Listening to “Exotic Beatles: Part Four: Plastic Soul”, which we reviewed earlier today, made us remember some of the positively dreadful Beatles covers that have come out over the years. So here’s my choice of the five worst ones, with YouTube links so you can hear them.
5) Mae West, “Day Tripper”: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yJajJ_B5R4) This came off Mae’s 1966 album, “Way Out West.” The cover says, “Come on up and rock with me.” There probably isn’t a more uninspired cover of the Beatles around anywhere. (Download the song from Amazon.com.)
4) Louis Van Dyke, “Golden Slumbers” / “Carry That Weight” : (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGefoxS-pH4) Combine E. Power Biggs and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and throw in Lennon and McCartney and you get this. Van Dyke did a whole album of this stuff. Other songs included “She’s Leaving Home,” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”, “Nowhere Man” and “Hey Jude.” But this one is, let’s say, exotic. (The album’s also available from amazon.co.uk.) Of all the bad covers here, this one is really our favorite.
3) Tiny Tim, “Nowhere Man” : (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5EcrraNTQo) Tiny Tim was apparently a Beatles fan. And they were a fan of his. Or at least George Harrison was as Harrison featured Tiny Tim on “The Beatles’ 1968 Christmas Record” singing this unadulterated version of “Nowhere Man.” In later years, Tiny Tim did an album featuring “Girl” as the title track, but that doesn’t beat this. (Download a live version of “Nowhere Man” from a concert at Royal Albert Hall from Amazon.com.)
2) William Shatner, “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” : (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AB3uVARNhmM) “Star Trek” legend William Shatner is a serious actor. His “Transformed Man” album was full of songs that were acted out. “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” was one. He took the lyrics and recited them like he was lecturing and acting at the same time, with some added echo. The result was hilarious. (Download the song from Amazon.com.)
1) Cathy Berberian, “Ticket To Ride” : (video at left or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLqVioiDldc) Cathy Berberian, who died in 1983, was a respected operatic vocalist. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, she became well known for her distinguished interpretations of various composers, including Debussy, Gershwin, Weill and Stravinsky. According to her biography, “Cathy viewed the voice as an unlimited instrument and was constantly exploring its possibilties.” Those possibilites included the Beatles, when, in 1964, she recorded a whole album of operatic interpretations of Beatle songs. The combination of her voice and the Beatles just didn’t work. In fact, it’s funny to listen to. But Berberian was deadly serious. She performs “Ticket to Ride” in the video at left. The song is contained on a compilation.
There are so many more great/bad covers that we couldn’t touch on all of them. Something for the future.
And a recommendation: A great collection of bad celebrity Beatle covers is Rhino’s “Golden Throats, Vol. 4: Celebrities Butcher the Beatles” featuring the Shatner and Mae West tracks here, plus George Burns, Telly Savalas, Bing Crosby, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Joe Pesci, Claudine Longet and more.
If you have some ideas on bad Beatle covers, either our choices or yours, leave a comment.
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Stan is the author of the Beatles Examiner, Paul McCartney Examiner, Vintage Rock ‘n’ Roll Examiner and TV on DVD Examiner columns on icedjamb.com.
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