April 3 – The Turntable Talk : Part 1, Why We Are Still Talking About The Beatles

 

Today we start a new feature at A Sound Day, which we hope to run from time to time throughout the year – Turntable Talk. In it, we’ve invited several other ardent music fans and bloggers to discuss one topic. To start off, a timely one : “The Beatles : why are we still talking about them 50(+) years on?”

It seems that The Beatles are more in the news and public’s eye now than they have been in decades, with the release of the Get Back documentary last year. But, then again, they never really went away. So we’ve got a group of fellow fans to discuss what it is about the Beatles that makes them stay relevant, decade after decade. Today, we start with Paul over at Once Upon A Time in The 70s. Paul’s one of two people that put that one together, a fun site that looks back at the sights and sounds of the 1970s from a British  perspective. We recommend you checking it out!

 

I’ve no idea how many Beatle’s covers exist, but when you consider there are over 1,600 versions of the song ‘Yesterday’ then you’ve got to imagine there’s a fair few kicking around.

Everyone from Alvin & the Chipmunks to Frank Zappa have had a go at covering a Beatles song, which is hardly surprising given how many standards they’ve written. I grew up in the 60s and started getting into music at the turn of the decade just as the Beatles were heading towards their long and winding road. Truth be told I didn’t really appreciate the genius of the Beatles until I’d gone through my Glam Rock, Funk, and Yacht Rock phases, but I got there eventually and learned to appreciate how talented and ground-breaking they truly were.

The fact then that there are so few Fab Four covers in my music library is an anomaly to me.

For that reason, I decided to take a deep dive into the world of Beatles covers in the expectation that there would be plenty of overlooked gems that I’d missed over the years.

And that’s how I came to spend an afternoon recently crunching through Apple Music & Spotify looking for treasures, and I’ve got to tell you it was a long afternoon.


As an example, I love Aretha Franklin and I love ‘The Fool on The Hill’ so I had high expectations when I came across Aretha’s version, but it left me underwhelmed as did a lot of the Beatles covers I listened to.

One ‘new find’ I’m excited to share was a version of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ by Todd Rundgren, which went straight into my list of Top 10 Beatles covers, shared below in no particular order.


As mentioned previously, there are so many Beatles covers so I’m sure there will be a few notable omissions in people’s eyes, for which I apologise in advance…. but like they say ‘beauty is in the ear of the beholder’


1)
Hey Jude by Wilson Pickett – Pickett makes the song his own with his rasping vocals, a great Muscle Shoals arrangement and the introduction of a young Duane Allman who marks his recording debut with a blistering guitar solo.

2) We Can Work It Out by Stevie Wonder – An upbeat version featuring a fuzzy clavinet intro and a trademark Stevie harmonica solo. Recorded in 1970 when Stevie was on the cusp of greatness and ably backed by the ubiquitous Funk Brothers.

3) With a Little Help from My Friends by Joe Cocker – A rare case of a Beatles cover being better than the original, a fact endorsed by McCartney himself. Cocker took this breezy Ringo Starr version from Sgt Pepper and turned it into a soul anthem featuring another cameo from a guitar great, the legendary Jimmy Page.

And of course, this song reminds us all of the fabulous ‘The Wonder Years’

4) Got to Get You into My Life by Earth Wind & Fire – Recorded for the Robert Stigwood backed Sgt Pepper project in 1978. The movie bombed and the soundtrack was a flop, but this cover, given the full EW&F treatment with their potent horn section front and centre, was head and shoulders above the rest of the Beatle covers.

5) Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da by The Marmalade – I was 10 when this was released and didn’t realize it was a Beatles cover till several years later. The Marmalade were a local band, so we were all proud to see them reach number one in the UK. It won’t make many Beatles top 10 lists but it’s a great little pop song.

6) Dear Prudence by Siouxsie & The Banshees – At the time, it was a shock that these post punk darlings would go anywhere near a Beatles song but with Robert Smith from the Cure on board they took this White Album track and made it their own.

7) Strawberry Fields Forever by Todd Rundgren – No stranger to a recording studio you get the impression that producer/engineer/multi-instrumentalist Rundgren had a lot of fun capturing the 60’s psychedelic vibe on this recording.

8) In My Life by Johnny Cash – The subject matter and the fact that this was one of Cash’s last recordings makes this Rick Rubin stripped-down version even more poignant.

