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Wordless: Any Major Beatles Instrumentals

February 13th, 2014 10 comments

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Fifty years ago this month, The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and thereby changed the trajectory of pop music. The first of their three consecutive weekly performances, on February 9, was seen by an estimated 73 million viewers, setting a new record (read Echoes in the Wind’s fine post on watching that show).

Also on that show were impressionist Frank Gorshin (doing a routine about movie stars as politicians), acrobats Wells & the Four Fays, comedians McCall & Brill, and Broadway star Georgia Brown, joined by the cast of Oliver!, including a pre-Monkees Davy Jones singing “I’d Do Anything”.

Beatles on Sullivan

They all were, it is safe to say, thoroughly overshadowed by the Beatles, who played “All My Loving”, “Till There Was You” (presumably for all the Moms), “She Loves You”, “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.

The following Sunday’s show, on February 16, was broadcast from Miami Beach and tied to the first heavyweight title bout between Sonny Liston and Cassius Clay — another decade-defining event. Only the champion was present. Also in the audience was boxing legend Joe Louis.

Brought to you by Lipton Tea, which was punted poolside by TV announcer George Fenneman, the line-up also included singing actress Mitzi Gaynor (performing a rousing version of “Too Darn Hot” and a medley of blues songs), comedians Marty Allen & Steve Rossi (riffing only mildly amusingly, at least by modern standards, on the theme of boxing), the affable comedian Myron Cohen, Swiss way-pole acrobats The Nerveless Nocks, and unicyclist act The Volantes. Allen, now 91, Rossi, 81, and Gaynor, 82, are still alive.

The Feb. 16 show: Title card from Miami Beach; George Fenneman and random woman punt Lipton Tea; Ed Sullivan and his shadow; The Beatles in full song (note John's wide-apart legs); Beatles fan controls her hysteria; today she probably tells her grandchildren about seeing the Beatles.

The Feb. 16 show: Title card from Miami Beach; George Fenneman and random woman punt Lipton Tea; Ed Sullivan and his shadow; The Beatles in full song (note John’s wide-apart legs); Beatles fan controls her hysteria; today she probably tells her grandchildren about seeing the Beatles. (Right-click and open in new window/tab for larger version of the pics)

 

The Beatles played “She Loves You”, “This Boy”, “All My Loving”, “I Saw Her Standing There”, “From Me to You” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (“a song,” according to Paul, “that was recorded by one of our favourite American groups, Sophie Tucker”).

The performance which was broadcast on February 23 was pre-recorded. In fact, it was really the first Beatles performance for Sullivan since it was recorded  before the first show. By then Beatlemania was in full swing in America. The Beatles played “Twist and Shout”, “Please Please Me” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. Also on the show were jazz singer Cab Calloway (singing “St James Infirmary” and “Old Man River”), English clarinettist Acker Bilk, English comedy duo Morecambe & Wise, comedians Dave Barry and Morty Gunty, comedy duo Gordon & Sheila MacRae, singer Gloria Bleezarde (no, me neither), and marionettes Pinky & Perky.

The Beatles returned to The Ed Sullivan Show on September 12, 1965. A week later, the show began broadcasting in colour.

On the Feb 16 show: Heavyweight champ Sonny Liston is introduced; comics Steve Rossi & Marty Allen; Mitzi Gaynor and pals; comedian Myron Cohen; Ed Sullivan greets the Fab Four.

On the Feb 16 show: Heavyweight champ Sonny Liston is introduced; comics Steve Rossi & Marty Allen; Mitzi Gaynor and pals; comedian Myron Cohen; Ed Sullivan greets the Fab Four.

 

We’ve been through a lot of Beatles covers in the past (and the links are live again). To mark the 50th anniversary of the pivotal Sullivan shows, here is something a little different: a mix of jazz and soul (and early fusion) instrumental covers.

There might be jazz, but there’s very little jazzy noodling going on. Arif Mardin might go a bit psychedelic during “Glass Onions”, as does Steve Marcus on “Rain”, Mongo Santamaria might go on a trip halfway through his song, and Jim Caravan might take some serious liberties with “A Day In The Life” after a faithful start, but Jonah Jones de-cheeses “Michelle”, and Shirley Scott’s version of “Get Back” has enough energy to light up New York City during one of its famous powercuts. It’s all great stuff.

As always, the whole thing is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-fabbed covers. PW in comments.

1. Steve Cropper – With A Little Help From My Friends (1969)
2. Shirley Scott & The Soul Saxes – Get Back (1969)
3. Cal Tjader – Lady Madonna (1969)
4. Jimmy Ponder – While My Guitar Gently Weeps (1974)
5. Arif Mardin – Glass Onion (1969)
6. Buddy Rich Big Band – Norwegian Wood (1967)
7. Count Basie – Come Together (1969)
8. Harvey Averne Dozen – The Word (1968)
9. Jimmy Caravan – A Day In the Life (1968)
10. Jonah Jones – Michelle (1968)
11. Booker T. & The MG’s – Eleanor Rigby (1968)
12. Gabor Szabo – In My Life (1969)
13. Wade Marcus – Something (1971)
14. The Mar-Keys – Let It Be (1971)
15. Mongo Santamaria – Day Tripper (1970)
16. Steve Marcus – Rain (1968)
17. Bobby Bryant – Happiness Is A Warm Gun (1969)
18. Freddy McCoy – I Am A Walrus (1968)
19. Ramsey Lewis – Julia (1968)
20. Bud Shank – Yesterday (1966)
21. The Soulful Strings – Within You Without You (1967)
22. Don Randi Trio – Tomorrow Never Knows (1966)

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Covered With Soul Vol. 14 – Beatles Edition 1
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1967-68
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1968-70

 

 

 

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Any Bizarre Beatles

January 27th, 2014 8 comments

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A commenter has pointed out with disappointment that the single links on the two Bizarre Beatles posts are dead. With the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ invasion of the US coming up, it seems suitable to recycle the posts into one and put all songs into a package, plus one track I had not previously posted. A proper Beatles-related mix and post will follow in the second of February to mark the anniversary of the three appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show.

