The Beatles have been covered countless times over the years, and while it’s essentially impossible to best the original recordings, there are a few choice cover versions out there. One of the most interesting that I’ve heard was done by a Houston band in 1968.
The Moving Sidewalks were fronted by Billy Gibbons, who’s best known today as the guitarist for ZZ Top. Beginning in 1967, the Moving Sidewalks released a handful of singles and an album, before calling it a day by the end of the decade.
Though they started out as a garage rock band—check out the Gibbons-penned “99th Floor”—their sound would soon evolve. Taking inspiration from local heroes the 13th Floor Elevators, as well as the debut record by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Moving Sidewalks morphed into a bluesy psychedelic band. In February 1968, they were asked to open four shows for the Jimi Hendrix Experience—and jumped at the chance. Following the Fort Worth gig, Gibbons was invited to participate in a backstage jam session with Hendrix, and afterwards the two traded guitars. Hendrix would later praise Gibbons in the media, citing him as one of his favorite guitarists.
Jimi Hendrix with the Moving Sidewalks, Fort Worth, Texas, February 17th, 1968. Billy Gibbons is second from the right.
The non-LP A-side of the third Moving Sidewalks single, released later in 1968, was an inspired cover of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Re-imagined as a psych tune, it’s slow-n-heavy, reminiscent of the sort of treatment the Vanilla Fudge gave the Motown song, “You Keep Me Hanging On.” There’s also speculation that the arrangement was influenced by Hendrix’s cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which he had been performing live. Regardless, it’s an amazingly cool version.
50 years on, the way-rare 45 has yet to been reissued, so if you want a copy of the Moving Sidewalks’s cover of “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” your best bet is their 2012 compilation, The Complete Collection.
The Moving Sidewalks performed “I Want to Hold Your Hand” during their reunion show in New York City on March 30th, 2013. It was their first gig in 44 years.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The explosive teenage garage rock of Pittsburgh proto-punks, the Swamp Rats
‘The Black Door’: This dark-n-moody 1968 song is a Doors rip-off—and it’s awesome
The Koala: These snotty ‘60s garage punks put out just one album—and it’s fantastic