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50 Rock Songs That Every Cover Band Musician Should Know

Steve's been an online music writer for seven years and has personal experience organizing his equipment for gigs.

Aerosmith performing at Nassau Coliseum in 2012.

Aerosmith performing at Nassau Coliseum in 2012.

One of the joys of playing music in a cover band is that you get to replicate some of the most popular songs in the history of music. Audiences throughout the world love these songs, which (of course) contributes to their longevity.

Not every band will play all of these songs. In fact, some won't play any of them. I'm not suggesting that these songs should be your setlist. But, as a working musician, I have played many gigs with bands that I had never rehearsed with or even met, and I've found in those cases that it was essential to at least know every track on this list.

So, whether you're a solo player, a hired gun, or a member of a full band, take a look at this list of the most played, requested, and successful songs in rock history. Learn them so they are in your rock arsenal. You never know when you'll need to pull these off.

Rock Songs That Every Cover Band Musician Should Know

#50-34#33-17#16-1

50. "What I Got"—Sublime

33. "Here I Go Again"—Whitesnake

16. "Walk This Way"—Aerosmith

49. "Man in the Box"—Alice in Chains

32. "Superstition"—Stevie Wonder

15. "I Love Rock and Roll"—Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

48. "Basket Case"—Green Day

31. "Pour Some Sugar on Me"—Def Leppard

14. "Roadhouse Blues"—The Doors

47. "Me & Bobby McGee"—Janis Joplin

30. "Magic Carpet Ride"—Steppenwolf

13. "Mustang Sally"—Wilson Pickett

46. "Highway to Hell"—AC/DC

29. "Old Time Rock & Roll"—Bob Seger

12. "Hard to Handle"—Black Crowes

45. "Talk Dirty to Me"—Poison

28. "Keep Your Hands to Yourself"—Georgia Satellites

11. "You Shook Me All Night Long"—AC/DC

44. "Jump"—Van Halen

27. "Life in the Fast Lane"—The Eagles

10. "American Girl"—Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

43. "What I Like About You"—The Romantics

26. "Enter Sandman"—Metallica

9. "Play That Funky Music"—Wild Cherry

42. "Jenny Jenny (867-5309)"—Tommy Tutone

25. "Long Train Runnin'"—Doobie Brothers

8. "Summer of '69"—Bryan Adams

41. "Wanted, Dead or Alive"—Bon Jovi

24. "Rock and Roll All Night"—Kiss

7. "Brown Eyed Girl"—Van Morrison

40. "Some Kind of Wonderful"—Grand Funk Railroad

23. "Crazy Train"—Ozzy Osbourne

6. "Sweet Caroline"—Neil Diamond

39. "Can't Get Enough"—Bad Company

22. "Your Love"—The Outfield

5. "Jessie's Girl"—Rick Springfield

38. "All Right Now"—Free

21. "Brick House"—The Commodores

4. "Livin' on a Prayer"—Bon Jovi

37. "The Joker"—Steve Miller Band

20. "Rock and Roll"—Led Zeppelin

3. "Sweet Child O' Mine"—Guns N' Roses

36. "Honky Tonk Woman"—Rolling Stones

19. "Pride & Joy"—Stevie Ray Vaughan

2. "Sweet Home Alabama"—Lynyrd Skynyrd

35. "Any Way You Want It"—Journey

18. "Tush"—ZZ Top

1. "Don't Stop Believin"—Journey

34. "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"—Pat Benator

17. "I Want You to Want Me"—Cheap Trick

50. "What I Got"—Sublime

This was Sublime's biggest radio hit and reached #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock tracks Chart in 1997, the year after singer Bradley Nowell's untimely death. This tune is always a crowd-pleaser and the simple two-chord structure lends the song well to extended medleys.

49. "Man in the Box"—Alice in Chains

One of the defining songs of the early '90s Seattle grunge era, "Man in the Box" makes a great late-night power track to get the diehards pumping their fists and buying shots.

48. "Basket Case"—Green Day

This is the song that exemplifies the spirit and mood of the mid-'90s rock culture. It was the biggest hit from Green Day's debut album Dookie and still feels fresh today.

47. "Me & Bobby McGee"—Janis Joplin

Pretty much every female singer that I've ever played with knows "Me & Bobby McGee." It's easy and fun and it showcases the vocalist's pipes. Also, every girl in the crowd wants to be on stage singing along.

46. "Highway to Hell"—AC/DC

Play this title track from the last AC/DC album featuring singer Bon Scott and guys will throw up the horns, chicks will head-bang, and everybody will sing the chorus. This song is always a winner.

45. "Talk Dirty to Me"—Poison

"Talk Dirty to Me" is the late '80s "hair band" signature song. Sometimes it works great—and sometimes it tanks—but it's one you definitely need to know. (The video is also one of the Top 5 '80s Hair Metal Band Spinning Videos).

44. "Jump"—Van Halen

The year is 1984. Things didn't go as George Orwell envisioned. The greatest guitar player in rock started playing keyboards. Everyone knows this song and sings along. You must know it—and know it correctly.