 

Rainbo (Sissy Spacek) – John, You Went Too Far This Time (1968)
Before she became famous as an actress, including her singing role as country singer Loretta Lynn, Sissy Spacek tried to become a folk singer, releasing a solitary single under the trite moniker Rainbo (which she apparently disliked) before being fired by her label for not being a best-seller. The John whom Sissy Rainbow addresses on this breathtakingly bad record would be Mr Lennon, and his transgression would be letting it all hang out post-coitally on the cover of Two Virgins, his avant garde nonsense recorded with Yoko Ono, who also appears naked on the cover.

Sissy loves John and forgives him many things, but she is not one who would endorse exhibitions of public nudity – and in this particular instance I am inclined to concur with her, purely on aesthetic grounds. John and Yoko were not attractive naked people. But if Lennon went too far on a record sleeve, then Spacek (and the chaps who wrote this bizarre thing, John Marshall and Ronald Dulka) overstepped the boundaries of musical decency with that chorus, which supposedly was meant to evoke the Beatles sound. In 1983 Spacek released a full country album, titled Hangin’ Up My Heart. She was fully clothed on the cover.

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Bonnie Jo Mason (Cher) – Ringo, I Love You (1964)
Another future star recording Beatles-related material under a different name was Cher, who in 1964 sought to buy into the Zeitgeist by declaring her love for the drummer. Before her brief stint as Bonnie Jo Mason, Cherilyn Sarkasian sang backing vocals on classics such as The Ronettes’ Be My Baby, The Chiffons’ Da Doo Ron Ron and the Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling – and it was the producer of those songs, Phil Spector, who co-wrote and produced Ringo, I Love You. Then she recorded as plain Cherilyn and in a duo as Cleo to Sonny Bono’s Caesar. Within just over a year of releasing Ringo, I Love You, Sonny and Cher were stars. The Ringo anthem was backed with an instrumental titled Beatles Blues, a deliberately bad song placed to deter DJs from ignoring the A-side, as they often did. The ploy backfired: apparently radio DJs were thrown by Bonnie Jo’s deep voice and refused to play what they thought was a gay declaration of affection for the Beatles drummer.

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Ella Fitzgerald – Ringo Beat (1964)
There were loads of Ringo-themed songs in the mid-’60s, apparently some 50 of them. They included The Rainbows’ My Ringo, Christine Hunter’s Santa, Bring Me Ringo, Treat Him Tender, Maureen by Angie & The Chicklettes, Al Fisher & Lou Marks’ Ringo Ringo Little Star, Three Blond Mice’s Ringo Bells, The Whippets’ Go Go Go With Ringo, Neil Sheppard’s You Can’t Go Far Without A Guitar (Unless You’re Ringo Starr), Ringo Did It by Veronica Lee, I Want To Kiss Ringo Goodbye by Penny Valentine, and Bingo Ringo by Daws Butler (who voiced Huckleberry Hound). Even Ella Fitzgerald got in on the act with Ringo Beat, a rather nice number written by Ella herself (one of her 27 compositions), which naturally features a “yeah yeah” reference and namechecks other contemporary popsters.

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The Young World Singers – Ringo For President (1964)
Released in August 1964, the Young World Singers in their cover of Rolf Harris’ song sought to offer an alternative to Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater in that year’s elections for US president, evidently oblivious to the rule that disqualifies those not born in the United States from standing as candidates. And since Ringo was a Kenyan Muslim… In any case, it is doubtful that Ringo, who has acknowledged his limitations in intellectual pursuits, would have been a great president (though the US voters elected a man of even less cerebral qualities to the presidency in 2004).

Of course, it wasn’t cleverness the Young World Singers and the others engaged in the Ringo For President campaign were looking for in their candidate: “He’s our candidate ’cause he makes us feel so great. We could talk about war out on the big dance floor. Oh my gee, oh my gingo…if I could vote, I’d vote for Ringo!” Asked at a press conference in August 1964 about the Ringo For President campaign, Starr admited: “I’m not sort of politically minded.” Asked whether he would appoint the other Beatles to his cabinet, the conversation descends into a typical Beatlesque farce, with George interjecting: “I could be the door”, and John nominating himself to serve as the cupboard.

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Don Bowman – The Other Ringo (1966)
In the early ‘60s, there was a popular cowboy hit titled Ringo, recorded by Bonanza star Lorne Green (the Cartwright patriarch), which Don Bowman parodied to coincide with the height of Beatlemania. Bowman notes the death of the old Ringo and the rise of the Beatle by the same name. He seems to be taken particularly with the length of Ringo’s hair. Bowman, who died in 2013, was a country singer, comedian, TV presenter and DJ who recorded this rather amusing novelty number for his 1966 LP titled Funny Way To Make An Album, which also included a song called Freddy Four Toes. Bowman clearly did not compromise his comedy with artistic credibility: other LPs were titled Fresh From The Funny Farm (1965), Recorded Almost Live (1966), Support Your Local Prison (1967) and Still Fighting Mental Health (1979).

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Dick Lord – Like Ringo (1964)
Don Bowman wasn’t the only one to make the connection between Lorne Greene’s hit and the Beatles drummer. Dick Lord was not a porn actor but a comedian, and  remains one today. At the time of recording Like Ringo, Dick Lord was a close friend of the great Bobby Darin. In the song, Dick Lord’s girlfriend is rather obsessed with the Beatles man, and Dick Lord’s exasperation at being rejected by the obsessed fan turns to ingenuity as he adopts the Ringo look. Eventually Dick Lord’s girlfriend returns to Dick Lord, informing him tearfully that her Ringo infatuation is over. A great punchline awaits, and I shall not spoil it.

