THE BEATLES Gone Metal: Classic Covers By BATHORY, METALLICA, LEMMY, SOUNDGARDEN and More
It's pretty safe to say The Beatles are top contenders for the title of "most covered artist" in the history of music, perhaps rivaled only by the lengthy list of bands and artists that have covered the mighty Led Zeppelin and the catalog of David Bowie. And while I'm on the subject of Led Zep, they have also covered The Beatles. Interestingly, Zeppelin returned the favor on at least one occasion in 1980, covering "Money (That's What I Want)" during a live show in Frankfurt, Germany. However, though popularized by The Fab Four, "Money (That's What I Want) is not a Beatles original. The song was penned in 1959 by Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, and Janie Bradford, later performed by Barrett Strong. Anyway, as the list of heavy metal bands and artists that have taken on songs from The Beatles' massive catalog is long, let's dive into the jams on this list in alphabetical order starting with Alice Cooper and his two Beatles covers, "Because," and "Hey Bulldog."
In 2006 the compilation Butchering The Beatles was unleashed featuring a slew of heavy metal Beatles' covers, including Alice Cooper's version of "Hey Bulldog" with Steve Vai on guitar, Duff McKagen on bass, and Motörhead madman Mikkey Dee on drums. This wasn't Cooper's only Beatles' cover, as in 1978, he joined forces with The Bee Gees for a trippy version of "Because" for the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band soundtrack. Cooper's version of "Hey Bulldog" is a nice crunchy riff on the original thanks to the talent of this one-off supergroup.
It's well-known that the late Quorthon (Thomas Börje Forsberg) of Bathory was a huge fan of the Beatles. The 1998 compilation Black Mark Tribute vol. 2, included Quorthon's faithful version of "I'm Only Sleeping" (credited as "Sleeping" on the comp). It's not a black metal version of the song, but it is still completely metal because this is Bathory, dammit.
Former Rainbow vocalist Graham Bonnet covered "Oh! Darling!" on his sixth solo record, The Day I Went Mad, featuring Slash on guitar and former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulik on bass.
Chris Cornell (Soundgarden)
Next up is a cover of "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" by the late Chris Cornell. In 2006 the vocalist performed an acoustic version of "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" on the BBC. Like everything the legendary vocalist has done, it's heartfelt perfection. In 2015 Cornell would bring everyone with working ears to their collective knees with his live cover of John Lennon's "Imagine," a song he would perform a few more times until he passed away in 2017. Here's Cornell remembering how he discovered the Beatles when he was just a kid:
"The Beatles was a band when I was a kid. I think I was eight. One of my neighbors had like four brothers, and the oldest one got kicked out of the house, and he just left all of his records in the basement. And I stole his Beatles records. And he had everything. All the sleeves were ruined, but I grabbed them on a whim. And I just sat in my bedroom and started listening to them. I remember getting into Sgt. Peppers, the White Album, and Abbey Road."
Heavy Metal pioneers Deep Purple did a psychedelic cover of "Help!" only three years after the Beatles' released the original in 1965. Found on Deep Purple's debut, Shades of Deep Purple, the band recorded not one but two versions of "Help." Another piece of cool nostalgia concerning Deep Purple and "Help!" is a professional black and white video (below) from 1968 on top of the DR (the Danish Broadcasting Corporation) in Gladsaxe, a suburb of Copenhagen, Denmark.
On their 2010 debut, Opus Eponymous Ghost included a cover of "Here Comes the Sun" as a bonus track on the Japanese release (2011). Ghost has performed their ethereal version of "Here Comes the Sun" at live shows over the course of their existence and the footage of them absolutely killing the song during a concert in September 2014 in their home base of Sweden (Liseberg in Gothenburg, Sweden) must be seen to be believed.
Heading back to the year 1999 brings us to the all-cover album by Helloween, Metal Jukebox. The record is all over the map as far as Helloween's cover selections go including a sick version of ABBA's "Lay All Your Love On Me," Faith No More's "From Out of Nowhere," and "All My Loving" by The Beatles. Additionally, for Metal Jukebox's Japanese release, they included a somewhat straightforward, symphonic cover of "Something," which is also pretty fucking stellar. I absolutely love Helloween and pretty much think they can do no wrong when it comes to their jams. I'm not wrong. Fight me.
As I mentioned earlier, Led Zeppelin got into the Beatles cover game too. In 1970 at a gig at the Los Angeles Forum on September 9th, 1970, the band grooved out a nearly nine-minute version of "I Saw Her Standing There" mixed up with Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth." Later in 1971, when, after performing a nearly ten-minute version of "Stairway to Heaven" in Osaka, Japan (and after Robert Plant was done admonishing the crowd for being "too quiet"), Zeppelin kicked into a short rendition of "Please Please Me." During the same show, Led Zep also performed about 40 seconds of "From Me To You" (1964).
