K-Chuck Radio: Thou Shalt Not Cover the Beatles (if you don’t know what you’re doing)

A while back, I did a K-Chuck Radio segment on artists who had NO BUSINESS WHATSOEVER trying to cover Motown songs.

So let’s go back to that well…

And see who would DARE attempt to try to cover songs from the Beatles catalog.

First off, it’s difficult enough to cover the Beatles and to do it properly.  You want to make the record sound new and fresh, while still keeping part of your own signature style in the recording.  You don’t want it to sound like a karaoke performance, and at the same time you’re working with a John Lennon – Paul McCartney classic.  (Okay, there might be a George Harrison classic in there as well, but work with me here.)

So let’s get started with my all-time painful Beatles cover track…

I Saw Him Standing There

Excuse me while I go find a trash can to barf over.  This is what happens when you ask an artist to cover a Beatles classic when she barely can carry a tune in a bucket.  And the arrangement?  It sounds like the musicians were being paid by the minute and there was only three minutes of studio time left.  Ugh.

A Hard Day’s Night

Mrs. Miller (no relation, thank GOD) was a bit of a novelty act, a “so bad she’s funny” artist who used enough vibrato in her voice to cover up her hit-and-miss notes.  This is just ten levels of painful.  PAIN FUL.

Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds

Even today, I’m not sure if William Shatner was simply riffing on his “Captain Kirk” stilted delivery, or if this was just his legit singing voice.  Either way, repeated performances of this track should be considered an alternative to waterboarding, or at the least, a replacement for bamboo shoots under the fingernails.

Come Together

No.  No no no no no no.  And even if I hadn’t seen the Leaving Neverland documentary… I do not want to hear Michael Jackson singing the words “Come together / right now / over me.”  Ewwwwwwww…

Magical Mystery Tour

I love listening to Ambrosia.  I love their early artistic stuff, I love their late 70’s ballads. This cover of the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” is just wrong.  It’s muddy and it’s overproduced.  And it’s part of a soundtrack that combines the Beatles’ music – as covered by other artists – with historic World War II footage.  I don’t know who was snorting Drano at the production meeting after coming up with that concept.

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

Oh yeah, and there was that other jukebox musical that took Beatles recordings and mashed them together into some sort of cohesive story.  As for Steve Martin – give him a banjo and he’s an auteur.  Give him a microphone and he sounds like … I don’t even want to describe it.

Across the Universe

You want to know what derailed Fiona Apple’s music career?  It wasn’t an off-script tirade at an awards show.  It wasn’t the lengthy delay between her second and third albums… no, it was her performance of this song, which was recorded for the Pleasantville movie.  It sounds like someone woke her up at 3:30 a.m. and put a microphone in front of her mouth and said, “Time to sing.”  And she yawned and said “Okay.”

Eleanor Rigby

This heavily power-chorded version of the Beatles classic is certainly a product of its time.  It’s clumsily mixed, with the lead singer barely getting his voice above the electric guitars.  Barely.  And that’s Rick Springfield on the guitar.  Yes, THAT Rick Springfield.  Would I lie to you?  Probably would have been better if he sang as well.  But that’s just me.

From Me To You

What, no screaming Farfisa organ?  None?  NONE?  Listen … Del Shannon was a great rock and roller.  And he was an awesome vocalist.  This track, however … I’m sorry, but it sounds like he’s singing along with the Beatles’ arrangement.  Does not work.  At all.

So yeah … this is what happens when you let people get anywhere near the Beatles catalog.  If they know what they’re doing, the new song can sound amazing.  These recordings, on the other hand … well … er … um … well …