43. "What I Like About You"—The Romantics

One-hit-wonder songs can work great for cover bands. "What I Like About You" is one of those songs. This tune is singable, danceable, and works well in a medley with songs like "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." by John Mellencamp and "On the Darkside" by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band.

42. "Jenny Jenny (867-5309)"—Tommy Tutone

This is one of those '80s songs that is both loved by 30 and 40-somethings and popular with the younger folks, especially the girls.

41. "Wanted, Dead or Alive"—Bon Jovi

"Wanted, Dead or Alive" gets the whole crowd singing along.

"WAAAAANTED!" Need I say more?

Not every band will play all of these songs, in fact some won't play any of them. I'm not suggesting that these songs should be your set list. But as a working musician I have played many gigs with bands that I had never rehearsed with or even met, and I've found in those cases that it was essential to know every track on this list.

40. "Some Kind of Wonderful"—Grand Funk Railroad

This is the song you play when the guitar player breaks a string. So, if you sing or play bass or drums, you need to be able to pull this one out.

39. "Can't Get Enough"—Bad Company

"Can't Get Enough" is a good song for the first set. This rock radio classic holds up in the clubs and bars nearly 40 years after its release.

38. "All Right Now"—Free

Wait... what? Paul Rodgers again!? Yep. The hook is killer. It's got a great guitar solo (and the bass player even gets the spotlight for a moment). This song always goes over well.

37. "The Joker"—Steve Miller Band

A great tune for the mellow stoners in the room, "The Joker" is a timeless classic that often gets the crowd singing along.

36. "Honky Tonk Woman"—Rolling Stones

Everyone wants more cowbell! And this 1969 hit satiates every rock and SNL fan by leading into the song with Bessie's neck piece. A simple four-chord structure makes this one a no-brainer... and people love it.

35. "Any Way You Want It"—Journey

People will request Journey. It's part of the job. But if you're not ready to play that song, "Any Way You Want It" is an acceptable alternative.

34. "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"—Pat Benator

This was Benatar's biggest hit, back in 1980, and still remains popular with the party crowd. Even guys in bands have been known to get away with singing this tune, and it's a must if you have an '80s-music-lovin' audience.

33. "Here I Go Again"—Whitesnake

With another fantastic sing-along chorus for drunk people, "Here I Go Again" was a #1 hit for David Coverdale and Co. back in 1987 and still holds up as a hair-metal classic today.

32. "Superstition"—Stevie Wonder

While not technically a rock song (although it was covered brilliantly by Stevie Ray Vaughan), this 1972 Motown hit gets the crowd dancing and drinking and fits in well with the classic rock repertoire.

31. "Pour Some Sugar on Me"—Def Leppard

When girls ask to hear Def Leppard, they're talking about "Pour Some Sugar on Me." The 1987 Top 10 hit gets the ladies dancing—sometimes on the bar, sometimes on the stage. Know it. And, even if you don't sing, you best be shouting "Hey!" into a mic.

30. "Magic Carpet Ride"—Steppenwolf

This was the band's second-biggest hit, surpassed only by "Born to Be Wild" (an obvious choice for the biker lot), and does well to loosen up the crowd. If they're not already dancing, a few folks should jump on the floor when you launch into this song.

29. "Old Time Rock & Roll"—Bob Seger

Putting the words "Rock and Roll" in your title seems to work well (they'll appear several more times in this list). Seger's late-'70s hit was made popular by the 1983 Tom Cruise flick Risky Business, and "Old Time Rock & Roll" still remains a rock-radio and party-crowd staple today.

28. "Keep Your Hands to Yourself"—Georgia Satellites

If there's a bachelorette party in the crowd, this is a great tune to get the girls dancing and singing. If you know the blues, then you'll have no problem playing this one.

27. "Life in the Fast Lane"—The Eagles

From the 1976 album Hotel California, "Life in the Fast Lane" peaked at #11 in Billboard and is well-known by pretty much everyone. It rocks from start to finish, and is a great upbeat song to include in your set.

26. "Enter Sandman"—Metallica

Although they have an extensive catalog of classic metal brilliance, this is the song that defines Metallica. When it was first released, I was happily flabbergasted to see people dance to a thrash band! What!? Over 20 years later... people still do. (You will also find this one on the list of the "Top 50 '90s Rock Songs for a Cover Band.")

25. "Long Train Runnin'"—Doobie Brothers

People will request "Long Train Runnin'." Because, "without love, where would you be now?"

24. "Rock and Roll All Night"—Kiss

Unless you're playing in a Kiss tribute band or you're really into Kiss, this is the only Kiss song that you'll ever need to know. It's a pretty reliable crowd-pleaser no matter what the gig.

23. "Crazy Train"—Ozzy Osbourne

Some of the songs on this list are the ones that define their band to the general public. "Crazy Train" is Ozzy's highest-charting hit, from back in 1981, and can still be heard on the radio, in movies, commercials, TV shows, and sports stadiums throughout the country. Everyone knows it, and everyone loves it.

