One of the most idiosyncratic artists around, Beefheart’s two most obvious associations – Frank Zappa (friend and collaborator) and Tom Waits (follower) – have never actually covered his songs themselves. But plenty of others have, taking the strange originals and reworking them in every way imaginable.
The Black Keys – I’m Glad
A special mp3 release a few months back, the usually hard-rocking Black Keys bring the soul on this loungey cover that sounds like Sam Cooke singing through a distortion microphone.
Chris Spedding – Click Clack
The harmonica train whistles get old eventually, but otherwise it’s a cool slow-blues take on a pretty obscure Beefheart song. Though I guess they all are.
Yat-Kha – Her Eyes are a Blue Million Miles
Tuvan throat-singing combined with Western metal in this Siberian group. They released an album of…different…covers a few years ago, singing such songs as In a Gadda-Da-Vida and Ramblin’ Man in classic throat-singing style. And you thought Beefheart’s voice was unusual.
The White Stripes – Party of Special Things to Do
Released as a vinyl single with other Beefheart covers “Ashtray Heart” and “China Pig,” getting a hold of this is the holy grail for Stripes collectors. Luckily, the mp3’s are widely circulating of a song so well transformed it sounds like a Stripes original.
Sonic Youth – Electricity
Sonic Youth seem to be a go-to group for tribute albums, and they come through with one of the best tracks on the Beefheart tribute (yes, one exists) Fast ‘n’ Bulbous. Funky and off-beat like the Captain, but alternative and twisting like the Youth.
Eugene Chadbourne & Jimmy Carl Black- The Dust Blows Forward, The Dust Blows Back
Originally a free-jazz spoken word piece that doesn’t hit the two minute mark, these bluegrass gents give it a bouncy tune and stretch it out past 6:00. The most drastic reinvention of the bunch, it’s downright sing-along-able.
The Kills – Dropout Boogie
A live staple of the group, they actually released a little-known studio version years ago on the Black Rooster EP. Chunky and spastic, it builds to an explosion that never comes.
Last Fair Deal – Harry Irene
Channeling Frank Sinatra on this slow jazz take, these guys make a Captain Beefheart song sound far prettier than it has any right to be.
The Primevils – Crazy Little Thing
When the original is quirky and offbeat, a classic approach for a cover is simply, make it more accessible. In this track, also off Fast ‘n’ Bulbous, this country-rock group does this that in a fun and lively version a lot more pleasing on the ears.
Stack Waddy – Sure Nuff ‘n’ Yes I Do
A little 50’s rock’n’roll influence here, though the raspy vocals tie it in to the original.