Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published October 4th 2018
The Beatles are great no matter what
The Beatles. They are the centre of music culture in the latter half of the twentieth century. While other artists such as Dylan may have been lyrically more accomplished (hey – the guy won the Nobel Prize!), the popularity of The Beatles has remained undiminished since they first hit the scene in 1962. Their songs range from the simple to the quite complex. From anodyne pop to hard rock (Helter Skelter) to experimental (Revolution 9) to blues to everything in between. They redefined what it meant to be a music group – writing and performing mainly their own songs, not afraid to use the studio as an instrument in itself, putting complexities into lyrical messages, utilising other musicians where need be – and their impact still rings out today.
Why, yes, I am a fan – did you not guess?
The Beatles pictured while filming 'I Am The Walrus' (from Wikipedia)
Now, the Beatles impact has been such that, even to this day, their songs are still covered by a wide and never-ending variety of artists. Wikipedia lists over 2000 cover versions and it still misses a huge chunk (my own music collection has many that are not in the list, but Wikipedia is to knowledge what McDonalds is to fine dining – for all its pretensions, it's still junk).
Of course, not all are good. An entire album of Beatles songs 'sung' by barking dogs? Yeah, they did that. The soundtrack album to that appalling movie Sgt Pepper's… starring the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton? Best left undiscussed (I mean, George Burns singing Beatles songs… no. Just… no). And the less said about William Shatner's 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds' the better…
Now, to my list. Yes, my second covers list. I have only included songs that were released on studio albums. So, no live tracks, no tracks that were performed at awards shows, nothing from TV shows. So long as some-one bothered to go into a studio and record it, and I like it, I've put it here. This is also a long list. I couldn't contain it. The songs are so good and there are so many great versions out there that I'm sure I've missed some as well. Still, this is, as far as I am concerned, a good list, and I hope you enjoy it.
Now, to start with, the honourable mentions:
"A Hard Day's Night" (1998) by Hoodoo Gurus
"Across the Universe" (1975) by David Bowie
"All My Loving" (2001) by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (seriously - you need to hear this!)
"Fool On The Hill" (1984) by Sky
"From Me to You" (1963) by Del Shannon
"Got to Get You into My Life" (1966) by Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers
"Hey Jude" (1968) by Wilson Pickett (only just missed out on the main list)
"I Saw Her Standing There" (2006) Jerry Lee Lewis with Little Richard (also only just missed out)
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" (1968) by Marmalade
"Revolution" (1984) by The Radiators
"With a Little Help from My Friends" (1968) by Joe Cocker Already a long list! Like I said, it was hard to cut it down.
So, here are the ones I've really liked. Now, remember, this is a personal opinion list and I would love it for people to add their own and why they like them. Let's make this interactive!
Come Together (2017) by Gary Clark Jr with Junkie XL
So, let's start with the most recent. From the Justice League soundtrack, Clark took an already heavy sounding song and did the full Hendrix to it, amping up the guitar sound and just giving it that driving thud of solid bass. It sounds contemporary without losing that original Beatles sound. Just a superb piece of song-covering.
Day Tripper (1966) by Nancy Sinatra I really enjoy the album Boots by Nancy Sinatra. I find her voice seductive and sultry and she really was more than her one hit song (These Boots Are Made For Walking). This version of the song, with its brass stabs and her voice, sounds like she's coming down hard on the guy she's singing this to. It becomes almost a song of anger. It's great.
Day Tripper/Lady Madonna (1987) by Tommy Emmanuel From the quite awesome Up From Down Under album, this instrumental version of the songs is just the epitome of sublime guitar playing. I honestly think there are very few contemporary guitarists as good as Tommy Emmanuel and this track is a perfect example why (for another example, you could go here).
Dear Prudence (1969) by Doug Parkinson in Focus
While this song does come across as a straightforward cover of the Beatles track, it's Doug Parkinson's voice that lifts it above just 'normal'. I don't know what it is, but the way he sings this song injects its with a sense of emotion that most cover versions are missing. And the band backing him is no slouch either.
