Today would have been Johnny Cash’s 84th birthday.
An iconic figure whose dramatic, heartfelt songwriting and rebellious nature served to inspire rock musicians from Metallica and U2 through to Jack White and Volbeat, Cash’s reputation was enhanced in the last decade of his life by his collaboration with producer Rick Rubin on the American Recordings series, in which The Man In Black covered songs by Soundgarden, Nick Cave, Depeche Mode and, most memorably and affectingly, Nine Inch Nails Hurt.
Sadly, other artists’ attempts to cover Cash’s own material have not always proved so engaging. Here are five occasions on which the world would have been better served by a recording engineer pressing the ‘Delete’ button.
DragonForce – Ring Of Fire
Strictly speaking, you probably don’t need to listen to the final track on DragonForce’s Maximum Overload album to know what it sounds like, do you? Suffice to say that the pan-national power-metallers suck all the soul, pathos and yearning from Cash’s original, and replace its inimitable countrified twang with a million pointlessly cascading notes and a piercing, high-pitched melody line that could startle a sea-lion.
Children Of Bodom – Ghost Riders In The Sky
Finland’s Children Of Bodom have displayed an admirably eclectic reach in their choices of cover versions - tackling everyone from Britney Spears and Pat Benatar through to Poison and King Diamond - but this exuberantly punch-drunk take on Stan Jones 1948 hit, immortalised by Johnny Cash, veers horribly close to parody. Alcohol may have been involved.
Frank Iero - I Walk The Line
Former My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero’s debut solo album stomachaches was a charmingly ramshackle affair, imbued with punk rock spirit. This, his lo-fi take on the JC classic, from the For Jamia EP, is just a mess of out-of-tune vocals, strangled guitar lines and biscuit-tin percussion, the kind of ‘enthusiastic’ tribute you hear outside Irish theme pubs at 3am.
As They Sleep – I Walk The Line
For approximately 30 seconds, Christian technical death metal troupe As They Sleep’s attempt at I Walk The Line lulls the listener into thinking they might actually do something interesting with Cash’s 1957 hit. And then… sweet Jesus make it stop. If there truly is an omnipotent God above he might want to get a better A&R man.
H-Blockx and Dr. Ring-Ding - Ring of Fire
Germany’s H-Blockx are best known in this country for their er, Turbo B-charged version of Snap’s dance ‘anthem’ The Power. Dr. Ring-Ding, mercifully, remains entirely unknown to us, and we refuse to even dignify him with a Google search, for his contributions to this hysterically camp mauling of Cash’s best-known song are about as welcome as syphilis.