10 Most Unique Beatles Cover Versions
Since the very beginning, many an artist took note of the songwriting brilliance of John Lennon and Paul McCartney (and later George Harrison), and lined up to record their own versions of a Beatles song. Del Shannon was one of the first, recording ‘From Me To You‘ before the Beatles even hit America. John and Paul would also write songs for other artists such as Cilla Black (‘Love of the Loved‘) and Billy J. Kramer (‘Bad to Me‘) both of which were huge hits.
It wasn’t just rock and pop acts who wanted in; everyone from Frank Sinatra to the Ventures to German easy listening star Horst Jankowski all recorded Beatles songs. No genre or style escaped a dip into Beatle water. Consider this: according to the Guinness Book Of World Records, the song ‘Yesterday’ alone has over three thousand different versions out there!
This list is not meant to present the best interpretations per se, nor is it stacking up the best-selling or most well-known. We all know that Aerosmith, Cheap Trick and Elton John — to name a few — get a thumbs up for their covers of Beatles classic, but what we are aiming at is the more unique interpretations. Please note, that does not always mean “best.” We understand not all these versions are, by standard definition, “good;” so enter the grounds lightly if you will, and enjoy our list of the Top 10 Most Unique Beatles Cover Versions.
Alice tried his best in the ill fated Sgt. Pepper movie, but his version of the ‘Abbey Road’ classic ‘Because’ tries too hard to turn this unearthly ballad into some kind of macabre tale. In a wash of synthesized sound, Cooper does a lot of over-acting here trying to sound all evil and everything, but battling it out with Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees must’ve taken its toll on the man. All that aside, it still stands as one of the better interpretations on the tragic comedy that was the Sgt. Pepper movie.
‘It Won’t Be Long’
The Quick were a post-glam, pre-punk pop band from Los Angeles who issued one unsung classic 1976 LP that combined elements of bubblegum, glam and hard rock before dissolving into obscurity. Their interpretation of this early Beatles rocker is utterly unique, taking it away from its straight-on rock mode and adding drama and dynamics with an almost “show biz”-like arrangement, yet keeping within the standard rock format. It might be quirky and not for everyone, but it certainly holds a place as one of the Top 10 Most Unique Beatles Cover Versions as the Quick take it, break it, and make it their own.
‘A Hard Day’s Night’
In 1966, Elva Miller signed a deal with Capitol Records. The first of her three albums, ‘Mrs. Miller’s Greatest Hits,’ is chock full of her singing her way out of such hits of the day as ‘Monday Monday,’ ‘Downtown’ and of course, ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’ Her vocal style is — yes indeed — very unique. As you play this record you will see looks of shock and horror on the faces of some, and the look of pure joy on others. There is no middle ground — but you have to admit, no one else ever delivered a song quite like Mrs. Miller.
The 1976 film ‘All This and World War II’ was supposed to be a documentary of sorts, using Beatles music against a backdrop of stock footage from World War II. It was universally panned, and its theatrical lifespan was a short one. More mileage, however, was given to the now-mostly-forgotten soundtrack, which featured a variety of rockers performing Beatles songs. Everyone from the Bee Gees and Jeff Lynne to Status Quo, Rod Stewart and Bryan Ferry took part. Peter Gabriel — fresh out of Genesis — made his solo recording debut with a beautiful rendition of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever.’ Backed very simply by an orchestra, the song is stripped to its core, allowing Gabriel’s vocal to shine.
‘Tomorrow Never Knows’
The lead-off track from ‘801 Live’ takes this 1966 Beatles masterpiece and transports it into another world. That world, created by Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera along with ex-Roxy flash man Brian Eno and others, was one far removed from the 1966 original. Funky bass lines, squabbling synths and the guitar dynamics of Manzanera take this trip in its own exciting direction. The band took it and re-made it as their own. There is something indefinable about this rendition that has a lasting quality all its own. Simply put, brilliant!
‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’
One of the most unique and original musical entities to ever walk the Earth tackle this early Beatles landmark in a way that is expectedly unexpected. Ron and Russell Mael are the core of the long-running combo known as Sparks, and the records they have made over the last forty years range from stunning and amazing to puzzling — but never dull. On this B-side from 1976, they twist and turn the beat group pop of ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ into a soul-tinged ballad. Slathered in Hollywood pomp, the song is almost unrecognizable except for the lyrics.
‘It’s For You’
Cilla Black scored a top ten UK hit with ‘It’s for You’ in 1964. Four years later, Three Dog Night recorded their own version, which wound up on their first LP as well as the B-side of their debut single. Gutting the song of its instrumentation, Three Dog Night deliver a primarily a capella rendition with only hand claps, maracas and bass drum heard in the background. The vocal arrangement is pure gold. Ultimately, just before the end of the record, feedback squall and full on drums kick in and then . . . it’s over, but not before earning a spot in our list of the Top 10 Most Unique Beatles Cover Versions.
‘Beyond the Valley of a Day in the Life’
Way before there was the technology of mashups or remixes, the Residents created their own amazing sound collage based entirely on the Fab Four. Snippets of songs are inter-cut with Beatles voices from their Christmas messages and other sources to paint this incredible sound portrait. The cut-and-paste approach — especially in the pre-digital age — was an art unto itself. The Residents had already parodied the Beatles with their own twisted take on the cover of their first album ‘Meet the Residents,’ where they used the ‘Meet the Beatles’ sleeve and mutated it to suit their own vision.
‘She Loves You’
Peter Sellers association with the Fab Four goes way back. As part of the Goons comedy team, he made records produced by none other than Sir George Martin. Though a good fifteen years older, Sellers’ comic approach was dearly loved by the Beatles. In 1959, Sellers released an album called ‘Songs For Swingin’ Sellers’ that was part comedy and part music, with a cover featuring a noose hanging from a tree with a phonograph player below. His interpretation of ‘She Loves You’ was actually done in a variety of styles, including a ‘German‘ version that was based on one of his characters in the film ‘Dr. Strangelove’. This is the ‘Twits’ version from the 1965 EP where he slew a few from the Fab Four.
‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’
One thing about ol’ Bill Shatner, he has a sense of humor about himself. In 1968, some genius came up with the idea to have Shatner make a record. This was to be no ordinary pop record, this was to be “art.” Once you hear his unforgettable and stirring interpretation of the Sgt. Pepper classic ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,’ your life will never be the same. Shatner’s delivery of the song is so over-the-top, it will stop you in your tracks. The unintentional hilarity that ensues makes this not only one of the Top 10 Most Unique Beatles Cover Versions, but one of the greatest records ever made.