It seems like a lot of you enjoyed part one of our look at songs that the Hoodoo Gurus have covered over the years, so here's the rest of it. We start in the mid-'80s: founding drummer James Baker is no longer in the picture, Mars Needs Guitars has raised them to another level here and they're making inroads in the US. They've been playing some of their covers for a while, so it's time for a few new ones. Here we go...
As mentioned last time, the Gurus love the Flamin' Groovies and have had an ongoing friendship with them since their first American tour, in late '84. More recently, in 2013, the Gurus actually prompted a Groovies reunion when they invited them to play at the second occurrence of their fabulous Dig It Up festival here at home. A live Gurus version of this appeared on the B-side of their "Poison Pen" single, off Mars Needs Guitars. Sadly two original members of the Flamin' Groovies – singer Roy Loney and drummer Danny Mihm - who both play on this, have passed away this year, Mihm just last week. Play this loud in their honour.
"You Burn Me Up & Down"
A killer '60s psych-punk classic from '66, the Gurus' cover of “You Burn Me Up & Down” found them following the path of Radio Birdman-influenced Sydney bands like the Lipstick Killers and Lime Spiders and digging deep for golden '60s nuggets. This track has always seemed to me like an older brother of "You Drive Me Nervous" by another Gurus fave, Alice Cooper. It's that shrieking agitated guitar. A brilliant choice, and perfect with Brad upfront. A Gurus live version of this was recorded at Selina's in Sydney in 1987 and appeared on the fabulous outtakes and oddities collection Bubble & Squeak, on one of the extra discs that came with the three-disc edition of Bite The Bullet.
"Lend Me Your Comb"
A brilliant and unlikely choice, sung by both Dave and Brad. This Carl Perkins B-side from '57 is a surprisingly and self-consciously teenage number from a guy better known for the kind of hardcore rockabilly more suited to the adult endeavours that went on in honky-tonks at the time. The song became better known in the late '70s for its appearance on the controversial Beatles Live At The Star-Club, Hamburg, 1962 double LP - one of the rawest and wildest live records ever released. A Beatles BBC version from 1963 appeared on their Anthology 1 album in 1995. The Gurus' stomping version, recorded at the same 1987 show as our last selection, and included on the same collection, is markedly different than the original, so let's hear that too.
"Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness)"
This much-loved 1965 B-side by Donovan was more or less a straight cop of an old blues song known also known as "Can I Do It For You?" and "Chevrolet". Another Shepherd-sung scorcher from that 1987 Selina's recording (also on Bubble & Squeak). Jack White's band the Raconteurs (Saboteurs in Oz) also included a version of this on their 2019 album Help Us Stranger.
"Come See Me"
Although they never released a version, the Gurus were playing this Pretty Things classic regularly in 1987. The Pretty Things were the band that parents loathed even more than the Stones in the '60s – they were they fearsomely wild, and their records were too. Originally an American soul number, the Pretties added thumping bass and fuzztone guitar and made something turned it into a real screamer. Of course, the Gurus love a real screamer. Hopefully, a decent recording of their version will turn up sometime.
Rick Grossman must've wondered what the hell he's got himself in too when the Gurus decided to record a version of this for Rick's first single with the band in 1988. A rockin' 1970 slice of Nashville social commentary country-pop from the lady best known for "Harper Valley PTA" was probably not something he'd practiced before his audition. But it worked perfectly; indeed, I'd rate it as one of the Gurus most successful covers, and a work of conceptual genius on Dave Faulkner's behalf, and a thumping arrangement. You really need to hear the two recordings back to back, so here's a Gurus live version from Blah, Blah, Blah as well.
"Stomp The Tumbarumba"
Another genius cover, this uniquely Australian song was originally recorded by Johnny Devlin in 1963, in an attempt to cash in on the Surf Stomp craze which had belatedly hit Sydney. It bore little relationship to the surf music of the era, but in the Gurus' hands at least it became a pounding punky pop tune, not too far removed from what both the Ramones and Johnny Thunders did when they worked material from the same era. The Gurus' version appeared on the B-side of their Miss Freelove '69 single in 1991. It's worth noting too that Devlin's original featured an uncredited appearance by the Bee Gees on backing vocals. Let's check out a cool live TV version by the Gurus of this as well.