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The Bon Bons – What’s Wrong With Ringo? (1964)
bon bonsA persistent rumour has it that the Bon Bons were the Shangri-Las by another name. It is, alas, not true. What’s Wrong With Ringo was released before the Shangri-Las’ debut single, Remember (Walking In The Sand), was issued by Red Birds Records in September 1964. The Ringo song was released on the Coral label, the Decca subsidiary that had also issued records by Buddy Holly, Patsy Cline and The Vogues, but never had the Weiss and Ganser sisters under contract.The Ringo song was not the Bon Bons’ only release; also in 1964 Coral issued the follow-up single Everybody Wants My Boyfriend . Anyway, the question of the song’s title concerns the shortage of Beatles songs sung by Ringo. It seems the record-buying public did not share their concern, and so ignored this quite catchy girl-group record (which includes, of course, the “yeah yeah yeah yeah” thing).

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Frank Sinatra – Maureen Is A Champ (1968)
This tribute to Mrs Ringo is not only a great novelty item, but also something of a historical artefact: it’s the first record to be catalogued on the Beatles’ Apple label – its number being Apple 1 (Hey Jude was the first Apple release, but it wasn’t catalogued). Only a few copies, some say only one, of Maureen Is A Champ were made before the master tape was destroyed, because this was a private recording to mark Maureen’s 22nd birthday. Maureen was a big Sinatra fan, so a train of events was set in motion, apparently by Beatles business manager Peter Brown, which involved the great Sammy Cahn rewriting Lorenz Hart’s lyrics for The Lady Is A Tramp, and Frank Sinatra – who by that point was a Beatles fan (and covered several of their songs) – singing the reworked number, with Cahn on piano. We can assume that when Ringo presented his wife with that special record on 4 August 1968, she probably was quite pleased.

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Nilsson – You Can’t Do That (1967)
Recorded for his 1967 debut album Pandemonium Shadow Show, Harry Nilsson covered the b-side of Can’t Buy Me Love, and worked in references — lyrical or musical — to 20 other Beatles songs (the LP also included a cover of She’s Leaving Home). Indeed, in the beginning it isn’t entirely clear which Beatles song he is actually covering (unless, of course, one knows the title). John Lennon was a particularly big fan of Nilsson’s album. The mutual appreciation developed into one of pop’s most famous friendships.

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Mystery Tour – Ballad Of Paul (1969)
Terry Knight – Saint Paul (1964)

The initial Paul Is Dead rumour preceded the release of Abbey Road by a week. The album’s cover “confirmed” that Macca was indeed dead, but the story began with an error-filled student newspaper article publishd on 18 September 1969 by one Tim Harper for the Drake University’s Times-Delphic. From Harper’s fertile imagination sprang a wild conspiracy theory which caused quite a hysteria. There is an 8-CD series of radio recordings covering in detail the reaction to Paul’s death. The moderately talented Mystery Tour (yes, Mystery Tour) explained why the evidence of Paul’ death, with reference to the Abbey Road cover, of course (apparently left-handers are incapable of smoking with their right hand). We also learn that “John Lennon is a holy man”, who “provided lots of clues” as to the conspiracy of Paul’s death and its cover-up. This site has all the answers: it was them Rolling Stones wot dun Paul in, Constable.

Record producer and general music pusher Terry Knight’s single came out before the Paul Is Dead hoax started. He had met the Beatles at a fraught time during the White Album sessions in 1968. Convinced that the Beatles would break up soon, he wrote Saint Paul. His single was released in May 1969, before Harper’s article. Once the rumour had gathered pace, however, Knight’s single was presented as an obituary to Paul, feeding the rumour mill further. Knight himself became the subject of obituaries when he was murdered in 2004 while protecting his daughter from a clearly unsuitable boyfriend.

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Mae West – Twist And Shout (1967)
Mae West – Day Tipper (1967)

We’re having Mae West warbling Twist And Shout, so how might the septegenarian top that? Why, by doing Day Tripper, of course. Her interpretation, as it turned out, was unnecessary, because time has shown the Beatles’ original to be quite adequate, even without the sub-Jimi Hendrix antics at 1:13, which morph into a Chuck Berry-lite solo, and Ms West’s seductive moanings. Still, if Liza Minelli as Lucille 2 planned to record an album of Beatles covers, she’ll have a perfect reference point.

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Peter Sellers – She Loves You (1965)
Peter Sellers — a Goon Show alumnus, of course — recorded a series of comedy versions of Beatles songs, some funnier than others, in 1965. His masterpiece is his teutonic take on She Loves You, performed in the character of Dr Strangelove, whose 50th anniversary we are also observing this year (“She said you hhhuuurrrrt her so”… “Gut!”). Recorded some time around 1965, it was released only in 1981.

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Peter Sellers – A Hard Day’s Night (1965)
Mrs Miller – A Hard Day’s Night (1966)
Goldie Hawn – A Hard Day’s Night
(1998)
Sellers performs A Hard Day’s Night in the manner of Laurence Olivier as Shakespeare’s Richard III. Released as a single in late 1965 (backed with his take on Help, which will also feature at some point), it reached #14 in the British charts in early 1966. It was obviously too early for Nazi spoofs.

Bless Mrs Miller. She was serious and entirely unironic about her singing, but also possessed the self-awareness to know that she was a bit of a joke. She did her limited best, and was aware that there was no consensual admiration of her singing chops. Though she never intended to create comedy— she was motivated to disseminate her art widely as a way of inspiring others — she knew that her cult status was based on listeners deriving amusement from her stylings. Her version of Hard Day’s Night is notable for her lapses in timing and the aggressive licence she takes with reaching the right notes.

In 1998, Beatles producer George Martin recorded reimagined versions of songs by his former charges, with a roster of guest vocalists taking turns to perform singing duties. Some of these invitees were not terrible good ideas,not  least of them Robin Williams (who admirably managed to go a few minutes without turning into a gay hairdresser). Another of these questionable ideas was to ask a giggly Goldie Hawn to sing A Hard Day’s Night, to a smoothy swinging backing track, on which she plays the piano. She feels “okey dokey”. The listener, when hearing Goldie’s vocals, probably less so.

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Covered With Soul Vol. 15 – Beatles Edition 2

October 11th, 2012 21 comments

October 11 marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ first single, Love Me Do, entering the UK charts. Just seven years later, the group would, for all intents and purposes, be finished. In real money, imagine Love Me Do came out in October 2005; next April Paul will announce the break-up of the band. In that time, the group re-invented itself several times and changed pop music. After 12 years, Coldplay still sound the bloody same.

