Best of: The Beatles cover songs
Feb. 9 will mark the 50th anniversary of The Beatles performing on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The Fest for Beatles Fans, an annual convention, will take place on Feb. 7-9 and showcase up-and-coming musicians influenced by the Beatles, including Francisco Fernandez.
There are a lot of famous Beatles covers, but I’ve picked some of the lesser-known ones. My favorite Beatles covers are ones that understand the brilliance of the originals—ones that don’t change the song so it becomes unrecognizable.
“Honey Pie” – John Pizzarelli
Guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli turns Paul McCartney’s ode to the Tin Pan Alley era and British Music hall into a jazzier version that swings. Pizzarelli’s smooth voice is showcased from the start, accompanied only by an almost inaudible guitar and bass, before a band starts to play. Though this version doesn’t include the original opening verse and Pizzarelli changes the melody slightly, it is still a beautiful tribute to the 1968 “White Album” tune.
“For You Blue” – Dhani Harrison
It’s clear that Dhani Harrison, the son of George Harrison, is his father’s clone. See? Pretty scary, huh? Well, in this 2013 version of his dad’s 1970 song, Dhani stays completely true to the original and sounds exactly like his dad, making us all miss George even more.
“Lady Madonna” – Fats Domino
Fats Domino’s version of this 1968 single builds on McCartney’s attempt at a bluesy-rock tune. McCartney even said that while writing the song, he tried impersonating Domino. This gave him the lower timbre heard in the recording.
“The Night Before” – Los Bunkers
Los Bunkers, an alternative rock band from Chile, formed in 1999 because of a common love for The Beatles. McCartney wrote “The Night Before” in 1965 and it was released on the album “Help!” In the movie of the same name, The Beatles perform this song on Salisbury Plain in front of Stonehenge while seeking refuge from a cult that wants to kill Ringo for his ring. This is after they try to find refuge by skiing in the Austrian Alps, but before they go to Buckingham Palace and the Bahamas. Makes sense. Anyway, Los Bunker’s version is extremely true to the original.
“This Boy” – Moon Loungers
Billing themselves as “the finest wedding band in Bristol and the South West,” the Moon Loungers recorded this version of John Lennon’s 1963 “This Boy.” The cover recreates the doo-wop driven quality of the original. Lennon wanted to write a song in the style of Smokey Robinson in 6/8 time with a three-part harmony, and The Moon Loungers’ recording successfully copies McCartney’s, Lennon’s, and Harrison’s singing. The Beatles featured “This Boy” in the 1964 movie “A Hard Day’s Night,” as Ringo spends the day wandering around by himself.
“I’ve Just Seen a Face” – John Pizzarelli
McCartney’s song from the second side of “Help!” was performed by John Pizzarelli at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 1998. Pizzarelli’s electric guitar and the accompaniment of his brother, Martin Pizzarelli, on bass and Ray Kennedy on piano turns the acoustic guitar-driven original into a more lighthearted tune without changing the melody of the song.
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