In this new series of articles presented by classicrockhistory.com, we take a look at completely different artists and how they covered the same exact song. We then match the two artists against each other and just simply choose our favorite version. It’s all in fun, but at the same time, we’re delivering a little bit of history about the artists and the songs and the time period they were recorded and all that jazz. We decided to start off with a good one, as we will be pitting the legendary Van Halen 1970s version against possibly the most successful female artist of the 70s in the beautiful Linda Ronstadt. We hope you enjoy this series and let us know which one you would have voted for.
Linda Ronstadt – “You’re No Good“
We start out with Linda Ronstadt’s version first, simply because she recorded the cover of the song before Van Halen. The song “You’re No Good” was originally recorded by Dee Dee Warwick in 1963. If the name sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because Dee Dee Warwick is the sister of the legendary soul and pop music singer Dione Warwick. The song “You’re No Good” was written by Clint Ballard Jr. The song was a decent hit for Dee Dee Warwick as it hit number fifty-one on the Billboard Hot 100.
Linda Ronstadt recorded her versions of the Clint Ballard Jr. song in 1974. The Linda Ronstadt version was released on her Heart Like A Wheel album. If you were a teen or even just alive in the 197os, you no doubt will remember hearing this song on the radio non-stop. Linda Ronstadt’s version was a big-time hit. The song went all the way to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974. It was Linda Ronstadt’s first and only number one hit on the Hot 100 of her career. A distinction that may surprise a lot of fans because Linda Ronstadt had a lot of hits.
Linda Ronstadt’s version is dark. That groove just creeps around you as Linda Ronstadt delivers the news she knows what you are all about. No one could sing these types of pop meets country meets r&b songs like Linda Ronstadt could. This was one of the most memorable studio performances of her career.
Linda Ronstadt Studio Version:
Linda Ronstadt Live Version
This live version is from a 1980 concert. It features Kenny Edwards on guitar, Danny Kortchmar on guitar, Russ Kunkel on drums, Bob Glaub on bass, Billy Payne on keyboards, Dan Dugmore 0n pedal steel guitar, and Wendy Waldman and Peter Asher on backing vocals. It may not be as flashy as Van Halen, but these were some of the best musicians in the business. There is so much groove in this extended version. The guitar solos are killer.
Van Halen – “You’re No Good“
For a band that wrote so many slamming original songs during the early part of their career, the group recorded many cover songs. Maybe part of that reason was that they were originally a cover band working their magic in the clubs until they just became too good not to break through to the mainstream. Eddie Van Halen would turn the world upside down with the way he played that guitar as they would become one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. On the surface, it may seem unfair to pit a powerhouse band like Van Halen against Linda Ronstadt, but then again we talking about a powerhouse in her own right.
Van Halen recorded their cover of the Clint Ballard Jr. song on their second album entitled Van Halen II. Like Linda Ronstadt, Van Halen opened the album with the song “You’re No Good.“Van Halen II was released in 1979. The group released three singles from the album but never released “You’re No Good” as a single.
Van Halen Live Version
Van Halen’s studio version starts out rocking hard as the instrumentation just knocks you out right away. It’s a dramatically different arrangement from Linda Ronstadt’s version. While Van Halen’s version breaks out of the gate in stunning fashion, David Lee Roth’s vocal can’t compare to Linda Ronstadt’s. In Linda Ronstadt’s version, the song just keeps circling around until she has you completely mesmerized. Van Halen’s version sort of loses its excitement once you get tired of Roths’ theatrics. It’s a great version, and we could listen to Eddie play those licks all day, but it doesn’t have the staying power that Linda Ronstadt takes you down with.
Studio Version Winner: Linda Ronstadt
In matching up the live versions, it can be tough because a band can perform songs differently every single night. Nonetheless, even though Linda Ronstadt and her band were amazing in the live version, Van Halen live is just too thrilling to vote against.
Live Version Winner: Van Halen
Linda Ronstadt Studio Version
Van Halen vs Linda Ronstadt “You’re No Good” Song Battle article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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