The first of the two Beatles editions of the Covered With Soul series was very well received. Here then is the second mix. Daringly, I kick it off with what I think is the weakest of the 23 tracks; it is also one of the most interesting simply because You Can’t Do That doesn’t get covered much.

Also quite fascinating is the notion of Little Richard covering I Saw Her Standing There, a song he obviously helped inspire. His recording from 1970 turns the rock & roll stomper into a Southern Soul number.

Naturally there are several covers here that give the original songs a thorough working over. Bobby Taylor gives Eleanor Rigby the sort of treatment Isaac Hayes would give Bacharach/David songs (or, indeed, Harrison’s Something, which here is brilliantly reworked by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas). Roy Redmond gives Good Day Sunshine a Southern Soul twist, while Chris Clark turns Got To Get You Into My Life — Paul’s first attempt at writing a soul song — into a Motown song.

Billy Preston was the only non-Beatle to be credited on a Beatles record (Get Back). His version of Blackbird is a highlight on this mix.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes a homebrewed cover. Password (now necessary, I’m afraid) is in the comments section.

1. Diana Ross & The Supremes – You Can’t Do That (1964)
2. Al Green – I Want To Hold Your Hand (1969)
3. Little Richard – I Saw Her Standing There (1970)
4. Stevie Wonder – We Can Work It Out (1970)
5. Bobby Taylor – Eleanor Rigby (1969)
6. Junior Parker – Taxman (1971)
7. Roy Redmond – Good Day Sunshine (1967)
8. Chris Clark – Got To Get You Into My Life (1967)
9. Four Tops – The Fool On The Hill (1969)
10. Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – Something (1970)
11. Cissy Houston – The Long And Winding Road (1970)
12. The Five Stairsteps – Dear Prudence (1970)
13. The Meters – Come Together (mid-’70s)
14. The Undisputed Truth – With A Little Help From My Friends (1973)
15. Herbie Mann & Tamiko Jones – Day Tripper (1967)
16. Billy Preston – Blackbird (1972)
17. Shirley Scott & The Soul Saxes – Get Back (1969)
18. The Temptations – Hey Jude (1969)
19. Randy Crawford – Don’t Let Me Down (1976)
20. Esther Phillips – And I Love Him (1965)
21. Una Valli – Yesterday (1968)
22. Aretha Franklin – Let It Be (1970)
23. Booker T. & The MG’s – Lady Madonna (1969)

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Covered With Soul Vol. 14 – Beatles Edition 1

September 27th, 2012 14 comments

On  5 October 1962 – fifty years ago next week – The Beatles released their first single, Love Me Do b/w P.S. I Love You. The single entered the UK charts on 11 October and stayed there for 18 weeks, peaking at #17. Follow-up Please Please Me did better, reaching #2; that was followed by 11 straight #1s – bizarrely the group’s greatest single, Strawberry Fields b/w Penny Land, broke the streak (six chart-toppers would still follow). And apparently that was only because the BBC counted the record as two individual singles.

So, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ beginning their recording career, here’s the first of two Covered With Soul mixes of Beatles songs. One of the tracks here, ‘Til There Was You, was a song The Beatles themselves covered, but it I presume that The Smith Connection used the Beatles version, and not the original from the 1957 musical The Music Man, as their inspiration.

These being soul versions, they tend to be quite different from their originals. I believe it is a sign of a great song if it can be interpreted well in many different ways. Every song here is beautifully re-interpreted, in some cases almost re-invented (check out Charles Wright’s take on Here Comes The Sun for that). Even Marvin Gaye’s take on Yesterday uses the composition’s flexibility to great effect. A great example of that flexibility is in We Can Work Out, which had been covered brilliantly by Stevie Wonder; his version is in every way the original’s equal. Valerie Simpson takes a rather different approach to the song, and produces a soul version that is very different from Stevie’s – and quite brilliant in its own right.

And if Paul McCartney would sing Hey Jude (as he does seemingly at every opportunity somebody hands him a mic) like Wilson Pickett does, I’d gladly hear that blasted song over and over again.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, for which homebaked covers are included. I’m afraid passwords are now necessary; you’ll find it in the comments section.

TRACKLISTING:
1. Otis Redding – Day Tripper (Alternate Take) (1966)
2. Dionne Warwick – A Hard Day’s Night (1969)
3. Four Tops – Eleanor Rigby (1969)
4. David Porter – Help (1971)
5. Black Heat – Drive My Car (1975)
6. The Supremes & The Temptation – Got To Get You Into My Life (1968)
7. Marvin Gaye – Yesterday (1969)
8. The Smith Connection – ‘Til There Was You (1972)
9. Valerie Simpson – We Can Work It Out (1971)
10. Jimmy James & The Vagabonds – Good Day Sunshine (1968)
11. Ike & Tina Turner – Come Together (1970)
12. Aretha Franklin – The Long And Winding Road (1972)
13. Grady Tate – And I Love Her (1974)
14. Natalie Cole – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (1978)
15. The Main Ingredient – Get Back (1970)
16. The Moments – Rocky Raccoon (1970)
17. Wilson Pickett – Hey Jude (1968)
18. Ronnie Dyson – Something (1973)
19. Charles Wright – Here Comes The Sun (1972)
20. Gladys Knight & The Pips – Let It Be (1971)
21. Booker T and the MG’s – I Want You (1970)

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Beatles Bizarre Vol. 2

May 19th, 2011 8 comments

Beatlemania coincided with a renaissance of novelty records, and so it is logical that many of these novelty records would concern themselves with The Beatles. Here is a batch of songs particularly about Ringo, as well as a recording Frank Sinatra made for Ringo’s wife Maureen, and a young Sissy Spacek totally going off John Lennon after being exposed to his luxuriant bouffant of pubic hair displayed on an album cover.

