Posts Tagged Black Sabbath

Cover Versions: Metallica – Whiskey In The Jar  

COVER VERSIONS.  Some you love & some you hate.  Many of us could probably name plenty of cover versions that have completely ruined a great, if not iconic, song.  But this isn’t about songs that have been ruined – although that might be the subject for one or two Counter Culture reviews sometime in the near future!  On the contrary, this is about a cover version that, in my honest and humble opinion, is better than the original.  

To my mind, one of the best cover versions ever has got to be Metallica’s reworking of the Thin Lizzy classic, Whiskey In The Jar.  And one of the best live performances of it is this from the House of Vans, in London from 18th November 2016.  

Metallica performing in 2017. Picture from: Kreepin Deth, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Before we start to look at Metallica’s masterful version of this classic, it’ll probably be useful to provide a little background information about the song itself.  As some folks may know, Whiskey In The Jar is a traditional Irish song, thought to have been written in the 17th century.  The song itself is set in the southern mountains of Ireland – there are specific mentions of the Cork & Kerry mountains – and tells the tale of a highwayman who is betrayed by his wife or lover.  

The Dubliners, an Irish folk band, were probably the first group to really make the song popular.  Indeed, they included it on at least two albums – More of the Hard Stuff & Live at the Albert Hall– during the 1960s.   

Whiskey In The Jar has been covered by everyone from The Seekers to Bryan Adams.  However, the first version I ever heard was by the Dublin-based rock band Thin Lizzy who really brought it to prominence to my generation when their record company – Decca– released it in November 1972  

I have a very eclectic taste in music – and art in general – but have been into heavy metal & rock since my early teens.  My memory’s not as sharp as it was, but I’ve a vague notion that I’d seen Lizzy performingWhiskey In The Jar on TV.  I presume that this would’ve been on Top Of The Popswhich in those days was essential viewing for anyone interested in music.

Like most people, I was instantly hooked on the song – especially by the crisp & intricate introduction played by Belfast-born lead guitarist, Eric Bell.  Hopefully, this clip from 1973 will illustrate his musical prowess.

(Bell was one-third of Lizzy.  The other two were Brian Downey on drums & probably the most famous of all, Phil Lynott, who was the main songwriter, lead vocalist, and bassist.)  

Years later Bell showed that he’d lost none of his skill when he appeared with Gary Moore– a songwriter & former guitarist with Thin Lizzy.  Billed as Gary Moore and Friends: One Night in Dublin – A Tribute to Phil Lynott one of the highlights included Bell playing on this version of Whiskey In The Jar. 

Now that we’ve got what amounts to the history of Whiskey In The Jar out of the way, it’s time to examine what makes Metallica’sversion just so perfect.  

Metallica was formed in 1981 by main songwriter, vocalist & rhythm guitarist James Hetfield& drummer Lars Ulrich.  Both featured on Whiskey In The Jar alongside along lead guitarist Kirk Hammett& bassist Jason Newsted.  (Newsted was replaced by Robert Trujillo in 2003 & other former members include Cliff Burton, Ron McGovney & Dave Mustaine of Megadeth fame.)  

Whiskey In The Jar was actually the 21st single released by Metallica and featured on their 1998 covers album Garage Inc. The idea behind the album was to feature songs by artists that have influenced the band.  In addition to Thin Lizzy, it features covers of tracks from the likes of Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult & Lynyrd Skynyrd.  

So what makes Metallica’s version of Whiskey In The Jar just so perfect?  

For me it’s the way that they’ve taken a classic track, put their distinctive stamp on it, and made it even better than it was before.  For those into heavy music, there’s no getting away from the fact that Lizzy is most usually associated with Whiskey In The Jar – and rightly so.  However, there’s no mistaking that this version has Metallica written all over it.  

Earlier I mentioned that the introduction to Thin Lizzy’s Whiskey In The Jar had me & many others instantly hooked.  The same could be said of Metallica’sversion – although both versions are completely different!  Indeed, Metallica did away completely with Lizzy’s‘crisp & intricate’ intro & dive straight into the song itself.  

