The Original vs The Cover – “You Really Got Me”

For this month’s edition of ‘The Original vs The Cover’, we are going to cover the song “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks vs the cover by Van Halen.  When Van Halen originally released this song back in 1978, I thought it was an original…what did I know, I was only 9.  The Kinks didn’t exist in my world yet.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one as Ray Davies has mentioned that fans have come up to them after shows and thought it was cool that they played a Van Halen song.

“You Really Got Me” was released on Sept 2, 1964 in the US and the song was off the band’s album ‘Kinks’.  The song went to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it went all the way to #1 in their home country of the UK.  It was their third single at the time, but it was the first to really do anything for the band.  It was so successful, it became their signature song.

The song has been described by Ray Davies as a “love song for street kids”.  It is a rebellious track of sex and lust and all around gritty, dirty love.  It is that energy both versions capture so well.

The Kinks

The Kinks’ version had a very Beatlesque quality to it which makes sense since the Beatles were huge at the time.  The band wanted to capture that sound and they truly did.  The song to me also had a real punk feel to it.  It was aggressive and in your face, but it was the guitar sound that really made the song.

Dave Davies guitar was very distorted and he got the sound by slicing in to his speaker cone and poking holes in it with a pen (Denise Sullivan of  The song was built around the guitar sound and that incredible riff Dave plays believed to be from the song “Louie, Louie” (Hasted, Nick (2011). You Really Got Me: The Story of the Kinks. Omnibus Press).  For the longest time, it was rumored that some session guitarist did the solo, but that person has since denied he did the solo.  Oh yeah, that person was Jimmy Page who later went on to join some little band you might have heard of called Led Zeppelin some years later.

Van Halen

Van Halen’s version took the song to another level.  And again, it is the guitar sound that dominates and is the focus of the song.  Eddie Van Halen completely destroys the song (in a good way) and his solo takes the song into a different stratosphere.  Eddie throws in all his little tricks and really showcased what Van Halen was about.  It was the band’s first single ever.  The song would forever become associated with Van Halen.

Van Halen’s version was about 15-20 seconds longer than the Kink’s mostly due to Eddie’s guitar solo, but also due to David Lee Roth.  David had to add his flair to the song with all his little sex noises and just Dave being Dave.  The song lost its punk feel with this version and became a full on rock song.

An interesting tidbit I got from reading Noel Monk’s book ‘Runnin’ with the Devil’ was that Eddie had showed the drummer from the band Angel, Barry Brandt, a demo of the song and the band soon found out that Angel was trying to do the same song so it was a race to see who could get it out first.  Van Halen won!

The Verdict

Most of the time, not all the time, I pick the original version as my favorite and I probably should as it is a little edgier and more punk, but I can’t.  I am a bigger Van Halen fan than I am a Kinks fan.  Plus, with the Kinks trying to make it sound like the Beatles, it really wasn’t a song that was truly theirs now was it.

I also came across the Van Halen version way before the Kinks and it is in my brain as that version.  Whenever the song pops in my head, it is the one with Dave making all those weird noises and it is Eddie’s solo.  Also, if you throw the song Eruption in front of it, it was one of the best 1, 2 punches in music.  With all that being said, I choose Van Halen’s version as my favorite.  I am sure there will be a lot who disagree with me, but I am okay with it as we all have our reasons for liking whichever version.

Let me know in the comments which one you like more or if you don’t like either.  Thanks and enjoy!!

60 thoughts on “The Original vs The Cover – “You Really Got Me”

  1. One of the rare examples of a song bettered by its cover. Like J, I never considered it Beatles-y in its original form. Maybe a bit Who like? I don’t know, I think the Kinks sound like the Kinks.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Pete Townsend was trying to sound like The Kinks with My Generation. In fact, The Who hired Kinks producer Shel Talmy to help get that raw sound.
        Speaking of raw sound, that rawness is one way in which the Kinks were trying very hard to not sound like the Beatles. Actually, they weren’t trying to sound like, or unlike anybody. They just wanted to sound like what the song called for. It should also be noted that YRGM was a riffed based song, definitely not a Beatlesque trait.
        You are certainly entitled to your preferences, but not incorrect musicological statements.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. you are right ! it’s THE KINKS!!!ground breaking tnt for 1964!! van halen does justice but it’s not any better or any worse..van halen complimented tHE KiNKs and have them props again!!! I became an even more links can cos of vanhalen!!!cheers!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Always remember you don’t have this song without the kinks – yes Van took up a notch or two but the kinks at the time of the recording where just getting started – try listening to the cover of 3 kinks songs by LITTLE ROGER and THE GOOSEBUMPS from 1975 called KINKS SIDES on a 45……Victoria – So Tired of Waiting and All Day & All Night ….awesome COVERS.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. If it wasn’t for the Kinks we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I am just brainwashed with the VH version as that was what I grew up on.
      Thanks for the other suggestions. I will check those out.


  3. Like The Beatles? Ridiculous! At their label’s request, The Kinks had tried Merseybeat earlier, with no success. YRGM by The Kinks was PURELY ORIGINAL and came outta nowhere, a monumental leap in a new harder direction in rock and roll, with crazed carnal lust, fuzzed power chords, and a manic string-bending solo all hitting you right in your face. And this while at the same time The Beatles wanted to hold her hand, the Stones were doing RnB covers, and The Who were simply listening and learning, in preparation for recording “I Can’t Explain” an admitted Kinks copy which was their FIRST hit single. Btw, The Kinks followed YRGM with the even harder and more explicit All Day and All Of The Night.
    Van Halen’s version of YRGM is a spirited cover with a great guitar solo, nothing more. Now Van Halen’s “Eruption”, THERE was a spectacular leap forward!!