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Rainbo (Sissy Spacek) – John, You Went Too Far This Time (1968).mp3
Before she became famous as an actress, including her singing role as country singer Loretta Lynn, Sissy Spacek tried to become a folk singer, releasing a solitary single under the trite moniker Rainbo (which she apparently disliked) before being fired by her label for not being a best-seller. The John whom Sissy Rainbow addresses on this breathtakingly bad record would be Mr Lennon, and his transgression would be letting it all hang out post-coitally on the cover of Two Virgins, his avant garde nonsense recorded with Yoko Ono, who also appears naked on the cover.

Sissy loves John and forgives him many things, but she is not one who would endorse exhibitions of public nudity – and in this particular instance I am inclined to concur with her, purely on aesthetic grounds. John and Yoko were not attractive naked people. But if Lennon went too far on a record sleeve, then Spacek (and the chaps who wrote this bizarre thing, John Marshall and Ronald Dulka) overstepped the boundaries of musical decency with that chorus, which supposedly was meant to evoke the Beatles sound. In 1983 Spacek released a full country album, titled Hangin’ Up My Heart. She was fully clothed on the cover.

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Bonnie Jo Mason (Cher) – Ringo, I Love You (1964).mp3
Another future star recording Beatles-related material under a different name was Cher, who in 1964 sought to buy into the Zeitgeist by declaring her love for the drummer. Before her brief stint as Bonnie Jo Mason, Cherilyn Sarkasian sang backing vocals on classics such as The Ronettes’ Be My Baby, The Chiffons’ Da Doo Ron Ron and the Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling – and it was the producer of those songs, Phil Spector, who co-wrote and produced Ringo, I Love You. Then she recorded as plain Cherilyn (a song called Dream Baby which your faithful correspondent recently featured on the Star Maker Machine blog) and in a duo as Cleo to Sonny Bono’s Caesar. Within just over a year of releasing Ringo, I Love You, Sonny and Cher were stars. The Ringo anthem was backed with an instrumental titled Beatles Blues, a deliberately bad song placed to deter DJs from ignoring the A-side, as they often did. The ploy backfired: apparently radio DJs were thrown by Bonnie Jo’s deep voice and refused to play what they thought was a gay declaration of affection for the Beatles drummer.

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Ella Fitzgerald – Ringo Beat (1964).mp3
There were loads of Ringo-themed songs in the mid-’60s, apparently some 50 of them. They included The Rainbows’ My Ringo, Christine Hunter’s Santa, Bring Me Ringo, Treat Him Tender, Maureen by Angie & The Chicklettes, Al Fisher & Lou Marks’ Ringo Ringo Little Star, Three Blond Mice’s Ringo Bells, The Whippets’ Go Go Go With Ringo, Neil Sheppard’s You Can’t Go Far Without A Guitar (Unless You’re Ringo Starr), Ringo Did It by Veronica Lee, I Want To Kiss Ringo Goodbye by Penny Valentine, and Bingo Ringo by Daws Butler (who voiced Huckleberry Hound). Even Ella Fitzgerald got in on the act with Ringo Beat, a rather nice number written by Ella herself (one of her 27 compositions), which naturally features a “yeah yeah” reference and namechecks other contemporary popsters.

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The Young World Singers – Ringo For President (1964).mp3
Released in August 1964, the Young World Singers in their cover of Rolf Harris’ song sought to offer an alternative to Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater in that year’s elections for US president, evidently oblivious to the rule that disqualifies those not born in the United States from standing as candidates. And since Ringo was a Kenyan Muslim… In any case, it is doubtful that Ringo, who has acknowledged his limitations in intellectual pursuits, would have been a great president (though the US voters elected a man of even less cerebral qualities to the presidency in 2004).

Of course, it wasn’t cleverness the Young World Singers and the others engaged in the Ringo For President campaign were looking for in their candidate: “He’s our candidate ’cause he makes us feel so great. We could talk about war out on the big dance floor. Oh my gee, oh my gingo…if I could vote, I’d vote for Ringo!” Asked at a press conference in August 1964 about the Ringo For President campaign, Starr admited: “I’m not sort of politically minded.” Asked whether he would appoint the other Beatles to his cabinet, the conversation descends into a typical Beatlesque farce, with George interjecting: “I could be the door”, and John nominating himself to serve as the cupboard.

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Don Bowman – The Other Ringo (1966).mp3
In the early ‘60s, there was a popular cowboy hit titled Ringo, recorded by Bonanza star Lorne Green (the Cartwright patriarch), which Don Bowman parodied to coincide with the height of Beatlemania. Bowman notes the death of the old Ringo and the rise of the Beatle by the same name. He seems to be taken particularly with the length of Ringo’s hair. Bowman was a country singer, comedian, TV presenter and DJ who recorded this rather amusing novelty number for his 1966 LP titled Funny Way To Make An Album, which also included a song called Freddy Four Toes. Bowman clearly did not compromise his comedy with artistic credibility: other LPs were titled Fresh From The Funny Farm (1965), Recorded Almost Live (1966), Support Your Local Prison (1967) and Still Fighting Mental Health (1979).

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Dick Lord – Like Ringo (1964).mp3
Don Bowman wasn’t the only one to make the connection between Lorne Greene’s hit and the Beatles drummer. Dick Lord was not a porn actor but a comedian, and  remains one today. At the time of recording Like Ringo, Dick Lord was a close friend of the great Bobby Darin. I the song, Dick Lord’s girlfriend is rather obsessed with the Beatles man, and Dick Lord’s exasperation at being rejected by the obsessed fan turns to ingenuity as he adopts the Ringo look. Eventually Dick Lord’s girlfriend returns to Dick Lord, informing him tearfully that her Ringo infatuation is over. A great punchline awaits, and I shall not spoil it.

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The Bon Bons – What’s Wrong With Ringo? (1964).mp3
A persistent rumour has it that the Bon Bons were the Shangri-Las by another name. It is, alas, not true. What’s Wrong With Ringo was released before the Shangri-Las’ debut single, Remember (Walking In The Sand), was issued by Red Birds Records in September 1964. The Ringo song was released on the Coral label, the Decca subsidiary that had also issued records by Buddy Holly, Patsy Cline and The Vogues, but never had the Weiss and Ganser sisters under contract.The Ringo song was not the Bon Bons’ only release; also in 1964 Coral issued the follow-up single Everybody Wants My Boyfriend . Anyway, the question of the song’s title concerns the shortage of Beatles songs sung by Ringo. It seems the record-buying public did not share their concern, and so ignored this quite catchy girl-group record (which includes, of course, the “yeah yeah yeah yeah” thing).

