The 10 best rock covers of classic TV theme tunes

Featuring rock, punk and metal versions of everything from The Simpsons to the Friends theme songs…

The 10 best rock covers of classic TV theme tunes

Thanks to those scamps in Neck Deep covering the Peep Show theme tune recently, we’ve been wistfully thinking about the long and curious relationship between rock music and TV shows.

There have been countless examples of great songs introducing classics, like Nerf Herder’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Freaks And Geeks using Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation, for example. Legends from the world of alternative music have even written original pieces for TV shows, like Ozzy Osbourne’s Dog The Bounty Hunter opener or Primus’ famous South Park intro.

But when you consider how much free time musicians must spend between studio and touring just sat in front of their TVs, it’s no surprise that the boredom can often lead to transforming their favourite theme songs into covers.

It’s usually a lot of fun, as this combo of Ted Leo and Aimee Mann, performing as The Both running through their favourites proves. There are even whole bands dedicated to exclusively covering movie and TV theme songs, which is a whole new level of niche. Then you have people like friend of Kerrang! Matt Berry, who in 2018 recorded a full album of old school TV theme song covers, just for the hell of it.

Here, then, are 10 of our all-time favourites…

Friends (Goo Goo Dolls)

Did you know that REM’s Shiny Happy People was the song first to be considered for the Friends theme tune? Well, now you do. But it would be the payday of all paydays for unknowns The Rembrandts, whose irrepressible I’ll Be There For You won out in the end. Here’s the Goo Goo Dolls covering it, sucking the saccharine out and punking things up a touch. Not bad, really.

Ducktales (Panic! The Disco)

If you're given the opportunity to sing on one of the world's most popular talk shows, you should use it to plug your latest single, right? Here, P!ATD's Brendon Urie takes up Jimmy Fallon’s invitation to perform in front of a huge nationwide audience and instead of banging out one of his own tunes he does a cover of Disney’s DuckTales theme song. Why? Well, why not?! And it rules, obviously. Watch this in wonder, as his quiff stays impeccable throughout, too.

Spider-Man (Ramones)

The Ramones are the greatest punk band there ever was, and Spider-Man is so unassailably cool he still looks almost exactly the same as he did when he first came on the comic book scene in 1962. Put both of these New York icons together and you have an undeniable slice of greatness, courtesy of this really quite brilliant compilation, from which we could have chosen almost any contribution for inclusion on this list. Marvelous? Marvelous! Aerosmith also did a version, as did The Distillers, but the Ramones did it first and best.

Twin Peaks (The Wedding Present)

And here’s something completely different: David Gedge’s wonderfully miserable Leeds lot doing their version of the theme from David Lynch’s legendarily head-scratching mystery serial. Well, technically speaking, as the TV show’s theme was Angelo Badalamenti’s instrumental take on longtime collaborator Julee Cruise’s original, Falling. With or without the lyrics, though, this one retains its brooding, eerie menace and is a genuine masterpiece in any guise.

The Simpsons (Green Day)

Here’s another famous theme tune that a bunch of bands have had a go at covering, but we’re awarding the crown to Green Day, not least because their version had the distinct honour of featuring in The Simpsons' 2007 movie. Weezer come in a very close second thanks to their most recent appearance (well, as a band called Sailor’s Delight) in front of a rabid Springfield audience. We’ll let you argue the toss over whether Yo La Tengo’s trippy take or Sonic Youth’s suitably gnarled interpretation should take third place…

Diff’rent Strokes (Less Than Jake)

Ska-punk heroes Less Than Jake apparently love covering TV theme songs so much that they recorded a whole load of them for their 2010 TV/EP release. As with the band’s original material, it’s a lot of fun, but our pick of the peppy bunch is their restrained version of the theme from beloved ’80s fish-out-of-water sitcom Diff’rent Strokes.

Game Of Thrones (RATM, Anthrax, Extreme)

You want epic? How about taking the theme song from the biggest TV show of the past 10 years and making it metal, putting bona fide shredding legends in a room together and watching on as they do their damnedest. There’s many covers of this one out there, but Tom Morello, Scott Ian and Nuno Bettencourt jamming with country star Brad Paisley alongside the show’s creator and theme composer is pretty hard to beat.

Gigantor (Helmet)

We’re allowing ourselves one more entry from the Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits comp, because this one is so unlikely and yet so perfect it deserves to be heard by more people. Helmet are a pretty serious and po-faced sort of band, known for their no-nonsense riffage and frill-free approach to making their unholy racket. So here’s Page Hamilton and the gang gloriously sending up that image with this oh-so-them cover of the Gigantour theme tune. Crunch!

Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? (Snuff)

Most people reading this are probably too young to remember the knockabout ’70s British sitcom Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? but not Snuff. Snuff have been around the block a fair bit, and the Hendon punks are no strangers to lighthearted covers of pop songs and TV jingles, having turned their hands to everything from Tiffany’s I Think We’re Alone Now to the Shake ‘N’ Vac song. This lovably knowing run through of the popular old BBC show’s theme is among their very best.

M*A*S*H (Manic Street Preachers)

There have been a slew of covers of the theme from M*A*S*H done down the years, including this, by none other than Marilyn Manson, but Manic Street Preachers’ version is probably the finest of the lot. It earned the Welsh quartet their first UK Top 10 entry and set them on the path to stardom, too. Not bad considering it reportedly only cost them £80 to record.

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