Another completely metal Beatles cover from Butchering The Beatles comes from the late Lemmy Kilmister, guitarist John 5, and former KISS drummer, Eric Singer. Lemmy's take on The Beatles love letter to the USSR is, like many of the covers in this post, faithful right down to his clean diction. Besides, who doesn't love Lemmy? That's right, nobody and after listening to this cover, you'll probably love him even more.
Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie
Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie were not the first metalheads to cover the Beatles 1968 song "Helter Skelter" when they joined forces in 2018 to record their own version. When the pair were preparing for the Twins of Evil: The Second Coming tour, Zombie and Manson decided to perform the song together during their live shows. They also recorded a version of "Helter Skelter," even though Zombie was on the East Coast, and Manson, at the time, was somewhere in Spain. Zombie has described their version of "Helter Skelter" as "heavier, weirder and more groove-oriented" than the original, while still staying true to the original version.
For their 21st record (!), 2016's Basses Loaded, Melvins pulled together a slightly dire-sounding cover of "I Want to Tell You," (a song written by Beatle, George Harrison on the 1966 album Revolver) with Redd Kross bassist Steve McDonald. For their 23rd (!!) album, Pinkus Abortion Technician, Melvins recorded a very metal version of "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and it sounds exactly like you would expect. Aggressive, somewhat terrifying, full of feedback, and very, very loud. YAY!
As we're on the letter M, let's talk about Metallica and their cover of "In My Life" from 2014. The band performed the song for a MusiCares benefit (an organization that could really use your help right now if you're able), in Los Angeles. The next night, James Hetfield would perform an acoustic version of "In My Life" at a charity event for Acoustic-4-A-Cure. This organization provides assistance to pediatric cancer patients and their families at the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in San Francisco. Hero, James Hetfield, is.
In the very metal year of 1983, Mötley Crüe recorded a riotous rendition of "Helter Skelter" on one of the greatest hair metal albums of all time, Shout at the Devil. In an interview from 1986, Nikki Sixx had this to say about The Fab Four:
"When I was a kid, the Beatles were obviously out already, but I really didn't know the Beatles. I remember I ran across some Beatles tapes–fucking wimpy. Except I kept listening to "Helter Skelter."
Here's the Crüe's anything-but-wimpy live cover of "Helter Skelter" from 1983.
Ozzy Osbourne has given credit to the Beatles for his entire career. Here's Ozzy on the aftermath of hearing "She Loves You" for the first time on his little blue transistor radio sometime in 1964 when he was still a teenager:
"That song changed my life. 'She Loves You' had such an impact on me. I remember exactly where I was. I was walking down Witton Road in Aston, I had a blue transistor radio and when that song came on I know from then on what I wanted to do with my life. This was a brand new feeling. Then I became an avid Beatles fan–they were great."
Over the years, Ozzy has covered the Beatles as well as songs from Beatle John Lennon's solo catalog. First, in 2005 for his album Under Cover, Ozzy recorded his version of the Beatles, "In My Life," and John Lennon's 1980 song "Woman" from his record Double Fantasy. Then, as a part of a 70th birthday tribute to Lennon (with all proceeds going to support Amnesty International), Ozzy recorded a version of "How" from Lennon's magical album Imagine. The poignant video was filmed in New York City with Ozzy clad in black holding a bunch of purple flowers. We follow Ozzy around the streets of NY, where he eventually arrives at John Lennon's memorial in Central Park, where he lays the flowers down beside the word Imagine on Lennon's beautiful concrete marker.
Soundgarden recorded one session for the vitally important John Peel on May 14th, 1989. One of the band's song choices was "Everybody's Got Something To Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)." Soundgarden's cover of the song would later be released on the compilation Kats Karavan in 2009. It is also found on the expansive compilation album Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path.
Type O Negative
When Type O Negative got the green light to do their own version of The Beatles "Day Tripper" (1966), late vocalist Peter Steele joked to MTV News that one of the only reasons they were able to get an okay from The Beatles camp was that Type O drummer Johnny Kelly had to "sleep with Yoko Ono." The truth of the matter, according to keyboardist Josh Silver, was acquiring rights to the song was just "very, very expensive," something their record label had no problem shelling out for. Type O Negative has also been referred to as "the Drab Four," which is, of course, a nodding homage to The Beatles themselves. The band was also known to cover "Back in the USSR" in live gigs.
Let's close out this post by heading back to 1978 to hear (and witness) Whitesnake kicking out what may be the greatest Beatles cover ever with their version of "Day Tripper." Whitesnake takes temporary ownership of the jam by using everything they have, including some talk box action while putting their kinda funky, completely fucking fantastic riff on the 1965 single. Unsurprisingly, it ended up becoming the band's first big hit, and Whitesnake would incorporate it into their live shows — including a show in Liverpool at The Royal Court Theater held to honor the memory of John Lennon shortly after his murder in December of 1980. You can find "Day Tripper" on Whitesnake's first full-length album, Trouble.