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Frank Sinatra – Maureen Is A Champ (1968).mp3
This tribute to Mrs Ringo is not only a great novelty item, but also something of a historical artefact: it’s the first record to be catalogued on the Beatles’ Apple label – its number being Apple 1 (Hey Jude was the first Apple release, but it wasn’t catalogued). Only a few copies, some say only one, of Maureen Is A Champ were made before the master tape was destroyed, because this was a private recording to mark Maureen’s 22nd birthday. Maureen was a big Sinatra fan, so a train of events was set in motion, apparently by Beatles business manager Peter Brown, which involved the great Sammy Cahn rewriting Lorenz Hart’s lyrics for The Lady Is A Tramp, and Frank Sinatra – who by that point was a Beatles fan (and covered several of their songs) – singing the reworked number, with Cahn on piano. We can assume that when Ringo presented his wife with that special record on 4 August 1968, she probably was quite pleased.

Beatles Bizarre Vol. 1
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Any Major Beatles Covers: 1968-70

April 23rd, 2010 12 comments

The third mix of Beatles covers, covering the period between the White Album (partly covered in the second mix) to the final album. The most significant song here is the Beach Boys’ live recording of Back In The USSR, with Ringo Starr guesting. The song was, of course, Paul McCartney’s satire of the Beach Boys. One imagines it was a find piss-take, because by 1968 the Beach Boys had long left the girs-cars-surf scene behine (well, except Mike Love, who never really got past it).

Two songs here, by George Benson and by Booker T & the MGs, come from full reworkings of Abbey Road, while Count Basie comes from a tribute album to the Beatles, and the I Am Sam soundtrack, which consisted of Beatles covers, has been represented on all three mixes. Knowing how a succession of easy listening merchants have sucked the soul out of Something with cheesy arrangements and over-arrangement (yes, Sinatra, too), the notion of Shirley Bassey giving the song a go seems discouraging. Despite a lavish arrangement and moments of enthusiastic emoting, it is a quite splendid interpretation which segues nicely into Nina Simone’s much sparser, and utterly beautiful take of the other Harrison masterpiece on Abbey Road. Simone’s 1971 Here Comes The Sun LP, an album of covers, is well worth seeking out.

More than on the previous compilation of Beatles covers, the 1990s are well represented. It wasn’t planned that way, but Dionne Farris’ version of Blackbird is rather lovely, and Alison Krauss’ tender bluegrass interpretation of I Will, with that sweet voice, is angelic.

I had hopes of putting together a sequence of covers of the Abbey Road side 2 medley. I had enough covers, but not consistently the quality I was looking for. Other songs presented me with dilemmas: Amen Corner’s Get Back, or the Main Ingredient? Randy Crawford’s Don’t Let Me Down or Phoebe Snow’s? Aretha Franklin’ Let It Be or Clarence Carter’s? I hope I’ve made good choices. Incidentally, when I set out to put together the three mixes I set myself a rule not to have any artist represented twice.

TRACKLISTING
1. Beach Boys – Back In The USSR (live) (1984)
2. Tuck & Patti – Honey Pie (1990)
3. Dionne Farris – Blackbird (1994)
4. Alison Krauss – I Will (1995)
5. Micah P. Hinson – While My Guitar Gently Weeps (2009)
6. Phoebe Snow – Don’t Let Me Down (1976)
7. Billy Bragg – Revolution (1997)
8. The Main Ingredient – Get Back (1970)
9. Count Basie – Come Together (1970)
10. Shirley Bassey – Something (1970)
11. Nina Simone – Here Comes The Sun (1971)
12. George Benson – Oh Darling (1970)
13. Booker T and the MGs – I Want You (1970)
14. Elliott Smith – Because (1999)
15. Joe Cocker – She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (1969)
16. Ben Folds – Golden Slumbers (2002)
17. Dobby Dobson – You Never Give Me Your Money/Carry The Weight (1971)
18. Loose Salute – The End (2009)
19. Rufus Wainwright – Across The Universe (2002)
20. Neil Finn & Liam Finn – Two Of Us (2002)
21. Clarence Carter – Let It Be (1970)
22. Gladys Knight & The Pips – The Long And Winding Road (1971)

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Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1967-8

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Any Major Beatles Covers: 1967-68

April 16th, 2010 14 comments

The second mix of Beatles covers comprises songs from the group’s 1967-68 period, ending rather abruptly in the middle of the White Album selection. So the third mix will carry on with songs from that double album (leading with the Beach Boys doing Back In The USSR).

There are some quite unexpected covers. Ella Fitzgerald singing Savoy Truffle? Soul group The Moments singing Rocky Racoon, of all songs? Some performers are also surprising. Bill Cosby, for example. The stand-up comic did an album of covers in 1969, including Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It’s not mugging for comedic effect either, though it is fairly bizarre. Backing Cosby is the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band.

Elvis Costello’s performance of “an English folk song” was a minor highlight at Wembley’s Live Aid, not because Costello is doing it very well, but because the crowd is filling in the horn bits, thereby proving Costello’s introduction right. McCartney has attributed inspiration for the sound of Lady Madonna, particularly the piano, to Fats Domino, so it is apt that Domino’s cover, recorded soon after the Beatles released it, should feature here.

Some inclusions are entirely obvious: Pickett’s Hey Jude is the best version of that song, and Spooky Tooth’s cover of I Am The Walrus is masterful. I also particularly like Richie Haven’s take on Strawberry Fields and John Denver’s Mother Nature’s Son.

Part 3, covering 1968-70 will be posted next week.

