Universal - Volbeat's Michael Poulsen discusses the impact guitarist/producer Rob…
- Posted by Spinner
Covering a Beatles song is like taking up residence in the Great Pyramid: The foundation is unshakable, but anything you bring along for decoration is bound to lower the property value. Of the thousands of artists who have tried, only a few have made themselves at home in the band's music.
The Jam, 'And Your Bird Can Sing'
The Clash may have chided "phony Beatlemania," but in the punk era there was more than enough Beatlesque melodicism to go around. The Jam's Paul Weller was more Fab than most of his peers, acknowledging the debt with this spirited, well-chosen homage.
Elliott Smith, 'Because'
The carbon-copy cover is usually pointless, but Smith was born to record his own solo, multi-tracked take on this gorgeous 'Abbey Road' chorale, which showed up on the 'American Beauty' soundtrack. The Beatlemaniac singer-songwriter was especially fond of covering the group members' solo songs (notably George Harrison's) in concert.
The Brothers Johnson, 'Come Together'
Aerosmith's version is a spinal cracker, too, but this underappreciated family affair -- George "Lightnin' Licks" and Louis "Thunder Thumbs" Johnson -- took John Lennon's absurdist wordplay and downplayed it into a slinky space-funk mood piece that came grooving up slowly.
Aretha Franklin, 'Eleanor Rigby'
Father Mackenzie would have no trouble attracting folks to his lonely sermons if he only had the Queen of Soul singing the gospel of the Beatles. In Aretha's hands, one of Paul McCartney's most lugubrious tunes basically thumbs its funky nose at despair.
Yes, 'Every Little Thing'
As heard on the BBC Sessions from this quintessential prog band's earliest years, an unrecognizable acid intro suddenly blossoms into a rip-snorting (yet vocally pristine) take on McCartney's ode to old girlfriend Jane Asher. Bonus points for Yes' clever interpolations of 'Day Tripper' and 'Norwegian Wood.'
Al Green, 'I Want to Hold Your Hand'
Green got the feeling: He shouts it out before leading his classic Hi Records band into this effervescent cover of the Beatles' first American smash. When the ecstatic soul man hits his patented falsetto, the song's sexual energy isn't just a wink and a nudge anymore.
Alison Krauss, 'I Will'
The bluegrass thrush makes you believe Krauss would in fact wait a lifetime on this 1995 rendition of the gentle McCartney number from the White Album. Lap steel guitar, an unlikely steel drum and Tony Furtado's immaculate banjo playing give this arrangement the serenity it deserves.
Peter Tosh, 'Here Comes the Sun'
Anyone who's heard Paul McCartney's ditzy 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reggae' knows it's no mean feat to get moptops and dreadlocks to peacefully coexist. Tosh, a founding member of the Wailers with Bob Marley, was not exactly known as a glass-half-full guy, which is one big reason his reggae-fied adaptation of George Harrison's lovely ode to optimism works so well.
Jeff Beck, 'She's a Woman'
There's an ersatz island flair to Beck's fusion-y instrumental take on this McCartney tune, but the stars of the show are the guitar hero's nimble fingers and his judicious use of the talk box. Produced, as was the whole nifty 'Blow by Blow' album, by Beatles maestro George Martin.
The Black Keys, 'She Said She Said'
Ohio's finest dirty-blues duo lay the fuzz on this Lennon nugget so thick, it's a wonder the Black Keys found their way out of the studio. A photo finish ahead of the Feelies, who did their own excellent version of the song, which Lennon wrote after recalling a comment by Peter Fonda at an LSD party.
The Feelies, 'Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey'
Speaking of the Feelies, New Jersey's indie jitterbugs recorded a great, giddy version of another nonsensical Lennon song on their landmark 1980 debut. By the time the song rattles to a close, your inside is out and your outside in.
Stevie Wonder, 'We Can Work It Out'
The Beatles' version of this No. 1 single hinges on John's somber middle eight ("Life is very short"), which suggests there's more than a shadow of doubt behind Paul's dogged positivity. In Stevie's magic hands, it's not about a lovers' spat but the whole of humanity: We can, and will, work it out.
Rosanne Cash, 'I Don't Want to Spoil the Party'
Johnny Cash's daughter had a No. 1 hit on the country chart in 1989 with her fiddlin' remake of this Lennon-McCartney collabo, one of Lennon's earliest hints that there was a moody brooder behind his Fab glibness. At age 11, the country scion was president of her Beatles fan club in Southern California.
Johnny Cash, 'In My Life'
The Man in Black was in mourning for the memories of his life when he recorded Lennon's youthful masterpiece for the 'American IV' album, which would turn out to be the last released during Cash's lifetime. He sounds as old as the hills, and a good deal wiser.
Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66, 'The Fool on the Hill'
No fashionable split-level home of the mid-1960s was complete without a little Sergio Mendes on the hi-fi. The king of easy-listening bossa nova had a thing for the Beatles, as did every other "beautiful music" arranger of the era. 'Fool on the Hill' beats out the group's zippy version of 'Day Tripper' on the strength of its deserved No. 6 showing on the pop charts.
Brad Mehldau, 'Blackbird'
Ramsey Lewis loved him some Beatles; Sarah Vaughn and Count Basie took stabs at jazzing up the Fab songbook, with varying degrees of success. Pianist Mehldau has made artful arrangements of the moptop oeuvre one of his staples. Start with his fanciful version of Paul's 'Blackbird,' which sounds like a 'Peanuts' soundtrack song from the vault.
Earth, Wind and Fire, 'Got to Get You Into My Life'
The funky soulsters appeared in the film version of 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,' lip-syncing their hit remake while Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees, dressed in Sgt. Pepper satin, sit in the front row. Meanwhile, Mean Mr. Mustard is stealing the van and the cash. That this version could survive the film debacle speaks volumes for its irrepressible verve.
Rufus Wainwright, 'Across the Universe'
The 'I Am Sam' soundtrack featured a surprising number of quality Beatles renditions, including Eddie Vedder's 'You've Got to Hide Your Love Away' and Aimee Mann and Michael Penn's 'Two of Us.' None, though, were as well-matched as Lennon's ode to transcendental meditation with the divinely inspired Rufus.
The Stax bandleader laid his inimitable B-3 organ sound on a huge chunk of the 'Abbey Road' album on this expansive medley, released the same month the Beatles announced their breakup. "It was all or nothing for me at that point," the funk-soul instrumental keyboardist recalled.
Rickie Lee Jones, 'For No One'
There's a natural ache to Jones' voice, which lends itself perfectly to Paul's somber ode to a failed love affair -- the song that made pop music safe for French horns.