Jimi Hendrix Covers: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (P.S. John Mayer Still Sucks)
This week marks the 39th anniversary of the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, which is famous for a couple of reasons. First, it was such a financial disaster it put the kibosh on any further Wight fesivals for the next 32 years. Second, and more importantly, it marked the penultimate performance of one James Marshall Hendrix. Hendrix's career barely spanned four years, but his influence continues to this day. This has led to a more or less constant stream of wannabe fret jockeys whose greatest legacy will be their endless insistence that college roommates listen to them ham finger their way through another excruciating rendition of "Smoke on the Water." We forgive you, Doug. Part of that legacy is also a rich vein of covers, provided by a diverse group of artists. Some are good, some not so much, and some...well, we'll let you judge for yourself.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Fire": The Peppers are big Hendrix fans, and have done a number of Jimi covers. This was one of the first (off Mother's Milk ), and ended up being the most notorious, as legions of overheated Woodstock '99 meatheads used it as justification to start actually burning shit. We shudder to think what the Dennis DeYoung version would've provoked.
Devo, "Are Your Experienced": You either appreciate this attempt by Mark Mothersbaugh and company to put a different (and decidedly non-guitar oriented) spin on an old favorite, or you want to set fire to those goddamn flower-pot hats. No middle ground allowed.
Stevie Ray Vaughan, "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)": SRV's live versions of Jimi songs were truly something to behold, and while it isn't really fair to compare a cover to the effort involved in actually creating an original song, no matter how talented the guy is, we're not going too far out on a limb to say Stevie made "VC" his own.
Tori Amos, "If 6 Was 9": You'll notice the non-guitar oriented artists necessarily have to make dramatic changes to the original song's sound to compensate. Amos uses feedback and distorted piano with...mixed results. And the added lyrics don't really help. We expected more veiled allusions to the phallus-ocracy.
Sting, "The Wind Cries Mary": We were able to forgive the "Little Wing" cover on ...Nothing Like the Sun because you had Gil Evans playing guitar. Don't test our patience any further, Gordon.
Throwing Muses, "Manic Depression": We're big Muses fans. Specifically, we want Tanya Donnelly to marry us and let us cook her waffles every morning, but this particular cover seemed...unwise. To their credit, they left it an instrumental, though the "solo" leaves something to be desired.
Yngwie J. Malmsteen, "Manic Depression": And then there's Yngwie. There's certainly no denying the guy's technical chops, or the apparent lack of self-esteem that goads him into playing three solos were one previously sufficed. We're just lucky the good people of Sao Paolo didn't awaken "the motherfucking fury."
The Offspring, "Hey Joe": Lead Offspring vocalist Dexter Holland has a Master's in molecular biology, and was a Ph.D candidate at USC. Which just goes to prove that "suck" knows no intellectual boundaries.
John Mayer, "Red House": This is an abbreviated clip, which is just as well, since probably the last thing the world needs is another douchey white-boy blues player. We also like the fact that the Mayer fan who posted this didn't know better than to rotate his clip for YouTube. It's like when our dad took those Super 8 movies where Old Faithful looked like it was shooting out of the side of a mountain.
Winger, "Purple Haze": There are certain things in the cosmos that simply shouldn't be. Things whose very existence are enough to make us question whether or not there is a benevolent hand guiding our destinies, or if we're truly all alone in a howling void. This song, like the platypus and Michelle Malkin, is one of those things.
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