“Red Red Wine”
It’s hard to say which of UB40’s two No. 1 hits they are better known for, but it doesn’t really matter for the purpose of this list. Both are covers. Within the reggae community, the English band are surely more than the sum of their biggest crossovers, but for the rest of us, it’s their renditions of Neil Diamond’s “Red Red Wine” and Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love” that made the group a staple of backyard barbecues. The former was their first brush with success, actually covering a cover of Diamond by Tony Tribe, resulting in a breakthrough for the band that easily eclipsed the original in popularity. The latter could never ask to do the same, as Elvis’ original is a stone-cold classic, but again turned their sunny reinterpretation skills into a success. The song’s release as part of the Sliver soundtrack certainly helped the situation, with a music video featuring actress-of-the-moment Sharon Stone.
Better Than the Original? Yes and no. “Red Red Wine” has become the definitive version of the song and, for many, likely the only one that people know exist. For the latter, it could even be argued that it’s not even the best cover version, as Spiritualized make the tune a major part of their landmark album, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. And when up against a signature tune from one of music’s defining voices, the pina colada interpretation doesn’t stand a chance.