Check out Carey’s selection of Beatles covers in a previous JUKEBOX here.
Confession time: I’ve always been one of those stubborn Beatles fans who scoffs at most cover versions of their songs. Maybe it’s because there are so many, but it’s rare that a cover blows me away and makes me feel as excited as hearing the original. The Beatles are probably the most risky band in the world to cover, purely because they are musical royalty. But equally, every artist who loves them (and isn’t that pretty much everyone?) wants to give it a try.
Despite my stubborn nature, I do have a list of Beatles covers that have managed to worm their way into my affections.
1) “With a Little Help from My Friends,” Joe Cocker (1969)
It says a lot that this was also the title of Joe Cocker’s debut album, on which the cover appeared. It couldn’t be further from the Beatles’ original. Cocker’s unique voice, the female backing vocals, powerful guitars and bluesy feel combine to make a complete re-interpretation that works extremely well. At times it’s easy to forget you’re listening to a Beatles song, which is something only the very best covers can manage.
2) “Yesterday,” Ray Charles (1967)
One of the most recorded songs in history, it would be fair to say that “Yesterday” loses some of its magic touch when just about everyone has tried to sing it. Ray Charles is one of the exceptions, with a voice that reignites the magic in any song he sings. In fact, I could have picked any of his Beatles covers (including his sublime version of “Something,” which George Harrison wrote with his voice in mind).
3) “Day Tripper,” Otis Redding (1966)
I would rate this as the best cover of “Day Tripper” I’ve heard. Like the original, it’s very energetic, but Otis Redding brings something different to it with his distinctive vocal.
4) “A Hard Day’s Night,” Peter Sellers (1965)
There is perhaps no better example of someone putting their own twist on the Beatles than Peter Sellers. The comedian covered several of their classics, but it’s his hilarious spoken-word version of “A Hard Day’s Night” as Laurence Olivier’s Richard III that is my personal favorite.
5) “Across the Universe,” David Bowie (1975)
I’m not ashamed to say I like this one purely because it’s by Bowie. He could sing anything and make it brilliant. It appeared on his Young Americans album and actually featured John Lennon himself on guitar and backing vocals. Lennon also stuck around to collaborate with Bowie on another of the album’s tracks, “Fame”.
6) “In My Life,” Keith Moon (1975)
Keith Moon certainly isn’t the first member of the Who most people think of in terms of solo careers, but the drummer released one album of his own, 1975’s Two Sides of the Moon, on which he covered “In My Life.” Not renowned for his singing abilities, he nonetheless managed a tender and endearing vocal performance on this track, which I’ve always had a soft spot for.
7) “Eleanor Rigby,” Aretha Franklin (1969)
It seems that soul artists really do manage to cover the Beatles better than most, and Aretha Franklin is no exception with her powerful and upbeat version of “Eleanor Rigby”, a stark contrast to the minor chords and string section of the original. Some may say this cover doesn’t capture the same emotion the Beatles were going for, but with a singer as great as Aretha, it’s incredibly difficult not to get into it.
Check out this Spotify playlist of great Beatles covers, and let us know your favorite in the comments below!