22. "Your Love"—The Outfield

Why this song? Do you know why? 'Cause I don't. I mean... it's fun. It's easy to sing along to and every girl loves it. Okay... now I seeing why.

21. "Brick House"—The Commodores

In most of the bands I've ever played with, the song "Brick House" goes hand-in-hand with #9 on this list ("Play That Funky Music White Boy"). Again, it's not really a rock song, but it's an extremely popular song and it gets folks dancing. It's also a tune that can be stretched out and jammed on if the band needs to fill up some set time.

20. "Rock and Roll"—Led Zeppelin

This is basically a 12-bar blues tune, played with ferocity and fire. It's the mighty Zep's signature rock track from their fourth album and it ranks as one of VH1's Greatest Rock Songs of All Time. (Here's a tip for drummers, the song starts on the and of three.)

19. "Pride & Joy"—Stevie Ray Vaughan

I've played "Pride & Joy" many times with many different bands and I doubt I've played it the same way twice. That's the blues for you, and this song epitomizes blues-rock for most casual music fans.

18. "Tush"—ZZ Top

With video hits such as "Sharp Dressed Man" and "Legs," MTV made ZZ Top a household name in the '80s, but it's this 1975 single that gets the most play by cover bands. It's just another 12-bar blues tune. So, even if you don't think you know it, you do.

17. "I Want You to Want Me"—Cheap Trick

The 1979 version from Live at Budokan was the band's biggest selling single, reaching #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. Club-goers and party people all over the map are familiar with "I Want You to Want Me" and it usually gets a room pumped-up.

16. "Walk This Way"—Aerosmith

Way back before many of today's bar patrons were even born, Aerosmith put out a record called Toys in the Attic. Aside from this hit, "Walk This Way," the 1975 release also featured "Sweet Emotion" (another cover band favorite) and helped the band break into the mainstream. When Run-D.M.C. covered the track in the mid-'80s, the song crossed genres in a way that had never been seen before. To this day, it remains one of Aerosmith's most popular songs and is played by most cover bands at one time or another.

15. "I Love Rock and Roll"—Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Joan Jett's version of "I Love Rock and Roll" is actually a cover itself (the original was written by the band Arrows in 1975) but was made insanely popular in the early '80s, largely due to MTV exposure.

14. "Roadhouse Blues"—The Doors

When there's a crowd, it's always good to get it involved in the music. Bands often encourage the folks in the room to join in on this song's line, "woke up this morning and got myself a beer!" Sometimes, it takes some prodding, but 9 times out of 10, it works.

13. "Mustang Sally"—Wilson Pickett

It's difficult to say who has performed the quintessential version of "Mustang Sally," but the basic structure remains the same in each recording. This is another great sing-along for the crowd ("Ride Sally, ride!"). If you play a musical instrument, you have to know this one.

12. "Hard to Handle"—Black Crowes

This is another tune that was made popular as a cover. Written and recorded in 1968 by Otis Redding, the song enjoyed mainstream success in 1990 as the breakout hit single from the Crowes' debut album. I think I've played this song more than any other one in my career.

11. "You Shook Me All Night Long"—AC/DC

From the 1980 multi-platinum masterpiece, Back in Black, "You Shook Me All Night Long" remains one of the band's biggest hits, and is performed by cover bands all over the world. It features one of the most iconic guitar solos in the history of rock. It also boasts a chorus that people can't help themselves to sing along with.

10. "American Girl"—Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

In 1976, Tom Petty released his debut album with the Heartbreakers, right before disco music exploded. The first single, "Breakdown," became a Top 40 hit soon after its release. The second single, released in 1977, didn't chart in the U.S., but alas has endured as Petty's most frequently played song in the cover band scene.

9. "Play That Funky Music"—Wild Cherry

When your band wants to get people up and dancing, "Play That Funky Music" is the tune that works every time. This one-and-only hit for Wild Cherry was released in 1976 and has sold over two and a half million copies in the U.S. alone. Pretty much every cover band (including wedding bands) will play this song at one time or another.

8. "Summer of '69"—Bryan Adams

The blue-eyed Canadian rocker has had over a dozen Top 40 hits over the last three decades. Although "Heaven" and "Everything I Do (I Do It for You)" were his best selling singles, they're much better suited for a wedding band or corporate event. "'69" reached #5 on Billboard's Top 100 singles chart in 1984. It remains his most-requested and most frequently played song by classic rock cover bands.

7. "Brown Eyed Girl"—Van Morrison

A lot of musicians will roll their eyes when a band leader suggests playing "Brown Eyed Girl," but the truth is that music fans (both serious and casual) will sing along, no matter where you are. "Moondance" works well for a more mellow gig, but this tune is the one you always want to have in your back pocket at a rock show.

6. "Sweet Caroline"—Neil Diamond

This is a great crossover tune, as it works well at clubs, parties, weddings, and pretty much any live cover band show. Diamond's 1969 ode to John F. Kennedy's then 11-year-old daughter has sold nearly two million digital copies in the Internet age, and is often requested and played by bands all over the world.