More goodness from the Bubble & Squeak component of Bite The Bullet. The Gurus' phenomenal 1997 Ramones medley proves what an absolute powerhouse live band they had become by this point. Brad Shepherd's delivery of "Carbona Not Glue" was as brutal as anything he recorded in his Fun Things days; in fact, he had sung the same song, and several other Ramones tunes, with the Fun Things in 1978, when they were still called the Aliens. Given the Ramones had played their last shows the year before, I reckon this was the Gurus effectively gabbing their baton. Once again we'll give you the Gurus' as well as the Ramones' originals so you can hear how they stack up.
"I Got A Right"
Another one that Brad used to do with his teenage punk band, the Fun Things back in Brisbane. The Stooges' original - recorded in '72 but not released until '77 - is an outrageously full-on performance and recording. It's sort of like hardcore punk before punk, or speed metal before most metal got faster than "Smoke On the Water". The Gurus' version, which appears on the Doppelganger disc of the 3CD Bite the Bullet set, was recorded for Triple J's Live At The Wireless in '94. It falls only slightly short of the original and is still as good a Stooges cover as, say, Radio Birdman's "TV Eye". Covering the Stooges is damn hard work!
From the same JJJ session and collection, a fab Brad-sung cover of one of the classic early American punk singles. The Zeros were a bunch of teenagers from California who were known at the time as 'The Mexican Ramones'. They had a bunch of great tunes. Worth noting that Zeros singer/guitarist Javier Escovedo is the brother of acclaimed singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo (and a cousin of Sheila E!), and guitarist Robert Lopez later found some fame as the wonderful Mexican Elvis impersonator El Vez.
"I Heard Her Call My Name"
A brave choice, but the Gurus do it fine; "I Heard Her Call My Name" is a highlight from the Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat album, which is one of the most over the top and sonically overloaded records ever recorded. It's also a really fun record – the band sound like they are having an absolute blast – and the Gurus did a great job of catching both the manic intensity and the fun. Also from Live At The Wireless and Doppelganger.
“Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey”
An oft-overlooked highlight of the Beatles' White Album, this is one of John Lennon's most deranged rockers and great fun. Yet another manic one from the '94 Live at the Wireless session and Doppelganger - Dave Faulkner must've been in an excitable mood...
"Linda Sue Dixon"
Another Brad-sung rip-snorter in the Gurus' hands. This rare "solo" single by the band best known for their work with Michigan belter, Mitch Ryder is an early 'nudge nudge wink wink'-type drug song, and was actually a minor hit in Australia in 1968. Also from that '94 Live at the Wireless session, and also from Doppelganger – and yes, that is a great collection!
“Hard Day's Night”
Likely inspired by the pals Redd Kross's version of the same (which Redd Kross were pulling out on their first Australian tour in '92) the Gurus were clearly full of confidence when they laid this one down at another Live At The Wireless in 1996. One of the Beatles' most remarkable tracks, and one that would full flat in most others' hands, "Hard Day's Night" is amped-up power pop in the Gurus' hands. Their version as a B-side on the "Down On Me" CD-single. Again, let's hear the Gurus version along with the original.
The opening track of the Gurus’ farewell live album (yes, they came back), is our closing tune here. The Gurus' cover of this gimmicky late 60s English tune by short-lived outfit The Apple simply blows the original away and is one of their finest moments. Brad on vocals again, and it sets the tone for a live album that is undoubtedly one of Australia's greatest. Bite The Bullet is an absolute sledgehammer of a record that stakes a claim for the Gurus as one of the great hard-rock bands (even if most people don't consider them a hard rock band!). This track is another one you need to hear the original of and the cover back to back to really appreciate what the Gurus did with it, so here ya go.
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