Archive for the 'The Beatles' Category

Beatles Covers Part 2

First off, when talking about instrumental covers of The Beatles, I accidentally left off some great work by Booker T and the MGs. Their wonderful disco sounds really made great instrumental versions of some songs, especially Eleanor Rigby (which shows off amazing use of the wah wah pedal).

There are literally hundreds if not thousands of covers of Beatles songs, and it would be impossible to list them all in one place. I took some time over the past few days to listen to some that I have and found a few that I don’t, and came up with this list of 42 examples (in alphabetical order by artist). Some will surprise you. Some are good, some are not so good and some are great, but I think they all deserve notice. Some of the artists covered multiple Beatles songs and I only noting one or two. With a few of exceptions, I am leaving off songs from the movie Across the Universe. I have written about this movie in previous blog posts, and I find all the covers exceptional. The two that are in this list are the most exceptional of the movie. One final note, some of these covers are recorded and some were live performances. All the live performances can be found in youtube so I have included them here.

I will comment on a few at the end.

  1. Aerosmith – Come Together
  2. Bananarama – Help!
  3. Bon Jovi – Here Comes the Sun
  4. Bono – I am the Walrus
  5. James Brown – Something
  6. Jim Carrey – I am the Walrus
  7. Ray Charles – Let It Be
  8. George Michael – The Long and Winding Road
  9. Judy Collins – In My Life
  10. Phil Collins – Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End
  11. Sheryl Crow – Mother Nature’s Son
  12. Dave Matthews – In My Life
  13. John Denven – Mother Nature’s Son
  14. Electric Light Orchestra – Day Tripper
  15. John Farnham – I feel Fine
  16. Alison Kraus – I will
  17. Emmylou Harris – For No One
  18. Emmylou Harris – Here, There and Everywhere
  19. Eddie Izzard – Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
  20. Michael Jackson – Come Together
  21. The Jam – And Your Bird Can Sing
  22. Elton John – Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
  23. Kansas (with the London Symphony Orchestra) – Eleanor Rigby
  24. Cyndi Lauper – Strawberry Fields
  25. Aimee Mann & Michael Penn – Two of Us
  26. Sarah McLachlan – Blackbird
  27. Bette Middler – In My Life
  28. Alanis Morissette – Norwegian Wood
  29. Alanis Morissette – Dear Prudence
  30. Ozzy Osborne – In My Life
  31. Tom Petty – I Need You
  32. Elvis Presley – Lady Madonna
  33. Billy Preston – Get Back
  34. Otis Redding – Day Tripper
  35. The Rolling Stones – I Wanna Be Your Man
  36. Sting – A Day in the Life
  37. Toto – While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  38. U2 – Norwegian Wood
  39. Whitesnake – Day Tripper
  40. Paul Westerberg – Nowhere Man
  41. Carol Woods – Let It Be
  42. Yes – Every Little Thing

Some of the ones I like are obvious, but some really surprise me. Like for example Bananarama’s version of Help! This British girl groups had mile success in the US in the late 80’s particularly their remake of the 70s hit Venus. They recorded Help! together with the British comics French & Saunders and Kathy Burke to raise money for comic relief. The record hit #3 on the British Charts. I cannot tell you why I like this version; perhaps it is due to the homage to the Beatles in the comic video of just my love of girl groups in general.

Bono is one of the most successful artists in history and he was recruited to be in the movie Across the Universe. In the movie he play a character called Dr. Robert, loosely based on Ken Kesey. Bono was wonderful in the role, ad-libbing much of his way through his part. He got to sing two songs for the movie, and his I Am the Walrus is amazing.

George Michael has also had an amazing career (despite being part of Wham!) I loved his appearance on the tv show Eli Stone. He performed The Long and Winding Road in concert.

Judy Collins is perhaps one of the greatest living American folk singers. Her voice is extraordinarily beautiful and she recorded a wonderful version of In My Life (forgive the cheesy video)

John Denver had, I believe, one of the best male singing voices in our times. Yes, he was basically a county singer and I loathe country music, but he crossed over to the pop charts so many times, you can easily call him a pop singer. He did a number of different Beatles tunes, but when I heard him sing Mother Nature’s Son, I decided that the song was really meant for him to sing.

