Top 10 ‘Helter Skelter’ Covers
Covering a song as iconic as the Beatles‘ ‘Helter Skelter‘ is an iffy proposition. There is no way any artist could hope to match the feel of the original in spirit or in style, hence, most covers of this raw Paul McCartney rocker tend to be a mere tip of the hat to the masters. There are a few we have found where the artist took the song, twisted it into shapes unseen to make it their own. We have collected a handful of acts trying to tackle this beast. Some succeed splendidly, others, well, you be judge and jury in our list of the Top 10 ‘Helter Skelter’ Covers.
With the release of their second album ‘Shout At The Devil’ in 1983, Motley Crue were rising fast in the game of rock and roll. The second album featured a glossier, more stylized production than their debut, but was no worse for the wear. Their version of the song, which begins our list of the Top 10 ‘Helter Skelter’ Covers, sounds like – surprise – Motley Crue covering the Beatles classic for which they are most suited — nothing more, nothing less. They retain their trademark approach, with guitarist Mick Mars delivering some extra flash mid-song.
Japanese hard rockers Bow Wow formed in the mid-70s. At the time, Japan was known more for their overzealous love of rock and roll, and not for dishing out their own take on it. The Sadistic Mika Band were an amazing band who took some glam and prog rock influences to the fore, while Bow Wow mined their own brand of metal. The band went through some lineup changes, ending up with a new name, Vow Wow. In 1989, Vow Wow not only covered the Beatles song in the spotlight here, but even named their album after it. Pretty much your standard cover, but they do give it their own flavor and stay true to the spirit.
Ian Gillan has always had a very powerful voice and the idea of him doing ‘Helter Skelter’ seems a natural. In 1989 on his solo album ‘Magic,’ he delivered a rock solid take on the song. Using a variety of production techniques and adding a bit of organ to give it a bit of a Deep Purple feel, he also manages to retain the heavy rock aspect of the song, while still adding his own flavor. That man can sing!
Pat Benatar could always hold her own against the rocker male counterparts of the day, and this storming take on ‘Helter Skelter’ is no exception. Found on her 1981 album ‘Precious Time,’ Benetar kicks it out with vigor, while guitarist Neil Giraldo cuts loose. She and the band are able to retain the basic spirit of the original, and while it’s more or less a straight run through, it’s done with total conviction.
The No. 6 version on our list of the Top 10 ‘Helter Skelter’ Covers, the song was a natural for Aerosmith to sink their teeth into. The rasp of Steven Tyler is a natural fit here and the band themselves are clocking in at 100 percent. The track was recorded at the height of the band’s supremacy in the mid-70s, but remained in the vaults until the ‘Pandora’s Box’ collection in the 1990s. Scorching stuff as both Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry battle it out.
Joe Lynn Turner
Best known for his short, but sweet, stint as lead vocalist for Rainbow, Joe Lynn Turner has always been respected within the hard rock community. On his 1999 album of cover songs, ‘Under Cover 2,’ Turner hits it hard on songs by Free, UFO, Mountain and Thin Lizzy among others. His rendition of ‘Helter Skelter’ is both impassioned and forceful. The band are rock solid, managing to retain some of the chaos of the original, while Turner never sounded better.
“This is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles,” U2 singer Bono tells the crowd. “We’re stealing it back.” Coming from the live/studio mix album ‘Rattle And Hum’, U2 put their own stamp on the song. The Edge retains much of his own unique guitar style while summoning up the vibe or the original. The always spot on rhythm section of Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton Jr. hold down the fort while Bono manages to push himself without trying to imitate the original. Nicely done boys!
Love ’em or hate ’em, Oasis were a classic British rock and roll band. The debt they owed to the Beatles has been well covered throughout the years, something they have always copped to. Early on, the band whipped out a version of ‘I Am The Walrus’ with Liam Gallagher doing his best John Lennon impersonation. On this take of ‘Helter Skelter,’ however, it’s brother Noel who digs his claws in, providing lead vocal and guitars. It’s a raw and spirited take that nods to the vibe of the original, and almost manages to sound like Neil Young and Crazy Horse channeling the Fabs by song’s end. Pretty stellar we must say.
Another highly unique take on the slash-and-burn Beatles classic, this time from San Francisco’s a cappella quartet, the Bobs. The harmonizing foursome formed in the early-80s and would often deliver their unique takes on pop and rock staples as part of their repertoire. Their style is in full color on this one, and while classic rock diehards might turn up their noses in unison, there is no denying it’s originality. The Swingle Singers would be proud! Something that can’t be said about others (no names mentioned) on the list.
Siouxsie and the Banshees
Siouxisie and the Banshees were one of the most powerful acts to spring forth from the post-punk U.K. music scene. Siouxsie’s unique vocal style and the highly dramatic style the band traded in was a win win proposition. From their earlier, harsh style, up through their most melodic psychedelic swirls, the band were always interesting and released a long run of great albums. Their take on this Beatles milestone is both brutal and unique, and avoids sounding like a simple cover of the song, hence, making it our No. 1 on our list of the Top 10 ‘Helter Skelter’ Covers.