Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the greatest cover song ever.
Better than The Clash’s “I Fought The Law.” Better than The Beatles “Twist and Shout.” Better than The Who’s “Summertime Blues.” Better than The English Beat’s “Tears of A Clown.” Better than Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower.”
There is nothing about Hüsker Dü’s “Eight Miles High” that isn’t masterful, right down the image on the picture sleeve. Byrds cover!
In an era where punk bands though it was funny to do ironic covers of 60s and 70s classics, Hüsker Dü took the greatest song of the 1960s, and simultaneously destroyed and rebuilt it.
I’m already on record about how much I love the original Byrds recording of “Eight Miles High”, so when I first bought this single in 1984, I couldn’t even imagine any cover version even coming close.
And yet from the first notes of Bob Mould’s psychedelic thrash guitar utterly ripping through McGuinn’s iconic riff while Grant Hart makes not like an airplane but motherfucking rocket ship on the drums, the Hüskers totally and completely reinvent “Eight Miles High” for the 1980s.
If in 1966, “Eight Miles High” was about the dislocation The Byrds felt about taking a plane trip to London, then in 1984 it felt like those eight miles were just the beginning of how fucking high Hüsker Dü was going to end up. Touch down? Not on this trip.
So while in the beginning, Mould is singing the lyrics relatively straightforward, with his voice echoing off of the walls almost mocking him, as they get further and further from the eight miles, he starts to lose it. The words becomes intelligible, the guitar riff that anchors the song gets even more pared down, as Hart’s drums rumble like meteors pounding the outside of the spaceship they’ve found themselves in.
Landing in London? Shit, they won’t be landing anywhere for a good long while.
In the end, Bob Mould is so far out of his mind that he’s screaming into the void, screaming and screaming and screaming, but nobody is hearing him.
It’s brutal. It’s beautiful. It’s brilliant. It’s an absolutely masterful reinterpretation of a song that should have stayed completely uncoverable.
But, of course, that’s exactly what Hüsker Dü did: not so much cover “Eight Miles High” as uncover it.
“Eight Miles High”
Eight Miles High performed live in 1987
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