Alison Krauss is also a country singer and a fiddler. She has the record for the most grammy awards for a female singer and 3rd over all. This is a beautiful version of I Will.

Cyndi Lauper has always been a favorite of mine. Her wonderful work in her early career earned her 5 hit songs from one album (a first at that time), and she has an amazing voice and makes consistently beautiful music. This video is from a tribute to John Lennon that was performed at Strawberry Fields in Central Park.

Aimee Mann & Michael Penn recorded Two of Us for the movie I am Sam. I think that this is my second favorite Beatles Cover (next to Joe Cockers With a Little Help from my Friends). The song, written by Paul, was about his time with Linda, but if you listen to the lyrics it could be about any couple (perhaps really about he and John).

Alanis Morissette is an amazing singer. She recorded Norwegian Wood which is one of my favorite Beatles songs. The song is perhaps about a Lesbian encounter that leads to nothing and perhaps it is best sung by a woman.

Billy Preston is the only artist who got billing alongside the Beatles on any recording. On the single for Get Back the artists are listed as The Beatles with Billy Preston. He also played the Hammond Organ for much of the Get Back sessions (what later became the album Let It Be). Years later he appeared in the movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the horrible movie that is loosely based on the album of the same name. He appeared as Sgt. Pepper and his song in the movie, Get Back, is perhaps the only good song in the film.

Lastly Carol Woods was cast as a gospel singer in the Movie Across the Universe to sing Let It Be. The first time I heard this version of the song (before I saw the movie) I was stunned. I mean is it possible for one artist to cover a song better than the original singers? I don’t know the answer, but this Let It Be is about the best I have ever heard. The song was made to be a gospel piece and the scene in the movie is perhaps the most moving of the film.

Well, thank you for indulging me in the fun exercise. I hope everyone enjoys!

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Facebook

Facebook has become a major part of my daily routine and it has brought me in contact with many people from my USY days. It’s been a lot of fun. One interesting thing has been these facebook memes that are spreading (whether they are really memes at all is for a different discussion). They are little notes that are being passed from person to person and you have to answer a bunch of questions and then send to friends and they answer the same questions, etc.

One of the more recent of these memes that I have done was called coverama. You had to pick a half dozen of your favorite cover songs. I, of course made mine into a Beatles edition, and it got me thinking about covers of Beatles songs. Now you might remember that I have written here in the past on covers, and I have stated that in general I do not like covers, but listening to a lot of Beatles covers over the past few days has changed my opinion a little. I still don’t really like the idea of covers, but there are some good ones out there, and so for the next few days I am bringing back song of the day and focusing on Beatles Covers.

Today I want to focus on instrumental covers. There are a host of possibilities out there as many symphony orchestras have recorded Beatles songs (first and foremost the London Symphony Orchestra) but I want to feature a few from outside the symphonies.

Perhaps the best I have heard is Jeff Beck’s version of A Day in the Life. Jeff Beck was the second guitarist of the Yardbirds, replacing Eric Clapton when he left. Together with Clapton and Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck completes perhaps the greatest trio of British guitarists (all who played with the Yardbirds). Today he records almost exclusively instrumental pieces. When Sir George Martin, the famous producer of most of the Beatles work, did a “farewell” album of Beatles Songs, he recruited Beck. That album is called In My Life. This song is also prominently featured in the movie Across the Universe.

The other two recordings are also from that album by Martin. First is a beautiful rendition of Because by the amazing violinist Vanessa Mae (there is some choral in this) and the other is an arrangement by John Williams of Here Comes the Sun (he also conducted this as well).

Enjoy!

Song of the day

My love of The Beatles has clearly transferred to my children. Both Avi and Noam know many Beatles tunes, and they can usually identify a Beatles song even if they have not heard it before (I’m very proud). Now Shayna is also getting into the groove and she also knows Beatles songs. Of course she knows many of the words in Yellow Submarine (which was also Avi and Noam’s first Beatles song), but there is another song that all of them seem to like and often ask for.

