With writers of the caliber of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, it’s no surprise that the number of covers of Beatles songs number in the thousands. Inevitably, not all of them will be classics. Cheap rip-offs and soulless pop renditions abound, but perhaps more numerous are the covers that understandably don’t do the originals justice.
Arguably, it’s the Beatles’ range of material, as much as the quality, that explains why so many artists and bands from such varied backgrounds have been drawn to their work. Rock, pop, psychedelia and the avant-garde are all in the Beatles’ playbook. A good song is a good song, however, and can always be transposed into a new setting with positive results.
A successful cover release respects the source material while adding something new, and every entry in the list below passes that test. From hazy reggae masterpieces and hard edge funk, to quirky indie and sophisticated jazz, there’s something for everyone here. Beatles fanatics will find plenty to appreciate, and even casual fans will certainly be impressed with the quality and imagination on display.
Lenny White will forever be remembered as one of the foremost innovators of jazz-rock fusion. White played alongside keyboard wizard Chick Corea in the hugely influential band, Return To Forever, and recorded many excellent solo albums, including 1978’s Streamline, from which this Lady Madonna cover is taken.
Ten years earlier, Lennon/McCartney had written the song shortly before the band left for India. The track marked something of a return to rock ‘n roll basics for the Beatles, after long forays into psychedelia. This was widely welcomed by the music press, which had begun to embrace the idea that it was necessary to move away from the excesses of psychedelia (just as they would a decade later when punk burst the bubble of progressive rock).
McCartney himself certifies that he sat down at the piano with the intention of writing a Fats Domino-style song. He specifically had in mind Domino’s 1956 hit Blue Monday, which chronicled the plight of the working man every day of the week. Lennon helped flesh out the lyrics, with the pair choosing to focus on a female perspective.
White’s version adds a funk-rock sheen that fits right in.