Many a musician has cut their teeth on cover songs over the years, and heavy metal and hard rock bands are no exception. From the ubiquitous blues covers of first generation hard rockers like Led Zeppelin and Humble Pie to such thrash metallers as Metallica and Slayer picking the perfect punk tune to show off their underground cred. However, occasionally a song from a very unlikely source, outside of the rock spectrum, works its way into a band’s repertoire. Who would think that one of Judas Priest’s greatest heavy metal moments would be a cover of a song by ‘60s folkie Joan Baez or that Marilyn Manson’s breakthrough hit would be a cover of the ‘80s synth-pop classic “Sweet Dreams” originally by Eurythmics? Here are 15 unlikely covers by some of hard rock and metal’s best bands that you wouldn’t expect to rock but totally do.
Judas Priest “Diamonds & Rust”
Only the metal gods themselves could take a song by folkie Joan Baez about her failed relationship with Bob Dylan and turn it into a storming metal monster.
Always fans first, ‘Tallica showed their ever-widening influences by covering this song by proto-Goth torch singer Nick Cave on their expanded Garage Inc. collection.
Van Halen “Dancing In The Street”
You didn’t know Motown got heavy? Well this cover of the 1964 hit by Martha and the Vandellas sure is.
Though Iron Butterfly are often cited as an early heavy rock band, no one could have foreseen this ’60s song being covered by the likes of Satan-loving thrash metal icons Slayer.
Led Zeppelin “Dazed and Confused”
Most people don’t know this early metal classic is actually a cover by the obscure ‘60s singer-songwriter Jake Holmes. Lawyers on both sides though do.
Nazareth “Love Hurts”
These ‘70s hard rockers had a hit with their cover of this ballad which was originally recorded by The Everly Brothers.
Marilyn Manson “Sweet Dreams”
The shock rocker turned this ‘80s synth-pop hit inside out and revealed the dark heart at the center of the song.
Celtic Frost “Mexican Radio”
Thrashers did a double take when this groundbreaking Swiss extreme metal band whipped out this cover by the extremely un-extreme new wave band Wall Of Voodoo.
Guns N’ Roses “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”
The Gunners made a play for critical respectability with this cover of every Baby Boomers favorite protest singer, Bob Dylan, and ended up with one of their classic moments.
Ministry “Lay, Lady, Lay”
In contrast, these industrial metalheads take on another Dylan classic was somewhat less reverent.
Megadeth “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’”
Dave Mustaine got back at his former band Metallica by singing the vindictive lyrics of this Nancy Sinatra song from the heyday of ‘60s pop on his band’s debut album.
Anthrax “Bring the Noise”
This song, originally by rappers Public Enemy, was truly groundbreaking when it was first released and showed that metal and rap fans weren’t that far apart.
Voivod “Astronomy Domine”
Though a classic band, no one considered Pink Floyd heavy until these progressive Canadian thrashers mangled this early song of theirs.
Exodus “Low Rider”
This pioneering Bay Area thrash band weren’t afraid to show off their love of ‘70s funk on this War cover.
Lemmy and Wendy O. Williams “Stand By Your Man”
The man behind Motorhead teams up with the controversial Plasmatics singer for an irreverent cover of this country standard by Tammy Wynette.