Despite the lack of a distinctive – almost iconic – intro, as soon as I heard Metallica open the song with a thumping ‘dun, dun, dun’ I was captivated.  I’ve absolutely loved their version from the very first time I heard it.  Every time I hear it, I find myself both headbanging – although, due to old age, it’s more of a slightly vigorous nod these days – and wishing that I could play any sort of instrument.  (Singing would be an extra bonus, but I gave up on that one years ago.)  

One of the things I love about Metallica’s version is that it’s just so powerful.  I’m wondering if that’s simply because they’re a much heavier band than Lizzywere – or is there something else to it?  To me, the combined & unrelenting beat created by Robert Trujillo on bass & Lars Ulrich on drums gives it the edge.  I also think James Hetfield has an earthier – maybe even more passionate – voice than Phil Lynott had.  Hetfield’s voice is very distinctive & is well suited to the song.  

Another thing I really like about the Metallica version can be seen at the gig that was mentioned earlier –  Here, I absolutely love Hetfield’s guitar solo (starting at around 2.55) which is completely different from the Lizzy original & his later interaction with the crowd who are clapping and chanting along with him.  

For me, therefore, Metallica have made Whiskey In The Jar their own and their version is simply by far the better version.  

Reviewed by John Field   

O  CHECK OUT the lyrics to Whiskey In The Jar here. 

O  COUNTER CULTURE would really be interested to hear the views of our readers relating to the Thin Lizzy v. Metallica versions of Whiskey In The Jar.  We’d also be interested to know what you think about cover versions in general.  Are there any that improve on the original – and are there any that absolutely butcher the original?  

Comments (1)

Memories of Hoxton, Shoreditch, East London

hoxton-street-300x199

Hoxton Market – like much of inner East London – has changed considerably over the years.  

I WAS born and bred in East London.  Despite not living there for many years now, there’s no mistaking my accent.  Like any Cockney, I still drop my ‘h’ when speaking and pronounce anything that starts with ‘th’ as an f.  Thus, thirteen become ‘firteen’ and thirty becomes ‘firty’.  I still use a lot of slang words and whilst I’ve lost a lot of backslang (I haven’t spoken it in around 35 years and would probably need to sit down and write much of it out these days!) talking in double negatives – “I ain’t never going to do that again”– makes perfect sense to me.  To be really honest, I have trouble understanding people with posh or ‘plummy’ accents and really have to concentrate on what they’re saying!

So why am I telling you all this?

The main reason is that a little while ago I came across an excellent Facebook site called Memories of Hoxton, Shoreditch which you can check out here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/46495127566/  It has nearly 6,000 members and it encourages them to post ‘memories or photos of growing up in Hoxton’ – although folks are asked not put up anything about football, politics and religion as they often cause arguments!

When I was growing up, Hoxton was only about a five minute walk away from where I lived.  I spent many hours in the general area – and specifically in Hoxton Market where I worked for a couple of years as a barrow boy on an egg stall.

Before I got the job I was very familiar with the market itself.  It consisted of a wide variety of shops (from funeral parlours to pie & mash shops) as well as stalls that seemed to sell everything under the sun.  There was even a Woolworths – remember them?!!

Like many youngsters who grew up in the mid to late 60s, it was more or less obligatory to help my mum with the errands.  (This was way before the weekly shop to a massive out-of-town supermarket became the norm – indeed, from memory, the nearest supermarket at the time was a Tesco’s at Ridley Road Market in Dalston.) Therefore, two or three times a week I accompanied mum down to Hoxton Market.  Here my main job was to carry some of the items that she had bought.

Saturday was the main food shopping day, and most children would have followed their mum around, for what seemed like hours on end.  Although my mum was only really shopping for food, she seemed to look at every other stall as well – and clothes stalls, in particular!  As mum was a seamstress by trade, she’d examine in minute detail the way buttons, hemlines and zips had been sewn.  If something wasn’t to her liking she’d slowly shake her head from side to side, purse her lips and mutter ‘tut-tut.’

Unlike supermarkets, the old fashioned street markets seemed to have a real atmosphere about them.  Many of the sights, smells and sounds have never left me.  In particular, the air always seemed to be full of raucous laughter.  Everyone who owned or worked on a stall seemed to be a real character – the wit and banter were second to none.  Needless to say much of it would now be considered X-rated and most definitely Politically Incorrect – and this was absolutely true of Hoxton Market!