The film Yellow Submarine has a very interesting story. In 1964 The Beatles contracted with United Artists to make three motion pictures. The first was the wonderful A Hard Day’s Night and the second was the not as wonderful HELP! Soon after they produced the British television movie Magical Mystery Tour which was very poorly received.

Not really wanting to do any more movies, but still having one movie left to make for UA, the group agreed to give their music to an animated film. Five new songs were added to a bunch of Beatles hits and the movie Yellow Submarine was born. Actors were hired to do the group’s voices and the movie was a big hit. In fact The Beatles themselves like the movie so much they added a short live scene at the very end in which they all appeared.

My kids love this movie (after having seen it at our friend’s house in Vermont) and became particularly fond of the song All Together Now which is one of the new songs.

Here are two videos with the song, one is where the song appeared in the movie and the other is the reprise at the end of the film. My kids get a real kick out of the end in that the words all together now are translated into many languages including Hebrew so they all keep an eye out for that.

Enjoy!

Song of the day

Yesterday, October 5, marks the 46th anniversary of the release of The Beatles first single, Love Me Do. The song was written a few years earlier by Paul and later, John added the middle eight, as was common in their songwriting partnership. The record established The Beatles as a hit band, with the single moving very quickly to number 17 on the UK charts. Two years later it would reach number one in the US.

So In honor of this auspicious occasion, today’s song is Love Me Do.

Enjoy!

Song of the day

When talking about music and songs, a frequent question is what is your favorite song? For many people this is a very simple question. But for those of us who truly love music it is not such a simple question. I can easily say what I don’t like. I don’t like country music. I am not a big fan of rap music and some hip hop also does not sit well on my ears. But to say what my favorite is, I would have to say it can sometimes change from day to day (perhaps that is why I write a song of the day!)

So what is my favorite today? Would you believe that the music I am listening today is due to a cell phone ringtone? I got this nifty (do people still use that word?) piece of software for my Palm Centro that allows me to take any mp3 file, cut out the part I want and save it as a ringtone. So where would I look first? You guessed it, The Beatles! I don’t have a specific favorite Beatles song, like everything else, that designation changes frequently. I had to search, though for some songs that I thought would work well as a ringtone. I came up with a few, but I am going to include two here, both amazing songs.

First, is often overused song, Birthday. This song is found on the White Album and is significant because of its wonderful return to the Beatles roots, pure rock and roll. My ringtone is the early part of the song before the words, and it just repeats.

The second is a much more complex song. The Sgt. Peppers album is an amazing album where much of the music seems to work very well together. The second to last song on the album is a reprise of the title song. But right after that we find the song A Day in the Life. This song is one of the most influential (if not the most) song in modern music. It appears on almost every “top x” list and many later musicians will credit this song as an influence. If I had to choose favorite Beatles songs, this would certainly make my top ten. The song includes two cacophonous, part-improvised, orchestral crescendos, and it ends, with what may be the most “famous” chord in music history, which is an E Major chord. My ringtone is the final crescendo and the chord.

EnjoyI

Song of the Day – Covers Week

Welcome back to song of the day from another short hiatus.

Covers. You either hate them or you love them. I have read blog postings about covers in the past, but I heard a cover of a song last week which I believe should be in the top 10 worst covers of all time! I spent some time thinking about covers and I have come to the realization that it is VERY easy to find horrible covers of songs, but not so easy to find great covers of songs.

In honor of that moment when I heard that song (which will be revealed below) I am going to call this week, covers week. Each song of the day post in covers week will contain two covers. One that I feel is one of the worst covers I have ever heard, and one that is one of the best. I have not yet thought this through, as the idea to do this just came to me as I have been typing, so I do not know if I will be able to come up with 5 covers that I like, but I will try.

So I think I should have some rules. I am going to exclude covers that were made specifically for movies or stage musicals. There are tons of them (especially movies) and some are good and some are bad, but they have some purpose other than a singer trying to make a buck off of someone else’s work. I am also going to exclude covers that were hits for the artist doing the cover, but not for the original artist. This excludes many many many great covers, for example, Turn! Turn! Turn! By The Byrds is really a cover of Pete Seeger’s song. I think it will be more fun (and more challenging) to find good cover songs without using songs that are obviously good. And that is it! Everything else is game, and I hope that those who read my blog (and there are plenty who do according to my stats!) will comment and add their choices as well!

