Butthole Surfers covering ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ by Donovan
Legendary scatological, psychedelic, avant-garde, Texas punk reprobates, Butthole Surfers taking on Hurdy Gurdy Man, a 60s, British, hippie/folk tune.
This was released as a single in 1990 and was included on the Surfers’ 1991 album ‘Pioughd’ – at that time their most accessible yet, by a distance. It builds from a finger-picked acoustic guitar line into a soaring, uplifting rock song that verges closer to straight up pop music than the band ever had before. It’s the bizarre vocal delivery that sets it apart though. It’s hard to tell if Gibby is using effects or his own unique skills, but it comes across like a trippy, vocal wah-wah – a typical, playful Butthole Surfers touch.
And yet, it’s NOT a Butthole Surfers touch; Donovan use the exact same vocal style in the original, which I’ve only just learnt. In fact the original is practically the same as the cover, meaning that once again I’ve broken Magnificent Cover Versions rule number two – the cover must be better than the original. Ah well! Reports vary, but Jimmy Page and John Bonham may have been session musicians on the track too – which might explain why it’s not as lightweight as I’d always assumed.
Eartha Kitt covered ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ too, without doing the weird vocal trick. It’s not that good.
Butthole Surfers’ version of ‘Sweet Leaf‘ by Black Sabbath nearly made it on to the list, but it’s not really a cover, more a reimagining, retitled ‘Sweat Loaf’ to make that clear. It’s not as good as the original either, but it’s still great.