Yes, there are some good covers nowadays...the Atari's cover of "Boys of Summer" or Foo Fighters doing "Baker Street" leap to mind...but not nearly as I would expect. And I want to forget abominations like Marilyn Manson doing "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This" or Hole's "Gold Dust Woman."
I think that to do a really good cover, you have to like the song you're doing, but you have to bring an unexpected twist. The best cover I can think of right now is from one of my brother's and a friend's old band, when they did just a CRUSHING version of "Knights in White Satin" (which never got played out and might not exist on tape even). A great local Jacksonville band used to do a cover of "Like a Virgin" that floored me.
Personally, I do a pretty mean slow country/blues version of "Boys of Summer" and a moaning run-through of Tom Petty's "Rebel" that will make you weep...that is, if I can ever afford new strings for the acoustic so I can play the damn thing. And last year, me and some academic comrades worked up a cowpunk/jazz cover of "Shout at the Devil" that would've wowed them...then we got all overworked and quit playing together, which is the story of my life, musically.
So, without much more ado (there's been enough already), my top 5 covers I would do if I had a 4 track and time to kill:
- "Sister Golden Hair" by America...this is just dying for about thirty guitars
- "A Place Nobody Can Find" by Sam and Dave...tons o' people have made a living off their songs...why not me?
- "Monday Morning" by Fleetwood Mac...this already rawks, and more people need to know it.
- "Vacation" by the Go-Go's...c'mon, a non-commercialized version of this would rip.
- "Looks Like We Made It" by Barry Mannelow...remove the shmaltz and it's a solid song.
Y'know, I only own two of these, and I am actively apathetic to the other three...but I could make these good. As a friend says, "Aw, yeah."