The Beatles and the Rolling Stones' first albums were both full of cover versions.

It's what they know - it's the tunes that they've been playing before they had the confidence to write their own.

The Who, The Kinks - all of those '60s bands started off doing loads of covers, and then they graduated into doing tunes that sounded as if they might have been written by the people whose records they'd previously been covering.

Then they developed their own characters.

Another great cover is a reggae version - by somebody called Merlene Webber - of A Whiter Shade Of Pale.

People spend a great deal of time describing music and explaining why they like it or don't like.

I prefer not to do that - mine is just an animal response to it. I wouldn't wish to be able to analyse why I like things.

But I do like reggae and I like Whiter Shade Of Pale. The lyrics - which were daft enough in the first place - have been learned parrot-fashion, and thereby have been rendered even sillier than they were originally.

That gives it an added charm.

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John Peel
"I know loads of cover versions that are regarded as being better than the original"

Listeners' poll
Laurence Pollard counts down World Today listeners' top 5 cover versions

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