The Black Keys tend to wear their influences on their sleeve. Dan Auerbach has paid tribute to lost guitar icon Glenn Schwartz with fellow Midwestern rock hero Joe Walsh, while The Black Keys released an entire covers album dedicated to the likes of Junior Kimbrough and R. L. Burnside with 2021’s Delta Kream. Based on their sound, it would seem logical that Auerbach and Patrick Carney started and ended their listening habits with old-school American blues and garage rock.
How strange it is, then, to return to the band’s now 20-year-old debut LP The Big Come Up. Not because the band’s style is completely different – in fact, it’s the rawest, most lo-fi, and most stripped-back version of The Black Keys’ signature blend of blues and rock that they ever put to tape. Recorded in Carney’s basement with no budget and no expectations, The Big Come Up is the exact kind of record that a band makes when they know nobody is paying attention to them.
That includes a judicious amount of covers, most of which seem right within The Black Keys’ established wheelhouse: Burnside, Kimbrough, and Muddy Waters all get covered throughout the album’s tracklist. But towards the middle of the LP comes a shocking take on a psychedelic masterpiece. Despite having no psychedelia or perceived love for any kind of British music at the time, The Black Keys took on The Beatles by covering the John Lennon written track ‘She Said, She Said’.
The original version of ‘She Said She Said’, which appears on 1966’s Revolver, is fleshed out with biting guitar lines, double-tracked vocals, and waves of effects like echo and compression. In other words: not exactly any of the things that The Black Keys had access to in their basement. They only had distortion and determination behind them, and with the sort of reckless abandon that can only be found in a few musicians fucking around to see what happens, Auerbach and Carney launch into a notoriously ragged rendition of ‘She Said, She Said’.
Surprisingly, The Black Keys remain remarkably faithful to the original track, taking the track’s shifting time signatures with remarkable ease. There are some clear slide guitar overdubs, a rarity for the mostly-sparse songs on The Big Come Up, as well as a ghostly sound that floats above the song’s arrangement. It could be an organ part left low in the mix, or it could just be the sound of one of Auerbach’s guitars. It could also be the Moog bass that band friend Gabe Fulvimar is credited with playing on the track.
Whatever the true breakdown might be, The Black Keys’ version of ‘She Said, She Said’ is the most polished track on The Big Come Up. That’s not saying much, considering how it doesn’t have much competition, but it does help solidify the connection between the lo-fi origins of the band and their eventual ascension to arena rock superstardom.
Check out The Black Keys’ version of ‘She Said, She Said’ down below.