Covering one of early rock and roll's true greats is no easy task. I once read a joke/anecdote about The Velvet Underground: They may have only sold 500,000 records, but each person who bought their record went on to start a rock and roll band. And that's how the genre exploded.
"Rock and Roll" is one of the band's biggest hits (original above), and it's easy to see why. But Jane's Addiction takes a slightly different spin on it in this great cover.
Basically, the differences in the two tunes come down to a matter of the differences in the two bands. Jane's Addiction rock just a little bit harder than The Velvet Underground did. Their cover of the tune was actually released on their debut, self-titled album in 1987, which I always find interesting - if a band includes a cover on an album of mostly original songs, they must think it's damn good. And this one is.
It's true enough to the original to be very recognizable, which is important with a cover. I think artists see performing a cover not only as showcasing their own talents, but also paying homage to a great piece of music created by someone else. Jane's Addiction is clearly taking that road here: the instrumentals and pace are similar to the original.
My favorite bit is how the lead singer actually manages to mimic Lou Reed's awesome high bit at the 2:08 mark. Such an impressive bit of voicework, especially from a really traditional hard-rock vocalist.