5. "Jessie's Girl"—Rick Springfield

"Jessie's Girl" won Springfield a Grammy and was an instant hit way back in 1981. Over thirty years later, it's still extremely popular for the party crowd, especially with girls. I've never played this song where there aren't people singing along.

4. "Livin' on a Prayer"—Bon Jovi

In 1986, New Jersey's second favorite son and his namesake band released a song that would never go away. "Prayer" is one of the most beloved hair-metal tunes. It's been covered by hundreds, if not thousands of cover bands. Serious guitar players even include the talk box in their rig to help authentically replicate one of the greatest rock songs of all time.

3. "Sweet Child O' Mine"—Guns N' Roses

It's true that some of the greatest songs are born in the simplest moments. While Slash was goofing around with a guitar exercise, the rest of the band started jamming along. Once Axl Rose, who was listening upstairs, added his inspired lyrics, a classic rock song was born. If you've ever played at a club, you know that someone will inevitably request a Guns song, and "Sweet Child O' Mine" is the song that they want to hear.

2. "Sweet Home Alabama"—Lynyrd Skynyrd

Having played all over the country in hundreds of different bars and clubs, I can honestly say that this is the song I've heard covered the most. It's one that guitar players learn when they're just starting out, due to its easy three-chord structure, and it's one that every band knows how to play.

1. "Don't Stop Believin'"—Journey

It's no wonder that "Don't Stop Believin'" takes the top spot. It's the most downloaded song of the 20th century and the top-selling catalog track in iTunes history. "Don't Stop" has one of the best opening keyboard riffs in rock, and one of the most memorable, singable, and inspirational choruses in popular music. Anytime your band plays this song, you're guaranteed to have a captive and appreciative audience.

If you enjoyed this article and/or found it useful, please share it!

© 2013 Steve Witschel

Comments

Ben on December 04, 2019:

One female song out of 50

LaustCawz on November 20, 2019:

I'd add "Needles & Pins" & "So You Wanna Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star".

Jroll on November 17, 2019:

What? No Freebird???

James Springer on September 30, 2019:

List is really outdated. Just to give the old tunes a twist we try to incorporate or bleed into a newer song with a familiar groove. Classic rock is dead unless youre in a biker bar & even then youll see an inked up bearded dude digging bruno mars or (sic) all about that bass. Cover band do's & donts though... nailed that

Me on August 30, 2019:

Hard to handle, Otis Redding

Monte Walsh on May 24, 2019:

Brings back some memories. I played about half of those in a couple of bands in the 70s and 80s. Many more songs as well of course, pretty much the guitar rock and country rock of the day. Ric 4001 and a Precision, Sunn bass amp. Some of the songs on this particular list are heavily produced with keyboards etc so wouldn't be easy to do with lead and rhythm guitar, bass and drums in the honky tonk bars! But as many have said, people just want to hear something familiar. The bar owners don't want you to get too loud, that doesn't promote conversation and drinking. Your job is to sell mixed drinks, not much profit in beer, LOL! Or so they always told us. Maybe the last set you could turn it up. And, the most important players in the band are a solid drummer and bass player, that and good singing!

Florence on May 19, 2019:

I’m in a Blondie Tribute Band and we discuss this all the time. 5 members-5 opinions. I don’t judge a tune on who wrote it or sang it. How about Blondie, The Pretenders, Heart!!

Blair on January 25, 2019:

I’ve been playing for a few decades and almost every band has someone who says “I don’t want to play Mustang Sally” but when you get to the gig you have like 6 request for it. If you want to work, you have to play what people want to hear. I just turned 70 and I’m still playing regularly. Why? Because I don’t mind singing “Ride Sally Ride”.

Pat from Centerville Georgia on June 12, 2018:

We play 10 of em.

Seb on May 22, 2018:

I play Green Day,slayer,Amon amarth,bon jovi and my own written songs

zaketa on May 06, 2018:

I play like, a lot of nirvana, metallica, system of a down songs...

Ronnie on April 09, 2018:

Spotify playlist for you Spotify people out there: https://open.spotify.com/user/1228641723/playlist/...

Rod on January 22, 2018:

The fact that these songs are overplayed is the point.

If you're in a cover band, no one cares who you are or what you like. They want to hear the songs they (and the rest of the crowd) know the words too.

So you find the lowest common denominator and milk it for all it's worth.

Codytheguitarman on October 16, 2017:

Got to the bottom of the list and a commercial came on tv playing journeys don't stop believing lol

jasonirwinrock on August 13, 2017:

Cliche, cliche, cliche. It's hard to say who's fault it is...every cover band and musician for playing the same songs, or the crowd for wanting to hear them. It's a sad state of affairs.

Huge Jampton on July 15, 2017:

A great list. I play in a covers band and we do a few of these songs.

Most nights we also get asked ' Do you do any Foo fighters mate?'

