Sep 262019

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

abbey road covers
September 26th marks the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road in the UK (October 1 marks the date in the US). A “super deluxe edition” of the album will be released on September 27th of this year.

Along with this hit record, 1969 brought us:

  • Richard Nixon in the White House
  • Harold Wilson at 10 Downing Street
  • US continued involvement in the Vietnam War
  • a US moon landing
  • Scooby-Doo, Sesame Street, and The Brady Bunch
  • Chappaquiddick, Altamont, and Woodstock

That’s a lot of cultural touchstones from one year that still retain all their power. But if the spirit of ’69 could be summed up in one image, it may well be the one of four gentlemen in their late twenties crossing a street in St. John’s Wood.

An album born in tension, the fractured approach of the dual-sided album foreshadowed the dissolution of the band. Ironically, this division serves as a platform to remind us that love of the Beatles transcends our differences.

We celebrate the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road by digging into the deepest of cover cuts: those done by earnest amateurs. We know you must have your favorite professional covers, but we want to give new voices a chance to express their Beatles appreciation.

Alessio La Pira – Come Together (The Beatles cover)

You may be familiar with notable covers of this US chart topper: Ike and Tina Turner’s, Michael Jackson’s, or indie favorites such as Pomplamoose’s. Arctic Monkeys also had the honor of performing this song for the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

The song was originally written for the campaign of Ronald Reagan’s opponent for the California governor’s race, Timothy Leary. Leary’s campaign ended with his arrest for possession of marijuana (oh, how times have changed). More drama ensued when Morris Levy levied a lawsuit, accusing John Lennon of writing a song with too many similarities to Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me.” The case was settled out of court and led to Lennon’s Rock ‘n’ Roll album.

La Pira’s cover doesn’t distract with frills. A rich guitar sound starts us off, and then a soulful voice kicks in. There is balance between the guitar and vocals throughout, but during the sonorous guitar solos, the guitarist’s skills shine.

Not technically amateur: 

Here is a cover of the Gary Clark Jr. cover from the latest Justice League movie soundtrack. Frankly, I wish I was as cool and self-assured as this twelve-year-old. However, she won “The Voice of Romania Junior,” so she misses out on amateur status. 

If you needed to see and hear “Come Together” played on the harp guitar (just watch), Jamie Dupuis has the cover for you. He’s a past winner of the Canadian Guitar Festival Competition and has his own album, Inspired by a Dream.

Sungha Jung takes guitar tapping to a whole new level. His technique is mesmerizing. Jung has plenty of albums under his belt to show off his talent, including five cover compilation albums.

Dan Tolentino – Something (The Beatles cover)

Another chart-topper, released as a single with “Come Together,” this song helped George Harrison solidify his song-writing status, now on a par with John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The song has won a variety of accolades, including the Ivor Novello Award for “Best Song Musically and Lyrically” of 1969 and BBC’s 64th-greatest song ever (declared in 2005). According to Mark Hertsgaard’s A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles, “Something” was covered by over 150 artists by the end of the ’70s alone. Notable covers include Ol’ Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, and The King, Elvis Presley. 

There is something simple but powerful in Dan Tolentino’s cover. With unadorned chords and earnest vocals, you can just tell that he has someone in mind that he is singing to.

Not technically amateur: 

The Drivers are a popular cover band in Thailand. They have recently branched out, creating their own music as well as performing covers. Their rendition of “Something” is solid and heartfelt. The reverence given to the guitar solo is palpable. 

paxukulele – Maxwell’s Silver Hammer (The Beatles cover)

Such a jaunty tune. Such dark lyrics. British music critic Ian MacDonald describes “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” in his book, Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties, thusly: “If any single recording shows why The Beatles broke up, it is ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.'” Despite that damning accusation and the lack of commercial success, covers still exist. Steve Martin does a memorable version in the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie.

This song apparently lends itself to ukulele renditions. The first ukulele cover features a bass accompaniment (and puppets), while the second has a more chipper ukulele style accompanied by a deep voice. Only the first takes on the added percussion on the “bang bang”of Maxwell’s silver hammer, but both versions capture the quirky spirit of the original. 