Do You Want to Know a Secret (1963) by Billy J. Kramer with The Dakotas
Like many beat groups of the Mersey scene of the 1960s, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas were given a Beatles song. But, the demon of the song they received featured just John Lennon on acoustic guitar and finished with an apology for the quality of the song, and then the sound of a toilet flushing. However, despite Lennon's dismissal of the song, this version, with its soaring harmonies and decent, subdued guitars, is not toilet-worthy. It is, in fact, quite good.
(no actual video footage… sorry)
Eleanor Rigby (1970) by Zoot
I have read on this here Internet thing that this version of the song is considered better than the original. Now, let's not get carried away, but it is certainly on a par with it. A sad song about people disconnected from their world is turned into a brilliant proto-heavy metal blues rock-out by this Australian band. Okay, yes, there are times when I do prefer it to the original.
Help! (1980) by John Farnham
To be honest, this song was my first introduction to John Farnham. I was 9 and I heard it on the radio, and I loved it, and that led to my father playing me the original, and then a heap of Beatles songs, and so my love affair with the Beatles began. All because of this song. The lyrics were already a cry for help, but Farnham's delivery as a heartfelt lament makes it even more impactful emotionally. And this song has a story for me. (Oh, come on, you knew at least one of them had to…) I'd stuffed up another relationship in the mid-1990s, and a few other things were going not too well, and I played this song to myself too often (on cassette – the album was called 1980 The Summer… don't judge), relating to the lyrics… and then I met the girl who would go on to become my wife… So I associate this song with finding a soul-mate (no matter that it didn't last).
In My Life (2002) by Johnny Cash
I have mentioned Johnny Cash's awesome cover versions from his American series of albums before, and this just continues that amazing trend. This one comes from American IV: The Man Comes Around and he turns a song of nostalgia into one of lamentation. This isn't looking back fondly on the past; this is regretting the past. His delivery is perfect, and I actually prefer Cash's version to the original.
I Saw Him Standing There (1987) by Tiffany
I may have mentioned Tiffany already, and my teenaged (and beyond) celebrity crush on her. So this might be tinged with bias… and I don't care. Her version of gender-appropriate I Saw Her Standing There is a nice little slice of late-1980s pop and I really enjoy it. You might even find me dancing to it if you're really unlucky…
Let It Be (1987) by Ferry Aid
I am a sucker for the all-star ensemble charity single. Band Aid, Hear'n Aid, USA For Africa, Rock Aid Armenia… oh, the list goes on. And I really enjoy this one. It's already got that sing-along quality, and the whole choral feel adds a sense of joy to what was a charity song for a pretty awful disaster. Oh, and Paul McCartney's involved.
Tomorrow Never Knows (1981) by Phil Collins
This song is actually my favourite Beatles song ever. I like so many of their songs, but this, to me, is the very best. And so it may seem odd that I like a cover version of the song. Well, I do. It's probably because I like the song so much, and also because I am a fan of Phil Collins, and the fact he can play the drums well, and this is a drum-based song… No, I'm not going to justify it. I just like it.
(no actual video footage… sorry again)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (1990) by Jeff Healey
The original was one of the few Beatles songs to feature a guest artist – in this case, Eric Clapton supplying the amazing guitar solo. Now, very, very few people are ever going to match a Clapton solo, but Jeff Healey, the blind virtuoso (who died too early) gave it a damn good try, and delivered a fantastic version of a truly classic song.
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away (2002) by Eddie Vedder
The I Am Sam soundtrack album consisted completely of contemporary covers of Beatles songs, recorded specifically for the film (a very sad film, for what it's worth, and worth tracking down). I bought the soundtrack on cassette (the last cassette I ever bought, actually, apart from one by a local band flogging their own demos off for $2.50 a pop) and the whole thing is done very well. But this song is the stand-out. You'd think Vedder was singing it from personal experience. He puts his whole into it, and delivers a fine performance.
(no actual video… sorry for a third time)
You've Got To Hide Your Love Away (2011) by John Waters Looking Through A Glass Onion was John Water's stage production about the life of John Lennon. I saw it twice – once just John and an acoustic guitar, once with full orchestra, and I bought the album and every track on it is superb. But this is, to me, the highlight of the show and the set. It is a straight-forward cover, but it is still absolutely fantastic. If you ever get the chance – see the show.
(no actual video… and for a final time sorry)
And that's this rather extensive list. Again, comments are encouraged. Hope you enjoyed it!