Winger, ‘Purple Haze’ – Terrible Classic Rock Covers
Such is the formidable stature of Jimi Hendrix‘s legacy that not too many artists have had the cache and self-assurance to dare cover his songs. We’re talking about Stevie Ray Vaughan … Bob Dylan … Winger?
Yes, when the New York-based quartet decided to mess with this untouchable Experience classic on their 1988 debut album, hair metal ruled the roost, noxious synthetic production values were the order of the day and Winger producer and Svengali Beau Hill was largely to blame.
But while most of the genre’s acts felt pretty darn proud of themselves if they managed to replicate the odd Aerosmith tune or redo some obscurity no one could remember, and get away with it, the members of Winger actually possessed the chops to tackle something more ambitious.
All four were highly accomplished musicians who had paid their dues as sidemen (notably bassist/vocalist Kip with Alice Cooper and drummer Rod Morganstein with the Dixie Dregs) before figuring they deserved to enjoy top billing (and the money, girls and glory that came with it) in their own right.
So they went and rounded out the made-to-order jailbait singles packing that first album (‘Madalaine,’ ‘Seventeen,’ etc.) with this outrageously glossy, meticulously coiffed, almost robotic rendition of Jimi’s old warhorse; utterly stripping the original of every last ounce of soul, blues, funk and true human emotion, in the process. Even the song’s natural-born groove was usurped by Hill’s stuttering, Bizarro World alternative, and then executed by Winger’s musicians with the sort of overplaying and rampant technical showboating common to most self-conscious acts of artistic hijacking.
One largely forgotten fact is that none other than Dweezil Zappa contributed assorted licks and lead runs to the track; that’s him wailing away on the left channel speaker, while Winger guitarist Reb Beach shreds on the right. But not even Zappa DNA could pacify the classic rock gods, though, who unilaterally decreed that Winger’s version of ‘Purple Haze’ should forever languish in the musical purgatory of ‘Terrible Classic Rock Covers,’ there to continually push a rock up the mountain, only for them to roll right back to the bottom.
Wait, sort of like rock and roll!