Dennis Eliezer – Oh! Darling (The Beatles cover)

Wikipedia says (without citation, so take it or leave it) that “the song is one of several tracks on Abbey Road that have never been performed onstage by McCartney or any other of the Beatles to date.” That seems like a shame; it’s a heartfelt song. Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees appreciated the song’s potential, covering it in 1978, during the Bee Gees revival. The single became his highest US charting song of his solo career. 

Let’s mix it up a bit and go for a cover in another language. “Oh Sayang” is the Bahasa Indonesia version of “Oh! Darling.” This cover’s vocals start out a bit timid, yet crisp. The power and feeling build, soaring above the simple background instruments. Impressively high notes are reached like a pro.

Tim Melanson – Octopus’s Garden (The Beatles cover)

This song’s content is very kid friendly, evidenced by these two covers featuring the performing prowess of small children. Ringo Starr, the writer and singer of the tune, even wrote a children’s book based on the song. The song has even been covered by the Muppets on an episode of Sesame Street. Is there any higher honor?

The first cover features young Kyler on vocals, solemly focused, while the second cover features Bekah Greenman’s nephew on the piano, keeping time with enthusiastic head nods. Both children are into it; love of the Beatles spans generations.

Ykcorpwns – I Want You (She’s So Heavy) (The Beatles cover)

We reach the end of side one with this song. Written about Yoko Ono, this lengthy song focuses on the instrumentation; there are very few lyrics. Sure, the Bee Gees also covered this song, as did Blue Öyster Cult, but this cover’s spunky saxophones really capture the funky attitude of the original. Dare I say they have more swag than the Beatles? Maybe it’s the sunglasses that tip them over the edge. 

Not technically amateur: 

Accordian Rock Orchestrion is what it sounds like. This cover sounds like the score to a horror movie set at a carnival, but in a good way.

Pink Cigarette doubles down on the rock-angst. The vocals are strong and sultry, and we really get the full effect of the extended electric guitar solos.

HarvardTHUD – Here Comes the Sun (The Beatles cover)

Lightening up after the heavy end to side one, side two opens with this feel good song written by George Harrison. What is more joyous than some creative percussion? Although perhaps their legs don’t feel so joyous afterwards. This cover starts modestly, but it kicks into gear and transcends novelty. I hope you’ll join me in being impressed by the depth and variety of sound these plastic tubes can create when wielded by these students.

Not technically amateur: 

Sina has two original albums under her belt, so she doesn’t get amateur status. However, she takes on drums, bass, and backup vocals in a powerful collaboration with Lauren Isenberg. Both women are focused on their tasks, and they meld together well. The vocals are resonant, and although the majority of the song is in a deeper register, high notes emerge, showing Isenberg’s range.

Community Chorus Project – Because (The Beatles cover)

Contrasting the more electronic vibe of the original’s opening, the classical piano intro haunts the listener. Throughout the cover the piano takes the place of both the bass and the synthesizer. When combined with the choral voices, this almost spooky feeling only intensifies. The Beatles do a good job of containing multitudes with their rich harmony, but the chorus members simply outnumber them. A simple bird song at the end lets all the feelings you’ve developed throughout the song linger for a few more seconds. 

Hollie Erica – You Never Give Me Your Money (The Beatles cover)

“You Never Give Me Your Money” outlines some of the struggles facing the band at this time. It starts off the medley that was originally envisioned as the Beatles’ last hurrah. Thankfully we still got the Let It Be album afterward.

The intro of Hollie Erica’s cover has a mournful tone. The acoustic guitar, almost ukulele-like at times, gets a partner once the singer is “out of college.” The walking bass joins in, giving the song a jazz vibe. The vocal style changes to match, reaching to the depths of the singer’s range. Due to the acoustic instrumentation in this version, the changes in style and tone throughout can be less pronounced yet a bit more abrupt than in the original, but we still hear the rollercoaster ride of emotions this song evokes.

Lucy Redin – Sun King (The Beatles cover)

Here comes the sun… king. If you need some soothing background music, Lucy Redin’s instrumental cover of “Sun King” is for you. The deep bass of the original is more understated in this version, and this cover’s overall sound is much softer. Although we miss the crickets and the pseudo-multilingual lyrics, we get the same easy listening spirit. For the record, the Bee Gees yet again also covered this song; who knew they were such big fans?

