The Bobs are an a cappella group that pride themselves on their originality – and when you’re writing songs with titles like “Mopping, Mopping, Mopping,” “Andy Always Dreamed of Wrestling,” and “Please Let Me Be Your Third World Country,” there’s clearly a lot of originality to be proud of. There’s just as much originality in their renditions of songs they didn’t write, and they’ve been entertaining audiences across the US and Europe with them for almost a third of a century with nothing but voices and self-percussion.
This March, we pit 64 Beatles covers against each other in what we call Moptop Madness.
Yesterday’s winners: Sufjan Stevens, “What Goes On” and Junior Parker, “Tax Man”
We’re all over the place today. In ring one, the Bobs’ a cappella “Helter Skelter” goes head to head with Ike & Tina Turner’s raving “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window.” In ring two, Gomez’s far-out “Sun King” undertakes a mystical battle with Sukilove’s equally far-out “Love You To.”
Listen to each pairing below, then vote for your favorite. For added sway, try to convince others to vote your way in the comments. Voting closes in 24 hours.
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.
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When creating this post I wondered whether it was irresponsible to post songs about cocaine. Going through my list though, my worries faded. These songs are uniformly negative! One guy shoots his wife under the influence, another gets locked up in a room with padded walls, and a third wrecks a train. So no arguments about glorifying the rock and roll lifestyle please because, yeesh, sounds terrible.
The Loved Ones – Cocaine Blues (T.J. “Red” Arnall)
I always thought this was a Johnny Cash original. Its badass-itude rivals even “Folsom Prison Blues,” so it truly seems straight out of the darkest imaginings of the Man in Black himself. [Buy]
Sister Hazel – Gold Dust Woman (Fleetwood Mac)
A sitar intro marks this as memorable from the get-go, and it doesn’t disappoint. Doubly appropriate because the original album Rumours basically evolved from one big coke orgy. [Buy]
Ezra Kachi – Crazy Train (Ozzy Osbourne)
Don’t hate on Ozzy. This song has a great tune, some fun lyrics, and a pound-your-fist chorus. The sensitive acoustic take here keeps the first two at least. [Buy]
Bob Dylan – Cocaine Blues (Trad.)
This tune (not to be confused with the Arnall/Cash one above) is clearly a Dylan favorite. It appeared in his early sets, like this New Yoek take from 1962, then reappeared thirty-five years later with a full band arrangement and plenty of harmonies. You can’t beat the finger-plucking in this young-Bob version. [Buy]
Turin Brakes – Moonlight Mile (The Rolling Stones)
According the Robert Christgau this song “re-created all the paradoxical distances inherent in erotic love with a power worthy of Yeats, yet could also be interpreted as a cocaine song.” That’s a bit of a leap (though many have made it), but this lonesome duet is worth posting. [Buy]
Michael Franti & Spearhead – Casey Jones (Grateful Dead)
A live one from back in May, Franti makes Mountain Jam’s Deadheads wet themselves with a brief reggae-fied snipped of one of the Dead’s few actual hits. [Buy]
Minus 5 – That Smell (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
This one’s about just about every drug there is, and sounds like a D.A.R.E. ad campaign. The stripped-down slow burn highlights the almost comically serious lyrics. [Buy]
The Bobs – White Room (Cream)
For some reason an a cappella group singing a tune about a guy freaking out on cocaine and heading to an insane asylum (probably) strikes me as amusing. The fact that they knock it out of the park – complete with a “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” vocal solo – comes as a nice addition. [Buy]
Scott D. Davis – Master of Puppets (Metallica)
It’s instrumental cover-piano by the master of the genre (well, him and Christopher O’Riley) and as such you might miss the reference. So here it is. “Needlework the way, never you betray / Life of death becoming clearer / Pain monopoly, ritual misery / Chop your breakfast on a mirror.” [Buy]
Eric Ambel & the Roscoe Trio – Cocaine Eyes (Neil Young)
Ambel earned his keep shredding for Joan Jett’s Blackhearts Steve Earle’s Dukes , so it’s not surprising the man’s a Neil Young fan. He does grunge-blues as well as the Man in Flannel himself. This comes from the excellent More Barn tribute album. [Buy]