6. Donny Hathaway – Jealous Guy
There have been a reported 82 recorded cover versions of John Lennon’s confessional ballad, the most startling perhaps being this interpretation from the late soul singer Donny Hathaway. Lifted from his 1972 ‘Live’ album, Mr Hathaway turns in a truly stupendous vocal performance over a solid as a rock funk backing, lines such as ‘I’m sorry that I made you cry’ dripping with a haunting sincerity which grabs your attention like a winged pink elephant flying over Piccadilly Circus, pausing only to take a giant dump on shoppers and passers by. Donny’s tragic death a few years later in 1979 (an apparent suicide) makes the song’s themes of regret and lost love all the more poignant, if ever there’s a vocal performance that can be described as ‘real’ it’s this. Lennon apparently adored it and would enthuse about it to anyone listening at any given chance.
7. Butthole Surfers – Come Together
Texan art terrorists The Butthole Surfers often incorporated the opening track of the Beatles’ semi swansong Abbey Road into their early sets, with the end result being a closer approximation of the lunatic sound probably going through the mind of Mark Chapman as he gunned down John Lennon rather than any sane semblance of a ‘cover’ version. Gibby Haynes’s berserk, guttural lead vocals complete with echo effects and random screeches coupled with a demented bottleneck floppy boot stomp of a musical accompaniment is like attending an LSD spiked tea party with a flower power, tie die t shirt wearing Mad Hatter, not so much through the looking glass as through the nut house. Should have been a bigger hit than the version peddled out by that strange fellow with a penchant for young boys, moonwalking and a chimpanzee named Bubbles, what was his name again?
8. Isaac Hayes – Something
All manner of musical life can be found in here, Isaac Hayes’s towering rendition of George Harrison’s ‘Abbey Road’ show stopper which a little known American singer by the name of Frank Sinatra declared ‘the most beautiful love song ever written.’ Orchestras, flutes, brass, mad psychedelic guitar playing, if this reworking was a film maker it’d be Cecil B.De Mille. One of the supreme innovators of sixties/ seventies soul, Hayes’s arresting baritone spread evenly like honey over one of the most sumptuous musical arrangements known to man is a far greater tribute than any band or artist could possibly hope for, just imagine if someone covered a song of yours like this! It couldn’t happen now, could it? Or do we think it could? This, surely, is for the next generation to decide….
9. The Wonder Stuff – Gimme Some Truth
Black Country indie punk folk titans The Wonder Stuff pay homage to John’s retort to corrupt political figures of the day in admirably ferocious fashion here, a bass heavy grebo fest of rock ‘n’ roll meltdown and Free Jazz intensity, Miles Hunt’s stinging guitar and snarling, scornful vocals projectile vomiting in the faces of the powers that be and those who seek to suppress us, whilst also rocking like an eight legged groove machine sonic bastard at the same time! Legend has it the band acquired their name after Lennon told Hunt’s dad (a friend of his) ‘Your boy sure has the wonder stuff” after witnessing the infant Miles clowning around in the living room. Whatever the truth in the tale, there’s certainly a lot of the coveted substance present in the threads of this rendition.
10. Junior Parker – Tomorrow Never Knows
‘Mystery Train’ singer Junior Parker takes on the closing track of ‘Revolver’, the first ever Rave anthem and invents the Ambient genre in the process on this, one of the most extraordinary covers of all time! A breathtakingly sparse, unutterably mysterious rendition of a full-on psychedelic anthem (THE most psychedelic of all psychedelic anthems, in fact), this radical reworking really is on a moon or planet of its own. It takes a rare type of genius to invent a genre by covering a track that invented a genre (I’m not sure it’s ever been done before or since), but Junior managed it here on the closing track of his 1971 album’Love Ain’t Nothin’ But A Business Goin’ On.’ The album also contains versions of ‘Lady Madonna’ and ‘Taxman’, the funky break of the latter later sampled by Cypress Hill on their ominous stoner anthem ‘I Wanna Get High.’
Okay, that’s all folks. As I said before, there wasn’t enough room for every great Beatles related cover I’ve ever heard, so apologies if I missed out one of your favourites. My selection is based on reworkings which I thought stood out from the rest of the pack by possessing something different, quirky, hilarious or revolutionary about them, if you agree then great! If you don’t well…… there’s just no pleasing some people is there? Feel free to make your own list. And remember, love is all you need. Au revoir!
Words by Sean Diamond, read more from Sean at his authors archive.
Part on in the top 10 Beatles covers is here