I’ve been a DJ since the ‘70s. I’m also a bonafide music fanatic who gets a kick out of turning people on to stuff they’ve never heard before.  For a long time, when cassettes were king and “mixtapes” were all the rage, one of my favorite past times was to fill up one of those long-ass 120 minutes Maxell’s with original and cover songs played back to back. I would really go out of my way to find obscure covers for very well-known songs, then I’d get my friends together and have listening parties where we would discuss the songs with each other for hours on end. Yeah, it sounds incredibly nerdy, but damn it was fun.

The other day, in a fit of nostalgia, I retrieved an old box of tapes that had taken up permanent residence in the back of my closet. So, who wants to play with me — Original Vs. Cover?

SONG: Iron Man

ORIGINAL – Black Sabbath – 1970

COVER – The Cardigans – 1996

THE ORIGINAL

I was in 5th grade the first time I heard this.  It was in 1975 and I spent a lot of time listening to my local college radio station, WMUH at Muhlenberg College.  I loved that station because the DJ’s were super goofy (now that I’m thinking about it, they were all probably stoned out of their gourds) and seemed to really into the music – often spouting all kinds of factoids and gear-head info.  The dude who talked this song up was adamant about making sure that the listeners were clear in knowing that this song had nothing to do with the Marvel comic book character.  Well DUH, the story of this song is totally different!

Anyway, after he finished blathering I heard the needle drop and the vinyl crackle a bit…then the bass drum slowly thud eight times, the gloomy bending guitar note, the weird, semi-garbled voice, IIIIIII AMMMM IRONN MANNN, more thud and bent note, then one of theeeee most recognized guitar riffs in history wails and the song takes off.  Ozzy’s voice is shouting with his overdubbed nasal menace, the song continues to plod along – just like a huge, angry man of metal who’s planning his vengeance on mankind would…HEAVY METAL!  It keeps stomping and then out of nowhere it picks up and drives into double time so the guitar solo can race along for a bit, then back to the heavy boots of lead stomping all over the place, then it begins to rev up again for another searing guitar solo on top of a lot of drum action – and then ends abruptly. This is a Master Class in Head-Banging 101!

THE COVER

Since the second this hit the airwaves I’ve said that this is one of theeeeee best covers ever!

It’s the epitome of the definition of a cover – it takes the original and turns it into a totally different song that’s barely recognizable in a genius way.

This Swedish alt-pop band crafted a chill, swaying, saccharine, dreamy song with Nina Persson’s lilting, squeaky voice that lazily breathes the lyrics in a sing-songy way. I always play this in my cocktail hour DJ sets and people always love it.

Instead of a stomping drum beat, there’s a snare &high hat Hip Hop drum loop. The bass is the loudest in the mix, but it hits you with a powder puff instead of a baseball bat.

Instead of a searing guitar solo, there’s a sitar twang and weird synths.  I’m having a hard time making a clear description because it’s so weird, so I’m begging you to listen to it right now.

SO WHO DOES IT BETTER?

I truly LOVE them both equally.  So much so that if The Cardigans song came out first, I’d hail the Sabbath cover as much as I do the Cardigans cover, so…IT’S A TIE!

NOW YOU DECIDE!

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About Author

Crystal is today’s black Renaissance woman. She lives in Harlem, is always up for a new experience, is a magnet for all kinds of crazy, and smells like fresh flowers.

4 Comments

  1. Crystal, may I say I LOVE the way you write–and enthuse–about music!!! And while I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a tie, insofar as I if I could only have one or the other, I’d need the heavy majesty of Sabbath, I agree. Brilliant take on it, and they definitely make something new and beautiful of it.
    Similar challenge to you, by the way: Sugar, Sugar by The Archies vs. Sugar, Sugar by Wilson Pickett. Easily a tie in my book, although, if I could only have one, I might even make it Wilson’s. He found a whole new, wonderful, soulful song in that bubblegum classic!

  2. yes! YES! this cover woke me up to the fact that the cardigans were totally inspired by metal. it’s not just iron man. and it is absolutely inspired.

  3. I loved the Cardigans when I first heard “First Band of the Moon”, and I think their version was cool, but, …
    OZZY
    TONY
    GEEZER
    BILL
    SABBATH!!!!
    One of one of the heaviest songs ever.

  4. Joseph McDonnell on

    Really love your writing. But…and this is just my two cent opinion. The original rocks and the cover version of this song is as boring as weak tea. Years ago I did the same thing when I used to make comp tapes. Mix originals with the cover versions. It was fun to do. Then I would just drive around in my car listening to them. Now, I just listen to Spotify and fall asleep in the chair with a glass of wine.

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