Many moons ago, I played guitar in a few metal bands that you've never heard of. It was a wilder and simpler time back in the day, when men were men and women were groupies.
Just kidding, ladies, I know I'm being bad. You can spank me later.
The bands I was in usually did a song written by someone else. Why? Well, sometimes we wanted to honor a band that inspired us by playing one of their songs. Perhaps one of our new tunes wasn't working out, so we'd use the cover song to round out the set list. Or maybe we wanted to score a sure hit with the audience, since there's no better way to guarantee applause than playing a song you know they already loved.
One summer I played at a campground near Magic Mountain. There were six bands, a buncha kegs, and various substances of questionable legality. It was our version of a thrash metal Woodstock. My band was up third in the order and we took the makeshift stage before the sun was set to go down.
Our show went well and as we closed our set, the crowd roared when they heard the sustain of the opening notes to Slayer's "Raining Blood." The moment the drums kicked in, everybody went crazy. I tried to concentrate on my playing, but couldn't help watching the bodies flying everywhere and the big cloud of dust being kicked up by the mosh pit. Of course, the inevitable fight started in the pit and one of my buddies was shot as we finished the song.
Park rangers, medics, and nearby police were on the scene in no time. My buddy was fine – the bullet grazed his hindquarters and caused no serious damage. The cops, however, didn't look too kindly on the hundreds of drunk, stoned, and in some cases armed, longhairs and were threatening to shut the whole thing down. My girlfriend and I took off, looking for a place where we could have a few drinks and listen to music without a bunch of drama.
It turned out to be the last show that she would ever attend. I guess she wasn't into going to thrash metal shows in the middle of nowhere with a buncha gang members shooting each other. Not even for the free beer.
Here are the videos to a few of my favorite cover songs. Try not to get shot while watching them.
Imagine by A Perfect Circle (covering John Lennon). Lennon has never sounded heavier.
My Humps by Alanis Morissette (covering Black Eyed Peas). Alanis took a sugar-coated pop song and gave it substance.
Metro by System of a Down (covering Berlin). I didn't think an 80s pop song would work for SOAD, but I was wrong.
Satisfaction by Devo (covering the Rolling Stones). Brilliant in the fact that it sounds nothing like the original.
Walk This Way by Run DMC (covering Aerosmith). A pretty straight-forward version of classic Aerosmith, but an important one since it helped show that hip hop and rock weren't musically exclusive.
Where Did You Sleep Last Night? by Nirvana (covering Lead Belly). This version doesn't stray too far from the original, but when Kurt starts wailing in the last half, it's all Nirvana.
My Way by Sid Vicious (covering Frank Sinatra). I wonder if Sid and Frank are jamming this one in the afterlife?
Hurt by Johnny Cash (covering Nine Inch Nails). If I hadn't been familiar with the original, I would've sworn this was a song written by the Man In Black himself.
Gin and Juice by Richard Cheese (covering Snoop Doggy Dogg). More rap needs to be covered like this, biatch.
Hazy Shade of Winter by The Bangles (covering Simon and Garfunkel). I was best friends with the drummer in my first band. Sometimes after our practice sessions, we'd switch instruments: he'd take over my guitar while I banged away on the drums. Even though we played music influenced by the Big Four of thrash metal (Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer), we LOVED the Bangles. We had many intense, hours-long debates over who was hotter, Vicki Peterson or Susanna Hoffs, before we finally covered their cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter." It was much more thrash-metal-sounding than "Walk Like An Egyptian."