    1. Apparently you aren’t alone in thinking I am crazy in hearing Beatles. I am going to write it off to the fact I was listening to the Beatles the day before I wrote this. Yes, let’s go with that.

      Lyrically. I agree they were head and shoulders above the Beatles at that time.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this song! I’m 23 and I first heard the Kinks version since my parents prefer British Invasion to hard rock, so kind of naturally, I’d prefer that version. A lot of times I prefer the version I heard first and listened to more. Definitely agree with J and Mike about it sounding more Who-esque than Beatles-esque – it’s more garage to me than Mersey.

    I got into 60s music before I got into 70s music, and I think the music of the 60s was the foundation for the music of the 70s. Music builds on each other.

    Not going to knock the Van Halen version, which is excellent.

    Interestingly enough, I prefer The Jam’s version of “David Watts” to The Kinks’ original – I think it sounds better with a punk/mod revival sound.


  5. Shame on me I didn’t even know Van Halen made a cover of YRGM. What a class version, with Eddie letting rip and great backing vocals and bass too. They really make it their own. I’d be torn as I’ve always loved the growly and dirty Kinks original, so maybe that shades it. Another Kinks classic All Day and All of the Night was covered by the Stranglers and I’ve always been torn between those two versions. Then there is Walk On By by Dionne Warwick / covered by the Stranglers. Arggh. Guess I’m a fence sitter today.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The Kinks sound nothing like the Beatles and The Who copied the Kinks guitar work admitted by Pete Townshend …. true original is the better version.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Cada vez que escucho la versión original de los Kinks es como si un montón de rayos bajaran del cielo y me estremecieran, un orgasmo musical del cual nunca me canso, de hecho, cada vez que la escucho-y soy un fanático de los Kinks desde que tenía 9 años-me gusta más y más y la he escuchado miles de veces. La versión de Van Halen fue una novedad por la improvisación en la guitarra de Eddie, y los chicos en esa época que nunca habían escuchado ni el nombre de los Kinks se volvieron loco con la nueva versión. Pero si me dan a escoger no hay comparación alguna: la de los Kinks es con mucho superior a cualquier cover. Translated in English: The Kink’s original is much better than any cover that I have ever heard, including Van Halen’s….

    Liked by 1 person

          1. I also hear a Beatles influence in that tune. Heck, everyone was trying to do the Beatles at the time. The album it is on is loaded with R&B covers that both the Stones and Beatles were doing at the time. But what do I know? I’m just a dude with two ears and an opinion.


            1. the beatles had apolished sound where as the kinks were out to prove that they could be charming and also kick you in the arse! the kinks also invented a sound called the powerchord!!hello 80s metal!!

              Liked by 1 person

      1. thE KINKS are never given credit for being a great band, yeah van halen had flash and glitter but tHE KiNKs were hard-working class from muswellhill! they rocked just as good and have people somethin to cheer about!!50years later and “you really got me” is still viable and edgy no matter who plays it!!! god save the kinks!!!!!!!#

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I love the Kinks. They were definitely a great band and worthy of HOF. It was only that song that I liked the VH version better. You won’t get any argument from me on the Kinks overall.


  8. Kinks for ever for me – it was revolutionary and Van Halen’s was just a cover. (Disclosure: I’ve never really seen the point of VH, apart from ‘Jump’. Sorry).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This may be a case where a “tie” is in order. The Kinks original is RAW, primitive punk in it’s purest form. And it gains points by being unlike anything else at the time (add me to the people who see no Beatles influence what-so-ever on YRGM.) Van Halen is all flash, which is what Eddie is all about and makes him great. Although it was recorded early in their career, it still stands as one of VH’s greatest moments. By the way, VH’s cover of another Kinks song, “Where Have All the Good Times Gone?” doesn’t quite work when they apply their same, show-offy touch.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are so right on the other cover. That one doesn’t do it for me either.

      As far as Beatles, no one agrees with me on that. I think my thought was more on the sonics of the recordings. The early 60’s recordings from British artist had this similar sound with the sonics to me. I think that is where I was coming from. The Kink’s were definitely more punk which is why I do love their version. The VH one is just melted in my brain due to hearing it when it was actually released and not knowing the Kink’s version at the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post!
    The potency of the first couple of VH albums is hard to resist. And their version is a powerhouse and outstanding for sure. But the tribal urgency of the original Kinks single has maintained its greatness over time far better. Pizzazz point goes to VH, but legacy staying-power to the Kinks.
    Also, as a few others mentioned, it’s difficult to hear any similarities with the Beatles here. While every invasion era group copped some degree of visual presentation from the Beatles, musically the Kinks were distinctly original IMO.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The Kinks’ version of You Really Got Me was recorded in July of 1964 and released in August of 1964. Listen to any rock music around that time, including the Beatles, the Stones, what Jimi Hendrix was doing, what Jimmy Page was doing, and none of it sounds like You Really Got Me. It is simply one of the most important songs to influence what was to become of Rock after 1964. Everyone copied its guitar sound. Everyone. Its place in history aside, it is a very exciting record with a great vocal, backing vocals, bass, in addition to the distorted, aggressive guitar sound. Dave Davies was barely 17 when he played on this record and changed everything. How cool is that? I guess you can prefer Van Halen’s style of playing, but the song will always belong to the Kinks.

    Liked by 1 person

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