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Top 10 Covers of Songs by The Who

Top 10 Covers of Songs by The Who

In a semi-recent issue of Guitar World, we paid tribute to the high-flying genius of Pete Townshend by taking a look back at the Who's most creative—and most volatile—years.

It's difficult to understate the importance of Townshend as a composer and a guitarist, and no shortage of great bands have taken a cue or two from the Who's songwriting wizard over the years.

Several have even tipped their hats to the band by putting their own spin on one of the many classic cuts in the Who's back catalog.

As a bonus, we've rounded up our 10 favorite Who covers of all time. What a bargain!

10. Iron Maiden — "My Generation”

If ever there was a bassist who could pay fitting tribute to the nimble four-string work of the late John Entwistle, it's Iron Maiden's Steve Harris. This deep cut from Maiden—who were just named 2012's best live act in our annual readers poll—features Blaze Bayley on vocals and was originally released as a B-side to their 1995 single, "Lord of the Flies." The song would re-appear in 2002 on the somewhat rare Best of the B-Sides compilation.

09. Elton John — "Pinball Wizard"

Yes, we just went from Iron Maiden to Elton John. But it just so happens that Elton's version of "Pinball Wizard" is one of the highlights of the 1975 Tommy film soundtrack, which also features performances by Ann-Margret and a berobed Eric Clapton. Besides its powerful vocals and spirited performance, Elton's version of the song, a hit in its own right, is noted for its undeniable "Seventies-ness," from its instrumentation to its glam feel to those gigantic shoes in the clip below.

08. Green Day — "A Quick One While He's Away”

Green Day have always had a thing for this multi-part song, which can be considered Townshend's first—albeit mini—rock "opera." They like to perform bits of it at soundchecks, and the song has been a Green Day concert highlight on more than one occasion. The band finally got around to recording this spine-tingling studio version of the tune, which was released as a bonus track on their 2009 album, 21st Century Breakdown. They are "forgiven" for waiting so long!

07. The Jam — "So Sad About Us”

The Jam — Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler—would often make half-hearted attempts at covering the songs that inspired them (case in point: their weak version of the Beatles' "And Your Bird Can Sing"), but they gave it their all when it came time to record this tune from A Quick One. This version, originally released as the B-side to "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight" in 1978, sounds polished off and updated (at least by '78 standards) and stars Foxton's expert often-overlooked bass playing.

06. David Bowie — "I Can't Explain"

One of two Who covers on 1973's Pin Ups, this laid-back, almost parochial take on "I Can't Explain" brings an unmistakable cool to the band's first hit single. Bowie's vocals on this album have been infamously maligned by critics over the years, but factor in Ken Fordham's baritone sax and Mick Ronson's saturated guitar licks and you have a more-than-fitting tribute to Townshend and crew.


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