Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
George Harrison was still struggling to get his voice heard when the Beatles recorded “It’s All Too Much.” They did so during the week that Sgt. Pepper was released (an album with only one of George’s songs); originally planned to appear on Magical Mystery Tour, it was delayed for the Yellow Submarine soundtrack, which came out more than half a year after the movie premiered. For a song that seemed determined to be an afterthought, “It’s All Too Much” has gone on to become best known as being perhaps the most underrated Beatles song. East meets West while tripping on acid, and hand in hand they sail into the mystic, taking the time to quote a line from the Merseys song “Sorrow” (which would have to wait for an immortalizing full-length cover until David Bowie came along).
With such intense fandom behind it, there’s no wonder that there exist a great deal of covers for a less-famous Beatle track. These five also deserve to be better known.
MP3: Steve Hillage – It’s All Too Much (The Beatles cover)
Whatever the intergalactic equivalent of the far East is, that’s where Steve Hillage’s sound is most at home. From L, his first solo album after leaving Gong, Hillage gives “It’s All Too Much” not so much its own spin as its own twin – not identical, perhaps, but maybe conjoined. It’s certainly of a piece with the original.
MP3: The Church – It’s All Too Much (The Beatles cover)
The Church have had the totally unfair sobriquet “one hit wonder” hung on them thanks to “Under the Milky Way.” They’re all too much for that pigeonhole, as their version of “It’s All Too Much” demonstrates. It’s also a nice little showcase for their sense of humor – while all the bands in this piece include the line from “Sorrow,” the Church are far and away the only ones to include a line from Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue.”
MP3: Just Plain Bill – It’s All Too Much (The Beatles cover)
Just Plain Bill, a band from the great Northwest, set themselves a goal with their cover of “It’s All Too Much”: start sparsely, then add layers and layers as they went along. By the time they were finished, the band was looking through a glass onion of a cover.
MP3: The Violet Burning – It’s All Too Much (The Beatles cover)
The Mother of All Tribute Albums was a 1998 release with a difference – the bands invited to take part were told to cover the work of whichever artist they wanted to pay tribute to. The result: fifteen songs, no cohesiveness, and one of the more uneven tribute albums ever made. Of course, for it to be uneven, it needs peaks as well as valleys, and the Violet Burning’s cover of “It’s All Too Much” definitely qualifies as a peak.
MP3: My Darling Clementine – It’s All Too Much (The Beatles cover)
Listening to My Darling Clementine, you’d never in a million years peg them as a British duo that have only been playing together for a couple of years – they sound just like the classic Nashville male-female pairs of the ’70, long steeped in the hardship of love, ordering a shot and a tear. The weepy guitar they give “It’s All Too Much” changes the feeling of being overwhelmed from a positive thing to something somewhat less so, but you also get the sense these two are in it together.
MP3: Yonder Mountain String Band – It’s All Too Much (The Beatles cover)
Did I say five? Oops – I meant six. This is the Yonder Mountain String Band, giving “It’s All Too Much” the progressive bluegrass jam band treatment to a mighty appreciative audience. Yonder had proved themselves adept at covering earlier, shorter George compositions with their version of “Think For Yourself” on the Rubber Soul tribute This Bird Has Flown; it’s nice to hear they can handle the long-form psychedelic George just as adeptly, if not more so.