Tune du Jour: “House of the Rising Sun” – Traditional
THE CLASH of Cover Tunes: Adolescents vs. John Otway vs. Nina Simone
Peruse, Comment and Vote (I Beseech, Implore and Urge Thee, respectively)
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Broccoli For Miles And Miles And Miles And Miles And Miles ... Oh Yeah!

Oh Mother, Tell Your Children,
Not to Do What I Have Done,
Spend Your Life Devouring Broccoli,
In the House of the Rising Sun


The House of the Rising Sun is a traditional folk song. Its origin may date back as far as the 16th century, sharing some thematic resemblance to the British ballad, The Unfortunate Rake. The oldest known recording of the song, under the title Rising Sun Blues, is by Appalachian artists Clarence “Tom” Ashley and Gwen Foster, who recorded it for Vocalion Records on September 6, 1933. The most successful commercial version, recorded in 1964 by the British rock group The Animals, was a number one hit on the UK Singles Chart as well as in the United States, Canada and Australia. The Animals version of the song has been described as the “first folk-rock hit”.

Earliest Known Recording


Clarence “Tom” Ashley and Gwen Foster:


The Most Popular


The Animals:


THE CLASH of Cover Tunes


Adolescents vs. John Otway vs. Nina Simone



John Otway (with substantial audience participation):

Nina Simone:


Oh the disharmony! Much like Harlan County there are no neutrals here. It is your solemn responsibility to decide which cover song prevails. In other words … Which Side Are You On?!!? 


Disclaimer: Votes cast from Florida may or may not be counted.


  1. Cuspid says:

    We’re witnessed perhaps the most one-sided contest in CMI’s brief-but-substantial history. This is essentially a really boring song that is just waaay too long. It really only deserves to be about half its length, and would be genuinely improved if it were. Think about it: Louie Louie at 2’15” – very cool; Louie Louie at 4’35” – dreadful. And House of the RS has just about the same 4 chords as Louie Louie, only played in a minor key instead. That said, all 3 covers here are well done, and except for Eric Burdon’s amazing pipes, actually much better than the Animals’ version. But John Otway’s not only takes the cake in this contest, but because of the audience interaction, may also have the distinction of being the best cover presented on CMI ever!

    • RDubbs says:

      I have to agree with Cuspid on The House of the Rising Sun. For a song that has been covered by everyone twice, I have to admit that personally I do not care for it. Too long and plodding, and unless significantly altered, mind-numbingly boring!

  2. Cuspid says:

    Why can’t we edit our comments once they’re posted? If we could, I would have changed the word “witnessed” to “witnessing”, and then not have bothered to post this additional comment.

    • RDubbs says:

      Cuspid, only the administrator can edit posts, comments, etc. and that would be me. That said, if you would like an edit to a comment then shoot me an e-mail and I’ll take care of it. With the exception of votes I can edit anything. As we have sadly learned, only the Republican Party and Supreme Court can alter votes…

  3. RDubbs says:

    Wow, what about that video of The Animals? Eric Burden looks almost as “natural” and “life-like” as Ted Cruz! Ahh, the exploitation of the Undead is becoming such a tired and over-used modus operandi to garnering popularity!

    Now on to our worthy contestants:

    Nina is always fantastic, that’s a given. And the Adolescents’ version was definitely very good. But Otway … When this guy is “on” he’s at a completely unfathomable level of psycho-absurd entertainment. And this is one of his best. He may not be the most talented of musicians but could anyone name another performer that has as much fun on stage and tailors his shows to maximize his fans’ enjoyment more so than John Otway?!!? I’ll answer that: “NO” there’s is not! As Cuspid alluded to this is a CMI Hall of Famer. It is this type of unabashed joyous entertainment that makes me love cover songs the way I do!!!

  4. Kerry Black says:

    As a kid I only knew The Animals’ version and was puzzled about what “the house of the rising sun” was, why it had “been the ruin of many a poor boy”, and why the singer urged listeners not to “do what I have done”. The narrative never explains any of that. Years later I realized they just switched gender and it’s meant to be about women in a brothel.

  5. Arnold Plotnick says:

    Well, the big philosophical dilemma that plagues all of us CMI subscribers is this: what role should a video play in determining the best cover version? Are we to be purists about the music and forget the visuals? Otway’s version is amusing its concept, and a true joy to watch, but without the video, this one goes to Nina all the way. This is one of her signature songs. Granted, I’m too biased, as I’m a massive Nina fan. She could record herself hacking up phlegm and I’d think it was great. Anyway, this is a song about poverty and prostitution and is full of pain and brutality, and it really needs to be sung by a woman. Dylan’s version, Eric Burdon’s version… all good, but it loses that oomph when sung by a man. In my opinion. That being said, when I was a kid I had a 45 rpm of the song done by a group called Frijid Pink, and it was very guitar-oriented. It was kick-ass, if I recall. Haven’t heard that version in decades.

    • RDubbs says:

      Okay, Arn, first I have to disagree that Otway’s version requires the visual. It certainly adds to the fun observing the silliness but the most alluring aspect of Otway’s version is that the audience sings half the song, which would come through whether you’re watching the video or not.

      And secondly, I found a lot of good-to-excellent covers of House of the Rising Sun, one of which being the Frijid Pink version. At some point in the future it will make its way onto CMI. Until then you can catch it on You Tube.

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