Gonzo: Good tidings, sir.
Blerd: Good tidings back at you, sir.
So, it’s been a minute. Our last convo was kind of anticlimactic.
G: Refresh my memory.
B: It was the one where I threw the Al Green song in, a couple of covers, and a couple of non-covers with the same title?
The one that cost me a buck because I had to buy “Black Tie White Noise.”
G: Ah, yes. “White noiyoiyoise!”
B: Exactly! Damn Al B Sure.
So this time around, it’s on you. (leans back) Entertain me.
G: “I want to be entertained.”
B: You get my references. You’re the best.
G: On the level, man.
Alrighty. Now, like most red blooded American males, my adolescent years included a steady diet of classic rock. These days, I don’t listen to a lot of the big names as much, simply because I played them to death in middle school/high school. But every once in a while, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Doors et. al. hit my sweet spot.
B: As they should. Well, at least two of the three should. The Doors. Gah.
G: Well, the Doors are greater than the sum of their parts for sure. But that’s another can of worms. This week, I decided to dust off the Hendrix catalog to accompany me on the commute.
And while it reminded me how amazing some of his deep cuts are (especially his ballads), it’s provided the topic for this cover convo.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
B: I’m with it.
B: Wait. So this guy’s band was Billy Roberts & Grits?
That’s a soul band’s name, and this guy sounds kinda folk-y.
G: Yeah, he sounds kind of like those Manson tapes. Though it is some nice guitar playing, and certainly shows clear precedent for Hendrix’s version. The song’s roots are unclear, though.
B: It still sounds kinda coffeehouse.
G: Some say it’s a “traditional” song, some say it was penned by Dino Valenti. But Roberts’ is the first recorded version, as far as I know.
B: It sounds like a traditional…very basic.
G: Honestly, I’d never heard this version until recently. I always thought that this was the original:
And by “always,” I mean the last 8 years,
B: Power chords!
Now THIS sounds Mansonesque.
G: It’s hella manic. Like, Joe’s pal just told him about his lady. Joe’s been drinking and snorting coke all night, now he’s picking up his double barrel and heading to town.
The Roberts cut is definitely spooky, but this version is sonically violent.
B: Yeah, assaultive? Is that a word?
G: I’ll take it!
“Hey Joe” became kind of a garage rock staple (a la “Louie Louie”) – The Byrds, The Standells, Love, The Music Machine – all recorded versions of the tune.
B: Really??? I had no idea. I actually thought it was a Hendrix original.
G: I also thought that for years. Speaking of which –
B: So this is, like, a mimed version for TV? Of course it is, he doesn’t have a mic.
G: As they called them back then, a “promo.”
B: This editing is AWESOME.
G: Hey, back then they were probably working with razor blades and scotch tape!
Turns out “Hey Joe” was also Patti Smith’s first single.
B: Really? That’s…odd.
G: Well shit – let’s listen.
Obligatory Patti Smith spoken word intro- and a Patty Hearst reference!
B: Um…this is definitely different.
Sorry, I fell asleep and my head hit the keyboard.
B: I was doing an interpretive dance.
G: I kind of regret listening to this. And I like Patti Smith’s early stuff.
B: I’m gonna burn my bra!
G: NO, HEY – take it off first!
Well, there are oodles more covers of “Hey Joe” apparently.
B: You do realize…this means war, right?
G: Oh, God.
B: (high-fives self)
G: This isn’t even on the first Eddie Murphy album. it’s the one with “WAZUPWITCHU.”
B: (does the MJ finger wag)
G: I’ve just always wondered: did Eddie Murphy expect that people would take him seriously as a singer?
“This is gonna be a new direction for me. And a new direction for music.”
The coda to his version of Hey Joe…what the good fuck.
“Naaaaaanaaaanaaanaa ooooooooo ooo ooooo”
B: You know, apparently Ernie Isley plays guitar on the track, and the riffing is pretty dope.
But Eddie’s singing is funnier than anything he’s done on film in 20 years.
G: There’s no good reason for Eddie Murphy to be doing anything on a record for 7 goddamn minutes. Life is too short, man.
While I am inclined to retaliate with Cher’s version, I’ll instead close with a parody.
B: Eddie’s version wasn’t a parody?
G: Point taken.
B: Are you sure this guy never did drugs?
G: Yes. His audience on the other hand…
The guy was Prince-esque in his work habits.
B: He put out a LOT of music, and was a hell of a bandleader. With some kick ass musicians.
G: The older I get, the more I appreciate the anti-hippie sentiment.
B: Haha…i got nothing against hippies, man…as long as they shower.
This actually reminds me a little of “Alphabet Street.”
G: Wow. That’s left field!
B: All the extraneous talking, sped up voices.
G: Ok, I can see it.
B: All Zappa needed was a public access-quality video.
G: Alright, we’ve taken a detour into the next state. Let’s get back on track.
Any final additions?
B: Nope, i think we’re sufficiently traumatized. There is a Body Count version, but I won’t go there.
G: “I’m headin’ down to shoot my bitch in the mother fuckin’ face.”
B: It’s actually a pretty straightforward version, if i remember correctly.
From a Hendrix tribute.
G: That actually sounds vaguely familiar. Stone Free was the comp.
B: Uh huh!!!!
G: Well Blerdface, what’s your take?
B: EDDIE!!! WHY YOU TREAT ME LIKE ANIMAL?
I’d never heard the first two versions before, but that second one is pretty bomb. I”m not as familiar with it as I am with Jimi’s, obvs. But I dig it.
G: It’s definitely between Hendrix and The Leaves.
I like the insanity of The Leaves’ version, but I think I’ll default to Hendrix, who certainly has the canonic take.
B: I feel like if I knew them all equally as well, I’d go with The Leaves. I’d only default to Hendrix based on familiarity.
G: I feel like Hendrix’s also has a greater emotional intensity, and for my money, it’s the better arrangement, with the backing vocals, etc.
So we’re both on Jimi?
B: Can i split my vote?
G: That’s not how it works.
B: Damn you!!! Hmmm…i’ll go with The Leaves. Just to be a pain in the ass.
G: You WOULD.
This one was fun!!
G: Well, aside from Patti Smith.
B: Peace out!