Which is Best? The Cover or Original? Going Down by Freddie King…

Gettin' Ready Freddie King

Ever hear a great tune by one of your favourite musicians without realising they are covering someone else’s song?

It happens to me all the time. And rather than feeling disappointed, as I imagine a One Direction fan might feel upon realising that, somewhat inexplicably, “One Way Or Another” wasn’t, in fact, written by Harry Styles, I think it is one of music’s great joys.

Take Jack White’s “I’m Shakin’” from his first solo album. On first listen, I had no idea that was a cover, having been distracted by *cough* the black thunderbolt streaked across my blue vinyl copy of the LP which rendered me inattentive when flicking through the credits on the “Blunderbuss” record sleeve. So when I heard Little Willie John’s original, it was a genuine joy to hear how White had used John’s vocal inflexions but still put his stamp on things – even if John’s voice is incomparable.

More tragically, the first time I heard “Stairway To Heaven” was when Far Corporation released a four minute version on a 7″ single twenty five years ago this year. Pulling the strings behind Far Corporation were the same people that would go on to be behind Milli Vanilli.

Plant might be rather weary of singing stairway, but after hearing the Far Corporation version first, I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of hearing Led Zep’s version. Or Dread Zep’s version either, come to think of it.

Which leads me to the subject of this post: One of my favourite blues tunes (actually, you don’t need the word “blues” in there) is “Going Down”, a song I first heard played by Masters of Reality on their “Live at the Viper Room” LP. Chris Goss and co squeezed the song in between a souped-up “Ants In The Kitchen”, itself one of the finest blues numbers written in the last 25 years*, the original of which featured a fine performance on drums by Ginger Baker. **

What a riff! The song *swings* like few others. It’s seven minutes and thirteen seconds of pure joy as the two songs combine at the end with “Ants…” being sung to the “Going Down” riff. Impressive stuff.

It wasn’t until several years later when I heard the descending (well, what else?) riff of “Going Down” on the radio that I was amazed to discover Masters of Reality didn’t write “Going Down” after all. It was a Freddie King song, said the DJ.

Or was it?

Far be it from me to question the integrity of a UK radio DJ (let’s not go there…), but in fact, although Freddie King popularised the song, it was originally written by Don Nix, a man who played saxophone for the Mar-Keys – the band that eventually morphed into Booker T & the MGs.

It’s amazing what you can find out when you get a little curious about things…

The song first appeared on an album by a band called Moloch in 1969, the same year that Freddie King appeared at the 1969 Texas pop festival alongside Led Zeppelin.

Freddie King had enjoyed pop success with his instrumental “Hide Away” some years earlier in 1961.*** However, as a result of his appearance at the festival, King enjoyed an upturn in his popularity. He signed to Leon Russell’s new label, Shelter Records and in 1971 King released the album “Getting Ready”, recorded the previous year at Chess Studios in Chicago alongside Russell on piano.

“Getting Ready” includes such blues classics as “Five Long Years” (more recently covered by that other King, B.B. and by Buddy Guy on the excellent “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues”), the Jimmy Rodgers classic “Walking By Myself” plus – crucially – Nix’s new-ish song “Going Down”. Freddie King’s version of the song became the definitive one. The album, and two that followed were critical successes and a new audience discovered King as he toured with Eric Clapton.

King’s version of Going Down remains the definitive version, despite the best efforts of Masters of Reality, and “Getting Ready” sounds as good today as it doubtless did then.

Have a listen…..

* In my not so humble opinion
** On the sublime “Sunrise on the Sufferbus” album
*** A song that is great to hear, but devilishly tricky to play, as I can attest from first hand experience


25 responses to “Which is Best? The Cover or Original? Going Down by Freddie King…”

  1. mrjohnnyandrews Avatar

    I love Going Down. I only found it about a year ago when I read an old Joe Perry interview in which he mentioned the song. That whole album is pretty sweet too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Ah, didn’t know Mr Perry was a fan too…. And yes – the album is excellent – I’m trying to find an original copy on vinyl…


  2. marycigarettes Avatar

    oh wow..i didn’t know leon russell owned shelter records…i never had that grease band mad dogs record,although i know henry who played guitar,but i did have the first tom petty album on shelter which i played endlessly.

    covers are funny things…i had a deep need to hear that gorgeous ‘gasoline alley bred’ by the hollies early this morning,and when i youtubed it,i accidentally learned that the original was by that pure bubblegum group the fortunes.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Which goes to show truth is sometimes stranger than fiction…


  3. J. Avatar

    Going Down is a great song indeed. I heard the Freddie version when searching for the original (my copy of How High the Moon credits the song to Don Nix).

