Cover Me Bad: Black Sabbath

Exploring various versions of the metallers’ best-loved tracks…

With the returned Black Sabbath riding high in the charts with ‘13’ (Clash review), the band’s first studio album since 1995’s ‘Forbidden’, Clash has scanned the ‘net to find some of the best – and worst – covers of the metal legends’ material out there.

After all, if there’s one thing the career of Michael Jackson taught us, it’s that bad can mean good. But, it can also mean bad. Really bad. Which category the below covers fall into: you decide.

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Cake – ‘War Pigs’

The opening cut of Sabbath’s second LP, 1970’s ‘Paranoid’, is a much-covered track indeed. From Hayseed Dixie to The Dresden Dolls, via Reef (!) and Faith No More: it’s been wheeled out time and again over the years. Clash’s pick of the bunch, for the sake of this article at least, is Cake’s version, which comprised the curtain-up on the Californian band’s 2007 rarities collection. Great, or gross? Sabbath with trumpet? We don’t know what to think.

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Big Country – ‘Paranoid’

Again, a much-covered number – but, then, we are talking metal classics here. Fife rockers Big Country keep things fairly straight-faced on their take, which romps along with faithful fury in its riffs.

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Mercury Rev – ‘Planet Caravan’

Another offering from Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ set, ‘Planet Caravan’ was never quite in the same tumultuous stylistic terrain as the album’s title-track or ‘War Pigs’, being more of a slow-burn psychedelic affair. So it makes sense that New York dream-rockers Mercury Rev would be able to make it their own. Which they do on this Peel Session recording of 2001, later released as a B-side during their ‘All Is Dream’ album campaign.

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Mogwai – ‘Sweet Leaf’

From a Fierce Panda-issued split 7” with Magoo, who in turn covered ‘Black Sabbath’, this version of ‘Sweet Leaf’ (originally on 1971’s ‘Master Of Reality’ LP) finds the Scottish (mostly) instrumental act essentially having a right laugh. Released in 1998, it’s one of those interpretations that might well have Sabbath purists cursing their favourite band’s success.

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The Cardigans – ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’

Swedish pop sorts The Cardigans have form when it comes to Sabbath covers – this song, from their 1994 debut long-player ‘Emmerdale’ (originally the title-track on Sabbath’s 1975 fifth LP), isn’t the only one of the Ozzy-fronted outfit’s that they’ve worked their magic on. Two years later, for the ‘Lovefool’-featuring ‘First Band On The Moon’, they tackled ‘Iron Man’. But, since this came first…

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Flower Travellin’ Band – ‘Black Sabbath’

Why not write a song bearing the same name as your band, eh? Sabbath did just that for this number, from their 1970 debut album (of the same name, too… confused yet?). Later that year, the song was covered by Japan’s Flower Travellin’ Band, for their own debut album ‘Anywhere’. Well, get it while it’s hot, we suppose. But y’know what? We might actually prefer this version to the original…

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Four Tet – ‘Iron Man’

Yep. As unlikely as it sounds, Four Tet has covered ‘Iron Man’, one of the standout (and most-sampled) tracks on ‘Paranoid’. Kieran Hebden recorded this for the Sabbath covers set ‘Everything Comes & Goes’, released in 2005 via Temporary Residence (and also featuring covers by Matmos and Grails).

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Ozzy and Kelly Osbourne – ‘Changes’


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Black Sabbath’s ‘13’ is out now. Read Clash’s review here.

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