You can hear the exclusive premiere of the song below.
“Sounds like they are having fun with the arrangement,” Simmons tells UCR after hearing Fu Manchu’s slow, menacing take on the Doobies’ 1976 hit. “I always thought it was a sort of an angry indictment of the establishment in many ways when I first heard the song. This arrangement sounds plenty angry! Thanks, guys!”
The cover is paired with two new tracks on FU 30, Pt. 1, the first of three 10″ EPs Fu Manchu plan to release this year. U.S. fans can order the 45 RPM translucent orange sunshine vinyl at Big Cartel; overseas customers can purchase it at Cargo.
The EP’s cover art features a homage to the Doobie Brothers’ original single design. Each of the three EPs – the second is tentatively slated for August and the third for December – will include a new cover song and similarly themed tribute artwork.
Fu Manchu have a long tradition of putting their own twist on classic rock songs such as Blue Oyster Cult‘s “Godzilla,” the Cars‘ “Moving in Stereo” and “Jailbreak” by Thin Lizzy. Frontman Scott Hill says he first heard ‘Takin’ It to the Streets” from his father.
“I have been a big Doobie Brothers fan ever since I was a young kid,” he explains. “My dad would play “Babylon” by Blue Cheer and “Takin’ It to the Streets” back to back all the time. Whenever we would go to the beach to surf or go to ride dirt bikes, that was his very mini-playlist, so it became my playlist. To this day, I play both of those songs back to back and they remain favorites. Then I remember seeing the Doobie Brothers on What’s Happening!! when Rerun gets busted by the band for trying to bootleg the concert. Such a great show! I mentioned doing “Takin’ It To The Streets” to the rest of the guys, and they are big Doobie Brothers fans as well, so we kind of laughed and went for it.”
As Simmons notes, Fu Manchu’s take on the song is different from the original. “We love to slow down, even tune down our guitars to really tweak a cover song and add plenty of fuzz,” Hill notes. “We had Bob [Balch], our lead guitarist, figure it out and he came to practice with the main part of the song slowed down. Then Brad [Davis], our bassist, said to change one note [and] chord to make it darker sounding. Finally, Scott Reeder, our drummer, wanted to do those drum and bass stabs at the beginning and add cowbell at the outro. I wanted to really not raise my voice in the main verse and pre-chorus section to make it a little more menacing sounding. We all shouted the chorus and added the single-note guitar parts in the chorus to make that part heavy, and Bob did a little of the sax solo as a guitar lead, then went off on his own thing.”
Hill won’t reveal the other cover songs the band has already recorded for the other upcoming EPs in the FU 30 series, but says “we tweaked them again, and the originals sound nothing like Fu Manchu. I don’t think our version [of “Streets”] sounds anything like the original, which to me, is what you should do to a cover song, because there was no way that we were ever going to do the song any kind of justice playing it close to the original. We just hope that the dudes in the Doobie Brothers don’t bum out too much on our version, because we really do all love that song. We are all fans of Michael McDonald.”
Like all gatherings planned for the next few months, Fu Manchu’s 2020 tour has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. But the band plans to keep busy in the studio during the time. “We will be recording two new songs for each 10” as well,” Hill reveals. “We want to have the songs be really new, so we are waiting until the last minute to write songs right up until we go into the studio.”
The postponement left Hill’s garage filled with boxes of tour merchandise, some of which served as raw material for his daughter’s newest project. “It’s a bummer the tour is postponed, but everyone’s safety is more important than getting blasted by a heavy dose of fuzz guitar for the night,” he says. “My daughter asked what we are going to be doing with all the tour shirts in our garage. … She grabbed one and made a protective face mask out of it. I was very impressed!”
Hill and his bandmates, who recently issued an anniversary edition of their 1996 album In Search Of … , are staying similarly productive: Balch is teaching guitar at playthisriff.com; Davis is making and selling fuzz pedals at Creepy Fingers Effects; and Reeder is giving drum lessons at his website. “Everyone is staying busy,” Hill says. “I’m just playing guitar at home, waiting to go surfing and working on the reissues for the rest of this year.”