The market was also a place to meet friends, neighbours and relatives.  I always lost count of the number of times that my mum would stop and have a natter with someone.  Luckily, virtually every mum would have been accompanied by a child so at least you had someone to talk to as well.

I got my first Saturday job in Hoxton Market via my mum as well.  She got it through a friend of a friend of a friend – a classic case of ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’.  On saying that, I’m inclined to think that there’s no better way to learn any sort of trade other than from the bottom up.  Over many working years I’ve seen many a university graduate put into responsible positions and whilst most of them were very personable many were, to coin a phrase, ‘all brains and no common sense’.

I started working in the market when I was about 14 or 15 (this would have been around 1974/75) and carried on for about two years.  Here I was a barrow boy – aka a gofer or general dogs body – on an egg stall.  As far as I can recall, there were no other egg stalls in the market so we always did a roaring trade.

My job was to basically to help whoever was running the stall.  I helped to set the stall up and both sell & replenish the stock.  I was quickly shown one of the tricks of the trade – placing the eggs at a very slight angle to make them look larger!

I worked with a few interesting characters.  One was a New Zealander who was living and working in London for a while before returning home to help run family sheep farm.  He wasn’t really looking forward to going home to spend the rest of his life working with the “stupidest animals in the world.”  For the life of me I can’t recall his name, but I can remember that he was a very calm, happy go lucky bloke.  He was also as strong as an ox and was a real grafter.

I also recall working with a biker who was in his mid 20s who was just known as ‘Big Chris’ due to him being way over 6’ tall.  He had really long hair and always wore a black leather motorcycle jacket.  He was also the person who introduced me into heavy metal bands like Deep Purple & Black Sabbath.  He had an in-depth knowledge of anything and everything relating to heavy metal and would talk non-stop about the subject.  Big Chris would often recommend different LPs, most of which are still in the roof space!

Apart from bikes and music his other passion was for burgers and bacon sarnies.  He was very generous with his money and one of my main jobs was to go to the local café and come back with these delicacies!  Looking back on it they should have come with a health warning as they were dripping in grease and covered in brown sauce.

After my stint as a barrow boy, I worked for the local library service.  This started off as a Saturday job but I was also able to get plenty of work during the school holidays.  Here I was mainly based at Pitfield Street Library (in Hoxton) but also covered worked Kate Greenaway Library (which was situated in the Fellows Estate) and the De Beauvoir Library which was part of the De Beauvoir Estate.  I love books so this was more a vocation than a job.  I have great memories of the reading room in Pitfield Street where you could spend hours reading all manner of papers, magazines and reference books.

One great difference between working down the market and in a library was the method of payment.  In the market you got paid cash in hand – generally with greasy and stained old banknotes – whilst at the library the wages arrived in a small window envelope.  This contained a small printed wage statement and, more importantly, your wages in the form of both coins and pristine banknotes.  The notes were always stapled together and I always managed to stab my thumb with the staple whilst trying to separate the notes.  You also had to sign for the whole lot in a huge book!

A little while ago, and out of idle curiosity, I posted a question (on the Memories of Hoxton Facebook site) asking how many people worked down the market.  I was absolutely blown away by the response – it seems as if virtually everyone had either worked in the market or knew someone who had.  Many were even related to some of the shop and stall holders.  Indeed, one of those who’d worked in the market was someone I’ve probably known for over 50 years from our early days at Randal Cremer Primary School – in Ormsby Street, Shoreditch – and then on to  Parmiter’s Grammar School, which was situated on the Approach Road in Bethnal Green.  Sadly, we’re probably like many true Cockneys and both now live miles away from the East End.

I’d highly recommend the Memories of Hoxton, Shoreditch Facebook site to any Counter Culture reader (who comes from Hoxton or the general Shoreditch area) who like to reminisce about the ‘good old days’ before the area became gentrified.  I’d also like to encourage other Counter Culture contributors and readers to share theirmemories of bygone days, no matter where they come from.  In particular, I feel that it’s very important to chronical the lives of ordinary indigenous working folks – especially those from areas that have seen extensive racial, ethnic, cultural and social changes since the 60s – so that their vital memories are not lost to history.

Reviewed by John Field

Comments (3)