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Take Five / Your Cover’s Blown: The Five Weirdest Covers of “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 24, 2007

Ready boots?

Few 60s pop songs have proven to be more bizarrely enduring than Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that–far from it, in fact, since I think its status as one of the 60s’ quirkiest, catchiest and most distinctive hits is somewhat inarguable. The brisk, tambourine-heavy beat, writer Lee Hazelwood’s classic hard-knocked homilies (“You keep lyin’ / when you oughta be truthin'”) via Sinatra’s trademark deadpan delivery, the closing mariachi horns, and of course, that unforgettable descending bass hook, all add up to one of the best singles of 1966, my vote for the greatest year for pop singles in the 20th century.

What’s strange about it, though, are the people keeping the song’s legacy alive. Aside from throwaway covers from Jessica Simpson and the Supremes, and a token appearance in the first Austin Powers movie, “Boots” appears to be almost solely the domain of the creepy and fucked up. The song’s most memorable pop culture appearances come via movies like Full Metal Jacket and Natural Born Killers, and versions of the song span such genres as punk, industrial, metal, alt-dance, rap, reggae and just plain out there. Just how many weird versions of this song have there been? Versions by Nick Cave, Operation Ivy, Kon Kan, Boy George, Antonio Banderas (via the Shrek 2 soundtrack) and The Residents DIDN’T make the cut for this article. Here’s the five that did:

Mrs. Miller – “These Boots Were Made for Walkin‘” A sort of weirdo, non-fictional precursor to the SNL Culp Family sketches, Mrs. Elva Miller was a 60s novelty act who (probably) wasn’t in on the joke. Nearing 60 at the time of her biggest pop success, Miller’s hits were wobbly, off-tune and off-beat renditions of some of the biggest hits of the time. Her karaoke-ish covers make for some of the queasiest listening you’ll ever experience, not just because her singing is so bad, but because it feels like she might have a nervous breakdown at any point during the song’s running time. Not quite as transcendental as her “Downtown” cover, but a worthy entry nonetheless.

Symarip – “These Boots Were Made for Stompin‘” This late-60s skinhead reggae cover of the Sinatra tune turns the song’s more empowering elements into a more rebellious cry against oppression, a la “Pressure Drop.” Naturally, “Walkin” is changed to “Stompin,” which apparently was the main concern of skinheads before they decided that blanket racism was a more solid ethos or some such.

Megadeth – “These Boots More of a joke than anything else when first recorded for debut album Killing is My Business…and Business is Good!, you’d be hard not to be impressed with the band’s semi-faithful (OK, they might’ve changed a word or two to aggro it up a bit, but it’s still clearly the same song) rendition. Managing to not be impressed, however, was Lee Hazelwood, who called the ‘Deth version a “perversion of the original” and demanded it be removed from further pressings of the group’s album. Listen and judge for yourself, I suppose.

Crispin Hellion Glover – “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’Yes, that Crispin Glover. An improbable and yet somehow inevitable cover of the 60s gem from his sole solo album, The Big Problem ? The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be (which I’ve still yet to hear, but for which I have received uniformly positive buzz), Glover’s version basically Wesley Willisizes the song (tinny drum machines, disarmingly breezy instrumentation, maniacally shrieked vocals), and then some. Even the mariachi part at the end sounds ridiculously unsettling here.

KMFDM – “Boots Neck and neck with their re-work of Madonna’s “Material Girl” for my favorite gender-swapped KMFDM pop cover. Turns out “Boots” is just as applicable to German industrial breakneck motor-pop as any other genre, though by this point in the article, I can’t imagine you could find that too surprising. The “READY BOOTS? START WALKING!!!!!” part never sounded quite so maniacally gleeful/tyrannical before.

3 Responses to “Take Five / Your Cover’s Blown: The Five Weirdest Covers of “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’””

  1. Tal said

    Andrew, I don’t know where you come up with this stuff, but I laughed just reading the title.

  2. Haley said

    Hey Andrew, I am one of the people who actually owns Cripsin Glover’s album, and yes all of the positive buzz you’ve heard is accurate. It was difficult to find, but worth the search, he is a wonderfully strange little man. His version of The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapese is equally unsettling and creepy… but awesome, keep up the good work, reading this blog is the best part of my day!

  3. Keke said

    Great article but dang it, you didn’t mention another extremely obscure version of the song that a German all girl band does… I thought they were called “Babes of Babylon”, but I can find nothing of them on the Internet so I could be wrong. It’s an all German (also industrial/D&s sounding) version of the song, which has the words “You are nothing!” thrown into it in English from time to time. If you can find *this* version, you are truly awesome.

    P.S. I KNOW I am not crazy and I did not hallucinate this version because I found some dude from NY searching for the same song in a forum. 🙂

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