To start it all off, I am going to include the horrible cover that I heard last week. I say include as I have a number of offerings for this first post, and they are all from the same group.

The Carpenters, Karen and Richard, sister and brother were a mega hit in the 1970’s into the early 1980s. They were a significant group for a number of reasons. First off, they became a pop hit in an era when bands were moving more and more toward heavy rock. The Carpenters were able to become a success with a very soft musical style. They were also one of the first groups to experiment with what we today call the music video. Their success is also attributed to Richard’s collaboration with some of the greatest songwriters of all time, most of whom came from Brill Building success. Richard is also a gifted songwriter, arranger and producer. One other thing that was interesting about them was Karen’s vocal range. Although Karen had a range that covered three octaves, she was well known for her use of her low register. Alto singers were mostly unknown to popular music and that also gave them a distinctive sound.

The Carpenters were also known for covering many songs. Although Richard did write music, more than half of their recordings were written by other songwriters. So for this inaugural episode of cover week I have five covers from the Carpenters. Three of them go on my list of the worst covers ever and two on the best side. I’ll start with the worst (as that is more fun!)

For sure the most covered group in history is The Beatles. Generally, it is my opinion that no one should cover Beatles music. Cover acts don’t bother me (and there are many good Beatles cover bands) but covered recordings are usually horrible (with the notable exception of one of my favorite movies, Across the Universe). The Carpenters covered a bunch of Beatles songs, and at least two were recorded.

Enjoy!?

First we have Ticket to Ride, which somehow became a hit for them.

Next is Help! which was not recorded but there is this live version. Interestingly, Karen was a talented drummer which you see here.

To their credit, this is not nearly as bad as Ticket to Ride, and for sure better than the one that really made my stomach churn

Now for the good side! They made a lot of money doing covers, so you would think there would be something good!

Their biggest hit was a cover of Please, Mr. Postman, a big song by the Marvelettes and coincidentally also recorded by the Beatles. One other note, this video is silly and it was filmed at Disneyland.

One more good cover is of Herman’s Hermits There’s a Kind of Hush.

Song of the day

I am finally at the end of the list of my ten favorite songs from the White Album.  I ordered them in the order they appear on the album, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be Blackbird.  The song is so beautiful and simple.  I know it is a favorite of Sir Paul as well.  So before I get to the end of the list, here is a clip of Blackbird from the Movie Across The Universe.  As covers go, this one is quite good.

OK

So once again, here is the list so far.

  1. Back in the U.S.S.R.
  2. Dear Prudence
  3. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  4. Happiness is a Warm Gun
  5. Martha My Dear
  6. Blackbird
  7. Piggies
  8. I will

The final additions:

  1. Mother Nature’s Son
    This song probably ranks in my top 10 Beatles songs.  It is another of Paul’s and it is so simple yet so beautiful.  When I hear it I just imagine myself sitting in the country singing songs with my friends and just relaxing watching and listening to nature.
  2. Revolution
    There are actually two released versions of this song.  There have been different versions of other Beatles songs that have come from rehearsals or different takes, but this is the only song that was actually released twice.  You can read about it on Wikipedia, but the first one recorded is the one that appears on the White album and was titled Revolution 1 to distinguish it from the one that was released as the B side of Hey Jude which was just called Revolution.  Personally, I like the slower version from the album.  I have both versions below.

There are precious few films or videos of the Beatles performing.  The movie Let it Be has quite a bit, and the TV documentary The Beatles Anthology has a bit more.  Beyond that there are a few scenes from televsion appearances and such.  By the time of the White ablum, The Beatles made a few promotional fils of their songs.  This is some of the earliest examples of what we would call music videos.  Below you will see the promotional film for Revolution.

Enjoy!

Mother Nature’s Son

Revolution 1

Revolution Film