Ten of my favourite TV and film cover songs
Some of the most iconic music comes from TV and cinema. Often people fall in love with the music just as much as the characters. Here are ten covers of much loved musical pieces from the big and the small screen.
Avengers Theme Acapella Cover – Patron Çıldırdı
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a pop culture behemoth full of famous characters, iconic moments and classic quotes. Perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the shared universe is the huge amount of generic music that whilst consistently meeting the needs of the film, usually ends up being quite forgettable. One exception to this complaint stands out, the theme tune for the first Avengers movie. Simple, dramatic and catchy, this is exactly what the series needed.
On the theme of superhero team ups, it’s fitting to choose an acapella cover for this song. Many acapellas feature only a few different voices and would struggle to do justice to such a powerful theme song. Patron Çıldırdı are an acapella group from Istanbul and they have definitely risen to the challenge of covering this song. They hit all the right notes as the song starts with a tense build up and transitions to being a heroic celebration. Youtube is saturated with covers of this song, and even narrowing it down to acapella covers I would have had a long short list to choose from. But in fact this was an easy choice since this is one of my favourite acapella covers of any song.
Duel of Fates (Black Metal) – Metalhead Productions
It may not be the best Star Wars movie, but Phantom Menace had some fantastic elements like Darth Maul and this song. Widely considered one of the best things about the prequel trilogy, the song has been covered many times. It’s a grandiose piece that grows from a simple melody into a dramatic crescendo. I was in my early teens when Phantom Menace came out and I liked the movie and loved the computer games that accompanied it. That means I’ve spent a lot of time listening to the movie soundtrack so this track was a dead cert for this list.
My choice of a cover for this song is an odd one. Black metal is a very strange genre and I have a love-hate relationship with it. The guitars are intense, raw and powerful but I can never enjoy black metal because of the ugly vocals that frequently contain ugly lyrics. The genre is infamous for church burnings and hatred of religion. Instrumental black metal is an answer to this dichotomy and sounds fantastic. I didn’t expect this cover to work, but it really does.
Jurassic Park (Weissenborn Instrumental) – Thomas Oliver
Music is intimately connected to emotion. Movie sound tracks can portray any emotion and even evoke those feelings in the audience. Imagine being asked to compose the music for the moment a paleontologist and a paleobotanist first see a living breathing dinosaur. Awe, wonder and joy can all be felt through every note of John William’s piece. My chosen cover by Thomas Oliver is a bit less spectacular and grand than the original but absolutely beautiful. It would also be a perfect fit for that magical first encounter with dinosaurs.
I had to mention this bonus. From birdfeeder on soundcloud comes the original theme music, but 1000 times slower. You can still recognise the music, but it’s a completely new ambient sound dripping with atmosphere.
BBC Sherlock Theme (hammered dulcimer/Hackbrett cover) – TheEadgyth
For most people Benerdict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman were the stars of this modern re-imagining of the classic detective and his adventures. What I fell in love though was the way the show would tell the story through more than dialogue. But it didn’t just mash together text and images to advance the plot. By illuminating Sherlock’s thought processes we could really experience what it feels like to be the great detective cracking a case. Authors can easily show us inside a character’s mind if they choose to, but doing so on TV requires big changes to the formula. This style would get tedious if used everywhere, but for a personality like Sherlock it was perfect.
I don’t know much about the hammered dulcimer except that it’s a beautiful instrument. Variations of the dulcimer appear in many different parts of the world, and it was very popular in the European middle ages.
Pirates of the Caribbean – The Snake Charmer
I’m not a fan of the films but this song is a gold mine for cover songs and this version makes my list for the perfect combination of bagpipe and cello. I have a love-hate relationship with bagpipes. In traditional music, I usually can’t stand the depressing droning noise but put them in the hands of some-one like the Snake Charmer and they become awesome.
The snake charmer has plenty of other great covers especially from film and TV. Her avengers cover in particular is fantastic.
Mission: Impossible Theme – The Floppotron
I discovered Floppotron last year and I keep going back for more. With a mix of music, film, TV and video game cover songs, there is something for everyone. But what is Floppotron? Hailing from Poland, Floppotron is an assortment of obsolete pieces of computer hardware that is far more than the some of it’s parts. None of the components are anything resembling a musical instrument. Using only things like floppy disk drives and a scanner, the Floppotron recreates a host of classic tunes. The sounds may be jarring to many, but I love it. The Mission: Impossible tune in particular seems like it was written especially for this unconventional orchestra.
Farscape Cover – Spontaneous Dentohydroplosion
Making his or her second appearance on my music series, I originally discovered Spontaneous Dentohydroplosion searching for Farscape cover songs. Farscape is my favourite TV show of all time and it isn’t even close. Whilst the show did falter at times in later seasons, it would consistently take risks by playing with genre conventions and being remarkably ambitious whilst looking fantastic at the same time. For me the most memorable things about Farscape were the amazing aliens, radical season cliffhangers and those episodes that really messed with your mind.
Farscape was never celebrated for it’s music, but the theme song helped to convey John Crichton’s wonder, terror and confusion at being marooned on the other side of the universe. I love metal but I don’t listen to many metal covers. They are pretty ubiquitous and usually feel quite generic. Spontaneous Dentohydroplosion’s cover is an exception because this song has a very distinctive sound. Ever since I discovered this video, I haven’t stopped listening to it.
Game of Thrones Theme – Patty Gurdy
The eighth and final season may have just ended in a spectacular and controversial style, and even if you hated the ending, you can still enjoy the series through the music. I’m fascinated by medieval music, it really fuels my imagination and reminds me of great times exploring old cities like Tallinn and Sienna. The hurdy gurdy is one of my favourite musical instruments. Resembling a violin, a wheel plays the strings instead of a bow whilst the keys change the pitch. I must mention the museum of musical instruments in Brussels which has an excellent collection. You can see them and hear them being played through the audio guide.
Patty Gurdy is an excellent musician, and her cover songs have been already featured on my blog. She also writes her own songs which I also recommend checking out.
Red Dwarf Theme 16-bit Amiga Mod – Unknown
Comedy is British TV’s strongest suit. Tied with Coupling, Sci-Fi cult classic Red Dwarf is my favourite British TV show. Featuring a tiny cast trapped on a giant spaceship in the distant future, Red Dwarf struck comedy gold with the classic pairing of Lister and Rimmer. The show was charming, hilarious and creative. Not only with the budget but also the ideas. What if time went backwards? What would happen if you travelled faster than light? What if you could invent a time machine that was restricted to things shown in old photos? No idea was too crazy for Red Dwarf. Red Dwarf was a cult show and the theme song was iconic.
Unfortunately I don’t know who created this rendition of the theme song designed for an Amiga games console. It sounds very different to the original, but strangely it somehow works. Because of the difficulty of compressing audio, old computer games had to create music using a synthesizer from a preset menu of waves and sound. It’s remarkable how much classic video game music talented people were able to create with so many limitations. Modern computers no longer have such restrictions but this style of music has left an enduring legacy with a dedicated community still producing 8-bit and 16-bit music.
For A Few Dollars More – The Danish National Symphony Orchestra
No list of iconic film soundtracks would be complete without a contribution from Ennio Morricone, one of the most influential composers in cinema. While he his extensive career spans many genres, when you think of westerns, Morricone’s music is one of the first things you think of. This performance by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra really shows how rich and complex the score is. Featuring a wonderful fusion of instruments from jaw harps, rock guitars, an ocarina and finishing with a gun, this a truly fantastic rendition of one of Morricone’s best pieces.