Why You Remember Them: This song was a decent enough hit, but it was the band’s 1990 Five Man Acoustical Jam live disc that cemented their status as a band who could successfully cover “Signs” in a way that involved several pointless f-bombs.
Worldwide U.S. Album Sales To Date: 6 million
Five Man Acoustical Jam = like paying $14 at Musicland to go to the Wild Wing Cafe: Seriously, who else would have the stones (zing) to cover “Mother’s Little Helper,” “Lodi,” “Signs,” “Truckin’” and “We Can Work It Out” all on the same album? Amazing. And they’d go on to do “Honky Tonk Women,” “Street Fighting Man,” “Do You Feel Like We Do” and countless others. Nothing in the rock catalog is safe from Tesla!
Other Key Tracks: “The Way It Is,” “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)”
Length of “Love Song” on that acoustic album: 9:54. Suck it, Phish.
Humiliating Personal Memory: This tape received considerable play during the summer of 1990, where I would bring my Walkman on various lawnmowing jobs and listen over the mower noise, which is something that would have been nice to have been warned about by like a hearing doctor or something, but whatever.
Best part of their Wikipedia Entry: Five Man Acoustical Jam is credited as a precursor of the “Unplugged” trend, so the next time you hear Cobain turn into the devil howling the last verse of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” you pour a little out for Tesla, without whom no one might have ever thought to play songs with acoustic guitars on television.
Estimated Number of Greatest Hits Collections: 3
Most Recent Greatest Hits Collection Title: Time’s Makin’ Changes – The Best of Tesla
Estimated Number Of Live Albums: Three, most of which are – and you may want to sit down for this – covers records. Real to Reel, released in 2007, is a essentially two-disc playlist of a Tulsa classic rock FM station in 1987 featuring all ’60s and ’70s covers like “Thank You,” “I’ve Got A Feeling,” “All the Young Dudes,” “War Pigs,” “I Want To Take You Higher” and “Shooting Star.” And an iTunes-only EP later that year featured four more covers and an inexplicable new arrangement of “Signs.”
Sweet Christ, They Actually Covered: Good gravy, what haven’t they covered? Somewhere there’s a Tesla acoustic EP with “The Super Bowl Shuffle” on it.
Disappointingly Literal Album Cover: The cover of 1994’s quickly forgotten Bust a Nut features a large machine preparing to crush a walnut. Irony was big in 1994. As was nut-busting.
Most Improbable Song Title: “Don’t De-Rock Me” from 1991’s Psychotic Supper. Who doesn’t remember standing defiant in your living room on Friday night, with your mom being all like “Hey, kid, you be back by midnight and no cigarettes or questionable girl sex!” and you’d be all like, “Hey, Mom, don’t de-rock me!” right before you re-pegged your jeans and headed to the mall in her Accord.
Pre-Nirvana Song Titles: “Rock Me To The Top,” “Cumin’ Atcha Live,” “Lazy Days, Crazy Nights”
Post-Nirvana Song Titles: “Freedom Slaves,” “The Gate/Invited”
Arbitarily Scored Ferocity of Devil-Horns Thrust: 6. And the devil horns are covers of devil horns we actually threw in the air at a Zeppelin concert.
Looking Ahead: Tesla was referenced on an episode of One Tree Hill, although someone’s teenage daughter is gonna have to tell me what that means exactly. The band released 2008’s Forever More on its own label and will perform on the cruise ship “ShipRocked” in November of this year.