When I sat down to write this post, I was framing it as cover of a song by Deep Purple but then, I quickly learned that theirs was a cover as well. Indeed, the song was originally written by Joe South and was performed by his friend Billy Joe Royal in 1967, though Joe South himself recorded and released a version of it the following year. It is obviously a great tune. Royal’s original, as well as a cover the same year by Australian band, Somebody’s Image, the famed Deep Purple cover in 1968, and our feature today, the one by Kula Shaker in 1996, were all hits for their respective artists. You can’t argue with that.
You also can’t argue with that ear worm hook. The nonsensical lyrical line would be instantly recognizable to anyone: “Na na-na nah, na-na nah, na-na naaaah!” (If that doesn’t ring any bells, just press play on either of the embedded YouTube videos below.)
Billy Joe Royal’s original (as I just recently discovered) is a classic, soulful, rock tune, indicative of its time. It’s got plenty of layers – rumbling bass, horns, tambourines, dancing guitars, backing vocals – and yet, it feels quite insular due to its production. In fact, if you listen to the stereo version available on Spotify, the weird mix puts the tambourine at a higher level than the guitar at times. And at just under two and a half minutes in length, it pales in all ways to the heavy psychedelics in the four plus minute cover by Deep Purple, all whirling hammond organs and bongo drums and fun.
Even though theirs is shorter, you kind of feel that Kula Shaker was aiming for more of the same feel of the Deep Purple cover than that of the Billy Joe Royal original. Recorded as a stop gap single between their wildly successful debut album “K” at the end of the Britpop blaze of glory and their sophomore album that unfortunately came too late, Kula Shaker’s “Hush” was a rage of 60s psych rock that incorporated within it, a decidedly 90s alternative guitar rock sound. It didn’t mine the Indian spirituality and traditional eastern folk that was the band’s hallmark in the late 1990s, instead going for the jugular with straight ahead rock. It’s a driving drum beat, screaming organs, raging guitars, and Crispian Mills letting his voice breathe right out there with the best of them that have covered this song.
This may be an unpopular take but given how taken I was with Kula Shaker at the time, how could I not love this cover better than all the other versions I have heard? (The Deep Purple cover is a close second though…)
For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.