The Greatest Oldies Mashups of All Time

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The Greatest Oldies Mashups of All Time

Everybody loves the mashup, that Frankenstinian monster created by 21st century tech: just take two classic well-known tracks, mix and match their vocals and backing tracks, and you have a whole new hybrid, one that at its best forces you to hear a beloved song in a fresh new way. (This is different from a remix, which merely changes the backing track of an existing song, or a sample of a classic song being looped for a few seconds and then used to create an entirely new track.) The best ones also reveal hidden connections between their two components, or even, in some cases, improving upon the original in some way. More often than not, they come out pointless, horrible, or worse, but these mashups, when heard with an open mind, are guaranteed to change your perceptions -- and start your party!

02
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"Folsom Prison Gangstaz," DJ Topcat

Listen: Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" and Eazy-E's "Luv for Dem Gangstaz"

Kid Rock spent his entire early career trying to pinpoint the exact nexus between hip-hop and outlaw country, but now that the two are beginning to sound uncomfortably close, we need this mashup more than ever: a real Compton legend and a Sun Studios maverick somehow finding common ground. The key here is, no surprise, the beat: what was a lame latter-day attempt to copy Dr. Dre's Chronic sound becomes a rockabilly rave up with just enough country-funk limp to get over and the Man In Black's own iconic chorus -- taken from the live Folsom Prison version for extra authenticity -- to help provide some context. When someone leans in to say "a-who's that?" it even sounds like Johnny a little. Rest easy, playas.

03
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"Imagine a Jump," Magic Mike

Listen: John Lennon's "Imagine" and Van Halen's "Jump" 

It's probably the most famous mashup on this list, used in YouTube montages and played live by real bands. And maybe one day it could be the most famous ever, because Magic Mike's creation is magic indeed. How David Lee Roth's testicular coyote howl eventually fits into Lennon's gentle utopian anthem is a puzzler for the gods themselves, though it does reveal just how affectionate and sympathetic Diamond Dave's come on really is (and if you still don't believe it go back and listen to the almost paternal observations of "Dance the Night Away," the clear blueprint for "Jump"). It sounds like a failed experiment at first, but by the time he sings "Baby, how you been?" in the second verse, the message is clear: Utopia begins at home. Maybe even with a one-night stand leaning against the jukebox.

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"Hotel Californication," YITT

Listen: The Eagles' "Hotel California" and Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Californication"

It seems like a no-brainer at first: two gentle loping ballads about the big shiny lie that is Los Angeles. And the transition from white reggae to lite funk isn't a difficult one, either. But forcing a rethink of a song as iconic and overplayed as "Hotel California" is a tall order, and using a song as hypnotic as the Chili Peppers' to do it with is even trickier. The details are what make this one, like leaving the lyrics out of the second chorus for one line, turning it into a de facto solo, or saving the words "hardcore soft porn" for the dramatic apex where "bring your alibis" should be, or bringing the Peppers' backup vocals in and out of the ending guitar duel at will.

 

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"Grapevine Girl," StayAwayMusic

Listen: Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and Nirvana's "About a Girl" (live)

They're both undoubtedly overcast in their post-romantic mood, with possible storms on the horizon, but otherwise these two classics have nothing in common. Gaye's version of "Grapevine" borrowed its moves from Ray Charles' "I Believe to My Soul," while Cobain's midtempo pop song was borne of his love for REM and Meet the Beatles. Yet both are rooted in a simple four-line blues and then accented with some eerily similar pop changes. Kurt's bleached whine is never gonna be to everyone's taste, and it's certainly not as expressive as Marvin's falsetto, but the songs match perfectly with little to no editing (leaving the backup singers in is a plus), and if you "get" Cobain, your reward is hearing the creation of something new in music entirely: soul-punk.

06
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"Lockdown Shelter," team9

Listen: The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" and Kanye West's "Love Lockdown"

When Kanye announced, around the time of his 808s & Heartbreak transformation, that he was headed for a new kind of pop that was only tangentially about hip-hop, he was laughed out of the room. and outsized ego or no, he was right: that album and this hit single from it were steeped in R&B, even if President Yeezy had to use autotune to get there. So when team9 placed Kanye over this Stones classic, it actually fit with almost no changes. Like so many truly epic mashups, this one utilizes elements of both songs. So you get two separate killer choruses, West's piano and tribal drums over Keef's guitar, and the jaw-dropping audacity of autotuning Mick as well to make everything more, um, integrated. Mick keeping his love locked down? Kanye threatened by metaphorical storms? Maybe he is the last rock star.

 

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"Crocodile Chop," Neil Cicierega

Listen: Elton John's "Crocodile Rock" and System of a Down's "Chop Suey"

Even Serj Tankian, leader of these nu-metal heroes, claims this mashup as his favorite version of their breakthrough hit. (No word on what the Rocket Man thinks yet.) It's by far the strangest juxtaposition on this list, and you'll have to work a little to get comfortable with it, if only because SOAD had to be slowed down considerably to make it fit. Yet fit it does, somehow, once you get over the tremendous disconnect, and while it's of course a great pop-culture joke to hear lines like "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" wailed over Elton's ode to the Fifties sock hop, the structures match more often than not. Soon you'll be earwormed into singing about how angels deserve to dieeeee.... Ya Ya Ya Ya Ya....

08
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"The Twist of Single Ladies," Amoraboy

Listen: Chubby Checker's "The Twist" and Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)"

This one is just bizarre. Of course Beyonce's super smash was mostly a series of diva hooks done over an electronic tribal stomp, but she's still in that blues scale, and the sanitized I-IV-V of Chubby Checker, of all people, works perfectly as her backup. Amoraboy cheats just a bit, like many mashup artists do by excising the stuff that doesn't work, in this case the bridge. But everything else is in order, even if primitive 1960 tech means that Checker's voice couldn't be removed from the original. The solution in these cases is a karaoke track, and this one is so excellent you'd never notice unless you listened hard to the difference in those backup "round and round and round and rounds." And why shouldn't it all work? Bey's song was mainly popular for introducing a new dance craze, wasn't it?

09
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"Karmastition," Go Home Productions

Listen: Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" and Alicia Keys' "Karma"

Speaking of divas. Alicia's hit tried just a little too hard to add chamber-pop elements to what sounds like one of Jay-Z's work beats, and Stevie's classic funk track is simple, melodically monochromatic, yet ornate enough to work with just about anything. Voila! Keys gets brought up to Wonder's speed (literally), and what sounded suspicious now sounds downright furious, with Stevie's interlocking series of riffs keeping things interesting (his one chord change is easy for Alicia to land on). The real payoff is the delicious way her cold, minor-key "Now youuuuuu..." refrain rubs up uncomfortably against Stevie's hot horns

 

10
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"Rapture Riders," Go Home Productions

Listen:The Doors' "Riders on the Storm" and Blondie's "Rapture"

The only entry on this list to be recreated for a specific project, this unlikely summit meeting was so popular it was actually included on a Blondie greatest hits album, where it shot to #1 on more than one country's dance charts. "Rapture" is of course a classic dance track, one which helped herald the rise of hip-hop, but it turns out Jim's bluesy doom works really well in the club, too, just like the Godfather of Goth he is. By bolstering the sillier parts of Debbie Harry's "rap" with Jim's presence and keeping the electric piano drizzle, this mashup gets to have it both ways, as if the hitchhike gone bad had happened after hours in the urban jungle instead of in the desert. Now only if they'd overlaid some of Morrison's spoken-word prophecy over that long, long fade.