Yes we do. Times like these or Walk?

Nikki Lambert from Western Mass on April 23, 2017:

Yes, these songs are overplayed. Guess what? People who are drinking don't care and (mostly) aren't musicians. When you're in a cover band, your job is to please the audience. You're not a rock star. (And I don't think I've ever played a show where I haven't heard "Free Bird!" from at least one person in the crowd.)

That doesn't mean you can't have fun. At my suggestion, my band segued from the guitar solo in Play That Funky Music to a shortened version of Rapper's Delight, then back to end with the last verse of Funky. People freaked out; turnarounds all over the bar the instant I started with, "Now what you hear is not a test." Try it; the basslines match up beautifully.

(And, yes, I'm female. But I have a low, whiskey-and-cigarette voice, so I sing mostly guy songs and can scream like Steven Tyler. No Journey for me...lol...but I can give you Bon Scott, Scott Weiland, and Chris Cornell.)

Also, you can deviate from this list and people will still be happy. We avoided "Rock & Roll All Nite" in favor of "Detroit Rock City," and people were happy. Same with doing "Gimme Three Steps" or "Call Me the Breeze" instead of "Sweet Home Alabama." Worse comes to worse, whatever you don't want to play, put on in between sets.

It's also surprising what songs from other genres the classic rock crowd goes nuts over. "Friends in Low Places" and "Killing in the Name" were two of our largest draws (especially because I went into the crowd with the wireless mic during the Rage tune so people could yell, "___ you, I won't do what you tell me!" into the mic).

No one's suggesting that this is a set list, but as a list of "songs every cover band should know," like the title says, I totally agree.

Africa on April 10, 2017:

Hi. This list is probably intended as a "bread-and-butter" list for a musician looking for work. Knowing these tunes means you'll be able to sit in on most cover gigs, especially more classic rock orientated. I've had last-minute calls with no time to rehearse or learn songs. This list is GOLD in that regard. After the gig the band leader will hopefully say "Hey man that went great! You're hired. I'll send you a list of some more current (less overplayed) songs"

Andy on March 31, 2017:

We do 16 of them on a regular basis.

JJ Jaba on January 01, 2017:

Every single one of these songs has been PLAYED TO DEATH and if I NEVER hear ANY of them ever again it will be to soon. THIS is the problem in our area. Every (and I am serious here) EVERY single cover band plays the same tunes. Most do them no justice at all and are over amplified and under talented. Christ on any given Friday or Saturday you walk down Main St. from Bar to Bar and its as if they are swapping set lists when there are hundreds of thousands that are every bit as danceable (if that is your thing) these bands could do to stand out from the crowd and actually draw one for a change.

to brian on August 03, 2016:

good songs never go out of style. also, no one is going to hire your band anyway w/o knowing what songs you are going to play. This is a CLASSIC ROCK cover band list. Believe it or not, bands that play this type of music still get hired.

Nice Listener on July 30, 2016:

I'd like to highly recommend the pop-rock tunes "Every Cloud and Silver Lining" and "Blue Eyes" created by Jett Allen.

I bet you're gonna love these music tracks if you have a listen to them .

Brian on July 03, 2016:

has a few good "standards" in here but this list is way outdated. If I played these 50 songs tomorrow in my city, I would never be asked back.

Mike Durham on June 25, 2016:

This is a solid list but I have a reauest... Could you make a Country list as well?

Paul Jellicoe from Neston, UK on May 01, 2016:

Fair few standards, but then some appear and you're like 'of course,' Brilliant hub man, really enjoyed it!

Darrell Kindley from Fort Worth, TX on April 04, 2016:

Really enjoyed reading this hub!

pat on March 31, 2016:

what some critics/people aren't remembering or recognizing is that while some of these songs may seem "worn out" or overplayed it doesn't mean that it applies to the audience. Some 30 year old in a bar may have never heard a live band play Jessie's girl or even a song like Enter Sandman. After a few beers, I doubt the ones that have are going to care (if it is a good band) that they have heard it a million times before. If it rocks, they are going to rock and drink more alcohol. Let's face it, that is basically what it comes down to for a cover band. Rock the crowd and get them to drink. So, while some of you "musicians" are tired of playing Mustang Sally, the audience isn't going to complain. As someone else said, play for the audience and not YOURSELVES. You will make more money that way!!! I think it is a great list. While my band doesn't play half of these songs, they aren't far off the path and could be a solid list of a band's repertoire. Rock on!

Glenn Anderson from Airlie Beach on March 31, 2016:

This is the best hub I've read/heard. This is real music thank you for sharing :)

Bernard on March 01, 2016:

Love this songs...

grew up listening to all of these songs and they still have an overpowering effect on me.

www.getmusicandlyrics.wordpress.com

DrummerSteve on February 08, 2016:

I totally agree that most of these songs are overplayed, and that it would be nice if we could play interesting and elegant songs in cover bands, and sometimes we can. With lots of rehearsal, etc. But to be able to be versatile enough to step into a situation and perform with very little work with a certain band, this list covers a lot of ground.

