In the past, this blog has written about punk bands covering pop hits. Many interpretations were ironic, but others were quite genuine. No matter the intent, these covers were always fun!
There is another phenomenon lurking in the vast punk universe. Punk bands don’t ALWAYS look outside the genre for inspiration. It’s just as fulfilling to cover other punk bands. What follows are just a few examples of PUNKS COVERING PUNKS.
CIRCLE JERKS – WASTED
Keith Morris didn’t last very long in Black Flag. The tireless work ethic of Greg Ginn is the stuff of legend. Morris soon left the band but not before singing on the first Black Flag record. Ginn wrote all four songs that appeared on that seven inch. “Wasted,” was the one exception. Co-written with Keith Morris, the estranged singer had a legitimate claim to the song.
Shortly after his departure from Black Flag, Morris assembled the infamous Circle Jerks. Despite recording 14 songs for the debut record, Group Sex clocked in under the fifteen-minute mark. It’s no wonder that Morris used songs written during his tenure in Black Flag.
Punk fans immediately recognized “Wasted.” Slightly more manic, it’s essentially the same as the Black Flag version. In the end, fans are left with two versions of a punk classic.
SAMHAIN – HALLOWEEN II
Glenn Danzig also had a habit of revisiting his prior band. Immediately after launching Samhain, the classic Misfits anthem “Horror Business” was recast as “Horror Biz.” Unholy Passion saw “All Hell Breaks Loose” transformed into “All Hell.” The release of November Coming Fire continued the tradition with a new version of “Halloween II.”
The Misfits had already re-worked the song by adding creepy passages of Latin. In the hands of Sahmain, the lyrics remain but the music has been rearranged. A biting guitar riff gives the song a new feel. Once again, it’s the fans that win. Multiple versions of punk anthems benefit everyone.
A.F.I. – HALLOWEEN
Of course the vast majority of punks covering punks are independent bands paying homage to influence. Take this version of “Halloween” performed by A.F.I.
The band clearly made an impression. Years later, when ex- Samhain members created a new band sans Danzig, vocalist Davey Havock was recruited as front man. Simply seek out the Son of Sam album to hear the results!
JOEY RAMONE – 1969
Even originators have punk influences. By recording a cover of The Stooges, “1969,” Joey Ramone was celebrating the influence of Iggy and company. It’s also a reminder that the origins of punk extend beyond the seminal Ramones debut.
DROPKICK MURPHYS – THE CLASH
It’s not easy deciding on a single song when interpreting your heroes. Fortunately bands can cover as many songs as they’d like. Which of these Clash covers is your favorite?
TIM ARMSTRONG AND LARS FREDERIKSEN OF RANCID – NO MORE
Sometimes punks cover punks for a good cause. In 2002, the Rollins Band collaborated with an impressive list of guest vocalists to release Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three. All proceeds were donated to the legal fund of three teenagers whose murder conviction was widely contested. This blistering version of “No More,” featuring Tim and Lars from Rancid is particularly memorable.
The song “Chinese Rocks” has taken on a life of it’s own. Born out of a songwriting session between Richard Hell and Dee Dee Ramone, Hell promptly took the song to a Heartbreakers rehearsal. Despite Hell’s own admittance that Dee Dee wrote most of the song, “Chinese Rocks” soon found it’s way into the Heartbreaker’s repertoire. Even when Hell left the group, the band recorded and released the track.
Sid Vicious also recorded a live version of the song. Sid Sings was released shortly after his death and consisted mostly of cover songs. The album goes heavy on Johnny Thunders material. “Chinese Rocks” was a natural choice for an unapologetic junkie.
With End of the Century, Dee Dee finally reclaimed his song. Though Johnny Ramone had initially refused to play “Chinese Rocks,” the guitarist finally relented. Featuring a slick production by Phil Spector, “Chinese Rock” became the Ramones song it was destined to be.
MINOR THREAT – STEPPIN’ STONE
Steppin’ Stone is one of those classic songs that have been recorded by countless acts. Undoubtedly the most famous version was performed by the campy sixties group, The Monkees. However, it was the Sex Pistols that firmly entrenched the song into punk rock lore.
It’s hard to imagine that the Sex Pistols weren’t front and center in the minds of Minor Threat when recording Steppin’ Stone. Few punks view the song through the lens of the Monkees. Rather, this version is another example of punks covering punks.
THE MISFITS – RISE ABOVE
On occasion, The Misfits could surprise unsuspecting fans by slipping a Black Flag cover into their set. Fortunately, a rare performance of “Rise Above” was captured on this grainy bootleg video. What is lacking in quality is more than made up for in energy. The crowd absolutely loses their minds. Most of the audience ends up on stage. The video offers a powerful glimpse into the energy that is achieved when punks cover punks.