Victory Vïc – Mean Mr. Mustard (The Beatles cover)

“Mean Mr. Mustard” was written while the Beatles were in India participating in Transcendental Meditation training. Drama ensued, and the tension we hear in Abbey Road’s competing approaches certainly could be felt during this trip. Victory Vic’s cover matches the waddling sound of the original. Both versions’ background music threaten to overpower the vocals at times, but we can still hear all about Mr. Mustard’s meanness. Next we transition to Mr. Mustard’s sister Pam, originally named Shirley in this song’s first demo.

Catastrophic Audio – Polythene Pam (The Beatles cover)

First off, for the nerds: polythene/polyethylene is a common plastic, so I’m picturing Pam in rain-poncho-like apparel paired with her jackboots and kilt. Catastrophic Audio’s version of Polythene Pam gives us the “Mean Mr. Mustard” intro, and a “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window” outro, but at 1:11, Pam takes over. In the original, the vocals seem a bit distant in comparison to the instruments. In this cover, the vocals are much more prominent, holding up to the more heavy duty rock instrumental style. This interpretation helps us picture Pam as more of a rocker chick.

I promise this is the last time I’ll mention the Bee Gees, but I feel morally bound to let you know that they also covered this song and all of the rest of the songs in this medley except “The End.” Many of these covers and the ones mentioned before were part of either the film version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or the All This and World War II documentary.

Lynsey Moon – She Came In Through the Bathroom Window (The Beatles cover)

Lynsey Moon’s ukulele version softens “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window” a bit. Without the intermittent guitar licks and driving tambourine and maracas, the listener can absorb the story within the lyrics, including profound lines like “Sunday’s on the phone to Monday / Tuesday’s on the phone to me” that at first listen are nonsensical, yet somehow feel right. Joe Cocker did a cover of this song that gained its own success, making the Billboard Top 40 a year later. 

doddlevloggle – Golden Slumbers (The Beatles cover)

This song’s lyrics are based on Thomas Dekker’s “Cradle Song” poem, so the introductory lullaby style is fitting. “Once there was a way to get back homeward” is sung much more vulnerably in doddlevloggle’s cover. This version is simple and pure, almost fragile, but not in a damsel-in-distress kind of way. You get a sense of raw emotion which comes with its own form of strength. The lamenting style remains throughout, contrasting the original’s almost accusatory “Golden slumbers fill your eyes.”

Not technically amateur: 

This established band can’t claim amateur status, but their cover sounds the way a warm and cozy coffee shop feels. I also really enjoy the band’s self-descriptions on their various pages from “birthed in the musical backdrops of Paris, Manchester & Nottingham” to “birthed in the musical cauldrons” of the same locations. They sure know how to entice a listener. 

Mint Tea Ang – Carry That Weight (The Beatles cover)

Mint Tea Ang’s cover strays from the traditional. Without the vocals, we miss the callback to “You Never Give Me Your Money” with lines like  “I never give you my pillow / I only send you my invitation” and the ambiguity in “Boy, you gotta carry that weight / Carry that weight a long time.” Is it meant to be uplifting or a slight taunt? However, this cover’s strength is its twist on the original’s plodding melody. Here we get a modern club beat and what sounds like an electronic xylophone accompaniment. We hear a piano and we think things have mellowed out, but then a synthesizer asserts itself. Even with all of this buildup, the cover still ends abruptly like the original.

Horácio Ibanez – The End (The Beatles cover)

As its name suggests, this song marks the end of the medley, and it was the last song recorded with all four members together. The song also features a rare drum solo from Ringo Starr. Just as “Come Together” was featured in the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony, this song appeared as well, played by Paul McCartney. Beatles fans must have noted what nice bookends that choice provided.

Here we admire the industriousness of Horácio Ibanez and see a polymath at work, stitching together each instrument to create this cover. He even shows off his powerful voice (for the 28 word song, a couplet to be precise) and his ability to harmonize with his alter egos.

Larry L – Her Majesty (The Beatles cover)

Not listed on the original track list, this song comes after a significant silence at the end of “The End,” making it one of the first so-called “hidden” tracks. The song references Queen Elizabeth II, so it’s nice to see that she has been a constant across this fifty-year span. She has even heard it live; McCartney performed “Her Majesty” at her Golden Jubilee in 2002. Larry L’s cover stands out because of its dedication to the abrupt beginning and end, accompanied by a cheeky wink.

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