Steve Witschel (author) from New Orleans, LA on January 31, 2016:

This is not intended to be a set list. Because these are the most overplayed songs of all time, they are songs that every musician that plays covers should know. OF COURSE you should play different songs. But it's important to at least KNOW these songs. Do you understand the difference?

ReganLibrarian on January 31, 2016:

Sorry, but I'd have to call this the SOS list: same old shite. Turn on any classic rock radio station and you can hear these ad nauseum. I agree you need to give the people what they want, but how about doing it while avoiding the 1% most overplayed tunes of all time. My band plays none of these regularly, and only 3 under duress. And we pack the place and people come to every show. Because we DON'T do the SOS. People thank us for that on a regular basis. Our show-stoppers include Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, Feelin' Alright, Angel from Montgomery, She's Gone, Hey Jude. There's SO much great music out there, and people still know all the words. If I had to play this list every weekend, my soul would die.

SolveMyMaze on January 31, 2016:

This list is spot on! You've also set up my Sunday night perfectly. I've got a lot of songs to enjoy listening to know as well as picking up my guitar for a jam! Thanks!

Bass Raper Bullet on December 10, 2015:

As a band leader/lead vocalist/bassist of a cover band for the last 20 years or so, I have to put in MTCW. First I should add that I'm also a published songwriter, and presently, I do practically ALL original stuff. That being said, I think this is a wonderful list and I enjoyed reading it along with the writers comments. I have played and sang at least 40-45 of these tunes at one time or another throughout my career. The people bashing the list are the kind of musicians who will NEVER get the kind of satisfaction from their music that lots of us do. They are too caught up on the small stuff. There has never been a truer statement than "As fellow bassist and successful band leader/musician Dave DeMarco once told me the only problem being in a band is you have to work with musicians." Sad, but so true. Props to BASSMAN53. I would guess that most of people bashing the list are still wet behind the ears, so to speak, and have not yet learned the things that a lot of us have. Either that, or they are like a lot of musicians I know who think they already know everything so there is nothing else they need to learn.

If I were to give advice to an aspiring musician... whether cover or original, I would say "Keep an open mind". Being in the music business is a lot like any other business, in that you have to keep learning. If you're into original stuff, that's fine. Just make sure you are targeting the right venue. By the same token, don't think you're gonna roll up into the Bluebird Cafe and blow em away with Sweet Home Alabama. As one of the commenters said, learn a lot of songs from different genres, and adapt your song list accordingly. If possible, do some recon on the club you'll be playing. If that's not feasible, no worries, if you have prepared yourself, most of the time you'll be able to "feel the crowd out". If you will be playing for more than one night, mingle. Don't just ask people what they want to hear, but ask and then LEARN it if you don't know it already. People LOVE to interact with the band. Believe it or not, it makes the audience feel a little like part of the show... a little more important if you will. I can promise you, if you do this, they will come back.

I get MOST of my enjoyment not from playing the music, but rather from watching the audience ENJOY themselves. To me, that is TRUE gratification. So listen to your audience. You owe them that if you expect them to listen to you. I also enjoy going to see other cover bands (on a rare night off) and hearing what they are doing. Show some support for your peers. Talk to them also. Leave out the negativity unless it's constructive. Tell them what you LIKE about their show. You may be competitors of sorts but, if you've prepared yourselves, you'll get all the gigs you need. And trust me, it will be better for everyone involved if you get along. you never know, you might need a favor, or even a job from one of those guys someday.

OK.... that's my rant. Now I'm gonna try vintagenola's "Jessie's Girl" into "Enter Sandman".... sounds cool as hell. Never tried it... I have done "Purple Rain" into "Word Up" though... that's also pretty cool.

Later Brothers and Sisters. Now that I've found this place, I shall return.

Bullet

todddlur on September 16, 2015:

don't play any of those songs anymore. the bar crowd are changing, different generation, and they want different songs now, at least in my part of the planet. all but 4 on that list i haven't played at one time or another. can't stand most of them now..

GuitarPlayer on August 03, 2015:

This is a very reasonable list of songs for a local cover band to pull from. But there should be a wide variety in any bands' inventory to select from based on the venue they're playing. Our band plays several different venues locally; however, we are finding that the patronage at each venue is slightly different and each requires a slightly different set list. I find that most people seem to favor the music that they liked and listened to when they were between the ages of 15 and 25 (give or take)...regardless of how old they are now. That 10-year period in our lives seems to set the musical foundation of what we like. This is most likely because it allows us to maintain a certain degree of our youth. So, that being said...do some recon on the venue your band is playing at and choose your set list accordingly. Everyone will have a much better experience.

Now...to all the assholes that think playing only original music is the only way to be expressive and is the key to musical success: go fuck yourself. I can assure you that there are many more talented, happy and successful musicians playing in good cover bands than there are in original bands. Music is for everyone to enjoy...in any way they wish to enjoy it. Success is not limited to just those who write and create music.

