Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
The Japanese punk band the Blue Hearts were together for the decade 1985 to 1995. Spurred on by a healthy dose of inspiration from U.S. and U.K. punk rock pioneers such as the Ramones and the Clash, the band injected the genre with a spirit and style all their own. They became one of the country’s biggest bands, routinely filling arenas and topping the charts.
For a brief moment in the early 1990s, they attempted to conquer the U.S. market.
The group conducted a brief U.S. tour and released a greatest-hits EP, which received rave reviews from the indie and college presses. “The Blue Hearts are the coolest cultural export from Japan since Godzilla or Speed Racer,” the Boston College student newspaper The Heights wrote in 1990. “Though an accurate description would be tough to come up with, the best idea of what the band is like can come from imagining the Ramones, with surf guitars, singing in Japanese. Their self-titled, six-song EP (their first American release) is a slab of vinyl, filled to the top with goofy, fast-paced, good-time music.”
They even got the MTV News treatment with a featurette from the channel’s rock journalists John Norris and Kurt Loder. “The Blue Hearts powerhouse performance style seems to translate completely,” Loder said. In the clip, vocalist Hiroto Kōmoto told them: “The language barrier might be our biggest problem, but we grew up listening to bands like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles who all sang in English and we couldn’t understand them either, so we think it could work.”
Alas, mainstream success in the U.S. was not meant to be. No matter. Even today, the band is still considered to be one of the greatest Japanese rock n’ roll bands of all time.
The band’s best-known track is their 1987 hit “Linda Linda.” Though mostly sung in Japanese, the love song’s infinitely catchy English-language chorus of “Linda, Linda… Linda, Linda, Linda” has shattered language barriers. Like all great punk rock tunes, it will make you want to pick up a guitar, slam out some power chords and scream “Linda Linda” at the top of your lungs.
In the decades since its release, the song has garnered countless covers, served as the inspiration for a movie and is now the name of a contemporary Los Angeles-based teen punk band. Here’s a rundown of some of the best and most-well known covers of “Linda Linda.” It’s never too late for a crossover hit.
Paranmaum – Linda Linda (The Blue Hearts cover)
Major spoiler alert (okay, the movie came out in 2005, but consider yourself warned). Linda Linda Linda is a Japanese film about an all-girl high school rock band. After one member is injured, the group briefly breaks up just days before they’re slated to play their school music festival. They then recruit a Korean exchange student to be their singer and reform as a Blue Hearts cover band. In the film’s climactic moment, they belt out a rendition of “Linda Linda,” winning over their fellow students. Following the release of the film, the group became a real band. Calling themselves Paranmaum (Korean for Blue Hearts), they released the cover as a single along with several other tracks.
The Linda Lindas – Linda Linda (The Blue Hearts cover)
The all-girl teenaged L.A. punk band the Linda Lindas got the inspiration for their name after watching the aforementioned film. Formed in 2018, the group rose to prominence in early 2021 by appearing in the Netflix film Moxie. Shortly thereafter, the group went viral with a live performance of their original track “Racist, Sexist Boy.” The band has naturally performed a cover of their namesake song live too. They play the track as a rowdy bit of garage-style noise rock.
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – Linda Linda (The Blue Hearts cover)
Punk cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes released a rendition of “Linda Linda” as the closing track on its 2011 EP Sing in Japanese. The band gave the song a punk-ska reworking, featuring plenty of reggae grooves and some horns.
Andrew W.K. – Linda Linda
When covering the track, most artists stick to the original Japanese lyrics. American hard rocker Andrew W.K. decided to take a bold step by singing in English. The result is, well, a bit odd. Take the opening lines: “I want life to be beautiful/Just as beautiful as a gutter rat.” W.K. sings the whole track with enthusiasm and his energy is contagious as he belts out “Linda Linda” – no translation required.
Daniel’s Music Studio – Linda Linda (The Blue Hearts cover)
Searching for covers of “Linda Linda” on YouTube yields numerous punk renditions, and many video clips of Linda Ronstadt. This cover is unique as it features the song rearranged for solo piano. Even without the words, the chorus is still as catchy as ever.
Rev. Kossan – Linda Linda (The Blue Hearts cover)
Kazutaka Yamada, aka the Rev. Kossan, honed his musical skills on the streets of New York. In the mid-aughts, the singer and Zen Buddhist monk would sing in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and could regularly be seen rollerblading around Manhattan, according to this video from The New York Times in 2007. In recent years, Kossan has recorded several cover songs and posted them on YouTube. As he sings “Linda Linda,” in a religious chant style, he taps along on a wooden drum and bangs on a bell. Perhaps all music is spiritual music. (Editor’s Note: Sadly, between writing and posting, the Rev. Kossan channel on YouTube disappeared. We’re leaving this up just in case it returns one day.)