Under Cover: The Jesus and Mary Chain Get the Barnyard Blues
Never a band to shy away from a challenge, the Jesus and Mary Chain put their own stamp on any cover song they tackled. In 1993, they stepped up to sacred ground, covering the Howlin’ Wolf blues classic ‘Little Red Rooster’ on their ‘Sound of Speed’ EP.
JAMC brothers Jim and William Reid take the blues standard and twist it into a growling, feedback-drenched groove machine that’s slathered in distortion. The band’s trademark sound is there, but it’s coupled with a raw rock ‘n’ roll groove that pays homage to the Wolf, while branding it something all its own.
The waves of tremolo and distorted guitars peel the paint from the walls, leaving the room in shambles. There’s no way they could top Howlin’ Wolf’s original version, but the Jesus and Mary Chain do a great job adding color to the song.
Howlin’ Wolf released his definitive version of the Willie Dixon-penned ‘Little Red Rooster’ in 1961, and, like most of his work, it’s a stunning example of pure, unadulterated blues grit. The sound of Wolf’s voice remains unmatched to this day. And while others took the song to greater commercial success over the years, none of them equaled his power.
The Rolling Stones recorded a cover of the song in 1964. Brian Jones added first-class slide guitar, while Mick Jagger gets to show off his harmonica skills. The Stones stayed true to the form and feel of the original, and took the blues classic to the top of the U.K. charts in late 1964. It became the band’s second No. 1, and the first time a blues song topped the pop charts overseas.