    I would also agree with your comment on Ants In The Kitchen … Sunrise On The Sufferbus is filled with great blues tunes.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Sadly unavailable on vinyl…..


      1. J. Avatar

        … I’ve been hoping it would see a release after the debut and Viper Room vinyl package.


  4. Daedalus Lex Avatar

    My vote for best cover is Jimi Hendrix’s version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” “The wind began to howl” in Dylan’s harmonica but continues nicely in Hendrix’s guitar.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Nicely put. I think that’s right up there in any list – good choice…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Rob Jones Avatar
        Rob Jones

        The best cover ever by a country mile. Manys the night I have argued this point to death over a few pints. I can still remember my neck hairs standing on edge when it cranked up in the cinema in Whitnail and I. Of course this was rendered null a year later when U2 mangled it in their opus Rattle and Hum. Obviously the best cover version ever and strangely also the worst.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. actionbill Avatar

      The Rush cover of “Seven and Seven Is” by Love is pretty cool.


    3. Response Avatar

      Good one.

      How about the Animals version of the song “house of the rising sun” that could also be the best cover ever

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Tim McCreight Avatar

    Although I think Albert was the greatest King, I have a lot of love for Freddie, too. And while Freddie owns this song, it’s been covered aplenty including by the Jeff Beck Group. On his 1980 tour it was the by-then fusiony Beck who SANG it.

    Your point about Little Willie John is also apt although my reaction to Jack White’s version was more like horror mostly because I think he can’t sing and I find his playing overly sloppy. My favorite cover version of that was by the Downey, CA roots rockers The Blasters on their 1981 or 1982 debut record.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Ah, I’ll have to look that one up – sounds good – thanks!


  6. travellingmo Avatar

    It’s funny, “I’m Shakin’” is a cover that creeps its way into a lot of Third Man Records’ stuff. Besides being on Jack’s Blunderbuss album, it’s on the Wanda Jackson album they put out, and on Willie Moon’s album, who is not a Third Man Records artist per se but did some recording in their studio. All great covers with different flavors!


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Not heard that Willy Moon version before. Interesting – thank you!


  7. Kevin Avatar

    Jeff Beck’s version is better than both of them!


    1. actionbill Avatar

      I have to agree – The cover version done by the Jeff Beck Group is the best cover IMO, still my favorite one. Leslie West does a pretty decent cover too


  8. j Avatar

    HEATHEN .. Beck is good, but King’s is THE best


  9. Daniel Dye Avatar
    Daniel Dye

    The Who has a live version of Going Down from the early 70’s which is good. You can find it on album titled Two’s Missing. I have a copy of this album. Has a lot of other non-hit songs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Thanks for the heads up. Excellent!


  10. Deckard Avatar

    The Jeff Beck Group’s Cover of “Going Down” is still the best IMO. Leslie West did a pretty good rendition also.


  11. Michael Flip Avatar
    Michael Flip

    Freddie King’s: Getting Ready LP recorded 1970 released 1971. He DID release Going Down as a Single. His version is definitive at least Vocally and Rythmically with Leon’s Little Richard/Jerry Lee piano but spare an ear for Jeff Beck”s inventive playing on his 72′ studio LP plus his aggressive 73′ feedback drenched version on BBA LIVE! N.b. Getting Ready LP also contains the smoking hot track Palace Of The King!


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Thanks for the corrections. Have amended article.


  12. Chuck U Farley Avatar
    Chuck U Farley

    The Jack White version is essentially lifted from the Blasters 1981 version, with adjustments for his inability to sing as well as Phil Alvin or Little Willie John

    Liked by 1 person

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