Tom edge on August 02, 2015:

Like it played lots of them over years .It's cool to knock working musicians by saying it's soulless rubbish . But have you heard. Half of these up there own arse types playing 3 chord crap they write and can feel lol .empty any bar .

Gary Malmberg from Concon, Chile on July 24, 2015:

Fun read. I get where you're coming from with this list. Interesting comments.

BASSMAN53 on July 03, 2015:

Wow! As fellow bassist and successful band leader/musician Dave DeMarco once told me the only problem being in a band is you have to work with musicians. We all have different tastes and opinions. This is a fine list. In my 45+ years of cover bands, I have done 32 of these regularly, sung lead on more than half and enjoyed all but a few. The reason they are played over and over again, in my opinion, is if a couple only gets to club once, or twice a month, they don't want to be educated, they want to be entertained. Bottom line, for me too, is forget the lables and play what you think is best.

Steve Witschel (author) from New Orleans, LA on July 03, 2015:

Well, Brian...I'm a successful musician and I play covers. It's difficult to have any real success playing originals these days. You think these songs are soul-less? Really!? Tell that to Aerosmith, The Stones, Stevie Wonder, etc. There's a good reason that bands still play these songs and that people want to hear them. They are timeless, iconic, and classic.

Brian Ahern on July 02, 2015:

This is like two bald men fighting over a comb. Any musician or band worth it's salt knows you play music that moves you, you don't pander to a crowd. This is what is wrong with music today and this anemic collection of souless songs, you are encouraging commercialism not creativity. Play songs that will sell more beer boys and you'll be a successful cover band, which is an oxymoron in itself. If you want to play these songs for fun, I have no problem with that, but if you want to be a successful musician get out of a cover band and create your own music.

Christopher Wood on July 02, 2015:

If you don't know how to play "You Shook Me All Night Long" you could just learn ANY AC/DC song and sing these words over it. It'll work perfectly, I promise.

jim on June 30, 2015:

# 24, Kiss, R&R all night party every day. worst song ever, how many times in one song can you repeat the title and get away with it ??? Only KISS knows because everybody else changes this piece of shit song long before its over because we get tire of hearing the title ad nauseum non-stop !!!!!!!!!!!

Schwan on April 12, 2015:

that is the list of songs to NOT play ! every single one of those songs has been played to death, and after a 30+ career in playing in cover bands I've learned that it's insulting to the audience,..they've heard every cover band play them already,...it's most important as musicians to play what you LOVE to play, it's YOUR show,...do what you love

Curt Granger on March 30, 2015:

As someone who has played in many cover/bar bands for 30+ years, this list is SPOT on. Great "pro tips" as well. Many of these songs also work acoustically. I recommend this list for anyone wanting to be successful in this line of "work." Remember, when working in a cover band, you select songs to please your audience first, and you as a musician, second. Great job, Steve.

Manny S. on March 27, 2015:

It's an ok list ... But Neil Diamond??? Classic Rock??? Maybe King Diamond...

squaredawg on March 04, 2015:

wow.

Steven NYC on March 01, 2015:

No Blitzkrieg Bop? And yes, no Beatles? I'd think "Come Together" would be in there.

Gator on February 25, 2015:

No Beatles? Hmmmm..... That's just wrong

Johnny from NY on February 25, 2015:

So many people here bitching about how some of these songs were done 'better' by some 'funky' performers prior to the cover. THIS IS A CLASSIC ROCK COVER LIST! Trouble reading? Jeezus! You RnB people have your genre. That's great. But, I definitely prefer the bands on this list than any RnB list.

And, fatty: Journey sucks? Lmao! Whatever dude. Steve Perry can sing circles around just about anybody you can muster up as a so-called vocalist. End of story.

The list is great. And, I'm not even a cover band singer. I prefer my originals as my satisfaction from music comes more from creating than mimicking. Just sayin. No disrespect.

Sue Minot from Wellington, New Zealand on February 25, 2015:

Hi there. Not a bad list, but as others have pointed out, the main problem is at least 10 of these are different genres from 'classic rock'. Not necessarily a problem for a covers band, but could be a problem if you're billing yourself as a 'classic rock covers band'. People wouldn't expect to hear stuff like 'Hard to Handle' (soul), Man in a Box (grunge), Green Day (punk/alt), Stevei Ray Vaughan (blues), Commodores and Stevie Wonder (Motown). You could clear them off to make room for the likes of some other great songs like 'Freebird', 'Hotel California', 'Carry on Wayward Son', 'Satisfaction', 'Don't bring me down' (ELO). Hey, the list goes on...and why two AC DC songs? they all sound the same anyway :)

BIG G on February 24, 2015:

Yeah right......5 guys are gonna sing some chick songs; What are U SMOKIN DUDE,....????

JIC on February 24, 2015:

No Hotel California, I Love Rock 'n Roll or Zombie?! So many songs missing...

:(

Tom on February 24, 2015:

Could not disagree more with this list.

