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 recorded the album “Getting Ready” 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”. Although not released as a single, 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



Categories: Blues

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

21 replies

  1. 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

  2. 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.

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  3. 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.

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  4. 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.

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  5. 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

  6. 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!

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

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

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  9. 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

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

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