Take Cover! Hüsker Dü Vs. The Byrds

When is a cover song better than the original? Only you can decide. This week Hüsker Dü takes on the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High.” MAGNET’s Edward Fairchild pulls the pin. Take cover!

When the original version of this song was released, it was temporarily banned from U.S. radio due to perceived drug references. At the time, the Byrds steadfastly denied the allegations, and it was only years later the band admitted that at least part of the song was inspired by its members’ drug use. When Hüsker Dü released its version, the trio had its own controversy to deal with: What was a hardcore-punk band doing covering a song by some acid-headed hippies? Oh not much—just breaking down walls and destroying convention. Read our 2005 cover story on Hüsker Dü, the Replacements and the ’80s Minneapolis scene.

The Cover:

The Original:

6 replies on “Take Cover! Hüsker Dü Vs. The Byrds”

Lame question, really. Sort of like a bunch of seventh grade girls wearing too much blue eye shadow asking “who’s your BFF, I mean your best BFF?”
There are some pairings that might make more sense, where the original is not nearly as well known as the initial cover (Irma Thomas vs. Rolling Stones: Time Is On My Side, for example).
The Byrds broke the new musical ground with the John Coltrane influenced lead riff and solo, etc. I like Husker Du’s version, but all they did was speed it up, smash it out (not there’s anything wrong with that). It’s just a lame friggin’ question. Where’s that music site that’s written for grown ups?

If you think about the readership of Magnet, of course Husker Du is going to win. If this was a classic rock magazine and site, of course the Birds would win. This reminds me of when Fox News does a poll and is shocked at the outcome.

That all being said when I think of the song, I hear the Husker Du version.

To a certain degree, I agree with David Baker but c’mon, people who read Magnet don’t live in the Stone Age. Surely the Byrds were big enough to have SOME influence. That said, I voted for Husker Du(though I love the Byrds) essentialy because it worked for me. The innovative guitar riffs, smacking somewhat of the ’60’s accompanied by shrewd bass playing of Greg Norton and smart timely drumming of Grant Hart compelled me(reluctantly) to vote for their version(even if Bob Mould’s wailing occasionally grated my nerves).

This is the first Husker Du song I ever heard back in high school, late one night on the local college station.

I love the original , but to say HD merely “speed it up and smashed it out” doesn’t do it justice. They took the song into new emotional territory, and to this day, those are still some of the most desperate vocals I’ve ever heard.

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