It's not that these are not great songs, although some of them are not, it's that the bands butcher them. And many of them are simply not danceable.

Grondo on February 24, 2015:

"12. "Hard To Handle" - Black Crowes"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZxN9iQM7OY

Go listen to Otis Redding's original version and tell me it isn't 10 million times funkier and better.

tomas on January 30, 2015:

Another drummer tip. The intro to Led Zeppelin's Rock And Roll is tough timing wise unless you know this one tip: Think the guitar intro to Johnny B Goode. Match it on the drums and you got it! Now if the rest of the band would follow it so we can all start together. Thank you Mr. Wilson for that one!

comandopat on December 18, 2014:

Great list! All summer long doubles the length of sweet home Alabama and adds a little newer edge.

Fatnessman on September 30, 2014:

Awesome list. I'd like to see what your list would look like for wedding/party dance bands.

Ben Butterworth on August 12, 2014:

re #1.)

I read this post via a Bass player's Facebook group of which I am a member, and I have to confess a slight affront to all bassists evrywhere that love a nice, sinewy mid-rangey tone - Yes, the song has one of the most AWESOMEST keyboard intros ever, BUT - whip out the Bassline towards the end of a raucous bar gig, and in 4 bars or less of the melody, nobody cares if there's a keyboardist in the band or not - nail the meaty mids & drunken patrons are singing along to JUST THE BASS LINE ! I have to admit, this song is an obscenely guilty pleasure of mine, and is perhaps one of my favorite all-time favorite bass-lines, if not THE most fave, along with Miles Davis's "All Blues", Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side", Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up"...

fatty on August 05, 2014:

And you can't think of a better santana song than smooth? A rob thomas song, whereas the band santana has so many better songs than smooth with rob thomas

fatty on August 05, 2014:

I would call the first 3 bands alternative, either way not classic rock.

Journey sucks I don't care what anyone says they are terrible, although I know so many fanboys out there would love to hear the crap.

Would you really want to play bon jovi in a club, bar etc.?

Neil diamond, Rick Springfield, bryan adams really?

THE COMMODORES ARE FLIPPIN FUNK!

Mustang sally was written and recorded by sir mack rice, also not rock.

With the exception of 25 and 36-40 and pride and joy if i could find a guitarist who can play like Stevie Ray Vaughn , I wouldn't want to play any of these songs.

David Hamilton from Lexington, KY on June 19, 2014:

You know someone is going to ask, so here it is!

Play some Freebird.

Very well done list. I'm just playing with you.

hub-DanielKennedy from Adelanto, California on June 02, 2014:

Thanks for this. So many musicians have trouble understanding performance music vs showcasing of talents. As a convert to bass guitar (25+ years of guitar playing sidelined due to left-hand issues) I think I know where BassShredder is coming from. But, let's face it ... good bassists are the unsung heroes of tight bands. And also of bands that want people to dance!

Steve Witschel (author) from New Orleans, LA on April 28, 2014:

Can you elaborate, BassShredder? What's not good about it?

BassShredder on April 28, 2014:

Ugh....not a great list at all.

Billy DiMeo from Boston on April 26, 2014:

I think you need to know this songs if you want to make random friends at the bar. Either way, useful list.

vintagenola on April 08, 2014:

We sometimes play "Jessie's Girl" into "Enter Sandman".... Trust me... It works

John on March 29, 2014:

Where's Takin' Care Of Business?

Jon W. on March 07, 2014:

Excellent post and very cool list. I just sent it to my band mates for their review and consideration.

@Rebekah from Tampa Bay, we do that song, we also want to rule the world. :)

.

Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on January 28, 2014:

As someone who grew up listening to R&B, what strikes me is how few of these song I've even heard of, let alone heard sung. "Me & Bobby McGee," "Mustang Sally" (of course), and 3 or 4 others, and that's it. Oh well, I guess I'll keep my trumpet packed away a little longer.

rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on July 26, 2013:

One of my favorite cover bands played this great song from the 80's. It was the song that put Tears For Fears on the US charts. The opening is classic 80's fun, it has great guitar, a good dance beat and it's an overall crowd pleaser. We all want to rule the world, yeah! It seems like it would be a fun song for the musicians also! Upbeat yet smooth. I like the official video for this song. I guess it would considered more of pop rock rather than classic rock?

Steve Witschel (author) from New Orleans, LA on July 23, 2013:

Thanks Rebekah! Yes, I've played "Smooth" with several bands and it's a great tune that goes over well. I think it would probably make it into the top 100. I don't know about the Tears For Fears song. I've never played it nor have I ever heard a cover band do it. Thanks for the feedback!

rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on July 23, 2013:

Nice list! I love many of these songs, and a great cover band is worth driving to hear. I used to drive an hour every weekend to see a fabulous cover band. Where's Smooth/Santana? It's a classic and the dance floor will be packed with the opening notes. Everybody Wants to Rule the World/Tears for Fears? It's probably hard to make a list like this. There are so many great songs to cover. You've put together a great list and I loved reading your reasons. Fun to read!

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