A Comprehensive Guide to the Most Mind-Bending Beatle Song Covers – Part 1
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 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 Please Please Me (1963)
I Saw Her Standing There
The Beatles, particularly Paul McCartney, were fans of Little Richard and his boogie-woogie rhythms and vocal styling obviously influenced much of their early work. This cover of “I Saw Her Standing There” from 1970 gives an interesting reverse twist with the influencer covering the influenced. Watching Little Richard hit those high notes with all his flair and vigor gave me a new, more visceral appreciation of the impact he had on rock-and-roll. “Whooooooo!!!”
Technically, this was the first Beatles song to be covered by another artist (Kenny Lynch), although it was originally written for Country & Western artist Helen Shapiro.
Eva Braun (a Serbian pop-rock group named after Adolph Hitler’s love interest) released a live version that, although it appears on an “unplugged” album, is nonetheless an electric performance.
Ask Me Why
“Ask Me Why” was reportedly influenced by the stylings of Smokey Robinson and The Miracles and was mostly John Lennon’s composition. This song has fewer cover versions out there than most Beatles tunes but is included in Argentinian rock legend Litto Nebbia’s (Los Gatos) Beatles Songbook collection. There are actually two versions of the song included in the set, but the “Home Version” is a stripped-down, more interesting arrangement.
Please Please Me
Another one that John penned, subversively about oral sex, and this time in homage to Roy Orbison, it was originally conceived as a much slower piece according to Paul. It was George Martin that suggested they speed it up to give it “The Beatles energy”. In that spirit, my favorite version is this driving cover by The Limit who bring all the garage pop-punk awesomess of 1978 that they can muster.
Love Me Do
Another song called “Love Me Do” by Danny Kaye was a single in 1957. I imagine Paul heard it (or the version by British singer Matt Monro) as the similarities are quite apparent. The Beatles’ song was written initially by Paul in 1958 when he was just sixteen years old. It ended up being the first song for which he sang lead on a record as John was enlisted to play harmonica on the track. In my cover pick, instead of harmonica, Flaco Jimenez, the king of Tejano/Tex-Mex accordion, uses his squeeze box skills to make a lively Latin version. Interestingly, Jiminez also played on “Streets of Bakersfield” by Dwight Yoakam and Ringo-favorite, Buck Owens. (Ringo sang Owens’s “Act Naturally” on Help! And later recorded it as a duet with Owens, earning a Grammy nomination for Best Country Vocal Collaboration in 1989)
P. S. I Love You
“P. S. I Love You” was one of Paul McCartney’s early songs. He said it was his attempt at “a letter song. There were a lot of those in those days.” There are not many respectable covers of this song – mostly syrupy instrumentals that I imagine gently torturing mall patrons and elevator passengers of days long past, which is too bad. In chef parlance, this song really needs some acidity to balance out Paul’s sugary melody. The best I could find is this pretty straightforward version by The Smithereens.
Do You Want to Know a Secret
John and Paul co-wrote this one for George Harrison to sing (before George started writing his own songs.) John claims to have based it on “Wishing Well” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
I admit that I have a soft spot for the Stars on 45 Medley and this is the bit that stands out for me when I think of dancing to it with my friends, making up our little “girl group” moves, and putting our hands to our ears. I had to figure out where in this series to put this and this is where it lands.
There’s a Place
Apparently, the title from this song came from “There’s a Place for Us” from Westside Story. But the place, according to Paul, was more cerebral – in the mind. My choice is not cerebral, it’s purely for fun.
If you like cheesy punk rawk covers, then you already know The Dickies. Who else could bring us such gems as their over-the-top versions “Killer Clowns From Outer Space” and “The Theme Song from Banana Splits”?