When discussions arise among fans about the greatest rock and roll band ever, three names pop up more than any others; The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who. While there is a good argument for any of the three, The Who has a strong claim to having sewn the seeds for more future genres than the others. So the fact that so many artists from so many areas have covered The Who is easy to understand. What's hard is picking the best. These seven represent the diversity of influence that The Who spread across the musical world.
7. Scorpions- I Can't Explain
German heavy metal titans Scorpions recorded a turbo-charged cover of “I Can't Explain” as an extra song for their 1989 hits compilation Best of Rockers and Ballads and also performed it at the historic Moscow Music and Peace Festival. The single reached #5 on the Mainstream Rock Charts, topping even The Who's own 1965 version, which only made it to #8 on the UK Singles chart.
6. The Hillbenders- The Acid Queen
If any more evidence was needed of the far-reaching influence of The Who, look no further than bluegrass band The Hillbenders, who love The Who so much they recorded a front to back cover of the entire Tommy album entitled Tommy: A Rock Opry, giving nod to The Grand Ole Opry as well. The epic songs work surprisingly well in an acoustic string environment, with the best example being their dramatic rendition of “The Acid Queen.”
5. Within Temptation- Behind Blue Eyes
Considering The Who's massive influence on heavy metal and their penchant for creating epic rock operas, the fact that Dutch symphonic metal group Within Temptation consider themselves fans is no shocker. What is a shocker is that, when they chose to cover The Who, they didn't tackle one of the band's swelling anthems, but the restrained “Behind Blue Eyes.” Recorded for their covers album The Q-Music Sessions, Within Temptation's rendition of “Behind Blue Eyes” is full of swelling strings and grandeur, anchored by Sharon Den Adel's soaring vocals.
4. Hollywood Vampires- My Generation
Hard rock supergroup Hollywood Vampires, consisting of Alice Cooper, Aerosmith's Joe Perry, and Johnny Depp, dedicated their entire debut album to covers of songs by friends of Cooper who had died too young. The Who drummer Keith Moon was one of the founding members, along with Cooper, of the hard drinking “Hollywood Vampires” club during the '70s, so the band dedicated a high octane version of “My Generation” to him. It retains the punk rock essence of the original, with Alice Cooper's theatrical flair.
3. Blue Man Group and Tracy Bonham- Baba O'Riley
The Blue Man Group is best known for their instrumental songs using mostly homemade instruments crafted from PVC pipe. But for their How to Be a Megastar album, they turned their talents to The Who's Baba O'Riley, with their pipe drums almost perfectly simulating the beginning of the song. Of course, being completely mute, The Blue Man Group needed some help with the vocals and called on Tracy Bonham, the daughter of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, for an unforgettable cover that is the most unique on this list.
2. Elton John- Pinball Wizard
Arguably the most instantly recognizable cover of The Who ever recorded, Elton John's rendition of “Pinball Wizard” was recorded as part of Ken Russell's film adaptation of Tommy and instantly became a hit. Using his piano to replicate Pete Townshend's signature guitar riffs, John transforms the song into a Vegas-ready showpiece.
1. Pearl Jam- Love Reign O'er Me
The challenge to covering The Who is in trying to capture the almost unearthly vocal range of Roger Daltrey. That challenge is increased exponentially when you're trying to cover one of the band's most vocally charged rock operas, “Love Reign O'er Me” from Quadrophenia. But that didn't stop Pearl Jam, who has their own vocal giant in Eddie Vedder. The band's version, which was included on the soundtrack for the film Reign O'er Me has since become a widely bootlegged favorite of fans.