The Top 20 Ultimate Covers For Pub Rock Bands

How well do you know your rock anthems? We’ve searched the web to pull together some of the best rock classics from around the world.

We’ve ticked off hits from Australian rock legends Midnight Oil to the classic riffs of Bon Jovi. There’s something for everyone. Choose your favourite. Learn the lyrics. Next time it’s rock night at your local pub or RSL you and your band will be prepped to go. Or at least join in on a heartfelt singalong!

Let’s hit things off with a summer rock classic by Bryan Adams.

#1. Summer of ’69 – Bryan Adams

It doesn’t matter how old you are, everyone has heard this classic at least once in their lifetime. Creating the banger was no smooth ride. The song went through several re-writes before getting the final tick of approval. But heck, the effort was worth it! The single was internationally recognised and even made it to Number Four on the Top Music Charts in the Netherlands.

Grab the mic and sing it with me,

“Oh, yeah.
Back in the summer of ’69, oh

#2. Eagle Rock – Daddy Cool

Australian rock classic “Eagle rock,” became the best-selling single of 1971. The classic spent 11 weeks as Number One on Australia’s National Charts and 17 weeks on the Numbpays at the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles rugby league team home games as the club’s unofficially theme song.

Next time you’re in the pub or your band wants to belt out a tune, sing this one. We’ll help get you started:

“Hey-ey-ey, Good old Eagle Rock is here to stay
I’m just crazy ’bout the way we move, Doin’ the Eagle Rock

#3. What I Got Sublime

“What I Got,” released in 1996, was Sublime’s biggest radio hit. The emotional music video was created as a tribute to celebrate the life of the band’s lead singer and guitarist, Bradley Nowell, who died in the same year the song was released.

Together, let’s sing the tune one last time. This one’s for you Bradley:

“Lovin’, is what I got, I said remember that. Lovin’, is what I got, now remember that” 

#4. Sweet Child O’ Mine Guns N’ Roses

The band was warming up, playing a few different chords to see what they could come up with. Meanwhile, lead singer Axl Rose, was inspired by the melody. He grabbed a pen and paper and started scribbling together a bunch of lyrics.

Not long later, Sweet Child o’ Mine was released.

Take note musos, jamming it out in the bedroom could be the start of the next global Number One.

#5. Livin’ On A Prayer Bon Jovi

Everyone loves a good Bon Jovi classic and “Livin’ on a prayer” is a hard-rock anthem. It wasn’t long until the song made it to Number One on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart.  “Livin’ on a prayer” was also the second song to top the charts from their third album ‘Slippery When Wet’.  

As of September 2018, the original music video reached 480 million views on YouTube!

#6. American Girl Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers

The classic, “American Girl,” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers has already been covered by over 24 artists including Matchbox Twenty and Taylor Swift.

When first released, the single never made the U.S. charts until it was re-released in 1994. Since then, the song has ranked 76th on Rolling Stone’s list of ‘The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time’.

#7. Smells Like Teen Spirit Nirvana

The headbanger, “Smells like teen spirit” was Nirvana’s biggest internationally recognised hit. The grunge rock showstopper is the opening track and lead single from the second album, Nevermind, released in 1991.

Yell it with us,

“With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us

#8. Beds Are Burning – Midnight Oil

The song was the second single released from the 1987 album Diesel and Dust.

To this day, the song has been globally recognised, topping charts in New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. The hit came in as number three in the Netherlands, fifth in France, sixth on our home soil (Australia) and the United Kingdom, 11th in Ireland, seventeenth in the United States and Sweden.

Don’t think this one will be losing popularity anytime soon!

#9. 3 a.m. – Matchbox Twenty

Have you ever sat down to listen to the lyrics of the song?

Not only is this song a Top Chart classic, it also has a heartfelt storyline. The song talks about a kid’s journey living with his mum while she fights to survive cancer.

“And she says, Baby, it’s three AM, I must be lonely
And she says, Baby, well, I can’t help
But be scared of it all sometimes
And the rain’s gonna wash away, I believe this

#10. Play That Funky Music Wild Cherry

Sing your lungs out to “Play that funky music”.

