“They were the best. There’s no question that they were the best rock-and-roll band ever in the world. No one could touch them. I used to see them live quite a bit, ’cause I used to live up near Liverpool. I used to go up to the Cavern and watch them. They were the best, and I mean: the best!”
That’s Lemmy Kilmister, madman mastermind of Motörhead and living, raging embodiment of heavy metal itself, speaking about his all-time favorite rock group, the Beatles.
Ozzy Osbourne similarly recalls hearing “She Loves You” for the first time. “It was like being hit by a bolt of lightning,” Ozzy says. “I was walking down the road in Aston one day, with my light blue transistor radio, and this song came on. I thought, ‘What the f–k is that?’ At that point I knew what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to be the singer in a band.”
With those two definitive titans of headbanging majesty weighing in on the apocalyptic impact made upon heavy by John, Paul, George, and Ringo, what else need be said?
How about 11 musical horns-up salutes to the Beatles from metal marauders made in the form of cover songs? Here’s a list of the most ferociously fab.
PLEASE NOTE: this list focuses on covers not simply by metal artists, but songs that sound loud, electrifying, and unmistakably metal.
There are numerous beautiful and entrancing Beatles remakes by headbanging icons that are either acoustic or done in non-metal style, a couple of the finest examples of which are two separate (and uniquely gorgeous) takes on “In My Life” by Ozzy Osbourne and Metallica.
“All My Loving” – Helloween
“I Am the Walrus” – Neurotica
The inherent metal madness of Neurotica’s home state of Florida scorches through on their rage-up of the Beatles’ arguably most acid-soaked opus. It is one hell of a trip.
“Revolution” – Running Wild
“Pirate Metal” practitioners Running Wild essentially invented the swashbuckling genre with their 1987 album, Under Jolly Roger. Alas, the German high seas headbangers included their revolution cover on 2000’s Victory, their only album not to include any musical odes to buccaneers. That sounds… revolutionary.
“Eleanor Rigby” – Realm
The pride of first wave Milwaukee thrash, Realm released their whiplash-speed redo of the Beatles’ baroque tragic mini-opera as a 12-inch single in 1988. The vastness of human loneliness and the immediacy of an bone-crunching mosh pit have rarely fused with such seamless sonic might.
“Tomorrow Never Knows” – Trouble
“I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” – Coroner
As the heaviest song in the Beatles canon, many credit the hypnotic, appropriately named “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” to be the very first doom metal song to hit vinyl. Interestingly, the premiere metallic cover version is by Swiss thrash masters Coroner. They powerfully convey the song’s elemental madness and obsession while never slowing down their signature attack.
“I’m Only Sleeping” – Bathory
“I’m Only Sleeping” appears on In Memory of Quorthon, a 2006 box set by Norwegian black metal pioneers Bathory that pays tribute to their founder, who died two years earlier. The collection’s other covers include Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades,” Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” and the Sex Pistol’s “God Save the Queen.”
“Helter Skelter” – Mötley Crüe
On sheer sonic terms, no Beatles opus more overtly foreruns heavy metal than “Helter Skelter.” Mötley Crüe covered the song on 1983’s Shout at the Devil, and also released it as a picture disc the jacket of which pays gruesome homage to the song’s later Charles Manson murder connections. Also give a listen to the version by Rob Zombie.
“Hey, Bulldog” – Alice Cooper and Steve Vai
Butchering the Beatles: A Headbashing Tribute is a 2006 covers LP that showcases all-star lineups taking on Fab Four classics. Among them are Lemmy, John 5, and Eric Singer playing “Back in the USSR” and “Revolution” by Tim “Ripper” Owens and George Lynch.
The brightest of the butchery is “Hey, Bulldog,” which is already pretty proto-metal in its original form, as interpreted by Alice Cooper and Steve Vai.
Alice is an all-out Beatles fanatic, who previously recorded “Because” as part of 1978’s hilariously disastrous Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie. In 2014, he performed “Eleanor Rigby” on the similarly big-name-boasting covers project, The Art of McCartney.
“Beatles Medley: Day Tripper/If I Needed Someone”/”I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” — Type O Negative
Louder than life and taller than terror Peter Steele so loved the Beatles that it seemed as though his goth-doom powerhouse Type O Negative covered the band whenever possible. Aside from the medley above, Type O Negative regularly burst into Beatles tunes live. Check out their spins on “Back in the USSR,” “Magical Mystery Tour,” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.”
“Come Together” – Aerosmith
Aerosmith’s “Come Together” is the biggest mainstream hit among heavy metal Beatles covers, which is ironic, as it comes from an all-time legendary bomb: the 1978 big-screen adaptation (of sorts) of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Aerosmith appear in the film as the Future Villain Band, foes of the titular heroes portrayed by the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton. Interestingly, they got the gig—and the resulting smash single that remains in heavy rock radio rotation—after Kiss passed on it in order to focus on their own cinematic milestone from the same year, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park.
For some even wilder metallic takes on “Come Together,” rock to the Soundgarden version and don’t even try to hold on to your brain cells when you experience what the Butthole Surfers do with this anthem.