As far as television shows go, HBO’s True Blood is bloody awesome. In its seven season run, the show combined a mix of sinister, sexy and silly into a hit show that I was sad to see end, so much so that I’ve begun watching it all over again, and it’s just as fun as the first time around in every aspect… particularly the music.
The Music Supervisor (and team) for True Blood did a phenomenal job overall on the entire soundtrack, and music was such a big part of the show that each episode is actually named after a song title that was used in that particular episode. As a music person myself, I was especially impressed by the shows use of cover versions of popular songs (versions by artists different than the artist best known for that particular song).
The eight covers listed below – which you can listen to if you scroll to the bottom of this post – represent only a few of the songs used in the soundtrack, but more specifically some of the cover tracks used on the show. They are all edgy and different, yet hauntingly familiar, and although many of them are not available on official True Blood soundtrack compilations, I hunted down the hard to find ones to put together my own custom compilation True Blood’s crypt-kicking covers.
“Just Like Heaven” by The Watson Twins
Featured in Episode 7, Season 1
The first of many artists on this list that hadn’t been on my radar prior to watching True Blood, these two identical twin sisters refer to their style as Indie-Folk, and from the style of this cover I’d have to agree. Their cover of “Just Like Heaven”, originally written and recorded by The Cure in 1987, is a fresh and more tender interpretation of the original.
“Trouble” by Jackie DeShannon
Title track from Episode 5, Season 3
I had to track this tune down as it wasn’t available online, but on a rare compilation CD I had to order through my local record store. Elvis Presley recorded and charted with this tune in 1958, and Jackie DeShannon a year later in 1959. Admittedly, I like this version better than Presley’s, and recognized it immediately during the end credits of episode five in the third season.
“She’s Not There” by Neko Case and Nick Cave
Title track from Episode 1, Season 4
“She’s Not There” was the debut single for the British Rock band The Zombies in 1964, and although that version would have been perfectly suited for the True Blood soundtrack, the great music minds opted for this unlikely duet cover, which, like many of the other songs from the show, has an eerie and sinister feel. Yet another great cover, well suited for the supernatural.
“Burning Down The House” by The Used
Title track from Episode 10, Season 4
With its borderline maniacal lyrics, this tune was originally written and recorded by The Talking Heads in 1983. This cover by The Used, a Punk/Alternative/Hardcore band out of Utah, sounds perhaps even more maniacal with a hard, edgy, industrial sound, is again another perfect choice for a vampire show. It was also featured in the movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
“Turn, Turn, Turn” by My Morning Jacket
Title track from Episode 1, Season 5
Written by Pete Seeger in 1950, and adapted almost word for word from Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes, “Turn, Turn, Turn” became a major hit for the Folk-Rock band The Byrds in the mid 1960s. The cover used in True Blood by the Louisville, Kentucky based band My Morning Jacket is one of many covers of this iconic song, but this version has a subtle edge, making it perfect for the show.
“Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Care Bears on Fire
Title track from Episode 9, Season 5
Care Bears on Fire are a Brooklyn based Pop-Punk all-girl band with the edginess of L7 and the bounciness of The Go-Go’s. “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” was originally a mega-hit for the Post Modern 80s band Tears For Fears in 1985, but this cover is much more upbeat, while retaining a retro sound thematically well matched for the True Blood soundtrack.
“You’re No Good” by The Plasticines
Title track from Episode 3, Season 6
This was easily the second hardest cover to track down, unavailable online the CD had to be ordered from The Plasticines native country, France. This French all-girl rock band delivers a naughty little version of the #1 Linda Ronstadt 1974 classic (although originally recorded by Betty Everett in 1963). The title of the song alone makes this yet another perfect fit (cue “Bad Things”) for a show about vampires and the supernatural.
“I Wanna Be Your Man” by Mobley
Featured in Episode 9, Season 6
Major kudos to the Music Supervisor for squeezing in a Lennon/McCartney tune, originally recorded by The Rolling Stones and then by The Beatles themselves (click here for a great article on the subject). Mobley, an Austin, Texas based Indie-Rock band hits a home run with this classic, reworking the sound into something nefarious and eerie, another home run choice for the soundtrack.
Whether you’re a fan of True Blood, vampires, the supernatural or just great cover songs, these eight tunes should really hit the spot. The show did feature endless originals that had the same je ne sais quoi, like “That Smell” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “In The Evening” by Led Zeppelin and “Spellbound” by Siouxie and the Banshees just to name a few. All of this great music combined made for a perfectly crafted and truly remarkable soundtrack.
Bravo to the Music Supervisor of True Blood, and to HBO.