TRACKLISTING
1. Richie Havens – Strawberry Fields Forever (1969)
2. Kenny Rankin – Penny Lane (1970)
3. Bill Cosby – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1968)
4. The Undisputed Truth – With A Little Help From My Friends (1973)
5. Syreeta – She’s Leaving Home (1972)
6. Gabor Szabo – Lucy In The Sky With Diamond (1967)
7. The Wedding Present – Getting Better (1988)
8. Big Daddy – Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite (1992)
9. Claudine Longet – When I’m Sixty-Four (1967)
10. José Feliciano – A Day In The Life (live) (1969)
11. Elvis Costello – All You Need Is Love (live) (1985)
12. The Impressions – Fool On The Hill (1969)
13. Spooky Tooth – I Am The Walrus (1970)
14. Ambrosia – Magical Mystery Tour (1976)
15. Fats Domino – Lady Madonna (1968)
16. Wilson Pickett – Hey Jude (1969)
17. Bobby Bryant – Happiness Is A Warm Gun (1969)
18. The Moments – Rocky Raccoon (1970)
19. The Five Stairsteps – Dear Prudence (1970)
20. Ella Fitzgerald – Savoy Truffle (1969)
21. John Denver – Mother Nature’s Son (1972)
22. Paul Weller – Sexy Sadie (1994)
23. Siouxsie & the Banshees – Helter Skelter (1978)

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Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

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Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

April 9th, 2010 14 comments

The last ever photo of the Beatles together, as far as I know. Ringo and Paul wave goodbye, George looks exceedingly pleased, and John looks for Yoko (or perhaps Allen Klein).

Tomorrow, 10 April, marks the 40th anniversary of Paul McCartney announcing the official disbandment of The Beatles. Of course, the Beatles were finished long before that. The final session for the Abbey Road album was, as the song had it, The End. And the guys knew it. Still, nothing was announced until 10 April 1970, when Paul unilaterally declared the Beatles kaputt. There was one post-Abbey Road recording: Harrison’s I Me Mine, which was finished in January 1970 and appeared on Let It Be (which therefore is correctly identified as the Beatles’ final album, even if almost all of it was recorded before Abbey Road, and the end of the group’s activity is accurately dated 1970, and even if John’s final contribution was in 1969).

I have featured The Beatles at length on this blog. First there two sets of album tracks and b-sides (here and here), then three post-split albums compiled from the Fabs’ solo carrer ( 1972, 1975 and 1981). On top of that, I’ve featured Beatles curiosities and curious covers, with more of that still in store, studied my favourite Beatles LP sleeves, and discussed songs that inspired the Beatles and that the Beatles inspired. Add to that a couple of originals of songs the Beatles covered, there seems to be only one significant gap in my Beatles coverage.

So here is the first of three compilations of good covers of Beatles songs. The first takes the songs of the 1962-66 period, up to Revolver. The tracklisting runs in a rough order in which the Beatles released these songs; I hope that despite the eclectic mix the sequencing is smooth.

Some of the featured songs are fairly rare. The Supremes’ version of I Saw Her Standing There, with the lovely and tragic Florence Ballard taking lead vocals, was recorded for their 1964 A Bit Of Liverpool album, but was not used for it. It was finally released in 2008. Likewise, the Carpenters’ splendid cover of Can’t Buy Me Love never was an album release. It appeared on a 1970 interview recording which also includes live-in-the-studio takes of 12 songs (including Can’t Buy Me Love, Help, Ticket To Ride and Come Together). The Bee Gee’s version of You Won’t See Me apparently was recorded in Australia (possibly for the Spicks And Specks sessions), shortly before the future purveyors of toothy hirsuteness broke through internationally.

Some songs presented an obvious problem: to select one of several great covers. The choice was the hardest between Jackie Wilson’s and Ray Charles’ versions of Eleanor Rigby, from 1969 and ’68 respectively. I have often cited the latter as a great example of a cover eclipsing the Beatles (the other, featured here, is Earth, Wind & Fire’s Got To Get You Into My Life). In the end I opted for Wilson’s lesser known version. Likewise, I was torn between Grady Tate’s version of And I Love Her and Esther Philips And I Love Him. Tate’s voice is one of my favourites in popular music, so he got in. It seems appropriate to close the set with a track from a song-for-song covers album, Taxman from the Don Randi Trio’s 1966 jazz-rock re-imagining of Revolver.

I have tried to keep the length of this mix to the standard CD-R length. Here, however, I had no choice but to exceed that length. It was a question of leaving out Deep Purple’s excellent 6-minute version of Help. I have left it in, so the running time is about 1h25min.

TRACKLISTING
1. Keely Smith – Do You Want To Know A Secret (1965)
2. The Supremes – I Saw Him Standing There (1964)
3. The Mamas & The Papas – I Call Your Name (1966)
4. Nils Lofgren – Anytime At All (1981)
5. Carpenters – Can’t Buy Me Love (1970)
6. Ramsey Lewis Trio – A Hard Day’s Night (1965)
7. Rosanne Cash – I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party (1989)
8. Grady Tate – And I Love Her (1974)
9. Marianne Faithfull – I’m A Loser (1965)
10. Pearl Jam – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (2003)
11. The Dillards – I’ve Just Seen A Face (1968)
12. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – Yesterday (1968)
13. ‘Wee’ Willie Walker – Ticket To Ride (1967)
14. Deep Purple – Help (1968)
15. Stevie Wonder – We Can Work It Out (1970)
16. Cheap Trick – Day Tripper (1982)
17. Johnny Rivers – Run For Your Life (1966)
18. Bee Gees – You Won’t See Me (1966)
19. Paul Westerberg – Nowhere Man (2001)
20. Miriam Makeba – In My Life (1970)
21. Bud Shank – Girl (1966)
22. Jonah Jones – Michelle (1969)
23. Earth, Wind & Fire – Got To Get You Into My Life (1978)
24. Jackie Wilson – Eleanor Rigby (1969)
25. Emmylou Harris – Here There And Everywhere (1975)
26. The Vines – I’m Only Sleeping (2001)
27. Don Randi Trio – Taxman (1966)

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Beatles bizarre

December 18th, 2009 10 comments

There are several blogs that offer any number of Beatles rarities; for Beatles fans like myself suffering under the dictate of arbitrary and cruel bandwidth limits, there is a need to be selective. So I don’t downloaded from them. And yet, I have accumulated a fair bit of Beatles curiosities, some of them actually entertaining. Here are some of them.
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The Beatles – Christmas Single 1965.mp3
The Beatles – Christmas Single 1968.mp3
The Beatles – Christmas Time (Is Here Again).mp3

Starting in 1963, the Beatles issued annual Christmas flexi discs exclusively to members of their official fan clubs. Besides sincere Christmas greetings, these consisted of a whole lot of free-associating riffing by our four friends, singing a bit in a humorous vein (the group rendition of Yesterday in 1965 is amusingly off-key), Lennon delivering his poetry, and the enactments of gags that showed the influence of The Goons on the Fabs. Some of it, such as the 1966 single, is impenetrable unless one appreciates The Goons (which I don’t).

