Nov 112010

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

“Helter Skelter,” one of many hit tracks from the Beatles‘ exalted 1968 White Album, has often been lauded as a progenitor of heavy metal. There was just something about the track’s discordant guitar, insistent toms, and raucous vocal that spoke to musicians who wanted to be loud. Led Zeppelin properly outlined the genre a couple years later, but with this song the Beatles alerted us to the possibly of its existence in the first place.

It makes sense, then, that metal bands of all kinds would want to take a crack at “Helter Skelter,” the granddaddy of heavy. They’re not the only ones though; dozens of covers by famous artists exist for this song, as well as countless interpretations by those less noted. Below we’ve picked out five that stand out from the crowd.

Mötley Crüe – Helter Skelter (The Beatles cover)

Mötley Crüe‘s Shout at the Devil was one of the seminal heavy metal albums of the 1980s; can it be an accident that Vince Neil and co. included on it their version of the Beatles classic? The Crüe have probably produced one of the more famous covers of the song; it was also the version I heard first and, for a long time, my favorite. This recording really encapsulates most of the hard rock covers “Skelter” would receive by artists like Aerosmith, Pat Benatar, Thrice, etc., and it suits a band like Mötley Crüe perfectly.

Mari Hamada – Helter Skelter (The Beatles cover)

Let’s cross the ocean for a minute and visit lovely Japan, where “hard pop” singer Mari Hamada delivers a killer version of this tune. It has some commonalities with Mötley Crüe’s interpretation, sure, but it removes Crüe’s guitar sludge for a crisper pop-metal tone and then adds a layer of synth. Oh, that synth. It totally makes this version of the song… well, that and Mari’s incredible vocals!

Dimension Zero – Helter Skelter (The Beatles cover)

And staying overseas for just a minute, we’ll check in with Swedish death-metal band Dimension Zero, who take the metal edge of “Helter Skelter” probably about as far as it can go before the song becomes unrecognizable. It’s a truly intense, even ugly, cover, yet it doesn’t feel too far off from the spirit of the Beatles’ original.

Siouxsie and the Banshees – Helter Skelter (The Beatles cover)

Now we’ll switch gears completely with early punkers Siouxsie and the Banshees. Although only removed from the original Beatles recording by 10 years, this “Helter Skelter” seems the most radically different of any of the song’s notable covers. Still, there’s a great energy here, and it’s nice to take a break from metal for a bit, isn’t it?

The Bobs – Helter Skelter (The Beatles cover)

Then again, if it’s a break from heavy you want, you can’t do much better than a capella. Check out this version by The Bobs, potentially the most famous vocal rock group outside Rockapella (PS: This version actually got The Bobs a Grammy nomination for “Best New Arrangement” in 1984!).

Want more Five Good Covers? Check out previous installments here.

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  7 Responses to “Five Good Covers: Helter Skelter (The Beatles)”

Comments (7)
  1. siouxsie link is broken

  2. Sorry ’bout that! Links fixed.

  3. I gotta mention U2’s version from Rattle & Hum: “This is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles; we’re stealing it back.”

  4. you forgot the best one: hüsker dü

  5. Correction: The White Album came out in November 1968, Led Zeppelin’s first album came out January of 1969. It wasn’t “a couple of years later”. And on top of that, there were tons of “heavy”, “loud” bands at that time. In no particular order: Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Who, Cream….go listen to 1968 era Grateful Dead or Jethro Tull….heavy….then you got stuff like Blue Cheer and Iron Butterfly….I mean we can do this all day….it all goes back to the Beatles, and “Twist and Shout”, and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”…and then “You Really Got Me”. But heaviness and loudness was the trend and the direction music kept going, starting with The Beatles….(after the Beatles, no more saxaphones or pianos, rock and roll became almost entirely guitar based)

  6. One more version that may get overlooked due to the bands creative ‘reverse’ spelling of the track (oooooh) = Retleks Retleh by Venus Infers ~Still remains my favorite cover above all others! Check it out here!

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