9) Eleanor Rigby by Aretha Franklin – I knew the Queen of Soul would come good. A Beatles classic given the full Aretha treatment. She certainly takes this version to church.

10) Come and Get It by Badfinger – A bit of a cheat, as technically Badfinger released this McCartney penned song first, but I agree with those who say that it was probably ‘the best unreleased Beatles recording’

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5HL42k0u5ax0khNIXF1yi6?si=059163c0b5984161

32 thoughts on “April 3 – The Turntable Talk : Part 1, Why We Are Still Talking About The Beatles

  1. I want to thank Paul for this piece. What a great way to start the discussion… it’s so true. When you can get quality artists as different as Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin and Siouxshie and the Banshees ALL wanting to record your music, you obviously had the knack for creating great, timeless music. PS- good list, I would have had Bryan Ferry’s “You Won’t See Me” up there, but that’s the greatness of the Beatles…almost everyone probably could add one or two of their own picks which would stand up well too.

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  2. Badfinger (Max)

    I love your list and agree that Hey Jude by Wilson Pickett is great with Duane Allman wailing at the end of it. I can’t argue with any song in your list!
    Great post Paul!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s like a family joke in our house… I like Johnny, no one else is much fond of him. I played the Cash Christmas cd one time… LOL. I thought it was pretty cool and powerful, others felt it was more like music to commit suicide to.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m in a minority who aren’t blown away by Cocker’s take on it…but he did take it off in different directions
      I would have extended an invite to you to take part in this event but I couldn’t find any contact info for you on your site.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow I need to do some homework here. lol. I don’t think I have heard any of these covers. Course being a Metalhead back in the 80s I heard Motley Crue cover of Helter Skelter as well as U2’s cover of it on Rattle and Hum.
    Look froward to these posts this week Dave…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great list. Previously, fellow blogger Hanspostcard did an entire series about Beatles covers and found there literally is a cover of each Beatles tune – even Revolution No. 9!

    Joe Cocker’s version of “With a Little Help From My Friends” is my favorite remake of all time. I actually think it’s better than the original, and I say this as a huge Beatles fan!

    A while ago, I also put together a playlist of Beatles covers. There’s definitely some overlap. That Johnny Cash version of “In My Life” can make me well up – so powerful! I also think Ray Charles’ rendition of “Eleanor Rigby” is outstanding.

    https://christiansmusicmusings.wordpress.com/2019/12/27/my-playlist-the-fab-four-covers/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. there are indeed so many good ones out there. Back a couple of decades I had an LP called ‘All this and World War III’ (I think a movie soundtrack) and it was nothing but beatles covers…and most of them were really good. Peter Gabriel’s ‘Strawberry Fields’ seems to stick out in my head from it. Still, few were better than the original.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. for whatever reason, it seemed to be one that went under the radar… I picked up my LP copy (which I no longer have) in a used store back in 1980, gave or take, had never seen it before and since then maybe have seen it show up half a dozen times in stores.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Of course, I am a fab fan from 1963. I have, over the years grown weary of them, mainly because of the insufferable Sir Paul and his “look at me” antics. How much more money and petting doe’s one need? I believe that Joe Cockers covers of “Little Help from My Friends” from the Woodstock live album and film, is the best performance from a rock singer and band ever recorded. Raw, rough and full of piss and vinegar, Cocker lays you flat with this one. I don’t know who the band was behind him, but holy shit, where did they come from and why did Joe stop with performances like that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, looking it up I see Henry McCulloch was on guitar, he later joined Wings for a year or two. The others aren’t really familiar names to me – Chris stainton on keyboards, Allan Spenner on bass (have a notion he might have done work on a Roxy Music album in the 70s but wouldn’t bet money on that), Bobby Torres on conga and Bruce rowland on drums. You are right, they were a fine outfit.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Fantastic way to start! There are so many great covers and plenty of bad ones.

    An angle I almost went with was songs that the Beatles covered (Rock and Roll Music, Till There was You, Long Tall Sally, etc…). That may have to be a future blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. good point. Early on, a lot of their stuff wasn’t their own, though they popularized some of it that others had written. to me, they went from pretty decent to great when they realized they could write stuff that good or better themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. he got excited when Madonna or Billy Joel had two songs in the top 10 simultaneously in the 80s…which was an achievement back then. Five in top5 – mind-blowing

        Liked by 1 person

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