A Comprehensive Guide to the Most Mind-Bending Beatle Song Covers – Part 4
Artists of all levels cover the Beatles’ music in nearly every genre, but my favorites are the ones that truly bring something of value to the song. As a lifelong fan, I’ve heard thousands upon thousands of good, mediocre, and terrible versions of the Fab Four’s output. The following is part three of my list of the ones that really stand out as being well-done, unique, or in some way interesting and worth hearing.
Note: This is a 12-part series, broken out roughly by studio album (UK release) with songs released only as singles included in the general timeframe of a close album release. (Don’t get excited, purists, about which singles should belong where; this is just a convenience.)
My Rules: Songs must have been written and recorded by the Beatles and released as singles or on an album during their career. No covers of other artists or solo Beatles material are included. No members of the Beatles can be in the performance. No Tribute bands.
Songs from Beatles for Sale (1964)
This is the fourth article of the series. The series starts here: Part 1: Songs from Please Please Me (1963).
John Lennon said to Playboy, “Dick James, the publisher, […] said it was the first song I had ever written that resolved itself. You know with a story… It was my version of ‘Silhouettes’”. (by the Rays).
Cryptic Rock calls The Gold Needles sound a “fusion of late ’60s Psychedelic Folk Rock, ’70s New Wave/Power Pop, ’90s Shoegaze, and the sensibilities of the current Indie scene—a perfect recipe for great music.” [From The Gold Needles – Through a Window (Album Review) – Cryptic Rock (2019)] This Jem Records compilation celebrating John Lennon, includes a guitar-driven pop version from The Gold Needles.
I’m a Loser
Paul claims this song, while in the vein of country songs where you could say “I’m a loser” and no one would think much of it, was really a cry for help from John. Paul says: “You didn’t really think about it at the time, it’s only later you think, God! I think that was very brave of John.”
Tufano-Giammarese, the duo of Denis Tufano and Carl Giammarese formerly of The Buckinghams, warms this song with tenderness and a pleading vocal that transforms this song into a track that might be at home on a 1970s soft rock station alongside Harry Chapin, James Taylor, or Jim Croce. The track appears on their 1973 self-titled album on Ode Records.
Baby’s in Black
Paul McCartney says about this song that he and John Lennon wanted to write something darker and more bluesy. This is one of their first waltzes, in ¾ time. Paul said: “Sometimes the harmony that I was writing in sympathy to John’s melody would take over and become a stronger melody. Suddenly a piebald rabbit came out of the hat!”
English actor and musician, Kevin Kennedy, best known for playing the character Curly Watts for 20 years in ITV’s long-running television soap opera Coronation Street does his own version on The Coronation St Album (1995), a compilation of tracks from the show by EMI Premier. But this isn’t just a throwaway track sung by a soap opera actor, Kennedy was in the band the Paris Valentinos with Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke, who later formed half of The Smiths.
I’ll Follow the Sun
I’ll Follow the Sun started as a scrap of an idea when Paul was still a teen working out ideas for songs. The Beatles didn’t finish it until Beatles for Sale.
Enjoy this fascinating interpretation by hip-hop beatboxer, proGrammar who performs the entire song only using his voice. You can read his notes about making this album on his website at proGrammar “Somaphone 4: Heartbreak”
Eight Days a Week
Originally the title song for the movie that would become Help!, Paul claims that a chauffeur said that he was so busy he was “working eight days a week.” Paul told John that they had a title and they quickly wrote the song together for the movie.
Joan Jett punks it up the version recorded by The Runaways in 1978.
Every Little Thing
Paul wrote this one intending for it to be a hit single but it ended up being album filler. “It didn’t quite have what it required.”
Maybe Yes had the approach required for this song when they covered it for their debut album in 1969, but apparently Chris Squire didn’t realize it at the time. It was not until 1984, after playing at Madison Square Garden, that when he was listening to the radio in New York City when the Yes version came on. He said he really enjoyed the music and wondered who it was — until he heard Jon Anderson sing. (Source: Yesstories: “Yes” in Their Own Words by Tim Morse)
I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party
Paul and John wrote this as a country song for Ringo to sing. Ringo was a big fan of country music.
Fittingly, Rosanne Cash gives it the full Country & Western treatment. Her version went to number one on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart in 1989. It was also Cash’s last number one hit to date, and is the only Lennon-McCartney song to top the country chart.
I Call Your Name
One of John’s first attempts at writing a song, Paul remembers: “When I look back at some of those lyrics, I think, Wait a minute. What did he mean? ‘I call your name but you’re not there.’ Is it his mother? His father?“
The Mamas & the Papas covered “I Call Your Name” in 1966 on their debut album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears. Cass Elliot whispers “John… John” during the instrumental break, a little tip of the hat to her crush on John Lennon. The group closes the song with, “I call your name… ye-ah!” (The Beatles were well known for the phrase “Yeah, yeah, yeah” from “She Loves You“.)
I Feel Fine
“I defy anybody to find a record—unless it is some old blues record from the twenties—with feedback on it before ‘I Feel Fine.’ Everybody was doing feedback and far-out stuff, but nobody was putting it on record. It is the first feedback. I claim it for the Beatles. Before Hendrix, before The Who, before anybody.” – John Lennon, Playboy Magazine, 1981.
Australian rock band The Masters Apprentices (“we are apprentices to the masters of the blues—Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, Elmore James and Robert Johnson” – Mick Bower, guitar) covered “I Feel Fine” on their self-titled debut album in 1967 marking the entry of Australia into the burgeoning psychedelic rock scene.
She’s a Woman
“She’s a Woman” was written by Paul on October 8. 1964 while walking around St. John’s Wood. in London John Lennon later said to Playboy, “we put the words, ‘turns me on’ in the song. We were excited to say it, you know, about marijuana and all that. This was the first use of the expression on record. Very daring.”
Contemporary British A Cappella group, Sons of Pitches, transports us with a ballsy doo-wop number that sounds like as if it’s emanating from a stoop in a tough neighborhood. “The Sons of Pitches have certainly given a cappella a kick up the backside” (ThreeWeeks).