Beatles covers are a dime a dozen. See: Exhibit A. Covering The Beatles is a tricky thing. There are a plethora of great-sounding efforts out there, but most of them suffer from the same weakness: they don’t stray too far from the original. Case in point: Because by Elliott Smith. Gorgeous, but essentially a carbon copy. I’d rather listen to the original any day. To quote The A.V. Club:
Covering The Beatles is often futile. The original versions sound as definitive as if they were issued from on high, which, in a manner of speaking, they were.
And The Times:
Those records are so deeply branded on the collective consciousness that anyone trying to take them off does so before an audience that already knows the original intimately. That’s why it so rarely works.
The only way to make it work is to adapt it so deftly to one’s own style as to make the listener go, long after the song is over, “Wait — that was a Beatles song!?”. Often this leads to disastrous results; Help! by Kylie Minogue comes to mind. But sometimes it does work. The following are some of the most ingenious reworkings I’ve come across (and which are actually good). In American Idol parlance, these artists made the songs “their own”:
1. With A Little Help From My Friends by Joe Cocker (1969) [original version]
Everyone knows this one, thanks to The Wonder Years. It is even widely considered to be (gasp!) better than the original. Personally I prefer my Billy Shears, thank you very much. Other Beatles covers by Joe Cocker: All You Need Is Love, Come Together, I’ll Cry Instead, Let It Be, She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, Something, and You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (he sure loved ’em Beatles).
2. Ticket To Ride by The Carpenters (1969) [original version]
3. I Want To Hold Your Hand by Al Green (1970) [original version]
Totally Motown, and totally Al Green. Other Beatles covers by Al Green: Get Back.
Download music by Al Green:
I Want To Hold Your Hand
4. Taxman by Junior Parker (1971) [original version]
5. Yellow Submarine by Roots Manuva (2002) [original version]
This is some kind of trippy.
6. What Goes On by Sufjan Stevens (2005) [original version]
Compelling. It’s hard to imagine this was originally a jolly country ditty.
Download music by Sufjan Stevens:
What Goes On