The 1968 (notable for Tiny Tim doing violence to Nowhere Man) and 1969 singles were recorded separately, unlike all the previous offerings. The 1969 single was issued at a time when the group had virtually split already, even if the dissolution became official only on April 10, 1974. It features a giggly Yoko “interviewing” John (who always seemed to enjoy making these singles the most) and John looking forward to the 1970s (Yoko optimistically predicts that there’ll be “peace and freedom” in the new decade, John evidently takes a more cynical view), Paul is singing This Is To Wish You A Merry, Merry Christmas, George pops up briefly to deliver a quick greeting, and Ringo appears only to promote his movie The Magic Christian.

Christmas Time (Is Here Again) is a Beatles composition — all four share the writing credit — released on the 1967 single. There it goes on for more than six minutes. The version here is the shortened version that appeared on the b-side of Free As A Bird.

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Nilsson – You Can’t Do That.mp3
Recorded for his 1967 debut album Pandemonium Shadow Show, Harry Nilsson covered the b-side of Can’t Buy Me Love, and worked in references — lyrical or musical — to 20 other Beatles songs (the LP also included a cover of She’s Leaving Home). Indeed, in the beginning it isn’t entirely clear which Beatles song he is actually covering (unless, of course, one knows the title). John Lennon was a particularly big fan of Nilsson’s album. The mutual appreciation developed into one of pop’s most famous friendships.

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Mystery Tour – Ballad Of Paul.mp3
Terry Knight – Saint Paul.mp3

The initial Paul Is Dead rumour preceded the release of Abbey Road by a week. The album’s cover “confirmed” that Macca was indeed dead, but the story began with an error-filled student newspaper article publishd on 18 September 1969 by one Tim Harper for the Drake University’s Times-Delphic. From Harper’s fertile imagination sprang a wild conspiracy theory which caused quite a hysteria. There is an 8-CD series of radio recordings covering in detail the reaction to Paul’s death. The moderately talented Mystery Tour (yes, Mystery Tour) explained why the evidence of Paul’ death, with reference to the Abbey Road cover, of course (apparently left-handers are incapable of smoking with their right hand). We also learn that “John Lennon is a holy man”, who “provided lots of clues” as to the conspiracy of Paul’s death and its cover-up. This site has all the answers: it was them Rolling Stones wot dun Paul in, Constable.

Record producer and general music pusher Terry Knight’s single came out before the Paul Is Dead hoax started. He had met the Beatles at a fraught time during the White Album sessions in 1968. Convinced that the Beatles would break up soon, he wrote Saint Paul. His single was released in May 1969, before Harper’s article. Once the rumour had gathered pace, however, Knight’s single was presented as an obituary to Paul, feeding the rumour mill further. Knight himself became the subject of obituaries when he was murdered in 2004 while protecting his daughter from a clearly unsuitable boyfriend.

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May West – Day Tripper.mp3
We’ve had Mae West warbling Twist And Shout (HERE). So how might the septegenarian top that? Why, by doing Day Tripper, of course. Her interpretation, as it turned out, was unnecessary, because time has shown the Beatles’ original to be quite adequate, even without the sub-Jimi Hendrix antics at 1:13, which morph into a Chuck Berry-lite solo, and Ms West’s seductive moanings. Still, if Liza Minelli as Lucille 2 planned to record an album of Beatles covers, she’ll have a perfect reference point.

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Mrs Miller – A Hard Day’s Night.mp3
Peter Sellers – A Hard Day’s Night.mp3
Goldie Hawn – A Hard Day’s Night.mp3

Bless Mrs Miller. She was serious and entirely unironic about her singing, but also possessed the self-awareness to know that she was a bit of a joke. She did her limited best, and was aware that there was no consensual admiration of her singing chops. Though she never intended to create comedy— she was motivated to disseminate her art widely as a way of inspiring others — she knew that her cult status was based on listeners deriving amusement from her stylings. Her version of Hard Day’s Night is notable for her lapses in timing and the aggressive licence she takes with reaching the right notes.

Peter Sellers — a Goon Show alumni, of course — released a series of comedy versions of Beatles songs, some funnier than others. His Dr Strangelove take on She Loves You is inspired (and will feature at a later point with more Beatles curiosities). Sellers performs A Hard Day’s Night in the manner of Laurence Olivier as Shakespeare’s Richard III. Released as a single in late 1965 (backed with his take on Help, which will also feature at some point), it reached #14 in the British charts in early 1966.

In 1998, Beatles producer George Martin recorded reimagined versions of songs by his former charges, with a roster of guest vocalists taking turns to perform singing duties. Some of these invitees were not terrible good ideas, least of the insufferable Robin Williams (who admirably managed to go a few minutes without turning into a gay hairdresser). Another of these questionable ideas was to ask a giggly Goldie Hawn to sing A Hard Day’s Night, to a smoothy swinging backing track, on which she plays the piano. She feels “okey dokey”. The listener, when hearing Goldie’s vocals, probably less so.

Great covers – Beatles

September 29th, 2009 12 comments

As a Beatles fan, I would be quite happy to display all their album covers on my wall, if decorating my humble abode with LP sleeves was my thing (the putative notion of such interior design innovation, of course, being the premise for this series). I imagine the Beatles would appreciate the pun in my song selection: Beatles songs sung by others… Read more…