Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
In 1975, Neil Young released Zuma, one of several albums he recorded in the ’70s which contained a single song that pretty much eclipsed the rest of the album. In Zuma’s case, it was “Cortez the Killer,” a three-chorder rumored to have been written to make it easier for Crazy Horse guitarist Frank Sampredo to play along on rhythm guitar. Young hadn’t played with Crazy Horse for several years, and during that time Sampredo had taken the place of founding guitarist Danny Whitten, who had died of a drug and alcohol overdose. Clocking in at over seven minutes, “Cortez” was originally even longer — it famously had to be faded out because tape ran out during the session. (Upon learning the song’s last verse didn’t get recorded, Young shrugged and said, “I never liked that verse anyway.”) Bands who have covered the song have been been tacking minutes onto it ever since.