Legendary Texan, scatological, psychedelic, avant-garde, punk-rock reprobates, Butthole Surfers taking on Hurdy Gurdy Man, a 60s, British, hippie/folk classic by Donovan of Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow fame.
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 used the exact same vocal style in the original. In fact the original is practically the same as the cover, except with sitars and slightly unsettling tone. There’s a theory that Jimmy Page and John Bonham were session musicians on the but nobody seems to be able to say for sure either way.
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.