Marked as number one on the number one on the Hot Soul Singles chart. Number 93 on Billboard magazine’s All-Time Top 100 Songs in 2018. 2.5 million records sold in the United States alone.

Sing it with me,

“Yeah, they was dancin’ and singin’ and movin’ to the groovin’
And just when it hit me somebody turned around and shouted:
Play that funky music white boy

#11.  All the Small Things Blink 182

We’ve all caught ourselves singing this song at least once in our lives. You would have heard it in the Alvin and the Chipmunks trailer and Charlie’s Angels ending credits. The song has a fun upbeat tune so if you want to get the crowd rocking then get onto these lyrics,

“Say it ain’t so,
I will not go,
Turn the lights off,
Carry me home

#12. Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison

Northern Irish singer and songwriter, Van Morrison is behind the 1967 pop rock song, “Brown eyed girl”. The original lyrics were considered sexually suggestive and many radio stations played an alternative version. However, that didn’t stop the song from gaining worldwide attraction. Even today, classic rock radio stations still regularly play the tune.

#13. Jessie’s Girl – Rick Springfield

Rick Springfield is not a one-trick pony. Juggling a TV and music career is no easy gig but if anyone can do it’s Aussie favourite Rick Springfield. The song is about one-sided love with his best friend’s girlfriend.

Turn up the speakers and you’re bound to get the entire room singing,

“You know I wish that I had Jessie’s girl
I wish that I had Jessie’s girl
Where can I find a woman like that?

#14. Khe Sanh – Cold Chisel

The song title, “Khe Sanh” was named after the district capital of Hướng Hóa District, Quảng Trị Province in Vietnam. The song talks about the challenges life brought when travelling back to Australia after the war including post traumatic stress disorder, addiction to speed and Novocaine. Let’s take a moment to listen to the lyrics:

So I worked across the country from end to end
I tried to find a place to settle down, where my mixed up life could mend
I held a job on an oil-rig

#15. Highway to Hell – AC/DC

“I’m on the highway to hell
On the highway to hell
Highway to hell
I’m on the highway to hell

Australian hard rock band, AC/DC sure knows how to get a crowd moving. Instant classic, “Highway to hell” was on the band’s fifth internationally released studio album.

#16. Enter Sandman Metallica

It doesn’t matter what genre of music you listen to, everyone knows Metallica. In 1991 the band released Enter Sandman. The lyrics were children’s nightmares and how to deal with them.

Let’s take a look at the lyrics,

“Dreams of war, dreams of liars
Dreams of dragon’s fire
And of things that will bite

#17. When I Come Around – Green Day

We all love a punk rock boy band. “When I come around” is the tenth track on Green Day’s album, Dookie. The song was the band’s most successful single and is still sung in pubs and RSLs all over the world. As of August 2010, “When I come around,” sold 639,000 copies, making it the band’s second best-selling single of the 1990s.

#18. Berlin Chair – You Am I

Berlin Chair, originally released in 1994, was the second single from the album “Sound As Ever”. The most impressive result was coming in Number 23 in 1994’s Hottest 100. In 1999, the song was voted the best Australian song of the 1990s in a telephone poll.

#19. Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond

This soft rock classic was released in 1969. Neil was inspired to write the song after seeing an old picture of John F. Kennedy’s 11-year-old daughter, Caroline. The photo was of her sitting on a horse with her parents in the background. Flooded with inspiration, Neil started writing and soon came up with, “Sweet Caroline.” Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of the lyrics.

“Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I’ve been inclined
To believe they never would

#20. Creep —  Radiohead

Radiohead’s debut single, “Creep” was released back in 1992. Like other classics such as American Girl by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Creep didn’t gain any major popularity until it was re-released in 1993. Since then, the song has been covered on reality shows across the world including on The Voice.

Rock it out to your favourite tune

It’s your time to shine.

We’ve covered some of the best rock songs in the world.
If your band had five minutes to entertain a crowd with your favourite rock song, which song do you choose?

An Australian AC/DC rock classic? Or maybe “Sweet Carolina”. Perhaps Nirvana is your rock anthem.

The choice is yours.

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