Africa’s cover of Paint It Black appeared on their only album Music from ‘Lil Brown’, produced by Lou Adler and released in 1968. ‘Lil Brown’ was the name the group gave to the children’s playhouse where they rehearsed, and is a nod to The Band’s album Music from Big Pink released that same year. Members of Africa later became a part of the Brothers And Sisters Of Los Angeles. Paint It Black was originally released as a single by the Rolling Stones in 1966 and subsequently appeared as the opening track on Aftermath, the first Rolling Stones album to feature all original compositions.
Judy Mowatt was just 18 years old when she recorded this cover of Son of a Preacher Man with the Gaylettes in 1970. Three years later she joined Rita Marley and Marcia Griffiths as the I Threes, backing vocalists for Bob Marley and The Wailers.
Son of a Preacher Man was written by American songwriters John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins with Aretha Franklin in mind. Though it was British singer Dusty Springfield who first scored a hit with the song in 1968, Aretha recorded her own version a year later.
Brooklyn based duo Bedouin’s cover of Pink Floyd’s Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun was released in 2017.
First appearing on the 1968 album A Saucerful of Secrets, the original recording is the only Pink Floyd song to feature all five members of the band, as there are guitar parts recorded by both Syd Barrett and David Gilmour. The song was written by Roger Waters, with lyrics borrowed from a collection of Chinese poetry Waters had found – Poems of the late T’ang, Translated by A.C Graham. The title of the song was derived from a quotation by William Burroughs.
Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun also gave Douglas Adams the idea for Disaster Area, the loudest band in the universe – and in fact the loudest noise of any kind, anywhere – who featured in his book The Restaurant At The End of The Universe; the band would crash a space ship into a nearby star to create a solar flare effect during their concerts.
Two versions of Finnish psych rock band Superfjord covering John Coltrane‘s A Love Supreme, the first taken from the 2014 split single/EP Coltrane, which also features the UK Pagan psych rock band Earthling Society covering Alice Coltrane’s Journey In Satchidananda.
A Love Supreme was originally recorded by the John Coltrane Quartet in one session on December 9th 1964, released on Impulse Records in 1965, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time.
American guitarist George Benson’s cover of White Rabbit dates from 1972 and is taken from his album White Rabbit. Hungarian American guitarist Gabor Szabo’s version dates from 1967 and is taken from the album Wind, Sky and Diamonds.
White Rabbit was written by Grace Slick in late 1965/early 1966 and was first perfomed, though not recorded, by the Great Society. Slick left the Great Society to front Jefferson Airplane, who then recorded the song for their 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow. Slick said of the song’s conception:
“I identified with Alice. I was a product of ’50s America…where women were housewives with short hair and everything was highly regulated. I went from the planned, bland ’50s to the world of being in a rock band without looking back. It was my Alice moment, heading down the hole. ‘White Rabbit’ seemed like an appropriate title.”
Slick wrote the lyrics first and then composed the music on a cheap upright piano with multiple keys missing, taking inspiration from Miles Davis’ 1960 album Sketches of Spain as well as Ravel’s Bolero. Of composing the music, Slick said:
“Writing weird stuff about Alice backed by a dark Spanish march was in step with what was going on in San Francisco then. We were all trying to get as far away from the expected as possible.”
An epic heavy prog/jazz rock version of Norwegian Wood by the short-lived band Circus from 1969. Apparently drummer Chris Burrows now teaches Buddhism and Zen drumming while saxophonist Mel Collins went on to work with a ridiculous number of different artists including King Crimson, Bryan Ferry, The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Page, Roger Waters, Trevor Horn, Bad Company, Joan Armatrading, Alan Parsons, Dire Straits and Tears for Fears to name but a few. Remember the sax solo in Tina Tina’s Private Dancer? That was Mel.
Norwegian Wood originally appeared on the Beatles album Rubber Soul in 1965 and is a cryptic account of an extra-marital affair that Lennon was invloved in. The title is a reference to a type of cheap wood panelling that was in vogue in London at the time. While John Lennon claimed the song as entirely his own, McCartney claims they wrote the track together. The sitar part played by George Harrison was the first appearance of an Indian string instrument on a Western rock track and sparked a late sixties sitar craze.
The Electronic Concept Orchestra were a trio who recorded Moog synthesiser versions of film and pop hits, comprising of jazz pianist and orchestrator Eddie Higgins, drummer and percussionist Morris Jennings and jazz guitarist Phil Upchurch – who in the mid sixties had been Chess records house guitarist and later played guitar on Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall album. Their cover of John Barry’s theme for John Schlesinger’s 1969 movie Midnight Cowboy is taken from Cinemoog, their third and final album released in 1970.
