‘Green Onions’ was quietly one of the most revolutionary singles of the early 1960s. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about it: it’s a twelve-bar blues featuring a fairly basic arrangement of drums, bass, guitar, and Hammond B-3 organ. The band behind the song, Booker T. and the MG’s, were the house band for Stax Records, the legendary R&B and soul label that produced all-time greats like Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes. ‘Green Onions’ was so stripped back that it didn’t even have any words to it.
That’s what made it such a strange hit single: instrumentals weren’t commonplace on the pop charts, not then and not now. Can you remember the Billboard Hot 100 number ones ‘Sleep Walk’ or ‘The Happy Organ’? My guess is probably not, but you know ‘Green Onions’. Its lasting effect on pop culture far outweighs its modest origins, but chances are you can still recognise that central riff when it pops up in movies, TV, or at baseball games.
Instrumental rock bands are still relatively rare, save from the odd Mogwai here and there, but Houston’s Khruangbin certainly is a part of that conversation. Formed towards the tail end of the 2000s, Khruangbin has ascended to the top of the festival scene by cranking out some of the most hypnotic grooves of the past decade and change, plus or minus vocals.
Now, the Texas trio are paying homage to their forefathers in instrumental funk jams by covering ‘Green Onions’. The trio have partnered with British DJ Quantic to give the track a shiny new arrangement, complete with disco rhythms and spacey synths that transport the sultry strut of the original into outer space and back again.
The new arrangement even got the approval of original MG Steve Cropper, the iconic guitarist who also moonlighted as both a producer and a member of the Blues Brothers. Cropper called the cover “a very nice rendition of the song… I really like the modern touch with the rhythm.” It’s hard to think of a bigger seal of approval than that.
Check out the cover of ‘Green Onions’ down below.