There are some music genres, such as hip-hop, whose songs should only be handled by artists working within that genre (nobody really wants to hear Neil Young rap, do they?). But with genres such as country, having outsiders try their hand at the sound isn't such a bad idea. Here are eight great country songs that weren't performed by country artists.
1. The Beatles - "What Goes On" (1965)
This Rubber Soul track was the first Beatles song to feature a writing credit from Ringo Starr, and it served as his perfunctory lead vocal performance on that album. Although the band dabbled in country again (on the also Ringo-penned "Don't Pass Me By") this is by far the Fab Four's most twangy number.
2. Meat Puppets - "Lost" (1984)
This Phoenix trio pioneered a style of rock known as "cowpunk", which is a countrified version of punk, best exemplified by this bouncy track off of their second album.
3. R.E.M. - "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" (1984)
Originally, this track from R.E.M.'s 1984 album Reckoning, written by bassist Mike Mills, was more of a straightforward punk song, but was eventually arranged in a country style as a joke to the band's manager. I must have missed the punchline to that joke, because I was too distracted by how perfectly executed this song is.
4. Minutemen - "Corona" (1984)
This song will undoubtedly be recognized by anyone born after 1980 as the theme song to Jackass. However, once you get the image of Johnny Knoxville getting kicked in the crotch out of your brainthis is actually quite a beautiful song about seeing Mexican poverty firsthand.
5. Tom Waits - "Blind Love" (1985)
Tom Waits' 1985 magnum opus Rain Dogs is the most eclectic LP he ever released; he tackles jazz, blues, folk, beat poetry, polka, and of course, country. Since this is Tom Waits we're talking about, though, "Blind Love" is probably the most ragged country ballad ever recorded.
6. Pavement - "Range Life" (1994)
A huge number of Pavement's songs are noisy, off-the-cuff, and filled to the brim with lyrical non-sequiturs, but on their 1994 classic "Range Life," they abandoned their usual sound to write an incredibly focused and breezy country tune. If the Eagles formed in the 90s and were 100 times weirder, they would have written a song like this.
7. The White Stripes - "Hotel Yorba" (2001)
Three chords and two minutes were all the White Stripes needed for a memorable song, and on this track from the Detroit duo's 2001 breakthrough album White Blood Cells, Jack White didn't even need an electric guitar. "Hotel Yorba" comes barreling out of your speakers and before you know it, the band moves on to the next gem.
8. Of Montreal - "Amphibian Days" (2013)
If you had told me two years ago that Of Montreal were going to abandon prog-fueld psych-funk for alt-country, I wouldn't have believed you, but they pulled off this shift in tone gracefully, particularly with "Amphibian Days". Of course, this is still Of Montreal we're talking about, so the song floats along with totally bizarre chord changes and some light Beatles-esque psychedelia.