Only two versions of Midnight Cowboy exist with a vocal track, neither being used in the film, one recorded by the Ray Coniff Singers and the other by Johnny Mathis.
Fun Fact: Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay had originally been written to serve as the theme song to Midnight Cowboy but Dylan failed to finish the track in time.
Hailing from Tijuana, Mexico, Los Rockin’ Devils super groovy cover of Hang On Sloopy was released as a single in 1965 and appeared on their 1966 album Exitos A Go Go.
Hang On Sloopy was first recorded by vocal group The Vibrations in 1964 with the title My Girl Sloopy. A year later it was a hit for The McCoys. According to McCoys singer and guitarist Rick Derringer, the song was written by an unknown high school student who sold the song to Twist and Shout writer Bert Berns. The name Sloopy was likely inspired by the nickname given to Dorothy Sloop, a jazz pianist from Steubenville who attended Ohio University.
Since it’s release in 1965, the Ohio State University Marching Band have played Hang On Sloopy at every game. In 1985 Hang On Sloopy became the official rock song of Ohio, agreed upon by a House Concurrent Resolution which included the clauses:
‘WHEREAS, “Hang On Sloopy” is of particular relevance to members of the baby boom generation, who were once dismissed as a bunch of long-haired, crazy kids, but who now are old enough and vote in sufficient numbers to be taken quite seriously…‘
‘WHEREAS, Adoption of this resolution will not take too long, cost the State anything, or affect the quality of life in this State to any appreciable degree, and if we in the legislature just go ahead and pass the darn thing, we can get on with more important stuff.‘
Fever has to be one of the most covered songs of all time: from Peggy Lee (who sang the most famous version) to The Cramps; Elvis to Madonna; Brian Eno to The Jam…it would be quicker to list who hasn’t had a crack at it. Still, for my money La Lupe’s 1963 version beats them all.
La Lupe – aka the queen of Latin soul – was a Cuban singer known for her energetic, sometimes controversial, performances. Fever was written by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell, and first recorded by Little Willie John in 1956.
Monophonics cover of Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) appeared on their 2012 album In Your Brain.
Bang Bang was originally written by Sonnny Bono for Cher and appeared on her second album The Sonny Side of Cher in 1966. That same year Nancy Sinatra recorded her version, as did the Italian singer Dalida, whose interpretation spent two months at number one in Italy. Cher later re-recorded the song in 1987 for her platinum comeback album Cher, with Jon Bon Jovi and Michael Bolton on backing vocals (hey, it was the eighties, Michael Bolton was everywhere!). In 2003 Quentin Tarantino used the Nancy Sinatra version in the opening credits of Kill Bill Volume 1. In 2014 a live performance of the song by Lady Gaga appeared as an extra track on her first jazz album Cheek to Cheek.
The Detroit Cobras’ Hey Sa-Lo-Ney is a cover of Mickey Lee Lane’s 1963 Northern Soul floor-stomper, and appeared on their 2001 Rough Trade album Life, Love and Leaving. Sadly, Cobras’ singer Rachel Nagy died in January 2022.
Appearing on Desert Island Discs, actor George Clooney chose to take along with him a copy of William Shatner’s recording of Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds, explaining that it would give him a reason to get off the island. Listening to this record, he said “You’ll hollow out your own leg to build a canoe!”
Taken from William Shatner’s 1968 debut album The Transformed Man, released while he was still appearing in Star Trek, Shatner claims he recorded Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds in the voice of somebody tripping on LSD. Which only makes sense if you buy the idea that he recorded the whole album in the voice of someone tripping on LSD (on Mr. Tambourine Man he certainly seems to think he has transformed into a leprechaun). Waxing lyrical in the liner notes to the record, Shatner states:
“I’ve always had a secret ambition to do something with the spoken word combined with the magic of mushrooms music…and now the dream has become a reality…I’ve had some great thrills in my career…but the thrill I got from hearing this album all the way through was deeper and more satisfying that anything I had ever experienced.”
John Lennon who, along with lyric contributions from Paul McCartney, composed the song for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album in 1967, always denied that the song was a coded reference to LSD, and instead attributed his lryical inspiration to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and the title to a drawing by his four year old son Julian of one of his nursery school classmates, Lucy O’Donnell.